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Taylor’d with Style ~ Closet Bliss

hanging clothes

By Jean Ann Taylor

How often do you look into your crowded closet and think, I have nothing to wear? This stressful predicament affects many of us because we often buy and keep clothing that is inappropriate for our personality, our body type, or our lifestyle.

There are many reasons why we have this tendency, but there is only one way to repair the dilemma—get rid of clothing clutter intentionally and rationally, then make smart, future clothing purchases.

The hopelessly, overwhelming emotion many of us feel when faced with this task can be dissipated by consciously evaluating what we own, and then by deciding what to discard and what to keep.

The first step in reaching closet serenity is having a clear understanding of who you are. As I wrote in my January article, knowing yourself is essential to authentic expression.

When you can define your individual style, you can make shrewd clothing choices and stop purchasing clothing that ends up never being worn. Knowing your style is also economical. It’s easy to get into a pattern of buying the same type of clothing over and over.

We tend to make purchases based on who we want to be or for what we want to do—not always for what we actually need. The end goal is to only buy, and keep, items that reflect who you are, and what you will actually wear.

Next, it’s time to evaluate the condition of your closet, dresser, and any other place you store clothing. Are your clothes organized by season or color, or are they mixed up in a hodgepodge manner? Are your clothes hung neatly or haphazardly thrown about?

Are your sweaters crammed into drawers or folded tidily so they aren’t wrinkled when you take them out? How you store your clothing matters because it affects your mindset when you are choosing what to wear.

I believe the best way to proceed is to take all your clothing out of your drawers and closet. Obviously, you need to do this on a day you can fully dedicate to this task. Be prepared by having plenty of hangers and a full-length mirror in the room. You may prefer to do this alone, or it may be helpful to invite a friend over to make it a day of fun.

It is often recommended to use the same type of hanger for all your clothing. They can be wood, plastic, wire, or velvet. I admit I don’t do this.

I just can’t rationalize getting rid of the perfectly good hangers I already own. I have however replaced a few with velvet hangers. They’re great for tops that slide off plastic hangers, they keep sweaters from stretching out, and because they’re thin, they take up less room in your closet.

When all your clothing is out and laying on your bed or floor, it’s time to try each piece on and take a long, scrutinizing look into your mirror. Try on one category at a time: all your jeans, all your summer dresses, winter tops, blouses, and so on. This will help keep you organized, and it’s the best way to determine which items you want to keep from those you are ready to let go.

As you go through this process, ask yourself the following style questions:

Does it fit my body? Obviously, if it doesn’t physically fit, you can place it in the discard pile.

Does it fit my lifestyle? If not, you’re not likely going to wear it again.

Does it fit the lifestyle I want? Articles of clothing can help you visualize.

Are there stains, tears, or pilling that will keep me from wearing this? If so, discard unless you plan to sew, mend, or have the item cleaned.

If I were shopping today, would I buy this? If you wouldn’t buy it today, you probably won’t wear it again.

When was the last time I wore this? If it’s been over a year, you most likely won’t wear it again.

If I were moving, would I want to pack it up, take it with me, unpack it, and find a place to store it? If not, you know what to do.

And the most important question to ask yourself: Does this make me feel beautiful and confident? There is absolutely no reason to wear something that makes you feel anything less than wonderful.

These questions can be difficult to answer. There was a reason you spent your hard-earned money on that bedazzled sheath dress; maybe you imagined yourself as the life of a party.

Maybe you envisioned yourself wearing that polka-dot bikini on an exotic vacation to the Caribbean to mingle with wild, pink flamingos. Or you dreamed of walking through Central Park wearing a long, cashmere overcoat as the snow gently fell to the ground at sunset . . . Maybe you bought that power suit because you see yourself at the head of the conference table.

Answering the style questions not only helps you decide what to keep, they also offer insight into your wishes and aspirations. When you have a clear idea of what you own, you can more clearly understand what you want to own.

There are also exceptions to these guidelines. I will never give away the black velvet swing-coat that belonged to my grandmother, or the ballgown I wore in my first dance competition.

Although they take up quite a bit of closet space, they have sentimental value, so I make the choice to keep them. There are other items you may only wear once or twice a year, but they’re worth keeping so you don’t have to replace them. The key is to make smart choices based on logistics as well as emotions.

Getting back to the task at hand, as you try on each piece of clothing and ask yourself the style questions, you will create a pile of “keepers” and a pile of “discarders.”

Take your discarders out of the room so they don’t distract you, and separate your keepers into cold and warm weather categories. When you have completed this phase, you can begin to place everything into its allocated space. But first, take a few minutes to clean your drawers and shelves and vacuum your closet floor. It’s an easy task while the space is empty.

Next, take a look at your available storage area. It’s best to keep all like-items together so they are easier to find. If you own several long-sleeve tops, choose a drawer that will accommodate all of them.

This will keep you from having to search for the one you want in more than one location. Place items you wear frequently in areas that are easily accessible. Depending on your space, you may need to store winter sweaters on a top shelf during the summer and summer tops in that same spot during the winter.

Hang dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and jackets in a manner that makes sense to you.

You may prefer to color code your closet, or you may prefer to organize by seasons. It simply depends on your space availability and personal preference. I’ve found that with the weather fluctuation in WNC, color coding works best for me.

I can easily mix and match, layer, and create new looks with the same articles of clothing. To keep your closet in shipshape, take care to hang all your clothing in the same direction.

Folded clothes will take up less space when they are folded in the same way and neatly stacked. Take time for tidiness. It’s easier to hang one shirt daily than ten shirts on Friday morning as you are searching for something to wear.

The last step is to make savvy buying decisions so your closet doesn’t once again become discombobulated and filled with items you don’t need.

It may help to take pictures of your stack of winter-white sweaters so that when you see one while out shopping, you can look at what you already own and then make the decision as to whether you need another one, or not. (Note to self.)

When catalog or online shopping, consider what the item will look like on your body.

The reason models are extraordinarily skinny is because designers want their garments to look like they are hanging on a hanger—with no lumps or bumps showing through. They also want you to imagine that the shirt on that size 0, 20-year-old model will look the exact same way on your body. It probably won’t.

Before making future purchases, take a moment and really think about who you are and what you need. Consider if buying an item will help you focus on your dreams or if it will simply take up space. Stop and think about when and where you will wear the item. Conscious shopping can save time, money, space, and mental anguish.

Cleaning out closet clutter may seem like a daunting task, but imagine how you will feel when you can open a clean, neatly organized drawer and find the exact item you are looking for.

Imagine the peaceful feeling of walking into a closet where all your clothes are hung in an orderly manner. Imagine the bliss of knowing what you have, where it is, that it is wrinkle-free, and ready to wear.

And, as far as that polka-dot bikini goes . . . I would keep it. It doesn’t take up much space and you just never know.

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