September 17, 2012

Maximizing a Minimal Wardrobe: Closet S.O.S.

Hello brave, closet-conquering babes!
Welcome to Part II of our Maximizing a Minimal Wardrobe Series!!

Is your closet a chaotic catch-all that stresses you out?
Do innocent accessories disappear into the depths of darkness?
Are "new" clothes dangling off their hangers with their tags still on?

No? Oh, well then, mind if I come take a peek?
that's what I thought.

Do not be ashamed, sistah! 

All you need is a little 
Closet S.O.S.
{sort. organize. sell}

I'll break down the basics of getting your closet back in fabulous fashion, but you must be brave and boldly go where many a minimalist have gone before you!


This is usually the most overwhelming step of the process but how you choose to approach it will affect the rest of your journey to closet-contentment. Take as much or as little time as you need, everyone is different, but be as thorough as possible. This is about knowing what you have (six striped long sleeve shirts), need (jeans that cover your crack), and ultimately want (a gorgeous coat) in your wardrobe. 

Step 1: Make your bed (neatly) and clear everything off the floor around it. This is your instant work space. Light a candle. Put on some tunes. Pour a glass of wine. You. Are. Fierce.  and Fabulous. 

Step 2: Rapid Elimination Round!! Take as many clothes as you can carry at a time (either on hangers or from a drawer) and place them in a pile on the bed. Giving yourself no more than 2 seconds to make a decision, pick up one thing at a time and place it in a "YES" "NO" or "MAYBE" pile.

Step 3: Neatly return the "YES's" to your closet or drawer. The instant satisfaction of seeing your most lovely and beautiful things together, hanging up or folded nicely, is a great confidence boost. Breathe.

Step 4: Move the "NO" pile out of sight (to the hallway, into bags, etc.). Cruel, cruel world. 

Step 5: TRY ON everything in the "MAYBE" category, pairing it with other items or accessories just as you would if you were getting dressed. Sometimes this pile contains hidden treasures that you knew you loved but weren't sure how to wear them. Other times, most of this pile is added to the NOs but at least you've given it one last try. Think about how a piece feels, and how you feel in it. Ask yourself the following: Is it flattering on me? Do I feel attractive in this? Does it suit my current life style needs?

Step 6: If a MAYBE item meets the above criteria, put it back in your closet amongst its pretty companions. (add NOs to the out-of-sight piles). Take another armful of clothes and repeat. sip. repeat. 
You've got this, girl.


Now that the hard part is out of the way, it's time to have some fun! (what? This isn't your idea of fun?!) The reward for the purging that just took place is for you to be able to display all of your lovely things in a way that is both pretty and practical. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for organizing your space, only you know what works for you. The goal is simply to be able to see and access everything you own easily and efficiently - out of sight is often out of mind, and that's no place for your pretty things to be. (I have learned that I end up getting rid of 90% of the things I thoughtfully "store" under the bed or in other nooks and crannies because I never use them and eventually forget about them). Unless it's your wedding dress, an heirloom, or costume-worthy, keeping your items within easy reach will not only ensure you use them, but also enjoy them, more.

Step 1: Take everything out of your closet (yes, again). Vacuum and mop the floor, dust off shelves, and wipe down walls. Adjust lighting (use brighter bulbs). To help clear the air and keep your clothes smelling fresh, hang a natural deodorizer  or make your own:

- fill an organza bag with baking soda, cedar chips, and a few drops of essential oil, cinch with ribbon. 

Step 2: Take a minute to think about your available space, how you have used it in the past and what worked or didn't work for you. You may be working with a fairly small space or even sharing a single closet with your spouse so this isn't about having a designer dressing room, it's about using the space you do have, well. 

The shelves, bars, and hooks inside my closet (pictured at top) were already installed when we moved into our place in 2009. The only thing I did was saw off a few inches of the wire shelf in the middle to give me enough room to hang my Ikea organizer that holds belts, scarves, hats, leggings, folded sweaters, and two smaller purses. I am also using cheap, stackable wire shoe-racks and an Ikea storage box on the floor that I put sandals in during winter, a gym bag, and some sentimental pieces I hardly wear but want to keep (gasp! I'm only human).  I also have a fairly substantial dresser that holds t-shirts, gym clothes, pajamas, socks, jewelry, underwear, bathing suits, and small clutches/wallets. 

Step 3: Now that you should have lots of loose hangers lying around, swap out any that are a funky color (off-white-ish), size (too tall or short), or material (wire) for a nice, uniform look. 

 I use simple, white plastic ones with notches on each side for straps for almost everything, and heavy-weight ones for coats and heavy items. I also use wooden clip hangers for skirts and clamp hangers for pants (although I would stick to the clips for pants as well, unless they are super delicate, because the clamps don't hold a lot of weight and some pairs slip out while hanging.)

Step 4: Hang all of your items neatly on their hangers and facing the same direction. Fold and put-away items on shelves or in drawers. 
 - Partially button or zip on cardigans, shirts, jackets, and sweaters that have them (instant head-ache eliminator)
 - Iron and fold dress pants or trousers that will be hung. Neatly fold jeans, shorts, and leggings. Hang skirts and dresses.
 - Roll belts and scarves or hang on hooks.
 - Most hats can be easily stacked to help maintain their shape and take up less space. 
 - Pair up shoes and place on racks, in cubbies, or in here - as seen on tv! (in case you aren't sure how to use one)

Step 5: Organize items in a way that makes the most sense and is aesthetically pleasing to you. You can group like-colored tops and hang them from short-to-long sleeve, or you can group like-items together (tank tops, long-sleeve, cardigans, pull-overs) and then by light-to-dark. Think about how the light hits your closet and make sure smaller items don't get lost in dark corners or behind bulky things. 

I have used my hanging organizer to divide my closet in half. All of my clothes face left on their hangers because the light source is coming from the left of my closet (so the fronts are illuminated). On the right from end-to-middle I have dresses (long to short) and skirts. On the left, from middle-to-end, I have tank tops, short-sleve, long-sleeve, button-ups, cardigans, and pull-overs. On the shelf I have folded sweaters, shorts, and jeans. On the lower left rack I have jackets and blazers, sweatshirts, and pants and my storage box (that my boots sit on top of). On the low right are my shoe racks. Phew.


What if I told you you could actually sell some of that stuff you cleared out of your closet to make some cash-o-la to put towards that thing you reaaaaally want. Pretty sweet, right? In almost any town or city there are a few options for consigning your clothes so ask around or Google some good places to try. I usually stop at three different places depending on what I have - Plato's Closet for everyday items, Buffalo Exchange for vintage/unique/good quality, and Common Threads for nicer/designer items (let's just say I've only been there once- my inventory in that dept. is fairly low). 

Consigning can be totally intimidating. Nothing like hauling your old beloved clothes up to the snooty associate at the counter who carelessly picks through them with long nails while you glance around the store uncomfortably watching from a distance. But here are a few tricks to make sure you have a successful consigning experience. 

1. Research various consignment stores and find out what their policies are. Most stores have a percentage split that they base your payment on (20/80, 40/60- the lower being yours of course). Some stores will give you cash or store credit on the spot, while other's pay every 30, 60, or 90 days depending on what sells. MOST stores donate anything that doesn't sell immediately unless you call to check on it near the end of your term. Also be sure to ask what they are currently accepting and check their websites for lists of brands or specific items they normally accept. 

2. Prepare your items for market by washing, ironing, hanging, and repairing (loose buttons, seams) those that need it. Clean and polish bags, belts, shoes, and jewelry. Making a tiny effort to make everything look as good as possible drastically improves its resale value and chances of being consigned. Be discriminating- try to see everything through the lens of a customer and ask yourself if it is something you would buy in the current condition. The best way to protect your clothing investment is to make smart, quality purchases and take care of your things over time. Pass on tempting, temporary fixes and instead save for the real deal.

3. Know this one little secret about clothing labels. Some of the larger clothing brands (GAP, American Eagle, etc.) label their items with three tags: one on the top with the brand, size, and "made in ___" info, the next usually on the side seam with care instructions, and the THIRD... a tiny white square hidden under one of the other tags with a small code with the date/season the item was made, i.e. Hol/2009 or Sum2011. Remove this little tag before you consign- there's no reason a perfectly good piece should be overlooked simply because of a silly number. 

4. There are plenty of other options to consider instead of consigning or donating your items to a catch-all thrift store. Here are a few ideas:

   1. Host a clothing swap with friends, co-workers, etc. Provide or ask each participant to bring a bottle of wine or treat to share. Prepare your items the same way you would if you were consigning them... you don't want a crumpled pair of skivvies falling out of a pant leg or someone to ask about a mystery stain. Offer to donate the remaining items to charity- saving your friends a trip!

   2. Find a cause you care about and ask if they have or host any fundraising events (flea markets) that you could donate to. Schools, churches, animal shelters, and local service groups usually have rummage sales a few times a year so get these dates, donate your things, and even offer to volunteer for the day!

3. Up-Cycle old items into fun, functional things you'll use again and again. Turn old sweaters and jeans into fun quilts or use the material to make patches, pillows, headbands, etc. for free.

You are a rockstar. 
But we're not done yetttt!

Next I'll show you how to truly Maximize Your NEWLY Minimal Wardrobe and how you're probably a lot closer to doing it than you think!

Stay Classy. 



  1. Ok, I've sorted and partly organised, tomorrow I will finish the organisation with some pretty hangers and a bit of ironing! This is an excellent series, its exactly what I was looking for to support my closet clear out. I just love your writing style, makes me giggle as I work! Thank you!

    1. I'm so proud of you! Doesn't it feel better already?! I'm so glad to have you reading along, thank you for the sweet notes! The hard part is over, now you're on your way to loving the closet you have! :)


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