The 11 Rules Every Man Should Heed to Tidy Up His Closet

It's easier than you think, and Lord knows you've got some extra time at home

March 24, 2020 9:56 am
men's closet organized

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Welcome to Project Quarantine, an ongoing column dedicated to helping you utilize your “confined to the domicile” time to accomplish those home tasks we’ve all been putting off for ages.

When looking for ways to occupy the surplus of time around the house we’re all experiencing at the moment, organizing one’s closet might not be the first project that you’d think of — admittedly, when you’re spending the lion’s share of your time in sweats (You’re doing that too, right?), your wardrobe just ain’t top of mind.

But in reality, what you’re wearing right this second isn’t actually connected to the validity of getting your vestiary house in order — it’s likely something you’ve been putting off forever and thus exactly the kind of thing it feels good to knock out when you’re stuck inside. And once we’re all back out on the streets in proper attire again, you’ll be damn glad you took the time to  “Marie Kondo” your closet.

For those unfamiliar, Kondo is an organizational guru who promotes the “KonMari method” of organization — long (see: nuanced) story short (see: grossly oversimplified), you gather up all your shit, decide which items “spark joy,” and get rid of the ones that don’t.

And your correspondent can get behind that — by and large, I do agree that a neat and organized life is a happy one. However, I’m also acutely cognizant of the fact that while there are items in my closet that haven’t sparked a lick of joy in recent memory, they often come back ‘round for a second, third or fourth round of joy-sparking if given a little time. Clothes are like that.

And thus I must continually thread the organizational needle, caught between my love for the items in my wardrobe and the desire to keep them in check lest they rise up and overtake my existence.

Here are some pieces of advice I have developed as a result:

1. Cull and Donate

I know I just advocated for holding onto your clothes, but there are some truths that are just irrefutable in terms of what can go. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Does this color look good on me? You should know enough to be able to tell, and also know that it ain’t gonna change. Ask your significant other or Tan France if you aren’t sure.
  • Does this item fit me? We’re talking hard and fast, non-tailorable elements here — i.e., shoulders of a jacket, waist you will never achieve again, etc. Much like that significant other with the “honesty issues,” you will never be able to fix these things and should cut ‘em loose.
  • Could my tailor fix this item? We get it, some stuff collects dust because of a little fit issue or bit of damage you haven’t gotten around to taking care of. But force yourself to make the call: either it’s worth taking to the tailor ASAP, or it’s dead weight.
  • Could this item do some real good for someone in need? If you’ve got a spare coat that you don’t wear all that often, think about the person out there freezing. This is actually a good exercise for anything you’re on the fence about. Relax, they don’t need your old Rush tour shirt.
  • Do these jeans have elaborate embroidery on the back pockets? Dead that shit. Immediately.

2. Organize Your Shirts According to Type

Think plaid, denim, flannel, short sleeve, dress, etc. — no need to get crazy specific, you’re just looking to create rough groups on the rack. It makes shirts easy to find, and, more importantly, easy to put back so the rack stays organized.

3. Stop Trying to Fold Cardigans

It’s frustrating and futile and pointless — a while back I dedicated a drawer to cardigans (and zippered hoodies) and I just kind of drape them all in there horizontally and it works great. I guess alternatively you could wear fewer cardigans, but why would you do that? Mr. Rogers wore nothing but cardigans and look how much the world loved him. Oh, and if you’re worried about wrinkles …

4. Get a Steamer

This isn’t really an organizational technique as much as it is a technique for being able to wear what you want when you want to without having to pull out a f*cking ironing board. Game changer.

5. Embrace Small Containers

I have several smallish (appx 15″ x 10″) plastic containers within my drawers — one’s full of belts, another pocket squares, a third those no-show socks that are forever trying to separate and journey to opposite corners of the sock drawer, etc. Bottom line, drawers don’t come with enough subdividers and thus you must create them yourself.

6. Get a Rack Like This

Throwing one of these babies on the back of a closet door serves several purposes: the basket is great for small stuff like hats and gloves that otherwise tend to wander off. The hooks keep shirts off the floor when you’re too lazy to pull the hanger out (and when shirts build up, it’s in a convenient location to put them away properly as a group). And now when you need to hang something to steam it, you’ve got just the spot.

7. And This Thing for Your Shoes

I’ll be the first to admit that I have an irresponsible collection of shoes, but I know I’m not alone. Throwing one of these on the back of another closet door at least gets 12 pairs neatly out of the way while still allowing said closet door to shut. All this being said, if you can swing it, I also highly recommend …

8. This (Other, Bigger) Thing For Your Shoes

The problem with shoes is that even in the roomiest closets, there’s still not that much space for them. They need a proper home of their own. This closet cabinet from the ORIGINAL Marie Kondos at IKEA fits the bill nicely — I’ve got mine dialed with 11 shelves, each with space for four pairs of kicks across (it’s exactly deep enough to put one in front of the other). That’s 44 pairs of shoes, by gum. Admittedly has a bit of a spatial footprint (har), but ultimately worth it to be able to sweep my kicks from the floor into one self-contained place.

9. And This Thing For Your Glasses

Multiple pairs of glasses (sun or otherwise) are one of the most frustrating things to store, and thus you wind up leaving them laying around to get scratched. No more.

10. Box Up Your Gear Seasonally

Springtime is upon us, which means those heavy suits, coats, sweaters, etc are just going to be taking up valuable space for no good reason until fall. Same goes for your warm weather stuff come October. Getting a couple big flat storage containers and stashing your off-season gear until you need it essentially doubles the size of your closet in one fell swoop.

11. Practice “One In, One Out”

Often when I’m trying to decide if I truly want to buy something, I think to myself if I have an old version of the same type of thing (hoodie, jacket, sneakers) that I could donate to make room. Someone in need gets something, I get a weak justification for retail addiction. Everybody wins.

This article was originally published on April 12, 2019.

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