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14 Spring-Cleaning Secrets from Professional Organizers

After the dreariness of winter is over, it's time to get your closet in tip-top shape for spring. Here's how.

Different shoes on shelves of wardrobe closetAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

 Divide and conquer

“I’ve worked hands-on with so many clients and they all tell me the same thing—they tend to pull everything out of their closets and then they run out of time and they push it all back in, which makes it worse than it was to begin with. So my suggestion to them is to divide and conquer. On a Saturday morning do your shoes, at other times do your slacks. People have told me that breaking it up into small projects has changed their life.”
—Mary Pankiewicz, professional organizer and author of You Can Be Clutter-Free & Organized

takes out clothing wool sweater with wardrobeDmytro Vietrov/Shutterstock

Tidy up your top shelf

“Those who stack sweaters and T-shirts on shelves in their closets know it can become a jumbled mess, since stacks often fall over. For those clients, I recommend the Slide N Stax Clothing Organizer. It is amazing because it is a plastic clear piece with sides and a bottom that fits on the top shelf and you can just bring that one piece down when you need something, instead of tipping over your stacked items.” —Beth Levin, professional organizer, Closet Queen. Check out the best closet systems for organizing your space.

Big wardrobe with different clothes for dressing roomAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

 Group, group, group

“I would always recommend grouping ‘like with like.’ It enables people to find items quickly. All tank tops together, all capri pants together in one area. Some people like to group items by sleeve length—and there are a few in the spring and summer seasons. I’ve even seen people use color-coded hangers but I don’t recommend it—too time-consuming.” —Stacey Agin Murray, professional organizer, Organized Artistry. These are things professional organizers would never do in their homes.

An assortment of different colorful neckties each with a different style and patternDereje/Shutterstock

 Bag-and-tie overload?

“Purses on shelves tend to get messy. For those who have wall space in their closets, a great solution would be to purchase belt racks (available at the Container Store) and hang them vertically instead of horizontally. That way, the bottoms of the purses don’t bunch up in the same place. This also works great for ties!” —Beth Levin

Two old suitcases and a brick white wallArtem Postoev/Shutterstock

 Short on space?

“Look around your home for things that are going unused, that might be empty—like file drawers—and store things away in there. I have had a lot of clients that collect old suitcases and use them for storage—those don’t take up much room.” —Ann Bingley Gallops, professional organizer, The Organized Life. Check out these spring cleaning tasks you can do in just one minute.

Row of women's clothes hanging in closetGrzegorz Placzek/Shutterstock

 Hanger trick

“Some of my clients love this tip: When you get out your spring clothes, put the hangers in backward on the rod but then when you wear a piece of clothing, hang it up facing the front. At the end of the season, you’ll know what you’ve never worn.” —Mary Pankiewicz, professional organizer and author of You Can Be Clutter-Free & Organized. If you have a small closet, this is a great tip for cleaning it out and maximizing your space.

Many color blank sticky note wall backgroundSU1000/Shutterstock

 Flag it!

“Place Post-it colored flags facing out on each piece of clothing in your closet. Take the Post-it off when you wear an item. At the end of spring/summer, you’ll be able to see what you wore and didn’t. You can then determine whether those items can be donated—you’ll get tax benefits—or consigned for money.” —Beth Levin, professional organizer, Closet Queen. Learn these 16 genius cleaning hacks from professional house cleaners.


 Personalize in a snap

“Use clear shoe boxes for hair accessories and lightweight scarves you’ll use throughout the spring and summer. You can even use a clear bin for small tank tops, shorts, etc. Take a Polaroid or cut out a magazine photo and tape it so you know what’s in the box. Those are fun and it will make getting to things so easy.” —Beth Levin. Browse these linen closet organization tips you wish you knew earlier.

Vacuum compress bag for clothes and expanded your space suitcase. PJjaruwan/Shutterstock

 Miracle space savers

“I grew up in an apartment and we had to get creative with our winter clothing storage. One solution is to purchase Space Bags (available at the Container Store and Bed, Bath and Beyond) and then suck the air out of them. The clothes then take up much less space and can be placed under a bed, a couch, or on a high shelf. Also, some local dry cleaners will store winter clothes for people (as long as they’re dry cleaning them for you, too).” —Stacey Agin Murray, professional organizer, Organized Artistry. Reorganizing every closet in your house? Here are some tips for organizing your kid’s closet.

White wire hangers on an empty clothes rack. Selective focus. Jelena990/Shutterstock

 Dump your wire hangers

“When it comes to hangers, Joan Crawford and I are on the same page—no wire hangers, ever! They ruin clothes and are only meant to be temporary. I am a personal fan of ‘crystal hangers.’ They are great for hanging tops without causing those ‘shoulder bumpies’ that can ruin a perfectly good shirt. Many of my clients ask me about ‘huggable hangers’ sold on QVC or HSN. I think they’re good if you wear silk-ish kind of blouses or a lot of tank tops. They’re touted as a space saver because they’re so thin.’—Stacey Agin Murray. This tip also comes in handy when organizing your coat closet.

Pile of clothes on tableAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

 Host a clothing swap

‘Get together a group of friends to bring clothes they are not using and certainly don’t want to discard—someone’s going to want it! Have a little cocktail party and everyone gets new clothes without spending money … so it’s a win-win situation.’  —Ann Bingley Gallops, professional organizer, The Organized Life. Be sure to know these 15 ways spring cleaning could be damaging your health.


 Turn store credit into cash on eBay

“Many stores won’t let you return for cash clothing you loved in the shop but never got around to wearing. However, they are likely to offer you store credit if you insist. So instead of letting unwanted clothes pile up in your closets, a better idea is to return them for store credit and then sell the store credit for cash on eBay. There’s a very vibrant market on eBay for store credit receipts and gift cards, which trade for very close to face value. I’ve seen $200 gift receipts from stores like Macys, Tiffany and Bloomingdale’s fetch $180, so you get most of your value back without having to find a buyer for your specific item or dealing with packing and shipping it.”  —Dan Nissanoff, author of FutureShop

White chalk isolated on a Black background.Kaiskynet Studio/Shutterstock

 Damp-proof storage

“If you are lucky enough to have a basement for storage, help keep your winter clothes dry by putting pieces of chalk into a small cloth bag that you can pack with the clothes you’re storing. The chalk will absorb all the moisture, keeping your clothes protected.” —Ann Bingley Gallops. Find out the 10 unexpected health benefits of spring cleaning.

Close up of the head of a modern vacuum cleaner being used while vacuuming a thick pile white carpetAlfred Gruener/Shutterstock

 Buff up your closet

“Before you put your favorite spring things back into the closet, take the opportunity of having empty shelves to replace your shelf paper, vacuum the closet floor, and make the closet fresh and clean.’ —Ann Bingley Gallops. Next, learn how to organize a closet once and for all.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest