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The Knack

10 Steps To A Perfectly Organised Wardrobe

A definitive guide to getting more value and variation from your clothes

Minimalism might be the smug Instagram ideal, but the reality for most people – those of us who like buying clothes anyway – is a wardrobe and cupboards that are over-stuffed at best and a precariously balanced landslide-in-waiting at worst.

If it’s a struggle to prise a hanger from the rail or a sweater from the shelf and doing so brings with it the garments either side, then you’re suffering from stuffocation and everything will end up looking creased. And all those items hidden away in the dark recesses? You never wear them. You’ve probably forgotten you even own them.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Clear away the clutter and you’ll be able to access all areas. Not only will that remove some low-level stress from your life, but you will open up exponentially more outfit possibilities, rediscover some old favourites and breathe new life into your everyday look.

And yes, OK, we will admit to having an ulterior motive. Because oh look, you can suddenly fit in more clothes. Turns out we can help with that, too.

Fold T-shirts like a pro

What the..? What sorcery is this? There’s no easy or short way of explaining in words quite how to do this neat trick of origami. Any attempt to do so makes it sound much more complicated than it is. But let us try at least. You need to pinch a point A in the centre of the T-shirt with one hand, and at point B in the other. Then you fold over point B to point C. The next part is the tricky bit. Pull your hand at A out and under your hand at C, until the T-shirt hangs naturally in a rectangular shape, with one arm hanging beneath. Then you simply turn the whole thing over, and fold once to tuck the sleeve under, the result being a perfectly rectangular T-shirt in a fraction of the time. If you need more help, watch this video (apologies for the quality). Once learnt, this technique is ninja-quick, gratifyingly simple and will change the way you fold T-shirts and shirts forever. It will help when packing/unpacking, too.

Kondo your drawers

Japan, it seems, sets the gold standard for wardrobe neatness. Japanese life guru Ms Marie Kondo literally wrote the book on it. Her much-parodied bestseller The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying is a bit wordy, but one of the main takeaways will revolutionise how you organise your drawers. Instead of laying things flat in the drawer, you stand everything up on end like book spines on a shelf so that you are presented with a panoptical view of the contents rather than having to rummage to get beyond the top layer. This works for everything from boxer shorts to T-shirts (once you have first folded them as above) to knitwear. Instead of balling your socks, you lay them flat together in a pair, fold in half, then stand on end. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s a great way of keeping things neat and surfacing more of what you own.

Know when to use wire coat hangers

The cheap wire hangers they use at a drycleaner get a bad rap, but they take up far less rail space than chunky wooden ones and they work fine for ironed shirts. However, felted hangers are an upgrade because clothes are less likely to slip off – wire has less grip. For neatness and ease of rail access, keep all your hangers uniform – throw out any that are mismatching – and hang everything in the same direction.

Never hang a structured suit jacket on a wire hanger – that’s the quickest way to ruin the construction of the shoulder. This is where you need a hanger, whether plastic or wooden, that has some shape. Yes, such hangers take up more room, but they will help retain and maintain the structure of the tailoring. Keep suits you rarely wear either in suit bags or in the cellophane from the dry cleaner to prevent them getting dusty.

Don’t overcrowd

You should be able to fit a finger, if not two, between each item so that you can easily shunt things along the rail to make space to pull out the item you want. Stow seasonal items in empty suitcases or in air-tight storage boxes under your bed. Such wardrobe rotation should alleviate overcrowding.

Hang smart trousers upside down

Most people hang trousers on hangers by distributing their weight evenly so the trousers don’t slip off the crossbar. But by employing this simple Savile Row folding technique, you can reduce creases by having the hanging weight of the waistband at the bottom. First, hold the trousers so they either hang along their crease or along the seam, as desired. Then grip them by the hems either side of the hanger. Fold one leg over the crossbar from the outside in. Then fold the other over that. You will find this much easier if you use a felted hanger or a wooden hanger that has a grooved trouser grip to prevent slippage.

Fold knitwear

Putting knitwear on a hanger is a big no-no because, under its own weight, it’ll quickly pull itself out of shape. It should return to its proper shape after being laundered according to the care instructions on the label. Then fold it either in drawers or on shelves.

Use shoe trees for smart shoes

Each pair of dress shoes should have a corresponding pair of shoe trees in order to help the leather retain its shape. At the very least, you should use shoe trees in shoes for 48 hours after wearing them to keep the leather taut as it dries. If the shoe trees are made of cedarwood, they can help to absorb any lingering moisture and odour from sticky feet. It is not necessary to put shoe trees in sneakers and casual boots, however.

Keep shoes in a different place from cashmere

There are few things more annoying when getting dressed than reaching for your favourite cashmere sweater only to discover that some moths have been chowing down on it. The little bastards. Mothballs do work, but they absolutely stink and their unmistakable chemical smell tends to linger – not a great signature scent. Cedarwood balls or blocks are much more fragrant but less effective. (Lightly sandpaper them periodically to revive their efficacy.) You can reduce the problem in the first place by keeping your footwear in a different place from your cashmere. Moths love flames, famously, but they are just as attracted by the pungency of feet. They come for the cheese. They stay for the all-you-can-eat cashmere buffet.

Get it fixed or get rid

Missing button? Annoying stain? Little hole? Unfinished hem? Take the lot to a professional dry cleaner or alterations tailor and get them fixed. You should be able to wear everything in your wardrobe. Otherwise, why are you keeping it?

Follow the one-year rule

Stop hoarding. In a recent You Asked column, we explained how to conduct a wardrobe audit by playing a ruthless game of Yes/No/Maybe. Many people with limited storage space perform a wardrobe switcheroo in spring and autumn as the seasons change. These are the ideal times to purge. Remove each item in turn and ask yourself: “Have I worn this in the past year?” If  yes, it goes in the Yes pile on your bed. If no, it goes in the No pile, straight into a black bin bag to be taken to a charity shop. (I allow my brothers and close friends to have a sift through first.) However, if the answer is no because you forgot you even had it, then it can go in a Maybe pile. (Part of the joy of this exercise is rediscovering some lost pieces.) If there are items that you really cannot quite bear to part with, they can also go in the Maybe pile. But you need to be ruthless. If it doesn’t fit, get rid. You might think you will miss it, but trust us, you won’t.

Wardrobe essentials

  • Mr P. Navy Unstructured Worsted Wool Blazer

  • Acne Studios Niagara Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt

  • Incotex Four Season Slim-Fit Cotton-Blend Chinos

  • Sunspel Cotton Boxer Shorts

  • John Smedley Lundy Slim-Fit Merino Wool Sweater

  • John Lobb City II Leather Oxford Shoes