Wednesday, July 9, 2014

No Organization Required: Reclaiming My Closet

How many of us look into our closet and say, "I absolutely love everything in here!"  Well, I absolutely do not love everything in my closet.  Yes, there are some pieces that I love, like my classic black semi-formal dress and oh-so-comfortable midnight blue jersey maxi skirt.  Some things I keep because of the occasional need to look business professional or for wonderful vacays to the beach.  Then there are those pieces that have remained as a dream deferred, unworn due to poor fit or short-lived trends - each hanger holding a reminder of an impulse buy or bad decision.  Enough is enough. 

But take heart! I have slowly made progress in making my closet a much happier place to be and you can too.  Today's post describes the steps I took to reclaim my closet without organizing it, but by transforming it into a place of inspiration and delight.

Step 1:  Find Your Style

The whole process began over a year ago when I loosely followed this four-step plan to "never buy the wrong thing again" from Real Simple.  The general process was fairly straightforward: 1) understand what works to find your style, 2) examine what doesn't to uncover your weaknesses, 3) pinpoint what is missing or needs replacing, and 4) learn to shop more effectively.  Surprisingly, the plan took more effort than I initially thought, but it was worth it because I finally identified MY style and mastered how to shop for it, both of which have almost eliminated my haphazard spending and buyer's remorse.  After questioning all the items I did not like, I realized that my poor shopping decisions occurred when I need something immediately, as I tended to focus on meeting my need more than my style.  Now, to thwart bad purchases, I keep a list of items that I'm looking to add or replace, so when I come across an item that matches all the criteria for need and style, I know it's a worthwhile purchase.  

My main takeaway:  recognize why you like what you like and why you hate what you hate.  Knowing these two things will help you know what to look for, what to buy, and what to leave on the rack.  

Make your closet a better place by also incorporating these principles:
Be aware of your color palette:  know what colors enhance your features (skin color, eye color, hair color) and try make sure you have them in your wardrobe.  I used this classification from The Chic Fashionista site.
Work with your body type, not against it:  understand what specific shapes and cuts make your body look balanced and use them to your advantage.  I'm a proud pear shape - so horizontal stripes above the waist only!
Incorporate more flexible pieces:  clothing that can work in multiple outfits and multiple seasons will allow you to be more creative without cluttering your closet (and it makes packing for trips easier, too!)

Step 2:  Clear the Racks

But there was still more work to do after I was done with the Real Simple article.  I had to get rid of the chaff, the pieces that were making my closet a miserable place to be.  

First, I removed items that I undoubtedly did not like.  That part was easy and fun.   Next, I evaluated items that I was ambivalent about keeping - this was the step in the process that required the better part of a year because I went through everything seasonally.  These were the items that held a certain meaning or could be worn if I toned up certain areas or (insert excuse of choice here).  I tried everything on, making note of the appropriateness and flexibility of each piece of clothing.  I decisively eliminated pieces that no longer fit me well or worked for my body type, regardless of my excuses or trends.  At the next season, I revisited the items I kept, made sure they were still working, and started the process all over again.

After 14 months of toil, my closet is now a place where all of my clothing fits me in my current state, makes me feel comfortable, and represents my style not someone else's.  I currently have 188 items stored in my closet.  Geez, sounds like a lot, but I'll comfort myself by saying it includes clothing for all seasons (or at least the lukewarm and hot seasons here in TX) and a few timeless pieces for when special occasions arise.   Depending on how the next year goes, that number may dwindle even more, especially when shoes and accessories come up on the docket.  There are a few items remaining that currently fit me and technically match my style, but aren't completely ideal - like the light grey pinstripe suit that I would like to trade for a charcoal grey one.  But until I find a replacement, I'll keep the pinstripe suit.  I do have one point of weakness though - a black and white halter dress that I absolutely LOVE, but desperately need to take to a tailor!  I've given myself until the end of the summer to get it done.

No matter where you are in the closet spectrum, you can reclaim your closet and make it work for you.  In addition to the article I mentioned earlier, here are some links to other (albeit more intense) closet-clearing plans:

The 40 Hanger Closet (Ruth Soukup, Living Well Spending Less) - create a wardrobe using only 40 hangers

Project 333 (Courtney Carver) - a minimalist challenge to dress yourself for 3 months with only 33 articles of clothing

Here's to making our closets happier places to be!

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