Reader question: Hat storage

Unclutterer reader Kim wrote in with this question:

I have 120 women’s dress hats, some with wide brims. Right now, I store them in boxes. Too many boxes. I would like another way to store them so them remain intact. They are expensive. I already have some stored on the shelf in my closet.

This is a great question Kim. As with all organizing projects, we start with sorting and purging. Are there any hats you can get rid of? If yes, this would be the time. However, we’re going to assume that you curated your collection before you wrote to us and you have 120 women’s dress hats that you love and want to keep.

First of all, it is important to store hats correctly as they are shaped in a certain way to fit properly on your head. Bending, folding, or improperly hanging or storing a hat can ruin it.

On the Houzz website, Ben Goorin, of Goorin Bros., suggested storing hats upside down because the crown is stiffer and stronger than the brim. Alternatively, you could raise the hat up so it is not resting on the brim by making a big ball of tissue paper and setting the hat on that instead.

Most websites we researched indicate the best way to store a hat is inside a hat box in your closet out of direct light. If you have vintage hats, you may wish to consider using an archival quality storage box and acid-free tissue paper for storage. You can take a photograph of the hat and attach it to the outside of the box. This will allow you to quickly determine which hat is stored in which box.

Multiple hats could be stored inside the same box as long as you stack hats of lightweight fabrics (straw, linen, cotton) on the top and hats of heavier fabrics (wool, leather, angora) on the bottom. (See Goorin Hat Care Tips for great info on cleaning and removing stains from hats.)

Square boxes are easier to pack into a closet than round boxes because you can maximize space by stacking. Storing the hats in round decorative boxes can be a design element in a room.

For frequently worn hats, a hat rack with round supports may be useful. You should avoid hat racks and hooks with pointy ends as they can deform the hat quickly.

Finally, consider storing off-season hats off-site. If you have the space in your basement or attic, you could keep some hats there providing they are in sealed containers to protect them from damage due to moisture and pests.

Thanks for your great question Kim. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.

 

Do you have a question relating to organizing, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Tackling the sock drawer

The bane of my existence is the sock drawer.

I’ll take a hundred kitchen junk drawers over one sock drawer. It seems like it’s always a jumbled pile of mismatched and orphaned socks. Socks for work and those for sports mingle, making it difficult to find what I’m after. This past weekend I took control of the sock drawer with a few simple steps.

Dump it all out

This part is no fun, but it’s necessary. Dump the entire contents of your sock drawer onto a flat surface and get ready to sort. Your bed is a good option, as it offers plenty of room and, I assume, is in the same room as your sock drawer.

Start the purge

Sometimes you have to say goodbye. In this case, toss any socks with holes or with elastic that’s clearly shot. Yes, they were faithful little soldiers but it’s time for them to go. Also turn a wary eye towards those ugly socks you never wear as well as any orphans.

Do you really want the ugly ones? If the answer is no, send them to the great big hamper in the sky. As for the orphans, set them aside for a week. If their partners return after a few cycles of laundry, rejoice! If not, it’s bye-bye to them, too.

Sort

Now that we’ve whittled it down to the keepers, it’s time to sort. First, divide by purpose. That is to say, athletic socks, more formal socks for work, no-show socks for the summer and those thick, cozy socks you keep for cold winter days. This is where a sock drawer organizer comes in handy.

What do you really need?

Maybe socks are your thing, I get it. I like wearing bold socks to work, too. But there’s a point where the numbers become overwhelming. Stick to this simple rule: six or seven pairs per category. That way you have plenty of options without generating an unwieldy mass of socks that end up over-stuffing your drawer.

Lastly, here’s a quick tip. The “ball method” of folding that many of us learned as kids wears out the elastic quickly. Instead, simply fold pairs together. They’ll still fit in the organizer very neatly.

Now, go and reclaim your sock drawer! Never again will you dread pulling it open. Now if I only knew where those missing ones disappeared to.

Weekend project: organize the closet

sweater storage boxClosets, like junk drawers, tend to attract all manner of clutter. I think that’s because their contents are largely out of sight and easily shut away. Is that untidy closet stressing you out? Shut the door and walk away. There!

That’s a bit flippant, I admit, and also not the whole story. Many people resist organizing a closet because they assume that means researching and purchasing additional storage solutions. While it’s possible that an untidy closet could be greatly improved with some labeled bins, that’s not the only way to get on top of an untidy project. You can make huge gains in a weekend without spending a thing. Let’s begin with the obvious: uncluttering.

Unclutter the closet

Inside my closet is a dresser with a nice, flat surface. It calls to me when I open the door: “Dave, just plop that sweatshirt right here. Oh and those sweaters? Just pile them up right here.” If I analyze this behavior in myself, I realized that when I place items on top of the dresser vs. inside its drawers not just because I am feeling a little lazy, but because the drawers are often full. Time to unclutter.

Seasonal clothes should be removed and stored properly. What remains is sorted into three categories: what fits right now, what I want to wear, and what projects my desired image (as a guy closer to 50 than 40, I’m making a concerted effort to dress like an adult). You’ll find more on this in our article “Discover your style and keep clutter out of your closet.”

Anything that doesn’t fit into one those categories can be donated or handed down.

Plan out your closet space

Now that you’ve uncluttered, plan out the most effective use of the liberated space. Use a tape measure and confirm all of the dimensions, from top to bottom. If and when you do buy additional storage solutions, you’ll know exactly what will fit and what won’t. Also, plan to put your most frequently used items in the most accessible locations. I’ve organized my dresser the exact same way for years, and I suspect many of you have, too.

Make sure everything works well

Repair that squeaky drawer, busted light bulb and the tie rack that’s just not quite right. It’s possible to live with these minor irritations from day to day, but it’s also very annoying. While you’re at it this weekend, bust out the tool box and fix those problems once and for all.

Shoes and accessories

I don’t have very many accessories. There are a few ties, a few pocket squares, and a couple of belts. I use the top drawer for all of these. That way I know where they are and can see them all at one glance. Organize yours in a dedicated “accessories-only” location that’s easy to access.

From there, you’re done, and it only took a couple of hours. Now if you want to invest some storage solutions, you’re better equipped to make the right purchase decisions. Good luck.

Options for upcycling clothes

As summer eases into fall, I’m thinking about clothes. Soon I’ll haul my cold-weather wardrobe from its storage spot, and put my shorts and T-shirts in its place. The kids, ever growing, will need some new items for school. Larger sneakers will replace old; hats and gloves will join their smaller counterparts in the mudroom. Several times during the changeover, I’ll hold something up and wonder, “Why do I still have this?” When no satisfactory answer returns, I’ll fold it up and put it away until next year.

We’ve written before about what to do with old, unwanted clothes. Of course you can also donate clothes, hand them down, gift them to young parents, turn them into household rags, or even make interesting keepsakes. In the case of sentimental tshirt, my wife made a quilt from them. Recently, I found another alternative that I wanted to share: upcycling.

An article at CBC appeared in my RSS feed at the perfect time. It begins by pointing out a problem: wasted clothes. While many people donate unwanted clothes in a way that extends their life, “…North Americans [still] discard a mind-boggling amount of apparel — 12 billion kilograms of textiles every year.” That’s a staggering 26 billion pounds!

I think that’s more than a little disheartening, as do twins Lindsay and Alexandra Lorusso. The pair started their own company, Nudnik, which uses scraps of discarded clothing and other textiles, and turns them into re-sellable outfits for kids. It’s a great idea.

Meanwhile, entrepreneur Natalie Festa has begun renting outfits and other articles to customers who are either eco-conscious or on a budget, a scenario that should be familiar to fans of NBC’s Parks and Rec.

Of course, you needn’t start a business to upcycle old clothing. Basic sewing skills will let you create new items from scraps. A tshirt can become a little laundry bag when you sew the bottom shut. A shirt can also become a headband if you’re so inclined.

When it comes to old clothes, definitely consider the donate/hand-me-down route. But don’t overlook the various upcycle options available. There’s a lot that can be done.

5,4,3,2,1: Creating clothing capsules

Today’s guest post is by Geralin Thomas, Author, Career Coach for Professional Organizers, Home Organization and Decluttering Consultant, and Capsule Wardrobe Fanatic.

It seems like everyone is talking, blogging, or photographing clothing capsules. Basically, a capsule wardrobe is comprised of several pieces of curated clothing and accessories that are versatile and coordinate with each other.

It might seem like an impossible goal, but creating a clothing capsule is not really difficult. And it has many benefits, the primary one being eliminating the “what am I going to wear” syndrome and keeping only garments and accessories that go together effortlessly. Clothing capsule enthusiasts dress with ease every day.

So how do you go about creating your own capsule wardrobe? There’s no one right way to do it, but most people who want to create a clothing capsule start by detoxing their current wardrobes and editing everything that doesn’t fit their body, lifestyle, and personality like a glove. They keep items whose fabric weight, colors, and mood are all similar.

For inspiration, think about certain celebrities who have a very distinct style. Public figures like Ellen, Martha Stewart, Kate Hudson, Wendy Williams, or Cher wear clothes that look like them and fit their lifestyle and personality.

One of the goals when building a capsule of clothing, is to aim for pieces that fit your current lifestyle, not a lifestyle you aspire to live. Each and every garment should fit and flatter and make you feel fabulous, not frumpy or costume-y when you get dressed. Each garment should mix and match so that you can reach into your closet and know that everything in it goes together.

The majority of my clients are looking for a system or starting point with capsule wardrobes, so I created a basic formula I call 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

My basic business wear/girls’ night out/date night clothing capsule formula is: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 but remember, it doesn’t matter how many pieces are in your capsule wardrobe, as long as all of them go there and you’re pleased with it.

  • 5 tops
  • 4 bottoms
  • 3 toppers
  • 2 dresses
  • 1 yours-truly accessory

I suggest picking one or two base colors for the bottoms. Three examples of base colors for the bottoms:

  • navy + whiskey
  • black + gray
  • chocolate brown + olive

One or two accent colors for the tops that coordinate with the base colors. For example:

If the base is: The accent colors could be:
navy + whiskey coral + teal
black + gray red + white
chocolate brown + olive marigold + paprika

 

The “toppers” can be blazers, cardigans, ponchos, or vests in base, in a third color or a variation of the base or accent color.

The dresses can be every-day, around-town dresses or something fancier depending on your lifestyle. They can be in your base, accent, or a third color.

The “yours-truly” accessory can be a handbag, necklace, scarf or whatever you’d like as long as it is uniquely you. That does not mean it has to be expensive. It typically means you are going to wear it every day and keep wearing it for years (a watch, a necklace, a handbag, earrings).

Hints about colors: Try to select colors that flatter your complexion (warm or cool) and your eye color. If you can’t figure out if you’re warm or cool, have a look at my Pinterest boards, color analysis and clothing capsules how-to.

Finally, if that doesn’t help ask a hair stylist or make-up artist to analyze your complexion as they are usually very good at this.

For most of the women I work with, creating very specific capsules for very specific occasions is another favorite starting place. I call these “Occasion Capsules” A few options include:

  • funerals
  • weddings (daytime and evening)
  • resort wear (skiing, cruises, etc.)
  • sports (yoga, swimming, golf)
  • girls’ night out
  • date night
  • public speaking
  • errands around town

Please note that in no way am I’m suggesting that a funeral or wedding capsule have 15 pieces. Instead, for those capsules you would want to make sure you have everything you need from head-to-toe and from inner to outer including undergarments, handbag, shoes, jewelry and coat, umbrella or whatever else might be appropriate.

To help plan your very own capsules, download my free Capsule Wardrobe Planning Worksheets or watch videos of me talking about decluttering, clothing, closets and capsule wardrobes.

Interested in taking things a step further? Record your exact measurements and figure out your body type using my Wardrobe Wisdom Workbook.

Reader question: An abundance of clothing

Reader Olympia wrote us to say,

I have an abundance of clothes… 3 closets full of clothes plus a room full of clothing. I recently lost a lot of weight so it was easy to get rid of the larger-sized clothes but I have saved all of my smaller-sized clothing (20 years’ worth) that I love, fits me, and looks great on me. I know I can’t keep everything but I just don’t know what to get rid of and how to organize it better. Also, over 100 pairs of shoes… Crazy! I would welcome any input.

I’m sure Olympia isn’t our only reader with an abundance of clothing especially since the clothing industry is designed to make us feel out of fashion within weeks. Here are some suggestions to reduce the quantity of clothing in your closets.

First of all, read Erin’s post, Discover your style to keep clutter out of your closet. This will help you determine your preferred style. There is no point in keeping a dozen lacy, frilly blouses if you’re not a lacy, frilly person. Paying attention to the way clothes fit you is important too. Jeri discusses the importance of proper style and fit in her post, Managing your wardrobe: award shows vs. real life.

What about your lifestyle? Has it changed in the past twenty years?  Back then, I was a stay-at-home parent with two children under 5 years old. The clothes I was wearing at that time still fit me and look good on me but very few pieces suit my age or current lifestyle.

If you’re having difficulty determining your style or evaluating fit, Erin’s post, Get rid of the clutter in your clothes closet has some great ideas to help you. You can look through photos of yourself and decide if the clothes really flatter you. You could ask a spouse or friend to toss any clothing of yours that he/she hates to see you wear. It might help to set a “past due” date on your clothes. For example, anything not worn in the past 24 months is automatically removed from your closets — no ifs, ands, or buts.

To help you build a good wardrobe foundation, check out Erin’s post, Basic wardrobes can end clutter in the female closet. Gentleman, please refer to Basic wardrobes can end clutter in the male closet and an Organized wardrobe for men in their 40s. We’ve also answered a question about managing a wardrobe of many sizes and discussed the benefits of uniforms.

One of the things that helped me simplify my wardrobe was living in a hotel for six weeks during our trans-Atlantic moves. I had two large suitcases in which to pack everything I would wear to carry out my normal day-to-day home and working life. Imagine if your employer sent you to work at another location across the country for two months. What would you take assuming you could not return home for anything or buy anything new?

I’m sure our readers have some great ideas too so I welcome them to chime in with suggestions on how to pare down clothing.

 

Do you have a question relating to organizing, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Hanging coats

If you don’t have a closet near the front door to your home, a free-standing coat rack might be a good way to keep jackets, scarves, backpacks, and umbrellas from ending up on the back of every couch and chair in the adjacent room. Here are a few different options.

The Frenchi Furniture Black Metal Coat Rack has 12 hooks at two different heights. This would be great for hanging purses or for younger people who can’t reach the top hooks. Although umbrellas could hang on the lower hooks, if wet, they would drip all over the floor.

 

Monarch Specialties’ Contemporary Coat Rack in silver finish has a sleek look for modern designs. There are no lower hooks on this rack so it might not be a great option for a home with young children.

 

The LCH Standing Coat Rack made from solid rubber wood has a more natural look. Hooks at multiple heights would be an easy reach for kids and ideal for hanging purses and umbrellas.

 

Busy families may decide to use a garment rack instead of a coat rack. The HOMFA Fashion heavy-duty garment rack has space for coats, scarves, umbrellas, and the shelves provide a convenient place to store backpacks and shoes.

Check out ten more inspirational coat rack designs over at Remodelista.

 

This post was originally published May 2009.

Reader question: How do you fold clothes to save space?

Reader Josephine recently sent us the following question:

I don’t own a lot of clothes, but yet my drawers are always out of control. What are some ways to fold and store clothes to best use the space that you have?

That’s a great question Josephine. Maximizing storage space depends on many factors including the amount and types of clothes that you have as well as the design of the space in which you store them.

Our writers each lead different lifestyles so I asked each of them this question and compiled their reports.

Jeri

With any clothes storage effort, the first step is always to unclutter. There’s no point in figuring out how to store clothes you’re not going to wear.

But let’s assume you’ve done that. There are products designed to help you fold things neatly and make the most of your drawer space, such as the Pliio clothes folders. I know people who use these and think they are terrific. And in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo presents her own folding technique for clothes, including socks. Many people won’t have the patience to do that careful folding — but if it works for you, that’s great. You can find numerous online videos showing folding techniques, if you prefer visual instructions.

Personally, I’m not someone who likes to fold. So, it works out well that my home has very little drawer or shelf space for folded items. The only things in drawers are a few knit items (which are folded), pajama bottoms (folded, but not carefully), socks, and underwear (which just get tossed into the drawer). Everything else is on hangers or hooks. I don’t own many clothes, so it’s easy to keep the closet and the drawers about 20 percent empty, making it easy to put things away and take them out.

Sock storage becomes easier if you buy multiple pairs of the same sock. For example, you might buy just one type of black dress sock, one type of white sports sock, etc. Then you don’t need to worry about rolling socks, folding them into pairs, or otherwise matching them up — the pairings are obvious. You might still want to fold them as a space-saving technique, though, if space is a concern.

One more space-usage tip: Sometimes I see people with some sentimental clothes items in their closets or dresser drawers. Since these are not being kept to be worn, they can be stored somewhere else, freeing up limited closet or dresser space.

Dave

Last year I taught a group of Cub Scouts how to unpack, set up, and then store a tent. They were very interested in getting it out of the bag and set up as quickly as possible. Later when it was time to put the tent away, I quizzed them while they worked.

“What’s the most important aspect of using a tent?” They offered answers with enthusiasm: “Finding a good spot,” “Proper staking,” and so on.  I told them that the most important part is actually putting it away. By taking the time to put the tent away properly now, you save yourself time and headache later.

It’s the same with storing clothes.

When I was a college student, “storing clothes” meant “somewhere in this room.” As I matured, I recognized that a drawer stuffed with T-shirts only makes more work for me so I developed a new way to store my clothing – a system I’ve been using since I left school.

  • Top drawer: Sleepwear, socks and underwear. I roll up each like a burrito to maximize space used.
  • Second drawer: T-shirts only. Each is folded thirds lengthwise (arms and sides together) and then in half and in half again. This way I can fit several into a single drawer.
  • Drawer three: Jeans or shorts, depending on the season, folded up in thirds.
  • Drawer four: This last drawer is for what I call “dress pants.” I almost never go in this drawer (I can wear jeans to work), unless there’s a wedding, funeral or job interview I must attend.

Long-sleeved and button-down shirts are hung on hangers.

Sweaters are never hung, as they get those “bumps” in the shoulders. They usually live on top of my dresser during sweater season and in the off-season, in labelled bins on a shelf in my closet.

Alex

Until recently, I’d never given much thought to how I fold my clothes, but then after two years of living in our apartment, my husband decided to give our walk-in closet an overhaul. We ended up having several discussions about the pros and cons of folding clothes in certain ways, and although at first, I thought the conversations were bordering on absurd, but we realized that how the clothes are folded can make a real difference in how they are stored.

My husband has more clothes than I do, so has five shallow shelves to my two deep ones. While he has one full shelf each for t-shirts, trousers, sweaters, pyjamas, and scarves and such, I have a pile for each. How we store our clothes therefore has to be different.

Let’s look at trousers, for example. He folds his in four and has several piles of no more than five. I fold mine in three and have all of them in a single pile.

My t-shirts and sweaters need to be folded much more narrowly than his, again taking advantage of depth and height to compensate for the lack of width.

The one area of clothing that I outdo him on is dress shirts. For me, the trick has been to use the same type of hanger for all of my shirts, to iron them as soon as they come off the clothesline, and to do up at least the top button on the hanger. Everything hangs at the same level and being ironed, the shirts don’t bunch up or twist at the collar, and by being buttoned, they lay flat against each other.

After the overhaul, we now leave the closet door open a lot more because it’s actually a joy to see everything so nicely folded and hanging straight.

Jacki

I purchased drawer organizer cubes for my dresser to store my clothes. Here’s how they are organized.

Socks and undergarments

Like Jeri, I don’t fold these items, just put each type of clothing into cubes; socks cube, panties cube, hosiery cube. I do however, neatly roll my hosiery because it is less likely to get snags and runs. For bras, straps are folded into the cups and they are all lined up in a rectangular shaped drawer cube.

T-shirts, sportswear, sleepwear

T-shirts are folded lengthwise in thirds then rolled from the collar to the bottom of the shirt.

Athletic wear very slippery and doesn’t stay folded, so it is rolled similar to the t-shirts. However, after the shirts are folded, I add a pair of folded sports shorts, sports bra, panties, and sports socks then roll the whole thing up like a burrito. All I have to do is grab a roll of sportswear and I have everything I need to go to the gym.

Pyjamas are folded/rolled the same way as sportswear, bottoms rolled up inside the tops.

Spending most of my life in cold climates (I’m Canadian), I have one drawer specifically for long underwear. It is stored in rolls the same way I store pyjamas.

Hanging clothes and shoes

Blouses are hung on hangers, trousers are hung on a pants hanger. I use skirt hangers for separates and combo hangers for business suits.

We’ve lived in several different houses. In some houses sweaters have been stored on shelves with the help of dividers. In closets with more hanging space I’ve used a set of hanging shelves to store sweaters.

Shoes are stored in plastic shoe boxes, sometimes piled on the floor below the hanging clothing, sometimes stacked on shelving.

 

Thanks for your great question Josephine. We hope that this post gives you the information you’re looking for.

Do you have a question relating to organizing, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject as “Ask Unclutterer.”

Eliminating mid-station clutter

As I write this, there is an overflowing laundry basket behind me. I can’t see it. I can’t hear it or (for now, at least) smell it. But I can sense it. I know it’s there. It’s always there, eyeing me with its passive-aggressive glance. “Dave,” it says. “Daaaave! Look at all this laundry.”

No, I’m not going crazy, nor am I having a conversation with the laundry basket. I am, however, aware of what the laundry basket really is: a mid-station.

What is a mid-station?

Think of a train that leaves Boston for New York City but first stops in Hartford, Connecticut. Partway between its departure point and its final destination. That is the mid-station stop. If you wanted to, you could get off the train at Hartford, have some lunch, do some shopping, and then eventually continue to New York City.

The laundry basket is a mid-station stop — holding the dirty clothes before they get to the washing machine. The trouble is, laundry often gets stuck in the basket. Days go by and the pile gets higher and higher. It’s annoying, and this prompted me to find other mid-stations in my home and I found several.

The dish drainer is a classic mid-station. I’ll clean up after a meal, wash the dishes, and put them in the rack. A couple of days later, we’re all using the rack as if it were the cabinet.

We also have a collection of keys, backpacks, and lunch boxes that come in from work and school every day. In this case, the mid-station is the mudroom. The coats and backpacks have hooks and the keys have a small basket, yet these items often languish on the first flat surface inside the door, or on the floor itself.

What can be done about mid-stations?

Adopt new habits. I live with three other people and laundry builds up quickly. After just 72 hours there’s a mountain piled up. The solution that works for us is to do at least one load per day. If we do this, the clothes don’t pile up as much. Doing one load per day, is manageable, and a lot better than spending three or four hours on the weekend getting caught up.

As for the dishes, diligence is the answer here, too. Simply make it a part of the daily routine to empty the drainer and put the dishes, glasses, and utensils, away.

Continually reminding the guilty parties results in getting the coats and backpacks hung up properly in the mud room.

Eliminating mid-stations. I’ve read about people who’ve addressed mid-stations by eliminating them. In other words, laundry won’t pile up in baskets if there are no baskets. Likewise, there’s no “Leaning Tower of Dishes” to admire without a dish drainer to serve as the foundation. This is true but not often practical. When I was a kid, we didn’t have laundry baskets because my parents’ house had a laundry chute. We tossed the dirty clothes through a little door in the wall and they fell downstairs to the laundry room itself. Most homes don’t have laundry chutes these days.

If you can get away with eliminating a mid-station, give it a try. I don’t think I could do it.

The other point I want to make here is delegation. My kids, my wife and I all share chores. Many hands make for short work, as the saying goes.

If you’ve identified any mid-stations in your home, share your solution (or struggle) in the comments below. Let’s see what we can do about this common problem.

The new minimalist: how far can disownership go?

My twenty-something friends talk about all the various ways of streaming music, movies, series, and books. (Recently I heard that not a single singer in Spain sold more than 90,000 albums in 2016 [article in Spanish]). They also have a belief that they will never earn nearly as much as their parents did (youth unemployment in Spain is higher than 40%). This got me wondering how far a sharing economy based on music-streaming and social media models could take us?

Back when Unclutterer started, PJ Doland had a great series of articles about extreme minimalism, talking about someone who actively rejected ownership on a grand scale. But what if extreme minimalism wasn’t a choice? What if with the steadily shrinking middle class and the rise of the uber-rich, owning things became prohibitive for a large portion of society?

A coworker told me recently about the years she spent in Nicaragua where amongst the poorest levels of society, there isn’t a strong concept of ownership. If one person in the community has something (like a newly drilled well in the case of my coworker), it is considered to be the property of the whole community.

Jacki has talked about office sharing and Jeri wrote about sharing items to reduce clutter. To add to my growing awareness of the disownership trend, I saw an article about co-owning a home with friends and what risks and traps to avoid.

The creative part of my brain has put all these pieces together and has formulated a question that I find myself very curious to explore: What would a non-ownership world look like?

I’m not talking about a Utopian socialist/communist society. I am talking about the next steps of an increasingly corporatocracy that excludes more and more people from belonging to it without the support of friends and family.

That question has prompted me to take a new look at the Extreme Minimalist Monday theme. Occasionally over the next little while, I am going to take a look at the extension of sharing/streaming technology into day-to-day life and how it might affect the level of clutter/organization in the lives of people who participate in it.

Let me give you an example.

Here in Spain, social media Influencers (yes, with a capital “I”) talk about the importance of carving out a unique fashion style and always being on the edge of whatever is coming next. Obviously these Influencers don’t have TARDIS-like closets that are infinitely larger on the inside than the outside, so they have to do something with all the clothes they discard when they move onto the next trend.

And so Chicfy was created (website in Spanish). It’s an app that’s part Instagram and part eBay. Users create their store, put up photos of the clothes they want to sell, (usually relying heavily on the selfie photography style) and gain followers. These followers then buy the clothes and when they tire of them rework them into a different style that will encourage their own followers to buy something.

At some point someone needs to physically buy (or sew) the clothes, but instead of sitting unused in a closet, or ending up in a landfill, they get passed along, the way children’s winter boots used to go from oldest to youngest siblings until the soles wore out.

I personally don’t know anyone who uses the app, and the song that they use to advertise the service is an incredibly irritating earworm that has become a streaming hit. For an extreme minimalist, it could be a good way to opt out of the consumerist society that demands we buy only new, while still staying on the edge of what’s considered fashionable.

Now then, taking this to the next level, will buying new clothes become something only the rich do, while the rest of us buy progressively more worn-out wardrobes along some social-media-created scale of affordability?

Organized wardrobe for men in their 40s

As 2017 begins I find myself closer to 50 than 40, and that means change. I pay closer attention to my diet, my children are becoming teenagers and words like “investments” have entered my vocabulary. Lately I’ve also been taking a good look at something else — my wardrobe.

I’ve always been a “jeans and T-shirt” kind of guy. A baseball hat and a pair of sneakers have rounded out the look that has been my unofficial uniform since I was in high school. It’s casual and comfortable, but there is one little problem — I’m not in high school anymore.

To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13:11, it’s time to put childish things behind me. In this case, the wardrobe of my youth. In this article, I’ll describe how to organize a respectable wardrobe for a man in his 40s. I’m not an expert in the world of fashion or style (see the previous paragraph for proof), so I scoured the internet for some direction, which I’ll share with you here.

Edit

Step one is to edit the wardrobe. I suggest actually laying everything out on the bed to get a good overview of what you’ve got. First, note items that you haven’t worn regularly because of size, condition or style, and set them aside. Next, ID the items that you’ve kept around for their sentimental value but stopped wearing long ago. Finally, anything that’s simply worn out – those old sneakers, for example – go in yet another pile. With that done, it’s time to say goodbye.

You’ve got several options here. Items in good condition can be donated to local charities. Clothing that someone wouldn’t buy in their current condition should be re-purposed as rags, dress-ups for the kids or even “work clothes” for painting, gardening, engine repair, etc. Additionally, some Goodwill stores recycle these well-worn clothes to be used again, but in a different form.

As for the sentimental T-shirts, here are a few ides for dealing with those. A few years ago, my wife took several of mine and made them into a beautiful quilt that I keep on the bed each winter.

Lastly, consider handing down anything that’s still decent to your kids. My 13-year-old looks pretty cool in dad’s old Van Halen T-shirt.

Be honest about size

Well not size as the number printed on the clothing tag. I’m talking about how the item fits. I mentioned the fact that I’m not 18 anymore. Back then I played soccer and my shape was a bit different from what it is today. That said, I’ve bid goodbye to the slim-cut jeans, pants, and shirts that I wore long ago. Now, this doesn’t mean that I need to start going up in size. In some cases it means simply moving from a slim-fit to straight-leg style.

Items your closet should have

At this age, you want to be prepared for several eventualities, from a clothing perspective that is. Weekend events could bring anything from weddings to softball games. Here’s what you should have around so you’re not scrambling at the last second.

  1. A suit. One that fits and looks good.
  2. A nice hat. It might sound silly, but my wife is sick of the sweat-stained Red Sox hat that I love so much. I recently got one of those tweed caps and it looks a lot better.
  3. Decent loungewear. A 20-year-old can get away with brightly logoed boxers and a T-shirt on Saturday mornings. I have several pairs of what I call “lounge pants” (essentially flannel drawstring pants) and decent, solid-color tees. Just don’t wear your lounge pants out of the house. Ever.
  4. Dress shirts. Somewhere between three and six of them depending on your lifestyle.
  5. Shoes. Sneakers are for kids. Have a brown pair and a black pair, something casual and something dressy.
  6. Socks. Invest in a few pairs of quality black and brown dress socks that won’t slide down your legs and wrinkle up between your toes. Leave the white gym socks for the gym.
  7. Accessories. Get a brown and a black belt and a couple of good quality ties that coordinate with your dress shirts and suit.
  8. Pants. Have at least one decent pair of jeans and a few pairs of casual pants in your regular rotation.

As I said, I’m not fashion expert. But I do want to dress like an adult. With a little effort, you too can organize a respectable wardrobe. We “men of a certain age” have to stick together, and look like grown-ups while we do.

Apps to easily organize storage bins

Three years ago, I mentioned a fun trick in a post about digitizing user manuals. Basically, it works like this:

  1. Save the manual in an Evernote note.
  2. Use that note’s unique URL to create a QR Code.
  3. Print that code on adhesive-backed printer paper.
  4. Affix the code sticker to the washer, drill, etc., for instant access to its manual.

Bella Storage does a similar thing for storage totes but it reduces the number of steps and apps, and greatly enhances the result. The app, available for iPhones and Android, is the heart of the solution. When you’re putting items into a Bella storage bin, use it to note the contents, give the bin a name (“Halloween decorations,” “Summer clothes”, etc.) and give it a category, like “holiday” or “sports.” Lastly, add a location.

Later, when you’re looking for that one swimsuit, the jack-o-lantern carving tools, or the bike helmets, Bella tells you what bin it’s in and where it is located. It works in the other direction, too. Simply walk up to a bin, scan the code on the side and “see” exactly what’s inside. You don’t need to pull it down and lift the lid.

Of course, there are other solutions that offer something similar. Box Me Up works much the same, and has both a mobile-friendly, browser-based interface as well as an Android app. Another option is I.M Organized, which lets you inventory all of your stuff by simply scanning a bar code, and also generates QR Codes for you to affix to boxes or bins.

Finally, there’s the DIY method I mentioned earlier.

Good luck! Try out any of these apps for quick retrieval of your stuff. Happy storing!