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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published March 20 2014

Ms. Simplicity: Strategies to keep your clothing collections organized

We all have those special collections of clothes that we hang onto. For some, of us it’s sports jerseys for our favorite team. For others, it’s a T-shirt collection from high school or even into adult life. There are also the boot, shoe or purse collections out there.

I sat down with an avid T-shirt collector, and I was fascinated with how she organizes her vast collection.

Marsha Dahl’s collection probably tops 300, but they are all neatly organized, and I was intrigued. Her strategy is simple – keep the ones you use in easy to access spots, and the rest get put out of reach or in boxes.

She has limited space, so she knew she needed to be smart in her storage and organizational choices. Marsha realizes that her collection needs to be reduced, and she’s thinking about implementing the one-in, two-out rule.

Or maybe she was just telling me that because she was meeting with a professional organizer? I loved her sorting method by the type of T-shirt and how she makes sure she is able to wear so many of them.

For the month of December, she only wears Christmas T-shirts. Anytime NDSU is playing in big playoff games, she starts to wear NDSU shirts the two weeks preceding the big game. Starting March 1, she wears St. Patrick’s Day shirts until the holiday has passed.

She also has her favorites that she wears just to see the type of reaction she can get. These are not obscene shirts, but rather obscure shirts. They are a social experiment in a way.

There are a few tricks up Marsha’s proverbial sleeve to organize all of these shirts: Keep all similar shirts grouped together. A special T-shirt folder that she found online helps make sure that each shirt is perfectly folded.

She also found that stacking five one way and five the other way ensures an even stack and no T-shirt avalanches in her closet. Using milk crates makes for easy movement of the rotation.

With all of these collections it is important to keep a few things in mind as I would be remiss to not tell you some professional organizer strategies.

1. Make sure that you have the space. I was once hired by a client to help me find room for her baby that was due in a few months. She gave me a tour of her home, and when I asked what was in all the dressers in her house, she casually mentioned that it was her husband’s collection of T-shirts. I was shocked to say the least.

Then I had to give her the tough-love talk and told her to tell her husband what a mean lady I was. I told her she needed to get rid of the T-shirt collection. Please note that I did not force her to get rid of anything, just to blame me if she decided to.

I realize that this is an extreme example, but I think it drives home the point that if you want a collection, you need to make sure that you have the room to store it.

A beautiful display of team jerseys hanging in a closet is a great idea. Dressers stuffed with T-shirts are a bad idea.

2. Place it in a place of honor. I have had more than one client have a super-cute boot or shoe collection, yet they were stored in boxes or on the floor of the closet.

I convinced them to put the shoe or boot collection at eye level in the closet and store something else on the floor. Once the shoes and boots were moved, I saw their eyes light up. They loved seeing how a simple location change could make such a huge impact.

If you have a signed jersey that is extra special and you know that you are never going to wear it, display it. Have it mounted in a shadow box of have it hung from a game-room wall.

3. Use it or lose it. If you are storing items in boxes, chances are you are not seeing them and you need to get them out and use them.

If you have boxes that haven’t been opened in years, guess what – time to donate them. A collection of clothing is supposed to be worn, not looked at.

You may need to implement Marsha’s strategy of one in, two out to help get rid of the ones that you no longer are wearing.

Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with Ms. Simplicity. She is a professional organizer based out of Fargo. Email her atmelissa@mssimplicity.com.