Closet Colonic (A Real-Life Closet Clean-Out)
We started off October with a series on How to Clean a Closet - and now, one of my fabulous clients has agreed to share the real-life process with all of you.
This is a perfect example of someone who had ample space and an extensive, gorgeous wardrobe, but who ended up wearing the same handful of garments day in and day out because of 1) unusable garments obscuring the landscape and 2) impractical organization. During our consultation, the client expressed frustration with the amount of time it took to get ready, feelings of guilt over unused clothing, continued over-shopping despite the large volume, and how quickly the closet would become disorganized. For someone who honestly loves clothes and fashion, her wardrobe was producing way too much pain and far too little joy.
Over the course of three sessions, we were able to:
- Evaluate every single wardrobe item for fit and flattery.
- Convert the organizational strategy to a "wardrobe palette" for ease of use.
- Retain a wide variety of items.
- Devise a few storage hacks WITHOUT BUYING ANYTHING NEW (all caps, because I'm kinda proud of that point).
This client is a working actress and artist, so she needs more variety in her wardrobe than the average person to feel happy, express her moods creatively, and be able to create various character feels for acting purposes. Simply tossing out half the wardrobe was not an option and would not be sustainable for her - we had to bring usability to the variety.
We used the same initial clean-out process that I tend to use with everyone: naming and celebrating the beloved, useful items while breaking away from unloved items and setting aside unused items for further discussion. This is always the most painful process, because it forces us to try on every item and honestly decide whether it looks good right now. It takes a long time, and it can reveal both body issues and shopping mistakes, but doing this is essential, because it grounds the wardrobe in reality.
It also illuminates the volume of truly beloved items, which always makes it easier to pass on unflattering items - kind of like those times in life when you may have fallen out of love with an ex boyfriend. Evaluation of the "Love & Don't Wear" category in the face of the "Love & Wear" category often resulted in a distinct well-yes-I-still-love-you-but-I'm-Really-In-Love-with-something-else-and-now-your-weird-little-habits-kinda-annoy-me-and-we-should-break-up type of feeling.
When I first arrived at this client's home, she prefaced our session by saying that she'd already purged all she was willing to purge, so we wouldn't need to go through the try-on process. However, after giving the process a chance, we actually ended up identifying a lot more items that didn't fit, didn't flatter, weren't comfortable, were duplicates of superior items, or were damaged in some way. We have all heard that eyewitness testimony is most accurate when given immediately - don't rely on degraded memories to tell you what looks good!
I loved the way my client described this experience so much that it became the title of this post. She said it was like a long-overdue bowel movement. Ha! I clearly have the most fabulous and articulate clients on the planet, because it's such an apt simile. Cleaning your closet can be a bit painful and gross, but in the end it's also super healthy, natural, and satisfying. :)
During our session, the "Love & Don't Wear" category also yielded some truly beloved items that didn't quite fit. Since my client expressed an interest in losing some weight, we did not purge those items - but we also did not put them back into her main closet. Instead, we stored the too-small items up high in the closet in plastic organizational bins. When my client reaches her goal weight, she can then purge all the items that have become too large and replace them with all the awesome things she has been waiting to wear "someday." She does NOT have to look at those things while she has 5 minutes to get ready, feel sad because they don't fit, try them all on just in case, and fling them away in frustration.
We did the same thing with a few odds and ends that were either purely sentimental or purely costumes. These items would never cross into daily wear, so they did not need to be mixed in with the everyday clothing items. They now have their own storage bins, which are up and out of the way, yet easy enough to reach in a pinch.
Once the "fillers" were removed from the main wardrobe, it was easy to refill all the closet rods with things my client can wear and feel great about immediately. In contrast to the purging session, which can reveal pain and distress at how many things don't fit, this part of the process allowed my client to get really excited about all the things that really do fit. Most of these things had been completely obscured and mentally lumped in with the Girl, Don't Even Go There Because You'll Just Feel Fat category.
Because my client's personas and activities are SO varied - one day a suburban doctor, the next an exotic Bond Girl - and because she has so much volume, we did not sort the closet by life event. Instead, we sorted the hanging rods boutique-style, dividing her wearables by type: corsets/shell tops, graphic tees, sleeveless knits, short sleeve button-fronts, long sleeve button fronts, vests, cardigans, casual jackets, blazers, coats. Rarely used items for visiting family out of state went way up high, with heavy sweaters and scarves stored folded in a high cube. Jeans, pants, and short skirts were folded in the lower cubes. Casual dresses, dressy dresses, and long skirts were hung in the tall closet. This lets my client use her closet like a painter's palette, pulling out a central item that is appropriate for the day and mixing it with supporting pieces.
One great question that my client asked was why it is better for her to sort this way rather than by color - an artist usually sorts by color, after all. I would definitely support going in and colorizing each of these sections by color, but most people's lives simply don't allow the freedom to dress by color. Most of us need to dress based on event and comfort - if you are going to the grocery store on a 100-degree day, for example, your mind is more likely to say, "Ugh, I need a breezy sundress." Not, "Ugh, I need something purple." If you then go looking for a sundress in a closet divided by color, you have to check each. and. every. color. for a sundress. You pull them all out to decide which you prefer. You run out of time. You don't put them back. If you go looking in a closet divided by category, you only have to look through your sundresses. Done.
Now the closet is neat and organized - but I told my client that she isn't finished! Now her job is to get busy wearing all of her fabulous clothes so that she can build a relationship with this wardrobe. She has been living in the same few tried-and-true numbers for so long that the remaining items may still reveal hidden quirks that make them difficult or unpleasant to wear. Over time, it's important to keep an eye on what gets worn, what gets routinely passed over, and what you reach for but don't yet own. This will inform what gets tossed at the end of the season and what you buy when you shop - if anything. Here, I advised the purchase of fresh socks. :)
So what does my client think of all this? Trying clothes on for days on end? Getting rid of more than she expected? Here's what she asked me to post: