How to Conquer Your Closet, Your Wardrobe and Your Life

Take Charge on 12.05.12
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Photo: Rubbermaid

Every morning when I open my closet, I smile. Behind two white, bi-fold doors is a collection of items that make me look and feel my best, and I get to start each day by deciding which of my outfits is the most perfect for the moment. No, I don’t have a replica of Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe in my home. In fact, I probably own far less clothing than the average woman. However, I’ve managed to turn my small space into a happy place that is both organized and stocked with only great choices. Here’s how I did it.

Determine which colors look the best on you.

With a nod to the 1980s, I recently had a color analysis done to determine the best palette for my wardrobe. I then went through my closet and got rid of most of the items that weren’t in a favorable color. My goal was to eliminate unflattering choices and to give me an idea of any holes I needed to fill in my wardrobe. I was surprised to find I actually owned plenty of appropriately toned pieces; I just wasn’t wearing them very often.

Get rid of anything you don’t like or wear.

You know the drill: if you haven’t worn it in a year, toss it. I also got rid of items that I wore out of some strange sense of obligation but never felt comfortable in. So, too, did I ditch the worn out t-shirts, the too tight jeans and the sequined top that rubbed my armpits raw. Again, my focus was on culling the pile to a small selection of things that I love.

Get real about your lifestyle.

Most of us lead fairly predictable lives. We spend our days, nights and weekends doing the same handful of activities. And yet, we have a tendency to hang on to clothing that doesn’t fit into that lifestyle at all.

I once had an entire closet in my home dedicated to old ball gowns, prom dresses and bridesmaids frocks. I loved each piece, but I was also very unlikely to wear them again (when a special occasion did come up, I usually wanted to buy a new dress!) When we sold our house to travel, those evening gowns were the first thing to go. I have yet to acquire a new one and plan on investigating dress rentals should the need arrive.

Are you keeping cowboy boots, a Kentucky Derby hat or a mini-skirt just in case the need arises? If so, you could be adding clutter and confusion to your day-to-day life.

Consider creating a uniform (or two).

On a typical day between October and April, I wear one of two outfits: a pair of skinny jeans or leggings, and tank or t-shirt layered under a long sweater or blazer; or a pair of skinny jeans, a long shirt, and a scarf. Both outfits I pair with knee-high boots or ballet flats. Within these frameworks, I have dozens of possible combinations of colors, patterns and styles.

I always thought that creating a uniform sounded boring, but I’ve chosen a few silhouettes that are comfortable, flattering and appropriate for my lifestyle. With the basic decisions already made, it’s fun and hassle-free to simply decide what color my uniform for the day will be.

Organize by type.

Realizing that I tend to wear the same type of outfit most days helped me to organize my winter closet into categories: jeans, leggings & tights, layering tops, blazers, sweaters, scarves. In addition to these basics, I have a small section reserved for a couple of dresses and skirts. In the morning, I have the fun of choosing an item from each category, often creating a brand new outfit effortlessly. It reminds me of old-school meal planning when you picked a protein, a vegetable and a starch.

I love my closet now and I’ve found I’m much happier with the clothes I already own, which means I also spend less money acquiring new items.

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