Check ‘organize closet’ off your pandemic project to-do list

4 tips and 18 local stores that will help you declutter and organize your wardrobe and accessories.
Closet
Photo by Taryn Pemberton Schmidt
Madison Magazine blogger Taryn Pemberton Schmidt admits she's outgrown nearly every shoe stand and jewelry box known to humankind, so she's had to get creative.

To pass the time at home, I know many of you have picked up new books, mastered puzzles, started new at-home fitness programs, tried new recipes, and others of us … shopped. No? Just me?

On some level, I think shopping for “things I will wear once I get to my canceled beach vacation destination” gave me hope that I would, indeed, eventually get to go on a beach vacation again. I still have that hope. And as the boxes continued to pile up at the front door, my office, the dining room table and eventually every corner of my closet, shopping also gave me a new project: closet reorganization. Let’s be honest — this was a project before the pandemic, but now that I’m home all the time, it jumped to the top of my list. If closet organization is on your to-do list, too, here are a few tips on where to start and what to keep in mind:

1. If you haven’t worn it in two years, donate it. I think the standard rule is one year, but obviously 2020 has been an unusual year, so feel free to extend the time frame on that rule. Donating clothes and accessories is extremely therapeutic for me, and honestly, once it is out of sight, it is also out of mind. If you think you’ll miss it, you won’t. If you think you’ll eventually wear it one day at some occasion TBD, you won’t. More importantly, if you aren’t wearing it and haven’t worn it, there are many individuals in our communities who are in need of clothing and would be very appreciative to have what is sitting in your closet unworn or rarely worn. If you don’t know where to donate clothing in the Madison area, consider these sites:

  • Saint Vincent de Paul thrift stores. Through the inventory at seven Dane county locations, St. Vinny’s provides more than $400,000 in necessities such as clothing, furniture, bedding and other household goods to low-income households. “Our member groups around the county meet with people in their homes when they request assistance and help bring our society’s resources to bear in meeting need for these basic goods” reads the website.
  • If you have children and/or teenagers in your home, please consider donating clothing they aren’t wearing or have outgrown to Luke’s Closet. Located in Middleton, Luke’s Closet is “Dane County’s only clothing bank for foster, adoptive and kinship care children.” This organization requests in-season or gently worn children’s or teenage-styled adult clothing and has a short list of items it is not currently accepting. For more information on Luke’s Closet, please visit its website.
Sunglasses 2

Photo by Taryn Pemberton Schmidt

2. Clear the clutter. Some of the items that take up the most space for me and feel the most “cluttery” are accessories — shoes, jewelry, sunglasses and handbags, primarily. I’ve donated hundreds of items, and I’ve still outgrown nearly every shoe stand and jewelry box known to humankind! I’ve had to get a little creative about how to house all of my treasures. For storage and display solutions, we have a few national retailers with a local presence here in southern Wisconsin, including:

T.J.Maxx/Home Goods: Locations in Sun Prairie (combo store), Madison West (TJ Maxx only), and Middleton (Home Goods only)
Anthropologie: 702 N Midvale Blvd. (Hilldale Shopping Center)
Urban Outfitters: 604 State St.
The Container Store: 10400 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa, WI
IKEA: 7500 S. Ikea Way, Oak Creek, WI

Jewelry

Photo by Taryn Pemberton Schmidt

3. Now, hang with me because this may sound counterintuitive to decluttering, but another fun activity that can actually help with organization is antiquing. Antique malls are full of creative storage solutions due to the fact that they have to display so many items to entice potential buyers. Take a look at how items are displayed and organized — you can find creative ways to organize things with items you may already have in your own home. For example, necklaces can be easily hung on a towel rod with shower hooks, or you can purchase plastic rotating displays to showcase and store your earrings. You might even repurpose a small cabinet to house scarves, or a unique tray to display sunglasses! There’s no wrong way to do it. In my opinion, we have one of the state’s best antique malls — Odana Antiques & Fine Arts Center, located at 6021 Odana Road. With more than 125 booths, you are sure to find something that meets your needs.

Iconi Consignment Armoire

Photo by Taryn Pemberton Schmidt

4. Don’t count out consignment. If you’re holding on to a few items that you have made an investment in and just simply aren’t wearing or using, consider consignment. Consignment is a fun way to sell some of your higher-quality items that are in great condition for resale. Most items will be “under contract” for 90 days, and once the item sells, you can receive up to 50% of the current market value. Consignment is wonderful for offloading or buying clothing, but also an excellent choice for furniture in great condition. In fact, last year my dresser broke beyond repair, and after spending hours online looking for something new, I got a wild hair and hopped over to Iconi Interiors and Consignment to see if they had anything fun and unique. I managed to find an amazing media armoire that they were using to store a few boxes by the register and took it home to repurpose as a dresser for $50! I added some new knobs to give it a fresh look, and it is now one of my favorite pieces of furniture. (By the way, knobs were purchased at World Market in Middleton — World Market has so many unique hardware pieces to jazz up your furniture. Highly recommend if you are trying to give an old piece new life.) If you are interested in buying or selling in the consignment space, some of my favorite local shops are:

Furniture
Iconi Interiors and Consignment: 540 W. Washington Ave.
The Cozy Home: 6330 Monona Drive, Monona, WI

Clothing
Simply Savvy: 6333 University Avenue, Suite 102, Middleton, WI
ReFind Style: 1639 Monroe St.
Happily Ever After Children’s Boutique: 708 S. Whitney Way
Plato’s Closet: 1735 Thierer Road; 7830 Mineral Point Road
ReThreads: 410 State St.; 6664 Odana Road
Style Encore: 1735 Thierer Road · Upshift: 836 E. Johnson St.

Happy Organizing!! (Really, it can actually be happy.)