Your Closet's a Mess: Here's How to Fix It

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Unless you have a walk-in closet bigger than most bedrooms, that means you need to know how to put off-season clothes away so they’ll be just as good as you left them — and get you some extra space. We tapped a few experts to weigh in on how you can organize, store, and preserve your off-season attire this fall.

Keep Those Old Shoeboxes
As far as we're concerned, it’s not hoarding if it’s functional. Pro skateboarder and shoe designer Chad Muska always keeps his shoes in the box they came in. “It’s the most organized way to stack shoes and keep them protected while easily seeing what model they are on the side of the box,” he says.

Invest In a Good Shoe Cleaner
Whether you’ve worn them once this season or every day, your shoes will last much longer if you treat them with cleaners and solutions. We like Jason Markk cleaner for sneakers — just give them a good cleaning before you store them in the closet. For leather, treat your shoes with oil (we like Chamberlain's Leather Milk).

Keep Your Cashmere Safe
Peter Trainor, founder and designer of clothing brand Max ‘n Chester, swears by storing his clothes sorted by fabric. “For clothing that is made of wool and cashmere, I store them in clear containers or drawers,” he says. “I like to use a container that is closed with a lid and ideally can be airtight. This is especially important because that will keep the fabrication safe from moths or other elements that might damage the material.”

The Vacuum Sealer Is Your Friend
Compressing your bulkier clothes is like downsizing without having to throw out anything. "Vacuum sealing big, puffy coats and storing them under your bed is a great way to open up space,” says Alejandro Chahin, founder of Mott & Bow Jeans. “These take up the most space and are usually only worn for a few months of the year."

Shape Your Shoes
Shoving your kicks into piles and crushing them into misshapen lumps for months on end is a waste of your time and money — you’ll end up storing them for a season only to find that now they’re almost not wearable and you have to invest in a new pair. “If you want to help maintain their shape, it's a nice touch to stuff them with boot shapers,” says Timothy Nickloff, director of Palladium Boots.

Keep Wrinkles Away
Linens and cotton-based clothing are prime targets for wrinkles, so take those few extra seconds to hang them up or fold them instead of stuffing them in a drawer or container. “For linen or cotton-based clothing, I like to keep them folded on racks or shelves, and then separated by color for organization,” Trainor says, adding that he hangs up shirts in garment bags.

Organize by Categories
If it’s always organized, you’ll never have to clean it out. “I organize by color, style, and season," Muska says. "I have been trying to acquire pieces that I can and will wear often so that my space is not filled with unnecessary items that just take up space.” 

Be Careful With Raw Denim
Raw denim looks great but bleeds. Horribly. Anyone who has had a pair of white sneakers and worn them with a pair of raw indigo jeans knows this. If you store your raw denim with cotton shirts and tees, you can guarantee a little unwanted tie-dye come next season. Chahin also suggests hanging them up to "prevent unnatural creases or wrinkles."

Keep Your Significant Other's Clothes Separate
Because you don’t need to share everything in a relationship, keep your clothes separate. “I don’t want a dress mixed in with my suits,” Trainor says. 

Get Some Four-Season Sneakers
Do you have that one pair of shoes that you never put away? If not, find them. “There is no method to the madness with choosing your favorite sneakers — just pure instinct and inspiration,” Muska says. “The only shoes I consistently keep around are my SUPRA Skytop's. I keep my favorite colorways front and center to grab easily. There's always that selection of shoes you can't stop wearing, so keep those in the front lines.”

Use Luggage to Your Advantage
Yes, clear bins and plastic containers that you can keep in your garage, closet, or under the bed seem to be the popular choice. But a more efficient tactic is to store them in suitcases or duffels.

Make the Most of a Small Space
If you’re in a tiny apartment where you have to dig every time to find a single item, it’s time to rent out a storage unit for your off-season clothes. A 5x5 unit is about the size of a normal walk-in closet, and won't bruise your wallet. Look for a unit that allows 24-hour access or at least decent hours on the weekend so you can swap items at your leisure (and since this isn't long-term storage). Most 5x5 units run around $40–50/month, and some facilities allow you to take the first month for free or for a dollar — so you'll only have to pay for two months of a full three-month seasonal storage. Or just get rid of all the items you don't need.

Prioritize Your Jeans
You can really wear every style and color of denim all year, so have a few pairs that you love to throw on, and keep it simple. Because of their versatility, keep your jeans visible and accessible all year. Chahin suggests rolling them up and storing them in a clear storage bin or in drawers.

Use Bigger Spaces Wisely
For those blessed with a bigger living space, practice self-control by dedicating one closet to clothes that are out of season. “Sorting clothes by season is the easiest way to organize — you don’t want to overload your closet with pieces you most likely won’t be wearing anytime soon,” Trainor says. 

Choose Your Go-To's
“I’m a huge fan of the sneaker-boot category because their aesthetic is perfect for transitional weather and they are comfortable and light enough to function like a sneaker,” Nickloff says. Palladium, Nike ACG, and Adidas have great options for all-weather conditions. When it comes to deciding which pair of boots to keep out and have on hand, the general rule of thumb is to keep the pair you know you're definitely going to wear more often. 

Keep Clothes in the Same Weight Class
"As someone who deals with fabrics a lot in my own line, I’d definitely say start with the weight of the fabric when organizing,” Trainor says. You can do lightweight to heavyweight or vice-versa, but definitely keep things categorized. Heavier and bulkier fabrics wrinkle, crush, and prevent lighter fabrics from breathing. Air needs to circulate in the clothes; otherwise mold and mildew may form. Keep the heavy sweaters, coats, and pants on bottom and work your way up to your lightest fabrics like linen, cotton, and satin.

Prep Your Clothes for Storage
“Folding your clothes neatly and nicely is key. It goes a long way, and you won’t have to launder or iron them again when you’re ready to wear them again,” Trainor says. Follow this folding guide:

Shirts and Sweaters

  • Fold sweaters into a rectangle with the arms folded behind the back. (That's how they do it in department stores to save space and spare wrinkles.) Then fold the entire shirt in half.

Jeans

  • While holding the pants by the waistband, give them a good shake to get the wrinkles out.
  • Put your hands in both pockets and smooth them down.
  • Place one hand in the middle (where the knee is) of the pants while folding the hem of the pants up to the waistband. 
  • Holding the pants by the waistband, fold them back pocket to back pocket.
  • Fold the crotch of the pants back on itself to create clean lines and prevent bunching.

Coats

  • Surprise! Fold — don’t hang — your wool, leather, faux fur, or down coats.
  • Remove everything from pockets and fasten all snaps, buttons, or zippers, and gently fold the coat. Don’t smash or compress the coats or they will lose their shape.
  • Loosely stack them into boxes, storage bags, or bins.