It’s a new year, a new decade even, and there are many areas in life destined for a fresh start, including, ahem, that jungle you call your closet. A deep-dive into it may reveal that you don’t even know what you have or why you’re keeping it. There is that black pants party (you only wear two out of the eight pairs); the moth-eaten, unwearable favorite sweater; and the pile of basic white tees including ones that stretched out and stained. It’s time — to steal a phrase from a popular song — to … let it go.
But where to start? Take it from Susan Cotugno, who divides her time between East Hampton and Port Washington, and Linda Heller, of Commack. The two veteran retailers have recently opened an organizing business, Perfect Order (@perfectorderhome on Instagram) specializing in closets, though they’ll work their magic anywhere including your kitchen, garage or basement. While you can pay them to come — it’s $75 for a consult or $100 an hour to do the actual work — Cotugno offers some easy-to-follow suggestions to DIY.
“I always like to start with a clean slate. Take everything off hangers and shelves and separate into categories like shoes, sweaters, dresses.” Items to keep should be in good condition, but she says, “you need to really think about things you actually wear. And it’s probably the same 10 things over and over again.”
Her rule of thumb? “If you haven’t worn it in two years, then it probably needs to go." If you’re not quite sure about keeping a barely worn item, Cotugno, suggests making it more prominent by shelving or hanging it in the opposite direction. If you still ignore it, well, maybe it’s time to say buh-bye. She’s pretty strict about clean outs, but admits there are exceptions. “There are certain items that are worth saving even if you haven’t worn them for a while, like a great piece of very basic outerwear, or a beautiful dress that you wore to one of your kids' weddings, bar mitzvahs or confirmations and you feel emotional about it. But even those should be packed carefully and stowed away.”
There are likely much better ways to use closet space, says Cotugno. She recommends investing in matching hangers, getting rid of all wire ones and dry-cleaning bags and figuring out ways to “corral” your stuff into sections with shelf dividers, clear boxes for belts and small bags and shelving hooks. “You just have to make up your mind that you want to be in control. It will bring you such pleasure to see this beautifully organized space. It makes you feel really good.”
So, hopefully, your closet becomes a dream, but where to send your discards? “Sell, donate or trash,” says Cotugno. It’s hard to throw out and feels wasteful, but says Cotugno, you’ll know it when they need to go. “Things that are in bad shape are obvious. They have moth holes, are irreparably worn, torn, stained and yellowed.”
As for selling or donating, here are some local suggestions.
The High-end: LuxeSwap
21 Berry Hill, Oyster Bay; 516-226-1055; luxeswap.com
If you’ve got a closetful of expensive designer clothes and accessories or even just one piece that busted your budget and you’re over it, bring it to Matthew Ruiz, the owner of this upscale, boutique-y consignment shop that does a gangbuster business both in store and online. Compensation is a fluid affair; either he’ll pay you outright or if you consign the split is 40/60, which is unusually fair and favors the seller. For example, when a pair of Louboutin boots recently sold for $1,000, the client got $600, LuxeSwap took $400. This is one of the few consignment shops that takes upscale menswear. As for brands for both men and women, Ruiz says, “think of it like fine wine. Anything French has the highest value like Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Chanel. The next tier down — Italian — is Gucci, Fendi and Prada.” Streetwear accessories are hot here too like adidas, Off-White and Chrome Hearts, and “anything Yeezy sells in a minute,” says Ruiz. Unlike many other consignment shops, he’s not terribly fussy about the condition of an item because, he says, “In the pre-owned luxury category, you’re often selling to an aspirational customer. The better the condition, the better the price, but someone who wants a piece of the dream may not care if something is a bit distressed.” And he says, “We couldn’t care less about seasonality. We have customers all over the world including in Australia and New Zealand so when it’s winter here it’s summer there and people who are shopping luxury are shopping all year-round.” You can stop in anytime during hours, appointments aren’t necessary. And don’t forget, unless it’s bought outright, it can take time to sell.
The in-between: Act II Consignment Boutique
5 Hewitt Square, East Northport; 631-754-1800; act2consign.com
Owner Patrice Richardson has run this well-stocked consignment shop for almost 20 years and prides herself on having “mint” condition goods. The bulk of her business is in well-known, contemporary brands such as Vince, Theory, DKNY, Free People, Anthropologie and J. Crew (which sells, she says “exceptionally well.”) Richardson does not accept what she calls “mall clothes” and goods from Target and Old Navy. She prefers items that are no more than two years old, but will consider older pieces that she deems, “funky, cool and amazing.” While she offers a collection of mega-expensive designer pocketbooks, she says that she does “fantastically well with Rebecca Minkoff, Michael Kors and Kate Spade bags.” At the end of each month she’ll send a check (many other consignment shops do this quarterly) with a split of 50/50 plus a $1 service charge. You need to make an appointment.
Fast-fashion: Plato’s Closet
6153 Jericho Tpke., Commack; 631-486-7920; platoscloset.com
Mall brands from stores such as American Eagle, Urban Outfitters, H & M and Forever 21 are among the trendy stuff that flies out the door of Plato’s Closet, which has some 500 locations around the country and is laser-focused on the teen to 20-something market for both guys and girls. Payment is on the spot. “We go through each item piece by piece,” says manager Jonathan Ayala. “After accepting the clothes, we run it through a computer program and sell it for 70% off the mall price.” You get 30% of what Plato’s sells it for, so, for example a pair of American Eagle Jeans that goes for $15 at the store will put $4.90 in your pocket. Clothes need to be clean, gently used, stain and odor free (no formal wear). Plato's also accepts accessories including higher end bags from brands such as Marc Jacobs, Kate Spade and Michael Kors.
It’s really a personal choice when it comes to making clothing donations whether it’s to a charity that’s meaningful to you or an organization that's known to do good work. Here are a few suggestions:
Dress for Success
1 Independence Hill, Farmingville; 631-451-9127; brookhaven.dressforsuccess.org
Women, gather your work-worthy, gently worn, clean professional wear — suits, separates such as slacks, blouses and skirts — along with accessories including jewelry, scarves, bags and shoes to drop-off at this organization that helps women who have been referred by domestic violence agencies, veteran’s organizations, homeless shelters and job training agencies to transition into the work force. All donations, which go directly to the organization’s clients, should be ready to wear and delivered on hangers. Check the website for hours.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island
145 Sycamore Lane, Islandia; 516-731-7880; bbbsli.org
This extensive mentorship organization for children aged 7 to 16 who are facing adversity accepts clothing, shoes, household items and more. Forty percent of the clothing is sold on Long Island at Savers stores in Commack, Holbrook, Medford and West Hempstead the rest is shipped to other Savers store across the country. From an environmental standpoint, the BBBSLI recycles clothing that is not usable for resale as rag weight which becomes filler for furniture items such as couches and chairs. Some items are donated directly to families who have extenuating circumstances. The website lists drop-off bins and pick up areas.
1179 Sunrise Hwy, Copiague; 631-699-2412; supportthevets.org
Here, donate gently used clothing and shoes for men, women and children (they also take household items and furniture). Your donations are sold at AMVETS Thrift Shop, where 82 cents of every dollar of the sale price benefits American veterans and their families. Pick up is available.