How to sort your wardrobe and keep clutter to a minimum

Divia Harilela consults the experts on how to get your closet organised and ready for spring, and how to part with pieces that are past their best

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 February, 2017, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 6:03pm

Bestselling author and cleaning guru Marie Kondo has a lot to answer for. Vertical folding and discarding items that no longer “spark joy” may be tried and tested methods for the queen of tidying, but they are not so easy to adopt when it comes to your own wardrobe. One thing we can agree with Kondo on, however, is that cleaning your wardrobe is an art that requires planning, organisational skills and a certain ruthlessness.

While there is never a perfect time to clean your closet, many agree that it should happen twice a year as the season changes.

“Sometimes you find yourself standing in front of your wardrobe in the morning, but can’t find anything you feel like wearing, even though it’s full. This is the time when you need to think about a clean,” says Olie Arnold, style director at Mr Porter.

Like any successful battle, a good strategy is essential. Wardrobe consultants and founders of The Changing Room HK, Pier Djerejian-Shiever and Jess Meyers, suggest tackling certain sections of your wardrobe separately, and identifying trouble spots or categories that are your Achilles heel (basic items such as underwear and activewear are always easier to deal with).

How to organise a wardrobe - and not throw away anything you might need

Begin with a list of questions to run through before deciding whether to keep or throw an item. The most obvious is does it still fit? Women are notoriously optimistic and tend to keep their skinny clothes in the hope that it may fit in the future, but this just means they are taking up valuable space. Discard these items quickly, along with pieces that are damaged, stained, pilled or worn out (there are only so many clothes you can keep for lounging around the house).

Personal style should also be considered during this stage. Do you still feel good in it, or is it too complicated to wear? Does the item suit your current style and would you buy it again if you had the choice? Take a selfie if you are uncertain about something and ask a friend (or Instagram) for advice.

“My number one rule is that the item must have been worn in the past six months for it to stay in the closet. If the next time you clear out your closet it still hasn’t been worn, it is time to consider storing it or clearing it out,” says Natalie Kingham, buying director at matchesfashion.com.

While you are doing this initial stocktake, it’s also worth sorting through items that need to be altered, dry-cleaned or donated (use bin bags to separate everything).

“I never, ever throw away anything … I give it away and usually to relatives, friends or my helper – or I donate them. I will, however, let go of painful or uncomfortable shoes. And I don’t care how much they cost. If they’re painful then they should go,” says marketing consultant Peter Cheung.

Once you have made space, it’s time to put everything back. While colour-coded closets look pretty, they are not the best way to get the most out of your clothes and accessories. As a general rule, keep your most used items accessible (at the front, or in the top drawers) while least used items can go at the back.

“The best way to organise your wardrobe is by arranging it methodically according to your schedule. Separate the items you wear for your job from leisure items, so you don’t spend too much time going through piles. Also, leave a separate area for your special occasion items [gowns or eveningwear],” says Arnold.

Kondo swears by her origami-inspired folding technique for everything, but this isn’t easy in cramped Hong Kong. Specific fabrics such as silk should always be hung. Wire hangers may save space, but they don’t keep clothes in the best condition. It’s worth investing in better quality hangers, or, if space allows, use wooden hangers for tailored pieces such as jackets and trousers.

Accessories can be stored together in boxes, preferably transparent plastic, so you can find the item you want easily.

If space is an issue, then go beyond your closet.

“Consider putting a nice bench and decorative shoe baskets at the door so that you can store easy to get to and everyday pieces. Vintage Chinese paint brush stands make a beautiful display of your jewellery and offer easy accessibility,” say the people from The Changing Room.

Once your closet is picture perfect, it’s time to focus on the items you need to store until next season.

“At the end of every season I resole, reheel and repair shoes and dry-clean clothes so that when I go to them the following winter or summer they are ready to be worn,” says Kingham.

While vacuum packs are a favourite in Hong Kong, it’s best to store delicate items such as cashmere and fur in suit or dry-cleaning bags. They can also be folded flat into boxes but be sure to separate them with pieces of tissue. Empty suitcases also come in handy to store items.

Of course, the real challenge will be keeping your wardrobe in control until next season.

“If you are a frequent buyer, think about swapping an old piece for a new piece every time (less is more). Every so often be sure to move things around to a different location in your closet – it helps you revisit what you have and wear more and potentially edit more,” say The Changing Room.