Blokes, it’s your mess. So don’t point a finger at a certain Japanese tidiness guru because your closet’s a waking nightmare.
An article on the Daily Dot website, “Men are Blaming Marie Kondo (below) for Actually Having to Tidy Up,” emphasizes that the organizational superstar’s message has not only impacted the lives of countless women, but their reluctant (and sometimes resentful) partners too.
The piece quotes a Twitter user who noticed that he had “discovered a pattern of people posting items on the menswear resale site Grailed with little notes about how they’re doing this because of Marie Kondo, or because their wives or girlfriends watched Marie Kondo.”
Get over yourselves! There’s nothing manly about an overstuffed closet.
Fact is, we should all be thanking Kondo for not only bringing this problem to light, but also offering workable techniques for getting our clutter under control, beginning with our closets, packed with clothes and shoes we never wear and sometimes can’t even find!
And if you’ve started the process of upgrading your wardrobe, kangaroo culling your clothes and shoes is a great way to make sure you’re choosing the right look before heading out the door.
A Pro Who Knows
So, let’s get those closets shipshape. For solutions, the Professor reached out to a pro who had worked with hundreds of men and women (including a few dozen hoarders seeking help) to organize all aspects of their homes, especially their closets.
New York-based Carrie Gravenson, (below) launched her business Unjumbler Professional Organizing in 2007. Unjumbling by day and a professional comic by night, she brings humor, common sense, patience, and a no-judgments attitude to her work.
In this challenging COVID age, when most of us are spending more time at home, Gravenson emphasizes the importance of an organized environment to maintaining basic sanity.
“When you declutter, stress levels go down because you can breathe a little easier. There’s no more searching for items or guilt over keeping stuff you no longer have use for,” she says. “Once you realize you can get rid of something not serving you, it leaves space for something better to fill it. You feel more productive and efficient. Less visual chaos leads to less mental chaos.”
The Shoes Conundrum
The professor asked the Unjumbler a rude question:
Q: “With shoes, the stereotype is that women have dozens of pairs, men only a few. Is that, pardon me, Bullshit?”
A: “Yes, bullshit,” Gravenson stresses. “Both men and women are equally guilty of owning shoes. It’s interesting though, men’s shoes tend to be larger but women tend to have more tall boots so the space volume evens out that way.”
We followed up by asking for her best ‘How-to” advice for sorting through older pairs of shoes and finding better ways to store and organize the “keepers.”
“I have worked with a self-described ‘sneakerhead’ guy. It was really fascinating and I learned so many cool things about sneakers and sneaker culture that day. He had custom sneaker drawers built in a walk-in closet. He had the money and space for it. Most people aren’t this extreme or that wealthy,” she says.
For the rest of us, the Unjumbler recommends a sensible “one-in-one-out policy” for shoes. “If you buy a pair of sneakers to replace another pair, get rid of the other pair the same day,” she suggests. “Throw away any shoes that you don’t wear because they hurt. Yes, even if they are pretty and even if they were expensive. This goes for sneakers and dress shoes and flip-flops.”
Gravenson adds, “Storage again depends on the space available, but I don’t recommend leaving them in a place where they can collect dust. If you have rod space, a hanging shoe caddy can work wonders. If you have shelf space, I like the sturdy clear bins that are stackable. Everyday shoes should be more accessible than once-in-a-while shoes like hardcore snow boots or fancy wedding shoes.”
The Main Event
Shoes are a great way to start, to build momentum before you tackle a closet(s) full of clothes.
Even in the age of Zoom meetings, the Unjumbler is helping clients remotely. She shares her best 5-step plan for “tidying up” your closet. Your girlfriend or wife’s favorite Marie Kondo (It’s okay if you like her, too) would definitely approve, even if you skip the “Thank You” ceremony for items that no longer “bring joy.”
Gravenson’s Plan for blokes with overstuffed closets begins with…
“The first step is to purge a percentage of what’s there. Usually, I just ask a few questions”:
- How often do you wear this? When was the last time you wore this and What is stopping you from wearing it?
- If they’re waffling, a great follow-up question is If you saw this item in a store now, would you buy it again?
- For blokes who are holding on to items that need fixing, she asks, “Why hasn’t that been done yet? (Shoes are often in this category.)”
- Finally, (the Kondo question) “Is there someone else who would get much more enjoyment out of this item?”
Once the initial purge is underway (and it usually continues throughout the process) she begins to work with the client to organize the remaining items.
“Organizing closet space very much depends on the client and closet. Some clients have more suits that require more rod space than shelves or drawers. In general: Jeans and casual pants get folded and fancy pants get hung. Sweaters tend to be bulky so I recommend shelves for sweaters - and shelf dividers so they don’t topple over,” Gravenson warns.
“Underwear, gym clothes, socks, undershirts can all be folded in drawers. Ties should all be visible and hanging. Accessories are a mixed bag and depend very much on the space available.”
Breaking Through the Psychological Barrier
Both men and women, Gravenson finds, hold on to outdated or unworn clothing for reasons both sentimental and aspirational.
Huh? “The sentimental would be the college sweatshirt you wore for four years or the comfy pants your mother gave you on your 21st birthday,” she stresses.
“Aspirational is usually about size (no surprise)… as in: ‘One day I’ll fit into this jacket again,’ or the designer piece you bought on sale with the intention of dropping weight to fit into them, or “’One day I’ll have an occasion to wear tight leather pants.”
So, if you’ve had it for five years and it’s still got the tags in it, you know what you have to do!
Boxes, Stacks and Nifty Racks Are Your Friends
Whether you live in Hobart, Melbourne, New York, or points in-between, we all struggle with limited storage space. So, in pursuit of clutter-free Zen, Gravenson has become not only a master of organization but a connoisseur of smart, quality storage options.
“Think vertically,” she advises. “I like sturdy clear stackable bins for inside of closets and nicely decorated ones for outside. I don’t like the flimsy shoe racks that have the bars across them. The shoes fall through and it’s a mess. So get some nice wooden ones.”
As with the shoes and clothing you buy, the Professor’s advice applies here too! Invest a little more in quality storage/organizing options and you’ll be happier long-term.
The Unjumbler cautions, “Don’t store shoes in cardboard boxes. They degrade over time and you’re likely to forget what’s inside. Keep things visible. I like the clear hanging shoe rack that is designed to hang from a door but can also hang from the inside wall of a closet or on a wall.”
She adds, “And before you buy anything, take an inventory of what kind of shoes you have. And count them. The hanging shoe racks are cute but the cubby holes are often only big enough for one shoe. These might not work for you unless your entire shoe collection is flip-flops.”
Saying Goodbye and the Karmic Boost!
After the purging process is complete, you should find yourself with not only a tidier closet but piles of shoes/clothing to consign, donate, and/or trash.
“Getting on Google maps and entering ‘donation’ is often a good place to start. Keep in mind: It’s VERY hard to sell tailored clothing, even the super fancy stuff. Otherwise, I like TheRealReal for online consignment” she says.
There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from getting rid of unwanted stuff, and Gravenson adds the benefits are usually more psychological than financial.
“Don’t get your hopes up too high for making a lot of money on selling used men's clothing. For most items, you will get paid in karma for donating it to a good cause.”
If you’re ready to take on organizing your clothes and shoe closets, dressers, etc., check out Carrie Gravenson’s monthly Unjumbler newsletter and the suggestions/videos on her website.
If you’re looking for hands-on help that can come to your home or at least schedule a Zoom meeting in the same time zone, the Professor recommends The Institute of Professional Organizers, which has bios and qualifications of great organizers in mainland Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand.