As much as I know you want closet solutions, I know it can be incredibly challenging to actually give things away. Here are some ideas that will help you love what you own, cut down on what you don’t, and have more choices without being overwhelmed.
Closet Solutions #1: Go through your closet at the beginning of every season.
When is the best time to donate Christmas decorations? In November when you’re unpacking your own decorations—that way, some other family will be able to decorate their tree on the cheap and enjoy their holidays. The best time to run a donation of summer dresses, flip flops and cotton shorts to your favorite charity is when you declutter your wardrobe at the beginning of spring. That way, some other mom can have something new and cute to start off her spring.
Use the Clutter Free 3 Box, 2 Bag System to make your twice-a-year closet decluttering system fast and effective.
Closet Solutions #2: Make Donations Easy
One of my favorite decluttering solutions is to have a donation bag right inside my closet. If I try something on and it doesn’t look as great as I thought it did, has a stain on it that I can’t get out (donations centers will take stained or ripped clothes and sell it by the pound), or doesn’t fit anymore (it happens), I can drop it into the bag. When the bag is full, I take it down to the car and the next time I’m driving by my charity, I drop the bag off there.
If you have to have a new plan every time you want to donate something, it’s probably easier to just leave that piece of clothing in your closet—leading to clutter. Make getting rid of clothes that don’t pass the clutter free test easy.
Closet Solutions #3: Turn All Your Hangers Backwards
This trick is the best way to have hard evidence whether I’ve worn something or not. In case you haven’t heard about this system, let me explain: At the beginning of a season (I do this in the Spring and in the Fall), hang up everything in your closet backwards. As you get dressed, pull clothes out with the hanger. When you go to hang up clothes again, hang them up normally. At the end of a season, if I’ve never taken that hanger out of my closet to wear, that means that I really, really don’t wear that piece of clothing and I can donate it guilt-free. If you still can’t decide, use the Clutter Free 3 Clarifying Questions to decide fast.
Closet Solutions #4: Create Outfits You Love From What You Have
When most of us are looking for closet solutions, it’s because we have all these clothes and nothing to wear. And that’s because we’re trying to get dressed in the few minutes before we get out the door. The worst time to try to put an outfit together? When you need to put an outfit together. Spend some time pulling a few outfits together now when you have the time, brain space and creativity to do so.
With all the talk of a capsule wardrobe, many of us are told we have to dump all our clothes and start over with some basics that can mix and match into a thousand different outfits.
When whittling down your wardrobe, the most important thing is to start with the pieces you have and already love. Pull out the things you love, wear and make you feel fab. Then start seeing what you need to do to make those pieces work for you. Do you need to refresh some of your t-shirts to make your jeans and trench look fresh? Maybe you have been ignoring your jewelry game and it’s time to get a couple of standout pieces to tie things together.
Remember—clothes are supposed to be at least a little bit of fun. And all the closet solutions in the world are not going to fund a shopping spree for a new capsule wardrobe…
If you are not having a little fun putting outfits together, I want to give you permission to loosen up a bit and let your creative juices flow. I think this is especially important for any of us (raising my hand here…) who struggle with not loving the state our body is currently in.
If you’ve spent very little time thinking about how you dress (except crying in front of your closet, on your knees, praying up a miracle), it’s time to get some inspiration. Go on Pinterest and create a wardrobe category. Look at the clothes you already love in your closet and then look for pins that have outfits with similar pieces. Get inspired by the women who think about clothes 24/7 and then just borrow their genius (because who has time for that).
Try putting together “looks” for the coming week and figure out how you can make your clothes work double time both for work and for weekend, running errands and going to church.
I challenge you to put together seven days of amazing outfits—shoes, jewelry, bags, the whole bit. Have fun with your clothes again and get a serious game of dress-up going.
Closet Solutions #5: Create a Shopping List
Get the scene from Pretty Woman out of your head. We are not talking a shopping spree here. Now is the time to create a list of a few items that would tie your wardrobe together.
For instance, I have a pair of tan pants with tiny white polka dots that I love. But I realized that I wasn’t wearing them because the shirt I have to go with them is on the warm side and I want to wear these in hot weather. A lightweight, flowy white shirt would go perfectly with these pants.
But, a lightweight, flowy white shirt would also go with a lot of other clothes that I love, so a lightweight, flowy white shirt is going on my list.
Last year, I wanted a pair of olive green cargo pants more than I wanted to be on Trading Spaces. I put them on the list in April, and kept looking and looking for the perfect pants. The problem? I couldn’t find them. Anywhere. It was like all the shops in the world conspired against me to keep clothes out of my reach.
Finally, I had to go international in my search. In July, my husband and I took a trip to Canada and while I was in a department store there, I came across the perfect olive cargo pants. It may be the one time in my life I didn’t look at the price tag; I was just so excited to find the pants that I would have spent about any amount of money on them.
And no, they weren’t on sale, and yes, they were more than I normally pay for a pair of pants. But I have worn those pants at least once a week during the fall and spring since I bought them. Other clothes that I’ve bought on sale? Those have lingered in my closet for months. Best Canadian money I’ve ever spent.
So keep a little list. I’ve got one on Evernote on my phone. The other advantage of keeping a list? I go into a store (or online) and look for what’s on the list, not getting distracted by all the shiny things that are out there trying to rob me of my money (and my closet space).
Closet Solutions #6: Know When to Invest and When to Have Fun: Anchor Pieces vs. Fun and Frippy
Every closet should have the basics: the jeans that make go with everything, the black jacket that you can throw on with any shirt you own, the white tailored shirt that makes you feel like a million bucks.
But you should also have a few things that are fun and fab. A few of my favorites? An olive-colored tank top with tiny owls on it, a grey T-shirt with the words “Blah, Blah, Blah” in black sparkle (for when I’ve used up all my words), and a pair of navy Toms shoes with moons and stars on them.
Here is the key to having a closet you love: Invest in the anchor pieces and have fun with the frippy ones.
Anchor Pieces: These are the basic workhorses of your wardrobe you wear all the time and go with everything. Depending on your lifestyle (working in a corporate job outside the home, running a freelance business from your spare bedroom, raising small humans) your basics are going to be very different.
As someone who works from home and could get away with yoga pants and slippers most of the time, I had to put together a working wardrobe so I wasn’t embarrassed to go on a Zoom call or answer the door when the UPS guy showed up. But I don’t have to look like I’m ready to take a meeting in the city everyday either. I keep my anchor pieces in neutrals with just one accent color (Neutrals: black, white, cream, olive—Accent: coral) so that almost everything mixes and matches. Here are my anchor pieces:
- Blue jeans
- White Jeans
- Black jeans
- White cotton pants
- Cream cotton pants
- Black cotton pants
- Olive cargo pants
- Black tank top
- Cream tank top
- Olive Tank top
- Black T-shirt
- Cream T-shirt
- Olive T-shirt
- White T-shirt
- Coral T-shirt
- Denim shirt
- White button down
- White and khaki striped shirt
- Olive jacket
- Coral cardigan
These are the pieces that I could dress with every day. But where would the fun in that be?
And that’s when the fun and frippy come into play.
These are things like:
- Graphic Tees
I tend to do most of my fun stuff in shirts and accessories. These are the pieces that express our personality and make dressing fun again.
Closet Solutions #7: Keep the Clothes You Actually Wear
Get rid of the rest. (Guilt free!) We’ve all done it—bought the jacket with feathers on it, decided that epaulets are back in style, bought a shirt that looked cute on our daughter, and then realized our daughter should be the only one who is young enough to wear it.
One of the most important closet solutions is to understand that we all make mistakes, but we don’t need to hang on to them. (Yes – this is a closet solution, but it’s also a life solution).
Maybe you were supposed to own that butterfly T-shirt for just a season, and then get it into the hands of the person who will love it for the next five years. I love how God can use us to help other people get what they want, even if it’s though a mistake of ours.
Make your clothes earn the right to be in your closet. There should be nothing in there that you don’t love, use or would buy again.
She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with her puggle Jake, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.
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