Tell me if this scenario is familiar: it’s about 15 minutes until you have to leave the house for work and you’re not dressed yet. You go into your closet, hoping to find something stellar to wear (but you’ll settle for decent, since time is ticking). You grab a pair of black pants – and then remember that these need to be shortened. You throw on a super cute sweater – but realize that you need to lose your winter weight before you can squeeze into it. You reach for your trusty charcoal blazer – and notice a stain from last week’s Taco Tuesday. So, you default to jeans and a top that you wear almost every week and resolve to deal with your closet at some point soon.
If this resembles your morning routine at all, it’s time for a closet detox. And by that, I mean dealing with all the challenges in your wardrobe that make getting dressed anything less than easy and enjoyable. And since I’m in clients’ closets all the time, I’ve created a list of 5 steps to detox your closet – to recognize what’s great, deal with what needs help and purge what doesn’t deserve to be there.
SET ASIDE THE TIME
The most important step to finally dealing with what’s keeping you from enjoying your wardrobe more is actually setting aside the time to do it. And I’m not talking about taking 15 minutes to try on a few pairs of jeans to figure out which makes your butt look good – I’m referring to devoting a significant amount of time to review what’s in your closet to identify your hits, your misses and everything in between.
For a typical women’s wardrobe, I’ll usually schedule 3 hours with a client. If your wardrobe is significantly large, you’ll need more time (my longest closet audit was 6 hours – 2 separate three hour sessions, but she tried on most of her wardrobe for me). And if your wardrobe is pretty minimal, you may need less, but I recommend scheduling extra time to go through things that I don’t get to with clients – pajamas, underwear, workout clothes, etc. After all, if you’re devoting the time, you might as well get it all done, right?
And if this seems completely overwhelming, schedule a few, shorter increments over the course of a month. Commit to an hour each weekend – the first Saturday can be all your tops, the second can be pants, and so on. And don’t forget accessories – shoes, jewelry, etc. Anything that’s part of your daily outfits should be included!
GET IT ALL OUT
Don’t try to go through your items within your closet, especially if your closet is small, dark or cramped. Take it all out – lay it all on your bed, set up a folding table, or whatever you need so that you can see everything to review it.
I bring a folding garment rack to my clients’ homes so that we can pull everything out of the closet, hang it on the rack, look at it in decent light (you’ll see colors and stains better in the light of your bedroom than in the depths of your closet) and assess the usefulness and condition of each item.
The goal of this process is threefold – to determine what’s already working great in your wardrobe, to discover what needs a little help (alterations, cleaning) and to identify what doesn’t deserve space in your closet or in your life. So, you’re looking to place items in these three buckets on the basis of:
FIT: If it doesn’t currently fit, it doesn’t deserve to be in the space where you get dressed every day – so, out it goes. If you think it may fit again (it’s just 10 pounds away and you’re seriously working to lose weight), put it somewhere else like under bed boxes, the guest room closet or in the garage.
If it’s a matter of alterations, this is when you start the alterations pile. Pin a note to each item describing what needs to happen (shorten pants, take in waist, narrow body) and then set aside time on your calendar to go to the tailor. And if you’re not sure if it’s alterable, take it to the tailor anyway, and they can give you an expert opinion before you commit to anything.
CONDITION: If the item is worn or stained beyond repair (or you know yourself well enough to know that you won’t fix it), out it goes. And if it is repairable, put it in the appropriate pile (tailor or laundry). Because the image you want to present doesn’t include obvious holes, stains or other defects, right?
PREFERENCE: If you simply don’t like it (or never wear it), it’s not worth keeping. No matter who gave it to you, no matter what memories it conjures, no matter how much you paid for it. If you don’t like it, it will never make its way out of the closet.
TRY IT ON
As you’re going through all the styles in your closet, you’ll often know which ones fit well at first glance. But if there’s any question, you’ll need to try it on. My recommendation is to set aside the specific item for the moment, and save a half hour or so at the end of your closet detox for ‘try-ons’. This will help to keep you on track and stay motivated - and then you can save those tough decisions for later.
The most important part of detoxing your closet is following through on all the work you’ve just done. A few key points of follow through:
GO TO THE TAILOR: Actually take the items that need alterations to the tailor, rather than letting them sit in a pile on the chair in your bedroom. Otherwise, you might find yourself accidentally buying a replacement rather than simply paying for a $15 hem.
LET IT GO: Give away, consign or donate everything that doesn’t deserve to be in your closet. It’s rare, but every once in a while I’ll discover that a client ‘rescued’ an item from the giveaway pile because they couldn’t bear to part with it. But a year later, it will still be unworn in the closet for the same reasons that it was in the giveaway pile in the first place. If you can’t bear to part with something, here’s what to do: put it somewhere away from where you get dressed (the under bed boxes or guest room closet again) and in 2 months, if you haven’t gone to find it, you don’t even remember that you own it and it’s really time to let it go.
RECOGNIZE THE GOOD: Take note of what’s in your wardrobe that’s already amazing – what fits, flatters and aligns with your lifestyle. These styles are the basis of a great wardrobe update. And then think through what’s missing so that future shopping trips are strategic and productive (I keep running list of needs in my phone, so that I’m always looking to fill holes when I’m shopping).
Are you ready to detox your closet? If you’d like a partner in the process with an expert eye, click here. I do in-person closet audits with clients throughout the SF Bay Area, and I provide guidance and support to clients virtually anywhere.