The first cold snap brings the promise of hot chocolate, cross-country skiing and snow days. It also delivers a seasonal conundrum—how to manage your winter gear. You could spend weeks rummaging around trying to find that lost mitten—or you could just spend a few hours organizing—and minimizing—the bulk.
Step 1: Assemble Your Accessories
Make sure you have at least one good set of hat/gloves/scarf for each coat—a few mix-and-match pieces can enliven a gray day. Toss out every random, stained, non-matching item that turns each morning into a frustrating search. The more you streamline, the faster you'll be able to bundle up and the less likely you'll be to buy something you already own.
Step 2: Create a Winter Gear Station
Make an accessible space for storing and drip-drying winter accessories. Instead of a foyer table, add a cabinet with shelves and drawers. On the inside of your coat closet door, mount hooks or narrow wire shelves for hats, scarves and gloves. Outfit your hallway or mudroom with a boot rack, coat tree, storage bench, and/or stacking cubbies. If you have kids, position hooks and stackable drawers at their level. Assign each drawer, basket and bin a function, organized by person, color, style or item.
Step 3: Establish Consistent Rituals
Before you resort to adult mitten clips, try a better remedy—always stash items in the same spots. For instance, tuck gloves inside your hat into your coat's right sleeve; scarf inside left sleeve. At home, as soon as you take items off, put them in their proper container. If you lend a friend a hat, leave yourself a note in your winter gear station and you just might see it again.
Step 4: Get It All Out of the Way
Once winter's over, take advantage of a well-kept secret: Many dry cleaners will store coats free of charge until it's cold again. If you need your winter gear station for summer items, the easiest solution is to switch entire baskets or bins with new containers. A cheaper alternative: Empty the contents of each drawer or bin into its own plastic bag, then label both the bag and the spot inside the drawer where it was kept. Next winter, match the labels and voilà you'll find your favorite pair of gloves without turning the whole house upside down!
Printed from Oprah.com on Friday, December 6, 2013