I’ve got a lovely rocking chair in my bedroom. I was very smug when I bought it. It’s a gorgeous blue colour and is designed so that you can take it outside in summer to read your book, or in my case, about three different newspapers, of a sunny Sunday – I’m an old millennial, I still like to get my news the analogue way. Until very recently, I hadn’t sat on that lovely chair for about a year, which serves me right for being smug about it, because it was stacked with a permanent, but rotating, pile of clothes.
The top layer got siphoned into the washing machine at some point, while some pieces never made it and it meant finding pieces during the morning rush like a round in The Krypton Factor. The final straw came when I spent half an hour looking for my warmest wool coat, only to find it underneath a crumpled pile of culottes, shirts and midi dresses, all of which should definitely have been on hangers.
Sound familiar? According to a recent survey, 40% of clothes that end up in the wash are not technically dirty, and many have come straight from a “chairdrobe”, or “floordrobe” if things have got particularly bad. That means that water and electricity is wasted through unnecessary washing. There’s Unilever’s new Day2 spray – essentially a dry-shampoo for clothes that means you can eke a few more wears out of them – but that won’t solve a pile-up. As my mum says, “tidy room, tidy mind” – and no more sitting in work meetings in what look like last night’s clothes.
What was stopping me from hanging and folding my clothes properly? Well, for me, it involved squeezing another hanger into a space that already had about 10 pieces too many wedged in, with an ever-growing pile of shoes and bags at the bottom that made me feel stressed just looking at it. Things got so bad that my "chairdrobe" had extended to the top of my washing basket.
My first step was organising my clothes so that all the cold weather-appropriate pieces were close to hand. If you need some guidance, then Alison Taylor has some very good tips on wardrobe editing .
I’m now operating a strict one-in, one-out policy and I have also invested in some smarter storage, some of which was recommended by less-crumpled Pool staffers.
No drawers, no problem – hang it
If you’ve only got a small wardrobe and not enough drawers to house everything, hanging storage is your friend. It creates make-shift shelves, ideal for folded jumpers – don’t hang these, as they can end up misshapen. This nifty one from the king of storage, Ikea, has pockets on the outside, too, so that you can also stash those accessories that always end up in a tangle at the bottom of the wardrobe. Or they can sort out perennially messy, and often short-on-space, kids’ rooms. Our chief sub, Elaine, has one in her son’s wardrobe and uses the pockets to store his socks and pants.
banish off-season bits under the bed
There are certain pieces that you know you won’t wearing at this time of year; summery maxi dresses, flip-flops and those five bikinis you bought for that trip to Greece when it was 10 degrees warmer in the UK – that actually happened to me and I’m still bitter about it – then stash them carefully in an under-bed box. While these pieces, admittedly, aren’t as bulky as winter coats, it will help you streamline your wardrobe and make morning choices easier. Again, Ikea has a decent selection of these, as does Argos.
Have a hanger overhaul
If you only manage to do one thing, invest in some slimline velvety hangers. All of us at the Pool swear by them and they are game-changers when it comes to freeing up space in cramped wardrobes. I like the cascading ones with hooks, so that I can hang pieces that I know go well together in one place – cutting out the time spent rooting around for the one top that works with a certain jacket. And, it sounds obvious, but hang everything the same way, so it’s easier to flick through and make choices quickly.
Sort your shoes
Last week, I found a pair of ankle boots I bought two years ago and they’re hardly worn. The reason? They had disappeared into the abyss that was the bottom of my wardrobe, where I had stuffed an armful of shoes one day when I was attempting a tidy-up. The secret is to put things where you can see them, such as in boxes you can stack up that have semi-transparent windows, so you can grab and go (another round of applause for Ikea). Then, if you have extra pairs that won’t fit in, consider wall-mounted storage. Our head of fashion and beauty, Frankie, swears by these slimline cabinets for extra shoes.
Use the hallway
I’ve also banished my most outdoorsy shoes – gym trainers, walking boots etc – into a storage ottoman in the hallway. If coats are taking up half the space in your wardrobe, consider moving some of those on to a coat rack. Beware hanging smart coats on hooks, as they can end up misshapen. I have the likes of a waterproof and cycling jacket by the door, but if hall space is also an issue, consider putting an inexpensive clothes rail wherever you have room.
Put less-used items up top
Yep, I’m still banging on about taking things vertical, but you can put the hard-to-store pieces you only wear a couple of times of year on any higher shelves – summer holiday hats or that jazzy (and weirdly bulky) Christmas jumper that your mum gave you, so you have to keep wearing it “ironically” on Christmas day. This sort of stuff will fit into baskets and boxes, which can be a decorative feature. I like the Basket Room's selection, which are great quality and come in a big range of patterns and sizes. Just make sure you have some steps on hand to reach anything down.
Invest in a blanket box
I’m aware that a lot of practical storage is, frankly, not very pretty. If you are going to have anything out on show, an end-of-bed blanket box is the piece to spend on. You can put any spare bedding or towels in them (which I, shamefully, used to shove on top of the shoe-and-bag pile at the bottom of the wardrobe). Not only will it look great, it can also double up as an extra seat. An interior designer, who knows about these things, told me to look for furniture with hardwood frames – the likes of beech, teak, oak or walnut – over soft woods, like pine, which are less durable. Yes, the outlay might be bigger now, but a good quality bench will last you decades. Just please, please, don’t turn it into another chairdrobe.