Wardrobe Makeover: Maybe the Secret to Closet Organization Is Actually Optimization

One great thing about living in New York City is that you have very limited space to store your belongings. Most people consider this one of the shortcomings of being a resident here, but I actually think the condition requires you to think more thoughtfully and strategically–dare I say even sustainablyabout the shit you bring into your temple. For as long as I’ve lived here (a lifetime), my closet has looked like a regular wall enclave, capable of holding no more than 20 of any varietal of garment. Now that I write it, it sounds like a lot–and it is a lot!

But we get so distracted by size that we forget optimization–a logical system for how to organize a mass of things–is perhaps the better thing to focus on. And to this point, we might also mistake organization for optimization. It’s one thing to have a closet full of neatly folded pants and carefully hung shirts or dresses (I do), but it is something very different to have a closet that’s been updated to complement your life. (I mean LyFe.)

Last month, I put out an informal social media summoning for the help of anyone with a more linear mind to help me figure out how to develop a system to make getting dressed feel more like a thing that I’m doing and not a complicated argument I am trying to win, with the very simple rule that I was not willing to invest in a new closet build-out. What you see is what you get. I’m not interested in obtaining more clothes, just utilizing the ones I have. So, how can you help me reach this state of closet nirvana?

According to Jessie Gainsley and Lindsey Colhoun of L.A.-based, The Team, who responded by offering their services, this can be done by treating a personal closet like a store. But how?

First: display your merchandise

Pretending your closet is a store and thus setting it up by color or style makes it easier to see what you have. According to Gainsley, “When things are placed this way, it’s more apparent what you do or don’t need.”

Next: rethink your folding strategy

Colhoun and Gainsley prefer hanging as much shit as they can, but I don’t have that much hanging space, so one way they blew my mind was by recommending that I stack no more than 5 pairs of casual pants on top of each other—this helps eliminate those annoying folding lines that create an imprint on your pants when they haven’t been worn for too long and make fishing them out of the piles somewhat easier. Apparently your closet is not supposed to look anything like the leaning tower of Pisa, which I totally didn’t realize. This goes for sweaters and t-shirts too. For the chunky mother effers, three to four is the max. For lighter fare knits and cotton, no pile exceeded six tops.

One thing I was not doing, btw, was separating the weight of knits from each other, which seems like an obvious thing that everyone should do, but lo and behold, not obvious to me. To this point, you probably already know this too but as far as your actual hanging space, I’ll just reiterate it: velvet hangers are v. narrow and save you tons of space. Thank God for Joy Mangano, you know?

Also: use baskets and bins unconventionally; never underestimate a divider

This was my favorite pro-tip–Gainsley and Colhoun recommended using baskets to store stuff on the floor of my closet. We created one basket for off-season flat sandals, another for ~fun socks~, one for belts, and a bigger one for sneakers, which is now under my coat closet. A plexi tray sits next to the belt and sock baskets on a shelf in my room for jewelry and some sunglasses.

Gainsley and Colhoun also added small linen bins and dividers to my drawers to hold underwear, bras, scarves, et al.

Here’s something: store shoes back and forth

This tip only works if you have a designated shoe closet, which I do because I am dramatic and fucking love footwear. I can see how shoe bags hanging from closet doors are probably a pretty efficient option too, but in the event you do have shelves on which you place your shoes, storing them back and forth creates like, two new spots on each shelf. And if the shelves are deep enough, you can also store them one forward, one back depth-wise. Does this make sense? I’m terrible at explaining anything that is not an emotional feeling.

Finally: take mirror selfies

Not a real closet optimization tip, unless you create a folder in your phone’s photo album of outfit ideas à la Cher Horowitz if she were a member of our generation, which is actually not a bad idea, so, uh, celebrate good times, come on!

Jessie Gainsley and Lindsey Colhoun are effectively closet editors who have come up with a method of closet organization that ultimately helps people get dressed. They edit wardrobes by recommending discarding, tailoring, and adding long-lasting new pieces, then they create online images of the wardrobes for their client, replete with outfit ideas (!). In addition to these services, they also help clients pack for travel and offer gifting services.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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