Rachel Starrett, owner of The Closet Coach, says it’s the perfect time to give your closet a makeover.
This is the time of year when I reappraise my closet and feel the urge to purge! When I do a closet clean-out for a client, it’s a big process where we examine every piece (and every shoe!) and decide whether we love it, or whether it should go.
For “spring cleaning” sessions, and for my own closet, I do a quickie-version of that process, just to give the closet a mini-facelift for the current season. I’ve learned a lot of what I know from French women, and of course from attending FIT in New York. I’ve read dozens of books by French stylists, who swear the French have very little in their closets but are impeccably chic on a day-to-day basis. There is a lot to learn from their philosophy of less is more. Less to choose from, less time to get dressed, less “I don’t have a thing to wear” syndrome, more space, more creativity, the list goes on and on.
If you’re anything like I used to be, you go through your closet piece by piece, determined to let go of a lot, then you rationalize why youneed each piece, and end up piling everything back in your closet, save for one or two pieces that go off to Goodwill or consignment. Mission not Accomplished.
My method is a sure-fire way to see how much you have, which will motivate you to keep the best, and get rid of the rest. We don’t realize just how much we have until we pull it all out.
Pro Tip: If you haven’t put away your winter clothes yet, then do this mini-clean-out for them, before you store them. If you don’t switch seasons, then I would only do spring, and worry about winter when the time comes.
Step 1: See what you have.
Take out each category of clothing from your closet or drawers, one category at a time. Example: Take out all your shorts and lay them on your bed or the floor. Yes, all of them. It will defeat the purpose if you don’t see them all at the same time.
Pro Tip: This is great for motivation to purge. I once did a closet that had 47 event T-shirts in it. (You know, the boxy, always-too-big Tees you get from participating in a 5K or fundraiser). The client had no idea she had that many, and she promptly got rid of all but a few sentimental ones* and freed up half her dresser drawers. Voila! Less is more.
Step 2: Think about your CURRENT lifestyle.
Now, before you start getting rid of shorts, figure out how well this category of clothing fits into your lifestyle. For the shorts example: Do you hate your legs? Do you live in Antarctica? Do you hike through pricker-bushes frequently? You get the idea, if they don’t work with your current lifestyle — not six months ago, not last summer – now, you may no longer need as many as you have. Let’s say you live in Antarctica, therefore, you don’t need shorts. You have 17 pairs. 12-15 pairs can go! It feels wonderful to purge and you can rest assured that you don’t need them save for a pair or two. If you live in Antarctica, but vacation in Bali twice a year, save a few more! Such an easy formula.
On the other hand, if you are a stay-at-home mom (or dad) and you have 20 pairs of jeans, you’ll need to keep more than one or two pairs, as these work well with your lifestyle. You may want to rid yourself of 3-5 pairs but you’ll want to keep the rest. Read on for keeping the Top Ten.
Step 3: Keep only the Top Ten.
Go through the category one piece at a time to determine the Top Ten (or Top Five) if you have less clothing, or if it’s a smaller category of clothing like jackets. How to determine the Top? Ask yourself these three questions: Is it current? (Nothing from before 2003 should be in your closet, I dare say nothing from before 2008!) Does it fit me well? Do I love it?
If you answer No to any of those questions, out it goes! I have done too many closets that have clothes from the 80s and 90s in them — we are worth it — go get yourself some new, fresh, modern, sexy clothing! It will do wonders for your self-esteem! Of course I’m not talking about retro and vintage clothing here, but you can’t tell me your old holey GAP hoodie from the mid-90s is retro or vintage. It’s not doing anything for you — get rid of it!
Pro Tip: I don’t do “house clothes” — we should look as good in the house for our husbands, wives and friends as we do for the outside world! They are our most-loved ones! Get yourself a nice cashmere cardigan and give the GAP hoodie to Goodwill. You’ll be warmer in the cashmere anyway. *wink*
From the Top Ten, take away or add, depending on your lifestyle. To use the examples from above: For shorts in Antarctica, you’d get rid of 2-3 more pairs (or more if you can stand it) and for stay-at-home jeans you’d keep a few more than the Top Five or Ten. Make sense?
Pro Tip: BE BRUTAL. Try things on, look at yourself from all angles (everyone should have a full length mirror and a hand mirror to see the back view!) Anything that doesn’t fit goes — unless it’s worth it to alter it**. Fashion is meant to be fun! Anything you don’t love, or that doesn’t serve your shape well goes OUT THE DOOR! If you’re interested in learning about what suits your shape and what doesn’t visit theclosetcoach.com!
Step 4: Reorganize & Regroup.
After doing Step 3 with every category of clothing (even shoes and coats/jackets if you have the time) reorganize the pieces back in your closet(s) and dresser(s) in a logical order to your lifestyle. Hang formal dresses, and other less frequently worn clothing (unless, of course, you’re a socialite!), away from the front-and-center of your closet, as it’s inefficient to go past these pieces on a daily basis. Even better, hang them in another closet entirely to get them out of your day-to-day wardrobe. I hang my rarely worn pieces in garment bags on a rack in my basement.
Pro Tip: This is the perfect time to go and get yourself some non-slip hangers. They sell them at Target or Marshall’s, or any other home good store, and you’ll never again have to deal with things slipping off the hanger and landing in a ball on the floor. They’re cheap and so worth it.
Think about the pieces that you wear the most often, and consider why you like them so much. I do this with my clothes constantly and when I notice I’m wearing something to death I go buy it in other colors. Then you’ll know it’s a good purchase!
During the reorganize portion of this step I’m sure more than a few ideas popped into your head like, “Oh, if I only had this, I could wear it with that.” Take advantage of those little creative light bulb moments and keep a pad and pen (or your iPhone) near your closet. Jot down the pieces you think of that could pair with what you already have to make great outfits. Then you have a shopping list for what you reallyneed.
Many of my clients were just missing basics, and that’s why they were having a hard time creating chic, easy-to-throw-together outfits. If all you have are print pants and printed blouses you’ll have “no clothes” because you’ll have no outfits! But with a few white tees and a pair of blue or grey skinny jeans, you’ll have a plethora of amazing outfits! In fact if you don’t have a white tee shirt that fits you like a glove go get one! I insist, it will change your whole wardrobe, think like the French. If you’re leery of wearing white on top, get a Spanx slimming tank for underneath — voila, nothing but sexy curves, no lumps, no bumps.
Pro Tip: Lots of clothing is expensive in France and many French women don’t have the money to buy the trends season after season. They solve this problem by investing in their basics and staying abreast of fashion trends by observing what’s on the street and in the fashion magazines. Then, they scour their closets for what they already have that speaks to the trend, whether it be a color, a pattern or a detail. They may spend a bit on a trendy inexpensive accessory or two to show that they are in the know, but that’s it!
Step 5: Take stock.
Look at what you rejected to really understand your mistakes.
The main goal here is to figure out what your mistakes were or “shopping pitfalls,” as I call them. How did these things end up in your closet? Did you raid the clearance rack? Did you accept clothes from a family member or take hand-me-downs from someone? Did you shop when you were upset or “feeling fat” and make bad decisions? Once you get good at figuring our where your shopping mistakes are, you’ll get better at not making them. When I did my sister’s closet, we purged a ton of sale-rack clothing. I asked her why she bought those items and she said she thought she was saving money. We added up approximately what she spent on each item (the sale price) and the total came to $300! Not only did she not save money, but she threw $300 down the drain as none of the clothing was right for her and she didn’t love any of it! Now, she is very, very careful about what she buys from a sales rack.
Pro Tip: Don’t get blinded by sales. Keep your wits about you. I always tell my clients to ask themselves, “Would I pay full price for this?” If the answer is no, put it back, and keep moving, you can thank me later!
I do not make my clients get rid of anything they don’t want to get rid of. But, sentimental pieces don’t belong hanging with your daily wardrobe (unless you wear it frequently and it meets the three-question criteria). For these items, I usually urge clients to purchase some tissue paper, and a plastic container and wrap these items securely away and out of their closet. The items you push past in your closet everyday should only be current season and current for your lifestyle and body type, otherwise, it’s inefficient and getting in your way to getting out the door!
**Items to be Altered
The only items that should make it to the items to be altered pile are pieces that meet the three-question criteria and that you love. I also don’t think it’s worth altering garments that are poorly made and won’t hold up (such as garments from H&M, NY&Company, etc.). It takes some getting used to to alter pieces in your wardrobe if you’ve never been one to do it before, but you can’t put a price on a piece of clothing that fits your body to a T. A properly fitted garment can make you look taller and 10 pounds thinner.
(Originally published on the Social Stylate blog)