Maybe it happened because you just can’t resist a bargain, so you regularly come home with shopping bags crammed full of 85-percent-off clearance items. Maybe shopping is your go-to stress reliever after a tough day at work. Or perhaps you just don’t want to get rid of any old garments because you think you might need them again. Whatever the reason, your closet is so jam-packed with pants, shirts, dresses, skirts, and more that you can’t even move things from left to right…but when it comes time to choose an outfit each morning, you don’t really want to wear any of it.
If any of this sounds familiar, relax. You’re normal. At some point or another, I think that almost all women deal with the “closet full of clothes but nothing to wear” problem. (In fact, that’s why many of my clients first get in touch with me!) The good news is, if digging through all of that mess in order to put together a matching outfit makes you crazy, there are some specific things you can do to make your wardrobe less wieldy and more wearable. Here are four steps I recommend taking if you’re ready to break the nothing-right-to-wear cycle:
First, sort what you have. If you’re at your wits’ end, chances are your closet is so cluttered and disorganized that you aren’t really familiar with each piece of its contents. That’s why I recommend taking everything off the rack. First of all, you’ll be able to clearly see if you have an overabundance of a certain color tee, for example, or too many pairs of black pants. Plus, as you consider each piece of clothing, you’ll be forced to consider how much you actually like it. Be sure to try on everything and evaluate each item based on whether or not you would purchase it again today. If the answer is “yes,” that piece is a keeper.
If you think you might not have a clear sense of what looks good on you or would simply like an outside opinion, ask a friend who’ll be honest to assist you in eliminating things that don’t fit, don’t flatter you, are too worn, or don’t match your lifestyle. And don’t hold on to something just because you spent a lot of money on it. Yes, I’ll admit that it can be tough to get rid of an expensive item, but if it is no longer an asset to your wardrobe, it has lost its value for you. Be sure to set aside clothes that you want to keep but need alterations and clothes that are no longer appropriate for you but that can be donated.
Next, organize what’s left. After you have discarded everything that is no longer an asset, organize what’s left. First, re-hang everything you’ve kept, grouping pieces in order of color or prints. You’ll immediately feel more peaceful when you walk into your closet, and you’ll also have a better grasp on your wardrobe. Specifically, I’d recommend using this newfound “clothing clarity” to make a list of what you need to complete the outfits you already have. These pieces will probably be very simple things: the right underpinnings, jewelry, a new black skirt or base-color pant, for example, that will appropriately extend the wear of jackets or blouses that you already own.
Buy some new pieces—with help—and start small. After you’ve cleared out some space in your once-overfull closet, reward yourself by going shopping for some of the items on your “to-be-acquired” list…but use the buddy system. I definitely recommend taking a friend whose opinion you can trust, hiring an image consultant, or going to a personal shopper in your favorite store. This person can assist you in picking a few pieces that are flattering, easy to put on and match, and that make sense with your current lifestyle, and he or she can also help you to decide on a comfortable shopping budget.
As you rediscover your style, it’s best to start small, even if you leave the store with only three new pieces—albeit ones you feel very good about. (Again, I recommend concentrating on things that will extend and pull together the pieces you already have, like a brown belt or new pumps.) I would also suggest purchasing at least one thing that’s outside your normal fashion box. This strategy will give you the opportunity to see how this new piece makes you feel and to evaluate the feedback you get from others before you buy more.
Change your shopping strategy. Now that you have cleaned out your closet and started to figure out what kinds of pieces you’ll still like and want to wear once you get them home, it’s time to tackle what is, for many people, the toughest step of all: changing the way you shop. If you’ve never passed up a sale in the past, for example, it’s finally time to break the clearance addiction—otherwise you’ll fall back into your old pattern of buying odds and ends that you’ll never wear. I always advise my clients to look at the garment first and the price second—that way you’ll be choosing only between pieces that are flattering. I firmly believe that it’s worth spending a little more for pieces that you’ll wear again and again and again, as opposed to shelling out less for something you’ll wear once or (maybe) twice.
Ultimately, when you streamline your closet, you’ll quite literally be changing your life. You’ll feel less tense as you prepare for your day, and maybe for the first time in a while, you’ll also be excited about what you’re wearing. As you continue to acquire new pieces after the big clean-out and update, pay attention to how they make you feel and how often you find yourself wearing them…and keep building on that knowledge.