You have a small closet. You like clothes. Lately, every time you open your closet, your reaction ranges from “So Booor-ing” to straight-up “Ew.”
This could be the case because it’s been eons since you’ve engaged in a ruthless closet cleaning. Or, despite running a tight ship closet-wise (everything fits and is flattering in shade and style) your current number of treasures exceeds your physical closet space.
Here are some novel ways I’ve found to free up space in my seriously small closet.
Stow seasonal clutter. When summer comes, the parka and wool rap and heavy knit dresses get cleaned and stashed. So do those space-hogging boots.
While doing this, you’ll come across some items that have been worn to death, and look it. Congratulate yourself on getting out there and living—then toss the worn-out stuff. Repeat after me: I am no hobo!
Think like a retailer. You’ve tucked away the seasonal no-gos, whether it’s stashing the flouncy sun hats and flowing caftans since it’s fall, or tucking away knee boots and knit scarves since summer’s here.
But: your closet still looks like an overstuffed mess.
An over-stuffed closet is an uninspiring closet because each time you fling open your closet, your eyes rest on a big ole’ mess. You feel defeated even before you manage to pull something bland (jeans, again?) from its bloated, confusing jaws.
Plus, everything is smashed together, so your visibility is limited and you have no idea what you own. Just like an artist needs to see all of the colors on their palate, you need to know that you currently have exactly three dresses in your best shade of blue. Or, if you’re a guy, that you have four beautifully cut dress shirts and a blazer that fits so fine you could puke.
It’s called merchandising, and you need to know it in order to optimize your wardrobe.
First step? Thin out this season’s ranks.
Consider your overall look this season. Anything that does not fit in with this season’s look gets stashed away. Do fine stores hang onto five or six seasons at a time? No. And because you have a tiny closet, neither can you.
All You Small-Closet People in the House: Each season, pick an overall look. Stow away those items that don’t conform to it.
Example. This season I’m feeling rich colors, flowing fabrics and more accessories than usual. This means my leagues of clingy shifts in grey and beige, no matter how groovy, are exiled just like Napoleon was to Elba (joke, joke). And while I really think Brooks Brothers non-iron shirts are handy to have, I happen to have a bunch of them. Blazers, too. (Blazers? Was I drunk?)
These, too, are out of bounds for this season, style wise, so they’ve been neatly shuffled away.
You need to see those shoes…or you’ll never wear them! Tragedy!
You must do this for your shoes and accessories as well. The rest? Since your wardrobe is small, winnow down your shoe collection to the bare essentials, and line them up so you’ll see them clearly each time you open your closet. Or, shall I say, your private boutique?
Promote items you love but seldom wear by putting them up front.
As always, make sure your closet has curb appeal. Vacuum, dust and make sure your items are clean, polished and ship-shape for your most stylish season yet. And make sure you have the right hangers for a limited-space wardrobe.
The upside of having a small closet is this: It forces you to regularly declutter your wardrobe, and forces you to focus on your current style.
Will this take time? Yes. Will your closet look awesome and make you feel good each time you open it? Yes, also. Bonus round: You will look and feel better as a result, since you will dress more sharply, creatively and on-point in terms of who you happen to be at the moment.
Q. Constance, I have a different problem. A large closet…lots of clothes but nothing to wear. And I don’t like to part with things. I have started a get rid of box, consignment, good will, yet the closet is still full. Might need to add I have range of sizes due to my weight fluctuating. Maybe others have my same issue, would love to hear some advice. Although I am certain I know what I should do…lol. Hope all is well with you. Nicole R.
A. I suspect your Get Rid of Box is not full enough! And your fine, non-wasteful blood is not helping things.
A successful closet overhaul always begins in the mind.
The bulk of your existing clothes do you no favors when it comes to you getting out the door each day in a timely manner, and looking your best. That is because they no longer represent who you are today. They are castoffs, leftovers from another time in your life. And if you come across any item that shows it, whether you see faded dye or pilled fabrics or misshapen silhouettes, out they go. I had a hoot not long ago getting rid of a pair of white, sky-high platforms and matching white leather miniskirt, among other dinosaur garb.
Some of us have tendency to hang on to the past, and when we do this we are not treating ourselves quite kindly. Your collection of clothes should be concise and on-point to who you are today. It doesn’t matter if your budget is endless or strict, either.
Back to the mind. A lovely lady wears lovely things. This means you. Once you have accepted this, each of your items should be examined with respect to the 3Cs – Cut, Color, Characteristic. If a piece does not pass all three of these criterion, into the box it goes. Be ruthless.
Pretend you are doing it for someone else, and play Bitchy Personal Shopper if you must, where you imagine you are throwing away closet castoffs for a particularly discriminating client, who happens to look just like you!
I’m as guilty as the next gal, or guy, when it comes to wearing the heck out of a lovable new item or ensemble. So much so that, a month or so later, the item has been used and abused…and looks it. And if you’ve ever heard me preach my fire and brimstone lecture on how you’re too good to be prancing around in used and abused clothes–well, just know that there is no excuse for wearing stained, ribbed, pilled or misshapen clothes unless you are trying out for a local production of Les Misérables.
Here are some ways to put the brakes on the wear of your wardrobe, shoes included:
Think of your closet as a revolving workspace. Items check-in and check-out. Few, if any, will stay forever.
Regularly comb through your closet with the eye of a bitchy personal stylist and purge, purge, purge those items that are no longer up to snuff. Cart them out of your house immediately. (Putting them in a bag “for later” doesn’t count.)
Buy fewer clothes, and buy better clothes. Better does not always mean more expensive. Better means higher quality. Why? Quality=lasts longer.
There is something that saps the life from a bag, pair or shoes or clothing item when it’s worn heavily. Jeans excluded. Resist the urge to wash and re-wear–the repeat–that fantastic new tunic that wears as comfortably as a sweatshirt and looks and feels as chic as the French Riviera. Let the item rest in-between wearings, and lean on the rest of your wardrobe in the meantime.
Know how much cleaning is just the right amount. There are some items that will need cleaning more than others. A lady whose ship I passed in the night told me that she loved black dresses and cocktail parties equally. She did both a lot and, since going to a innocent cocktail party for a couple of hours is hardly the equivalent of mud wrestling, she would mini-dry clean her dress in between light wearings by letting it hang aloft in her hotel room near an open window or balcony, and place it in the bathroom when she was taking a shower for a little steam cleaning.
See your closet with new eyes. There are many self-evident reasons for cleaning out your closet. A few of them are psychological. One is that you will re-discover items that you like and look good on you. Another is that, with these new eyes, you will contemplate new concoctions, new ways to put together clothes and accessories so that they look like something else entirely. Something groovy.