Clutter is rarely this glamorous. Experts explain their simple strategies for sorting all your things--and why being organized is so deeply satisfying.
By Liana Schaffner, Allure
Just consider: The word "lose" is wedged right in the middle of "closet." The subliminal message practically gives us permission to ignore all the stuff we stash behind a door. It's easy to assign the same out-of-sight, out-of-mind logic to drawers and cabinets, as if their contents exist in another dimension--a black hole where chaos reigns. But nope. Storage areas aren't just a part of your living space; they can function as extensions of your psyche. "Clutter has an emotional impact," says Beverly Hills organizer Linda Koopersmith, whose clients include Khloé Kardashian and Sofia Vergara. "Once we get things in order, there's this palpable sense of relief."
That could explain why obsessive neatness has become a new, almost therapeutic phenomenon. Hypnotic images of precisely arranged objects--call them "org porn"--dominate Instagram and Pinterest. And Marie Kondo, the woman who took the decluttering trend to a new level of austerity (and the top of the New York Times best-seller list) with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Ten Speed Press), has a new book on the topic, Spark Joy. There are plenty of ways to declutter--and you've got nothing to lose except, perhaps, some (emotional) baggage.
If cleanliness is next to godliness, then professional organizers are near deities. Some of the best in the field spill (well, tidily set forth) their favorite tricks.
Sweep clean. "Start by taking everything out of your closet and drawers," says Washington, D.C., organizer Alejandra Costello. Decide right then whether it belongs in the "keep" or "donate" pile. "It should be a quick decision," says Costello. "If you're really conflicted over something, chances are you won't miss it."
Pair like with like. "Grouping similar items together--all your long-sleeved shirts in one place, your pants in another--is essential to finding what you need," says New York City organizing expert Molly Rain, who works with editors and fashion insiders. Once you've sorted your clothes into categories, organize each group by color.
Switch to skinny hangers. "I work with designers and models who have tons of clothes, and getting everything to fit on a rack is a real issue," says Rain, who likes Joy Mangano Huggable Hangers. "Changing to thin hangers instantly saves a third of the space--a third. In New York City, that's huge."
Everything has its place. In her new book, Kondo suggests placing anything made of a "fluttery material" and fabrics that are quick to wrinkle on hangers. But if something is "soft and pliable," she writes, then you know "it contains air." So, she explains, the best way to reduce its volume is to fold it.
File it away. Every organizer on earth (well, all the ones we spoke to) recommends storing folded clothes in a vertical position, like files lined up in a drawer, instead of stacked in columns. (Just fold them as usual, then flip the pile so it stands up--spring-loaded drawer dividers, like ones from the Container Store, will help.) This method makes every single item visible, conserves space, and prevents pieces from getting stranded on the bottom.
Keep one messy drawer. It's fine to have one drawer for miscellaneous things, according to New York City organizer Juli Oliver. "It takes a little pressure off, knowing that you don't have to organize down to the last lost button."
Go over your underwear. Lingerie drawers fall into disarray because they contain a variety of shapes and materials. To help keep undergarments under control, Kondo suggests arranging your drawer with light items in front, tapering to dark in back. "When you line your underwear up like this, your drawer will look like a box of sweets," she writes.
Stack your bras. Bras are the fitted sheets of lingerie--there's no easy way to fold them. So don't. The best way to avoid an unholy tangle is to tuck the straps inside the cups and line them up in a drawer, one propped lightly against the other.
Sort your shoes. One way to arrange them is with each pair side by side, with one toe facing out and the other facing in. By nesting insteps together in this fashion, you save several inches of space, says Koopersmith.
Take a seat. If you have a walk-in closet, place a chair or a bench inside--not a stool, not a stepladder, but a stylish upholstered seat. "It makes the space inviting," says Koopersmith.
Light it up. "A naked lightbulb is depressing," says Koopersmith. "It's like your clothes are in a jail cell." An elegant light fixture transforms even cramped quarters.
Save something. You've tossed out so much stuff that your drawers are anemic. Congratulations? Not quite. "This is a booby trap," writes Kondo, who sees too much drawer space as an invitation to accumulate more. "The rule of thumb is 90 percent," she advises. Fill your drawers to the point that they look full (but not engorged).
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