Stupid 'Rules' From Pro Organizers

March 1, 2016

New clients always clue me in to the prevailing rules in the world of organizing.  They tell me they know the rules but haven't followed them.  I hold my breath after I ask: "And what are those rules?" Here are five of the least productive I have heard. I hope you will be relieved to learn that you don't in fact have to follow them.


Bring in a new item of clothing and toss out one from your closet.

Once you have edited and organized the closet, this rule makes no sense to me because I presume you purchased the new garment for a reason. I also presume that everything in your closet is there for an equally viable and important reason. Having to discard just because you made a purchase doesn't teach you anything.  Your closet tells a story.  Your purchases are made with your emotions.  Consciously curate your wardrobe.  This rule turns you into a robot.  Forget it.


Everything must come out of the closet and be placed on the floor.

Sorry.  This is the worst directive ever and Ms. Kondo isn't the only one who thinks it's a good idea.  Your bedroom is your work area. You are going to need your bed and all the floor space you can muster.  If you toss everything onto the floor like unsold produce at the supermarket a lot of what you ultimately keep will be very, very wrinkled.  Do you really want to add the task of ironing to an already potentially overwhelming project? No, I didn't think so. 


Yes, everything should come out but each item should exit one at a time so you can make category piles (donate, dry clean, mend, laundry etc.). Let the items that are to remain in the closet stay there and, after you bag up the donated items, fill up the hamper and/or set aside a pile for the dry cleaner, you can start moving those keepers around to new and better stations in the closet. There are many little tricks to make a closet not only organized but also beautiful and easy to maintain.  Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

  • Keep categories of clothing together (slacks, blouses, suits, shoes et al) and put everything in the same color order.

  • Use uniform hangars.

  • Lose the plastic covers and those evil wire hangars from the dry cleaner. 

  • Have clothing face the same direction.

  • Get shoes off the floor and invest in an over the door canvas shoe holder or a wooden shoe rack.

Now if you get interrupted you'll be able to sleep in your bed and not have to pole vault over a pile of clothing.  You're welcome.


Keep ALL of your clothing in one closet.

If you have a hall closet I invite you to use it. Your heavy coats, jackets, snow boots and rain gear get dirty, right? Why introduce those items into your clothes closet? If you live in a house that has a guest closet and you rarely have people stay over, use that closet to store out of season clothing. Keep everything organized by color and type so that when you need to make the switch you can do it in no time at all.  I don't get chatty with my clothing the way Ms. Kondo does but I am grateful for what I have and I take excellent care of it.  I like to see items hang with room to breathe not stuffed in like sardines. 


I think a clothes closet should hold just that ... clothing.  Take out the free weights, the fans, the boxes of old pre-digital era photos or any number of other common family detritus. Ancient yogis discovered that if you meditated in the same spot every day soon the energy of meditation would grow strong there and it would be easier to meditate on those days when you just don't feel like it.  I extrapolate from that wisdom that every area should be dedicated to a specific purpose.  Your clothes closet can be your own boutiful, inviting boutique.


Ms. Kondo wants you to pop your bookcase and books into this closet.  As we say in my home town 'Fugetaboutit!' Treasured books are like old friends and you should have that bookcase out where you can see your books and use them.  There is an old proverb 'A house without books is like a house without windows.' I think if the books are hidden the windows need washed!


Tuck smaller bags/totes/suitcases into bigger ones.

Of all the rules this may be the one that gives me the heeby jeebies. It sounds so logical, doesn't it? Let's take a deeper look, shall we? There you are at a restaurant and you place your purse and your tote on the floor while you dine.  Or maybe you are in an airport and damn! You get the stall with no hook.  Your tote goes on the driest, cleanest spot on the floor and I bet you hold your purse straps in your teeth or hook them over your head.  I know.  Sometimes you have to put the purse on the floor too.  I can think of a hundred scenarios but you catch my drift.  Our purses, totes and smaller suitcases don't always land on the cleanest floors. Now when you tuck one inside the other you are depositing dirt.  And it's going to cling to those nice clean underpants of yours the next time you disengage the bundle. Don't do it.


If you haven't used it (6 months or a year) toss it!

I have never understood this one. It's arbitrary. You are a human being and there is a reason you haven't used this item in awhile.  As your organizer the question I need answered is: 'Why?' Let's say you gained weight and the item is a skirt that just didn't fit perfectly.  You haven't worn it because you no longer feel comfortable in it.  But then you share with me that you are on a diet and will be back to your normal weight in a few weeks.  If you love this item why would I insist you toss it? There's a reason you haven't worn it and the remedy is in play.  Clothing is very emotional for most women and I try and get to the heart of your relationship with the 'stuff' you own. 


The Bottom Line

No matter how ineffectual I find a rule, if it works for you, continue to use it but do consider that there are more effective ways to reach the desired goal of an organized life.  You save time, money and energy when you are organized.  You can devote yourself to creating a more fulfilling life rather than rummaging through your wardrobe looking for items to toss.


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