The Ultimate Closet Cleanse

There’s a monster in your closet. He's hoarding troves of no-longer-wearables and, like a jerk, he’s keeping most of that collection on the floor. Spoiler alert—it's you. But this disheveled dragon in the mirror can be slayed; all it takes is planning, effort and a dose of Japanese lean manufacturing methodology.

Learn more about how to cleanse your closet and keep it organized.

Your closet is more than a holding cell for pants. For the stylish man, it’s his workbench. It’s where he curates his wardrobe, selects his daily wear and determines what to add or delete. Style isn’t something you pick up at the mall, it’s a process that’s continuously evolving. An organized closet is a tool to make this process easier.

Since style requires work, we’ve taken inspiration from the workplace. Specifically, the lean manufacturing methodology known as the Five Ss: Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain. Originating in Japan, the Five Ss was developed by Toyota engineers after World War II. If it’s good enough for automakers, we’re confident this will work for your wardrobe.

Five S Your Way To A Better Closet

Here’s the lowdown in five easy S’s.

1. Sort

Look at everything and eliminate what you can

In other words, it’s time to have “the talk” with your hangered-ons. Some questions to ask yourself as you consider each item:

Do I still wear it?

If you can’t remember the last time you wore something in public, you’re not likely to wear it again. People naturally wear clothes they like, and avoid they ones they don’t. Pitch it.

If you can’t remember the last time you wore something in public, you’re probably over it.

Does it still fit?

An annoying but vital thing to try on a Sunday: trying on all of the older items in your closet. Bodies change and you are probably harboring duds that don’t fit your frame. Note: Be realistic about clothes that don’t fit. If you have to gain or lose 15lbs before a garment works for you, you’re better off buying a new one.

Does it go with anything else?

Remember that electric-blue blazer you only bought because a cute girl at the vintage store said it looked “sinister?” Let it go. Even if it’s a great find—or once cost a lot of money—it’s OK to cut out those eccentric pieces when the rest of your wardrobe evolves.

2. Set in order

Arrange for ergonomics and speed

Beyond looking spiffy, a closet ought to be useful, too. Everyday clothing should be easily accessible and within arm’s reach. If you wear something less often, make it less visible. Items that you rarely use (like seasonal or formal wear) can be kept out of sight (on shelves or in boxes) until they’re needed.

Pro-tip: A hamper that lives in your closet is the easiest way to deal with laundry. You can also keep a box or bag on the floor for clothes you want to get rid of. When it’s full, take it to Goodwill. Through January-February, use your Stitch Fix Men box to ship stuff to Goodwill for free.

3. Shine

Create a visually appealing & pleasant space

When a closet starts off looking good, it’s likely to stay that way. One suggestion is to start with the hangers themselves.

The wire hangers you get from the dry cleaners are useful for breaking into cars and abstract portraits of cultural luminaries—and not much else. Unless you’re planning to boost a Miata, don’t let these hang around. Most dry cleaners will happily take them off your hands to re-use. If you can afford to, invest in wooden hangers. They won’t get deformed (jeans can wreak havoc on flimsy hangers) and will give your closet a uniform look.

The wire hangers you get from the dry cleaners are useful for breaking into cars—but not much else.

4. Standardize

Always put everything in its right place

Define a system that’s easy to stick to because consistency is the key to closet success.

For example, imagine a closet that’s divided into dress shirts on the left and hanging pants on the right. One easy-to-do system is to take your clothes from the center—where the shirts and the pants meet—and add fresh clothes at the far edges. This process is ergonomic and it helps you know visually how long it’s been since something was worn.

Another well-known method involves turning all the hangers in your closet so the hooks are pointing toward you. After you wear an item, put it back with the hook facing away from you–like normal. Eventually, you’ll be able to tell which clothes are going unworn. If you go a long time without putting something on, chuck it.

5. Sustain

Make your system a way of life

The final S is the one that brings it all together. A sustainable closet is a stress-free closet. When you cultivate the habit of diving in and understanding what’s going on in that fabric-filled booth at the edge of your bedroom, you’ll actually begin to develop a more holistic sense of style.

A sustainable closet is a stress-free closet.

A Well-Oiled Style Machine

With an organized armoire, you’ll have a better sense of what you have in your inventory. This comes in handy when you need to tell your Stylist which pieces you need. You’ll also prevent that “What am I going to wear?” feeling when faced with a special occasion.

A closet isn’t just a tiny room for hiding clothes and R. Kelly. With a little tweaking, it can become a well-oiled machine that works—like a factory—to continuously crank out your own personal style.

Is it time for some spring cleaning? Make some room in your closet for fresh new threads and replenish by taking your style quiz and having a style expert send you new styles right to your front door. Buy what you like and send back the rest. Shipping, returns and exchanges are always free. It’s as simple as that.

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