Although shelter magazines often picture sparse modernist bedrooms that sport carefully-edited wardrobes organized by color (which is usually limited to a Spartan selection of black and beige), most of us can’t accomplish such a feat of personal style control. I myself need a wider variety of clothing to accommodate various moods, occasions and outdoor temperatures. A tiny wardrobe is also a higher-stakes wardrobe – if one piece gets ripped or stained, you’re out a seventh of your wardrobe and might not have a clean shirt to wear on Sunday.
Although I am not sold on the idea of ruthlessly minimizing the amount of clothing one owns, I acknowledge the havoc that too much clothing can wreak on a bedroom. Alternatively, I’ve worked out a way of controlling my closet based on the idea that if you circulate your clothing regularly and store it in only one closet, you know what you own. If you know what you own and it is all in one place, you don’t need to organize it. Organizing is what you do with clutter. Here’s the theory and how I practice it:
1. Clothing circulation: I read that most women wear only 20 percent of their clothing 80 percent of the time. That means that most of the time, 80 percent of the clothing in many women’s closets is clutter. Reducing clutter is not necessarily synonymous with minimalism. If you actually circulate your clothing and wear all of it regularly, it ceases to be clutter. If you never ever wear an article of clothing, it’s definitely clutter, and you should banish it.
2. Frequency of laundry: For some people, it is totally efficient to own a small amount of clothing and launder it frequently. Laundry takes time, though. I work 50 hours a week and go to classes both before and after work, so it suits my lifestyle better to do laundry less frequently because some weeks, I literally don’t have time to do a load of laundry. Usually at some point, once every two to three weeks, I take an evening to do several loads of laundry at once. I could never manage with one week’s-worth of clothing. If your lifestyle permits devoting more of your weekly time to folding laundry, then you could try a system like the one described next:
For a colleague of mine, doing laundry is more manageable than keeping a large amount of clothing in her children’s closets, which she is sure would end up crumpled on the floor. Each child has 4 pair of pants and 4 shirts, which she launders twice a week. Since it is only 4 items each, and she has 3 children, she is only laundering 12 items at a time. It works for her.
3. Do not, I repeat, do not expand your storage space to accommodate more clothing: If you own so much clothing that you need to build yourself a new closet or rent out a storage locker to accommodate it, some of it is probably clutter. I function with one armoire for everything, in which I also manage to store my linens.
4. Here’s how a non-organization system works for me: I don’t have time to fold laundry, so I hang almost all of my clothing (except for underwear and socks) on hangers so that I don’t have to take the time to fold it. Having to open multiple drawers, closets or baskets and place clothing in them by category takes time and effort. Digging through the drawers in order to find articles of clothing also takes time. Hanging regularly-circulated clothing together is more efficient. Like I said, if it circulates regularly, you’ll know it is there, and if it is all in one place, you’ll be able to find it.
Of course, the challenge of maintaining this system is admitting to yourself that not all of your clothing is actually in circulation. Be honest and identify the pieces that you might wear one day (say, if you lose 10 pounds), and what you actually do wear. Painful as the process is, it’s a remarkably liberating exercise that will save you time and space. Since adopting this system in an effort to maintain order in my studio apartment, I’ve noticed that getting dressed in the morning is easier and faster than ever since all of my clothes fit, are wearable, and are right there in one place.