October 31, 2016
It’s been quite a while since we last broached the topic of curating a lean closet but after completing the latest 10 x 10 Challenge I felt it was the perfect time to dig back into one key aspect of my Closet Mission, which is editing. I’ve touched on this topic before and it’s no secret that closet editing is one of my favourite activities (I know, nerd alert!) so I wanted to revisit my approach after learning a thing or two over the last year.
I just conducted my 4th closet edit of 2016 and I can’t tell you how great it feels to open my closet doors in the morning and see only the things that I truly love to wear. It’s liberating, inspiring and an absolute treat to start the day with! Yet, whenever I talk about closet purges and the like, I often hear people say, ‘Ah, I’d love a lean closet but I just can’t bring myself to let go of things.’ and I definitely appreciate that, believe me! For years I really struggled to edit my closet properly. I would end up just reorganizing my stuff rather than actively eliminating things. Before I knew it, I’d be right back where I started, in front of an overflowing wardrobe with nothing to wear. I’d keep things because they were “cute”, “fun”, “expensive” or something I’d wear “one day” but really I never wore any of it again. Meanwhile, someone else could have been enjoying it.
The truth is, whether we acknowledge it or not, we get attached to our clothes (and possessions in general). Sometimes it’s a matter of nostalgia, like an old sweater that was knit by a family member or a vintage t-shirt from your college years. Sometimes they represent a version of ourselves we don’t want to let go of, like a pair of tiny jeans that only really fit when you were 22. Sometimes they have explicit monetary value like a fancy bag you bought on a whim but haven’t used for a year. Whatever the reason might be, it can be hard to let go of these things. But what I’ve finally come to accept is that they are just that, things. And once they’re gone I promise you won’t miss them because the rewards of a lean closet are far superior to the loss of unworn, space stealing stuff.
For starters, conducting a proper wardrobe clean out will help you:
- See what’s really in your closet.
- Reinvest in you favourite items.
- Achieve a much clearer sense of your personal style.
- Help you to avoid adding items that won’t get worn.
- Let go of the ‘stuff’ that’s been holding you back.
So let’s run through the 5 simple steps that I’ve come to believe are critical to execute a successful closet edit:
- BRING ‘EM OUT
STEP 1: PREP
A | START BY SETTING A SIMPLE GOAL
Maybe it’s a number of items you’d like to get to. For me that number was 50 Fall/Winter items.
Closet overflowing? Perhaps you’re simply looking to get rid of enough items to have room to see what’s there. This is a good goal for first time editors.
Maybe you need incentive like a big box or bag to fill. I find this trick useful especially if you’re inclined to talk yourself into keeping things. You can’t stop until the designated space is full!
B | KEEP A FEW KEYWORDS IN MIND
It’s a really good idea to have a few keywords that describe your personal style in mind while editing. Mine are CLEAN, CONSIDERED, VERSATILE and UNIQUE. Whenever I’m on the fence about an item I ask myself if it accurately embodies these words. Works like a charm! More on that below.
C | MAKE SPACE + TIME
Give yourself an uninterrupted afternoon (or at least an hour +) and some room to pull everything out and begin sorting. I’ve found I’m much more inclined to edit thoroughly if I can see the overwhelming amount of ‘stuff’ all at once rather than editing categories at a time. It’s going to be messy for a bit, but it’ll be worth it!
Set up a couple big bags or boxes to put your ‘rejects’ into. Designate a clothes rack (I use this one) or a bench or your bed for the ‘keepers’.
STEP 2. BRING ‘EM OUT
Now it’s time to bring everything out into the open. This is a daunting step and one I used to avoid (and still couldn’t bring myself to document!) but it’s the best way to get a much needed look at everything you’ve been stowing away. So haul out the sweaters, the jeans, the boots, the bags, the coats, the hats, the jewelry, THE WORKS!
If you really can’t handle the mess (like me!) or you simply don’t have room to make it, then pull out as much as you can manage at once. This might be all your shoes and accessories or maybe all your tops in general. I went with clothes in one phase and then shoes and accessories in a second phase.
STEP 3. SORT
A | START BY PULLING 10 ITEMS THAT YOU CONSIDER NON-NEGOTIABLE ‘KEEPERS’
These should be items you love to wear and reach for again and again. Keep these 10 items somewhere handy so you can refer to them later.
B | LABEL 3 BAGS/BINS/BOXES/SECTIONS: ‘SELL’ ‘DONATE’ AND ‘TOSS’
SELL – This bag is for good quality items you’re ready to part with that are in excellent condition. Anything that looks like new or has only been worn a few times should go here. High-end items in good condition can also go here.
I sell my best quality items on Instagram (@stylebeecloset) but there are lots of other options:
- DEPOP Market
- THREDUP (USA only)
- THE REAL REAL – For Luxury Labels
- LOCAL CONSIGNMENT – It’s highly likely that there is a consignment shop in your area. Just make sure they have a good understanding of brand names and offer no less than 40% of their resale price.
DONATE – This bag is for good condition items that might not be worth anything in terms of resale. Items from ‘mall brands’ such as H&M, ZARA, TARGET and Joe Fresh fall under this category for the most part. You can probably find a clothing donation bin in your area and shops like Madewell will accept your old jeans, send them to Blue Jeans Go Green (for housing insulation) and give you a $20 USD discount. When you order through CUYANA and select ‘lean shipping’ they’ll send a pre-paid mailer for you to fill with clothes you’re done with and donate them to H.E.A.R.T. plus you’ll get $10 OFF your next purchase (USA only).
TOSS – This is essentially a garbage bag. You know those old, stained, ripped, disintegrating t-shirts, socks and undies that have been lurking around way too long? Those go in this one!
C | BEGIN EDITING!
Begin by selecting 1 item at a time. If you’re not immediately sure if you want to keep it or let it go (to one of 3 above fates) then ask yourself the following:
- Did I wear this in the last 6 months?
- Does this fit my style goals (aka those key words you started with)?
- Am I excited to wear it again?
- Does it fit?
- Is it comfortable?
- Would I rather wear it over any of my ‘Keepers’? (Refer to those 10 gems you love.)
- Is it in good condition?
- Did I feel good the last time I wore it?
- Does it have an irreplaceable sentimental value?
- Can I wear it during the upcoming season?
If the answer is ‘No’ to more than 1 of those questions it’s most likely time to part ways.
D | REPEAT this process until you’ve made it through your entire closet.
QUICK NOTE ABOUT THE ‘MAYBE’ PILE YOU WANT TO INCLUDE:
NOT ALLOWED! Well, OKAY but JUST this time. Try leaving a designated area in your closet for items you’re on the fence about. Then as the season goes try them out and see if they really do work or if they’re just wasting space.
I used to ‘maybe’ (read: cheat) my way through every edit by giving myself a maybe pile and then sure enough 6-months later I’d be staring at those same unworn items, wondering why I couldn’t let go sooner. So just try to keep the pile to 10 items or less and make sure you reassess them carefully (and ruthlessly) next time.
E | CONDUCT ONE FINAL SCAN OF THE ITEMS YOU PLAN TO KEEP.
Does anything stick out?
Look for outliers in terms of colour, pattern, shape and style as these might need to be reassessed.
If you were on the fence about any potential keepers revisit those and do a quick gut check, asking, ‘Should this really stay?’. Your instincts will answer that in a split second, just try not to ignore it.
STEP 4. ORGANIZE
OK! Now you’ve got your ‘goodbye’ piles all set (get them out of sight asap or you might regress!) and your ‘keep’ piles eager to find their special spot on a shelf, hanger or drawer and it’s time to ORGANIZE. It can be tempting to rush through this step and simply shove everything back on a shelf or heave it onto a hanger but being thoughtful and methodical at this point will help a lot in the long run I promise!
Everyone has their own ‘method’ when it comes to arranging their wardrobe but I have a couple of suggestions (forgive me for going a little bit KonMari on you here!):
A | CATEGORIZE
Shoes love to hang out with shoes, sweaters with sweaters, hats with hats, coats with coats and pants with, you guessed it, pants! This may seem like an obvious one but I’ve definitely let things slide a few times and wound up with a garbled mess of a shelf, which is no fun!
For example, I usually treat my gym and ‘comfy’ clothes as one jumbled drawer but this time I offered these categories a bit more respect and gave them their own sections and I’ve already found it so much better.
B | PUT UP WALLS
Whether it’s through baskets, boxes or in-drawer barriers it’s really helpful to have a physical delineation between sections and categories. This is especially helpful for drawers filled with smaller items like socks and undies.
For instance, one of my underwear drawers is shown below. I keep my briefs in a box, my sockettes in a box and the remainder of the space is for my soft bralettes. I do the same for my thongs, underwire bras and sports bras in the next drawer down and it works wonders! This organizing approach was inspired by this post on Unfancy and IKEA has TONS of small storage solutions.
C | DESIGNATE A SPOT
I’ve found that having defined locations, even if on a shared shelf, for specific categories makes getting ready so much easier. It also helps you keep much better track of what you have. The key to this is leave some visual space around the sections, especially if you can’t add a physical barrier.
This is really helpful if you don’t have a giant walk-in closet and need to keep things in a variety of spots, which I do. I have my tops, jackets, dresses, underwear, loungewear and special occasion items in one closet and my sweaters, pants, workout gear, accessories and shoes in another one. Knowing exactly where each category lives makes pulling an outfit together so easy, even if it’s spread out over two rooms.
D | STOW OFF SEASON WARES
A great way to give yourself more closet space is to store clothes that you won’t wear for a few months like sweaters, boots and coats in the summer and light dresses, shorts and sandals during the winter. I’ve been using a set of bins from IKEA for years and they slide easily under the bed. I keep my camping gear and specific seasonal items tucked away and it’s been a good system so far. Just don’t forget you’ve stored stuff when the season comes back around!
E | FOLD ACCORDINGLY
My closet has very few drawers to speak of as it’s mostly hanging rods and open shelves so I simply hang my tops, dress and outerwear and fold my sweaters and pants. But if you’re working with drawers the KonMari folding method is probably your best bet (see demo here).
STEP 5. MAINTAIN
Now you’re probably feeling pretty darn good. You’ve got a beautifully edited closet, bags of clothes ready to sell or donate and maybe you’ve even got a better sense of your personal style. Awesome! Now not to be a buzzkill but if you aren’t careful, you’ll be right back where you started, so here are a few easy ways to maintain your new lean(er) closet.
- Conduct regular closet edits every 3 to 4 months. This is my main tactic and so far it’s worked wonders! Plus it gets WAY easier the more you practice. My last edit only took about 1 hr start to finish.
- Stick to a 1 in 1 out policy so you never add something without getting rid of something else.
- Embrace a Shopping Fast where you don’t shop for 30 days straight. It’s a fun exercise for your style and your wallet! Read more about Shopping Fasts here.
- Make A Wish List and shop selectively. Read more about why I swear by seasonal Wish Lists here.
Do you have any closet editing or maintaining tips? I’d love to know!
Later this week I’ll be sharing my Fall/Winter 50 Piece Closet and all the items that I’m keeping on hand for the cold months ahead. Until then take a look at my Spring/Summer 50 Piece Closet.
Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!