Organizing Clothing Purchases

Professional organizer Kelly Pratt has some great tips that will make updating your wardrobe easier before you even step foot inside a department store, while you’re shopping, and after you get everything home.


Before You Begin


Before adding new items to your wardrobe, inventory what you currently own. You can create an accurate inventory by first discarding or donating any items that are in poor repair, that you dislike, or that you haven’t worn for six months to a year. This guideline applies to shoes, jewelry and accessories as well as clothing. At the change of seasons, you can go through this process with your warm-weather items as well as your fall and winter clothing. This purging accomplishes three objectives:

⌘ You know what you have.

⌘ You know what you need.

⌘ You make room for new items.


To donate no longer used or wanted items, you can use this list of local charities. Some charities have a contact person, which is noted in parentheses. While we are focused particularly on clothing, we have also included other items accepted by these agencies—a great resource around this spring cleaning time! If you choose to donate, select a charity beforehand, particularly if you’re organizing with children. It’s much easier for everyone, especially children, to let go if they have a concrete face or story to or for whom the items will be donated. Donating can also make for a great family outing and discussion about helping those in need.

Deseret Industries

Various locations

Deseret Industries accepts all clothing, house wares, books, toys and furniture. Please make sure donated items are clean and in good repair. Clothing that is soiled or ripped will be discarded.

Women Helping Women

This program offered through the Junior League helps women who are reentering the workforce find professional clothing. For more information, visit the Junior League’s web site at

Christmas Box House

3660 South West Temple, Salt Lake City

Phone: 284-3301 (Becky Rhead)

The Christmas Box House is a shelter for children in crisis and accepts donations of new items ONLY.

Family Support Center

2020 South Lake Street, Salt Lake City

Phone: 487-7778

777 West Center Street, Midvale

Phone: 255-6881

The Family Support Center helps families in crisis and accepts donations of clothing and toys in good repair.

Odyssey House

42 South 500 East, Salt Lake City

Phone: 322-4257 x 3408 (Kim DeMille)

Odyssey House is a program for drug and substance abuse rehabilitation and accepts donations of all kinds. They are also in constant need of diapers and wipes.

Primary Children’s Medical Center

100 North Medical Drive, Salt Lake City

Phone: 213-3277 (Marie Hendricksen)

Primary Children’s accepts donations of clothing, toys that can be disinfected and NEW stuffed animals and soft toys.

Shriner’s Hospital

Fairfax Road and Virginia Street, Salt Lake City

Phone: 536-3668 (Jennifer Sammis)

Shriner’s Hospital is a charitable orthopedic hospital that accepts donations of new items ONLY.


322 East 300 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Phone: 537-8601 (Jan Smith)

YWCA accepts donations of new items and used items in good repair.

Swap Clothing

With family members, friends or acquaintances, have a clothing swap. This can be a great time to exchange clothing and can help all involved acquire some of the things on their purchase lists!

Generate Income

If you want to generate some money for your wardrobe spruce-up, you can consider launching a yard sale, selling your clothing items on craigslist or e-bay, or taking some of your items to a local consignment store. For some consignment store recommendations, visit this Studio 5 article link:

Create a Purchase List

Create a list of items you hope to purchase for this season as well as for the off-season. This is a great time of year to find fabulous deals on fall and winter clothing! For a list of this season’s must-haves, visit Shabby Apple’s Studio 5 article at The purchase list you create can also double as a gift idea list when you have a birthday or another gift-exchanging occasion.

Make a Purchase Plan

Shop the ads and/or create a strategic plan for when and where you’ll go to find what you want. Busy moms, this is one time when getting a babysitter is worth a few extra dollars. You’ll save time, money, and stress, both for yourself and for your kids, if you can take time to look and to try on items before you get them home.

While You Shop


Always keep your receipts with you rather than in the bag! Dedicate a mesh pouch, a pocket of your purse, or even a Ziploc baggie to clothing purchase receipts. Mesh pouches are my favorite option, and you can find them at the 2100 South and 5300 South Barnes & Noble stores or online at the Container Store.

Depending on the item and shopping conditions, you will likely have to return something at some point. You will again save stress, time and money if you keep all your receipts in one place. Most clothing and accessory stores have the store name as well as the item printed on the receipt. If you shop at a specialty or consignment shop, you may need to write the store and the item purchased on the receipt so you can remember what the receipt is for.

Be Honest

Select items with care instructions you are willing to follow. If you love a dry clean only white linen suit but such a garment doesn’t suit your lifestyle, keep looking. If you have a tendency to purchase items only to return them later or know you like having a second opinion before buying clothing, take someone with you. You will save time and money and avoid manufactured excuses to your significant other about all “this stuff.” And don’t just buy something because it’s on sale!

After You Get Home

Put It Away

After you get your items home, immediately take them out of their bags and get them into your closet or drawers so you don’t forget them! Arrange them, along with your existing clothing, in broad categories within storage areas. If you create a system within an area that is too complicated, it will be harder to maintain. Some examples of categories include—

♦ Short-sleeved shirts.

♦ Long-sleeved shirts.

♦ Skirts.

♦ Dresses.

♦ Pants.

♦ Jackets.

♦ Scarves.

♦ Belts.

♦ Jewelry.

♦ Intimate apparel.

♦ Hosiery.

♦ Sandals.

♦ Heels.

♦ Athletic shoes.

Within these categories, you may choose to organize by color so that garments and accessories are easy to locate.

Extra Buttons and Thread

What about those great little “extras” that come with many garments? And how do you remember which buttons and thread belong to what? To resolve this difficulty, attach extra buttons or thread to an index card, and label the card with the item the buttons and/or thread are for. For example, a label might read, “Eddie Bauer black Henley sweater.” If you are storing extras for many members of a household, also include the person’s name. Many extra buttons and thread come in small Ziploc bags that can be easily attached with a stapler or tape. If you have extra buttons that are free-floating, wrap them in plastic wrap before taping them to a card to avoid sticky residue. Depending on your volume needs, store these cards in an index card file, photo box or white or black utility basket in a closet or drawer. You can also separate these cards by category so all your extra shirt buttons are together, pants buttons are together, and so on.


Whether it’s buyers’ remorse, a buy-and-dash because you didn’t have time to try something on, or the color was completely wrong in natural light, returns are a fact of shopping life. Some of my favorite guidelines for returns are these:

♦ Be familiar with the store’s return policy. You will again save yourself stress, time and money by not purchasing items from stores that do not have a money-back policy if you anticipate having to return or exchange. Also be familiar with the time limit on returns so you can return items within the allotted time frame.

♦ If at all possible, try on items in the store rather than taking them home. You will avoid having to spend additional time returning items by adopting this practice.

♦ Create a designated area and container for returns. Make sure your container is portable so you can grab it and go when you do your errands. Some of my favorite containers for this application are cloth cubes available at Target, mesh cubes available at Wal-Mart and and large white dot plastic baskets available at Wal-Mart.

♦ Before making returns, put the receipt in the bag with the item or attach the receipt to the item with some tape so you don’t have to hunt for the receipt when you get to the store. Make sure you get a copy of your return slip for your financial records.

♦ If you have several returns, map out the order in which you will do them so you don’t have to backtrack. You will save yourself valuable time!

Best of luck letting go of old items and finding the “perfect” clothing and accessories to move you into this most joyful season. Hooray for spring!

Happy organizing!


To contact Kelly Pratt email her at:

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