First formal wardrobe edit: A complicated guide for a complicated closet

How to Edit Your Closet

Aug 7, 2013


Realizing I’ve spent most of this season in neutral colors, I took time to cull out pieces that have gone unworn for some time, and ended up with a embarrassingly large pile. Even though I’ve given away or donated around half my wardrobe annually, for the past few years, I’ve still been holding onto way too much that I don’t like, doesn’t fit, and doesn’t make sense any longer.
I have also shopped more than I would like to admit in transitioning from college, to corporate, to working for a non-profit (office-wide “Tevas are not business casual” memo, anyone?). So this is my closet almost a year ago:

More recently, [1] I have thought much more about what I like and buy, and why. [2] I have also tried to be more thoughtful of where my clothes come from, what they’re made of, and what my decision to wear them may say about me as a person. [3] I’ve taken a liking to more specific colors, cuts, and textures – and it’s meant fewer patterns and prints – and more pieces that could work together.
This is my wardrobe after two passes last week:

I am working through the edit in posts and will be inventorying what works, throwing out what doesn’t, planning to shop more strategically, and better-defining my style and essentials. Follow along if you also use the three-shirts-one-hanger trick and are (a bit) overdue for a wardrobe cull.

How to clean your closet: Editing

Aug 21, 2013

I edit twice a year, and each time I’ve used this method, around half of my entire wardrobe has gone to friends, charity, or Ebay. [1] First, pull down everything. Ev-er-y-thing. Nothing is immune, even the delicates drawers. [2] Lay everything out in piles, sorted by type and season. This makes it very easy to spot areas with too much (for me, blazers) – and not enough (singlet tanks and tees).
Then, pile by pile, [3] try on every piece you haven’t worn in a few weeks, and [4] re-sort it into one of eight stacks below. It takes time, but leads to major organization:

  • [5] Keep in plain sight – Anything worn frequently, in good condition, that fits well and feels good – stays in sight (my bedroom wardrobe is small!). This also creates a trim capsule wardrobe, with fewer pieces of favorite items. Getting dressed becomes refreshingly simple when you are presented with less, and you’ll be able to “shop” your closet as pieces are rotated in and out.
  • [6] Secondary storage – I keep seasonal coats, evening dresses, and special event pieces tucked away in separate closets, along with festival and going out outfits. This way I only see these pieces when I intend to wear them… and don’t end up convincing myself that a neon mini skirt will be great for casual Friday.
  • [7] Tailor and dry clean – Go ahead and put it in your car as soon as the pile is done. On tailoring – I love to shop vintage, and the sizes in my wardrobe are all over the map. If I’ve gotten something special ($14 Armani silk trousers $600 tags still on, baby) that is ill-fitting, it’s worth it to spend a little money at the tailor, or…
  • [8] “What do you think of this?” pile – When I can’t decide, I get a second opinion. A friend or boyfriend will have a totally different take that will help you see the piece without your rosey but-it-was-on-sale and sentimental glasses.
  • [9] Sell – This really helps me let go of designer items and pieces I paid retail for, but rarely (or worse – never) wore. Ebay and Asos Marketplace are your best friends here. You can also drop a whole pile by a local thrift buyer’s shop.
  • [10] Offer away, then donate pile – Offer pile is an extra step I throw in with bigger edits. The pile of what I know I don’t want or need that’s ready for donation goes into a bin in the corner of our guest room. Then over the next couple of weeks, if friends and family visit, they can cull out anything they’d like to keep. Thinking about the new lives of pieces tends to make it easier to let go of more, and it serves as a good limbo spot for anything I’m not sure of. My friends now call dibs when they hear I’m about to start cleaning! Anything left over in the give away pile is off to donation – but after a few weeks. A wait period makes it easier for me to add a lot more to the donate pile, because I know it’s still available on the odd chance that I change my mind about something.
  • [11] DIY – Anything to tailor or craft with on my own goes here, along with any damaged clothes made of nice materials, like silk or sequins, that could be used in making throw pillows, headbands, belts.
  • [12] Futures & Sentiments – Through the years, my mom kept all of her old silk scarves, hippie bangles, and a 30-year-old pair of butterscotch boots from Brazil. She and my grandmothers kept certain items of their wardrobe for me, and I love all of it to pieces. I keep a small box with my “futures” and some sentimental other bits that I loved, loved until they just gave out.
  • [13] You can also use time spent sorting to think about why you’re editing down, how your taste may be changing, and most importantly, how to approach future shopping differently. Here’s the kicker…

Then do it again. One sleepy Saturday a couple of weeks later, I made big cup of black coffee, turned on a playlist, and repeated steps [1]-[13]. At this point I had been putting together outfits with my “new” wardrobe, and could better note what I was wearing, and what I had only promised myself I would. This helped me be even more ruthless and add even more to the offer away pile.
In all, this whole cycle took around four hours the first go round. Plan it around changing seasons and you’ll be excited to see your seasonal clothes come down – and you’ll have a better handle of what you have and haven’t worn throughout the ending season! Next up: Organizing what’s left in the keep pile:

How to clean your closet: Organizing

Aug 22, 2013

After editing my closet, I like to check that how everything is organized still makes sense. Since I tend to wear what I see, open shelves and a looong hanging bar help out here. This system is completely at odds with our 30s-era bungalow’s tee-tiny closets, though, so when we moved in I immediately went to Craigslist and found an enormous Ikea Pax wardrobe (A confession: I shop Craigslist for Ikea furniture…standing in Ikea. Living in a city means someone usually has it posted, put together, for half off – and it’s better for the environment to boot). Here’s what works for me:

  • Tops, office and casual dresses, skirts, dress pants, light jackets: Hang them on these super thin velvety-grip hangers. I am slowly phasing these in from wooden hangers, since they are lightweight and so thin – and you can use the included clips to avoid fold lines on skirts and silk trousers. A good rule of thumb is that if you’ve run out of hangers, it’s probably time for a fresh edit.
  • Sweaters, shorts, casual pants, denim: These are all folded in short stacks on open shelves, with the exception of some sturdier pants, which fold over the wardrobe’s pull-out pants hanger that doubles as a rack for belts. Hats and a few seasonal scarves fit nicely on the higher shelves.
  • Work-out gear, delicates, hosiery, pajamas, knock-around and festival clothes: All of these go into a big chest of drawers. Thick tights are lightly knotted, and bras are nested like spoons (which lasts way longer than when you do the old fold-over-and-toss-in-a-drawer bit).
  • Shoes and bags: Open shelves, again! I don’t rotate out seasonal shoes or bags, so having it all in sight is another good trigger that shows me when space is tight, I really need to re-assess.
  • Blazers, coats, heavy scarves, formal dresses: These all go into one of the aforementioned world’s tiniest closets.
  • Out of season clothes: In Atlanta, you’re usually pouring sweat or slogging through sleet (save for approximately one precious, gloriously mild week in autumn, which I am eagerly awaiting), so I keep a big bin of totally out of season pieces in the closet. Keeping this and the blazers/coats/dresses stored away means so much less time scanning when I’m just looking for an office dress on a brain-fogged morning.
  • Scarves, head bands, and jewelry: I was obsessed with finding an architect’s flat file to house my jewelry and other accessories for such a long time. I ended up finding the perfect little chest at an antique store near our house, and loved that the seller knew the story behind it. I keep bangles and some necklaces on display, but store most metal pieces away in the chest drawers to make sure they don’t tarnish quickly in the open air.

I hope this is helpful in sorting out your closet. Remember to consider your daily schedule and personality when organizing – I’m very visual, so I love to have everything in the open, but I’m sure having everything cluttering shelves would drive some people insane. And a final note on editing – if you don’t wear it or don’t care for it (or are anywhere on the fence), be sure to pass the happiness on to someone who will enjoy it! Simplifying your wardrobe to things you truly appreciate will work wonders on your morning energy and focus. Instead of feeling overwhelmed or disappointed when you step into your closet, you’ll feel confident, excited, and happy.

PS: A few newer posts on how to get dressed

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