Do you dread getting dressed in the morning? If so, maybe a messy closet is the culprit. Shelves are crammed, hangers are tangled, and clothes, shoes, belts, and more are piled on the floor. You’ve got plenty to wear, but nothing inspires you. (Probably because you can’t find your best pieces!) Most days, you throw on the first thing you can find, slam the closet door, and try to avoid the mirror.
If you’re like most women, you know you should tackle the giant mess that is your closet, but other priorities—work, the kids, laundry, dishes, and so on—always seem to take precedence. Enough with the excuses—it’s time to put a clean closet at the top of your priority list, because a disorganized closet is a big problem that affects much more than just one small room in your house. A messy closet is a metaphor for a messy life, and it can have far-reaching ramifications.
The most obvious consequence of having a chaotic closet is the fact that getting dressed becomes a frustrating experience that has the power to ruin your day. And since you feel stressed and depressed just thinking about organizing your wardrobe, you end up spending too much money on new clothes. (Going shopping, you figure, is easier and more enjoyable.)
You may even end up buying pieces you don’t need, simply because you’ve forgotten what you already own. When I do a closet audit with my clients, I find that many of them own items that are beautiful, flattering, and comfortable—they were just buried beneath layers of less-inspiring clothes.
If you’re tired of feeling like your closet has a life of its own, and you’re ready to start making the most of your wardrobe, read on for six of my tried-and-true tips on how to tackle the giant tangle and successfully clean out your closet. In my next blog post, I’ll share some more tips to help you take the pieces that are left and build the closet you’ve always wanted.
Just do it. Whether it’s a new diet, new workout regime, or just a new day, getting started isn’t easy for anyone. However, you have to remind yourself that tackling your tangled closet will make your life better. You might even surprise yourself and have fun! I recommend planning ahead and scheduling time—perhaps a Saturday morning or several 30-minute periods on weeknights—to complete this project. If it’s on the calendar, it’s more likely to happen. And once you start, you’ll almost immediately begin seeing the benefits of having a cleaner, more organized closet.
Bring in the troops. The messier your closet is, the more helpful an objective third party will be. A friend, a family member, or an image consultant can help you make smart choices and give you honest opinions. If another person comes to your house for the sole purpose of weeding through your wardrobe, you won’t be able to put the task off with excuses. Plus, this person won’t be emotionally attached to price tags and memories. Regardless of who helps you tackle this project, you (and your closet) will appreciate having a voice of reason and extra moral support in the room.
Commit to living in the present. As I have said many times, when you wear old clothes that don’t reflect and honor who you are right now, your confidence and self-worth will suffer. Spend some conscious thought on matching your wardrobe to your current lifestyle. While it’s fun to think about how things used to be, our clothes have to reflect who we are now!
The simplest way to accomplish this is to do what I call The Closet Audit. First you need to sort through what you have. It’s not easy—if it were, you would have done it already. Everything must be tried on to get an accurate reading on whether it still fits and is something you want to keep. Ask yourself: Is it a flattering cut for me now? Do I ever wear it? Is it out of style? Is it great on me or just so-so? Does the color flatter me and my skin tone? And the number one question: Would I buy it again today?
Set up a trial separation. Clothes are often the diary of our lives, and that’s why they can be so hard to part with. For example, maybe you spent a lot of money on a fancy dress to wear to an evening wedding, but haven’t taken it off the hanger since. Or perhaps your mother or friend gave you a sweater that isn’t your style, but that you have a sentimental attachment to.
I suggest removing those rarely or never-worn garments that you can’t quite let go of from your closet. Box them up, or hang them in the basement or another closet. Leave them in this limbo for a year, then revisit them. This trial separation is easier on your emotions because there is still a way back. But if absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder—and often, it does quite the opposite—you will know it’s time to let those pieces move on!
Sort smart. As you begin to sort through the piles of clothes, keep pieces with similar fates together to make the rest of the process much easier. Divide everything into four separate categories: items to throw away that are ripped, stained, or frayed (this is the easy one!); items you are keeping; items worth saving that need alteration or dry cleaning; and items to be donated. Your to-be-donated pile can be further separated into items that can be used by Dress for Success (a nonprofit that donates professional attire to disadvantaged women), items that you wish to take to a resale shop, and items that could be donated to Goodwill or The Salvation Army.
Don’t forget accessories. Once all of your clothing is sorted, it is time to go through your shoes and boots, handbags, jewelry, lingerie, hats, gloves, etc. Often, you’ll find drawers of scarves that you’ve never worn, for example, and nearly forgotten shoes and boots piled up under racks of clothing. (And don’t forget to visit the coat closet!) Use the same sorting criteria that you did for your clothing. Remember, shoes that are worn out or that have a dated toe or heel can take away from an otherwise fabulous outfit. If beloved and still-fashionable shoes need new heels, soles, or a cleaning, take them to a shoe repair shop to give them a new lease on life. Usually, this is less expensive than buying a whole new pair!
Throughout the cleaning process, remember to stay calm. Untangling your closet is supposed to be healing and freeing, so don’t allow it to overwhelm you with stress. It’s okay to take breaks and walk away from the task for awhile, especially if you encounter an item that strikes an emotional chord in you, or just to gain some fresh perspective. And again, don’t be afraid to call in help. An outside opinion can make all the difference, especially when it comes to those pieces that you just can’t decide whether to keep or let go of.
Be sure to stay tuned for my next blog post, in which I’ll give you some ideas to save space and stay organized.