Sorting through and paring down clothing is usually the first project I take on with my clients. Before getting started, we talk about what they’d like the end result to look and feel like. An ideal situation is described - the volume of clothing needs to be reduced so that all of it can be hung up and put away in drawers, with no overflow hanging around. One of the most common questions I get is, “How do I know how much I need, and how will everything fit in my closet/drawers?” This tidy and functional scenario can be hard to imagine, especially if items of clothing have made themselves comfortable in all areas of the home.
There are a few varying factors - the size of the space, lifestyle, habits, and local climate determine how much we need. The ideal situation looks different for everyone, but everyone is capable of achieving the goal they’ve envisioned for themselves! The less space you have, the less you can keep, but you’ll still have enough. Many homes here in New England are 100+ years old. When those closets were designed, the typical person only had a few quality outfits. In my opinion, this is an advantage - there’s less maintenance and fuss involved, which frees up more time for fulfilling pursuits!
A view of my closet, in my home built in 1920. The door is 5ft tall, and the bar hangs at about 4ft. I use two sets of drawers to store everything else - pants, shorts, t-shirts, sweaters, and underwear, for all 4 seasons.
Ready to reduce your clothing but feel like the task is too daunting? Here are some tips for breaking down the process:
1. Consider your lifestyle. What do you wear to work? What activities do you need appropriate clothing for? How many pieces do you realistically wear for each activity? How many special occasions do you attend per year? Considering these questions before you get started and focusing on what you’re keeping will help your decision making when it’s time to sort through everything.
2. Designate areas for three piles - KEEP, DONATE, RECYCLE: As always, I encourage others to keep as much as possible out of the landfill. Donate what can be worn, and recycle clothing with stains or holes. Many municipalities offer textile recycling, and most H&M stores offer a program as well.
3. Take everything out. If taking out your whole wardrobe at once is overwhelming, gather items by category - work on t-shirts one day, pants another. Just make sure you look through every single piece by the time your project is done - nothing gets a free pass!
4. Make a decision for every single item, and be as honest as possible. Your favorite pair of jeans, tops that fit just right, the jacket that pairs with almost any outfit - those pieces that you love and wear regularly are an easy keep. It’s important to let go of guilt and be honest - it’s no fun to be sifting through closets and drawers full of stuff you don’t wear just to get to the pieces you like and use. And remember, generously passing along clothing you don’t love to others in need makes a positive impact on the local community!
5. Group like items together, and put them away! As an organizer, this is the fun part! Folding sweaters into a drawer knowing how easy it will be to access them later gives a nice sense of accomplishment.
6. Maintain the system: Fold/hang up and put away clean laundry as soon as you can after each cycle, and try not to let it pile up for too long.
7. Carefully consider future purchases: Purchasing items of clothing just because they’re on sale shouldn't automatically grant them a home in your wardrobe. Make sure you actually need something and that you look and feel great in it. Otherwise, leave it behind for someone else - this takes some discipline but you’ll feel empowered after practicing it a few times!
A client was looking for some help with reducing her clothing in order to access everything with ease. She was happy to report later that she had no trouble picking out an outfit for a special occasion that came up at the last minute!
Sometimes, decision making gets exhausting and difficult, and we don’t quite hit our goal the first time around. Resolve to come back to the project when you feel confident that you can reduce more, and try not to make any new purchases during this time. Don’t forget to congratulate yourself for all the hard work you put in to make your wardrobe more easily accessible, and enjoy everything that you keep!