Closet Case


I am home on a dreary day, attempting to clean out my closet and drawers. Now that everything is scattered across the bed and floors, I have completely lost interest in this project. Closet cleaning is a chore, but a worthwhile one. Once it’s done, it is so much easier to get dressed in the morning. Seasonal closet switching is also a great time to evaluate what you have and what strategic purchases will make everything you own feel new again.

As a diversion from this daunting and tedious chore, I decided to share my closet cleaning wisdom.

As you remove things from hangers and drawers, separate them into distinct piles:

Keep, donate, toss, repair or remodel.

Keepers are clearly those things that you intend to hang onto. Practice tough love by asking yourself a few questions:

Do I love this? Do I wear this? Does it flatter me? If the answers are no, move it along to the next pile.

Donate items are those in decent condition that someone less fortunate might be able to use. Single socks, tattered tee shirts and nasty undergarments don’t fall into that category. Those get tossed.

Anything that needs repair should go into a separate pile. Take the time now to sew those loose buttons, or unraveling hems. Trust me, you don’t want to do it when you are racing to get out the door in the morning.

The last pile is the most interesting. Are there things you own that could benefit from a makeover? Use a discerning eye and a good tailor to up-cycle items that are good quality and fit well.

I took some trousers that hadn’t been worn in a few years, and cut them into shorts. The winter versions became wardrobe staples when paired with tights, boots and chunky sweaters or blazers. Summer shorts that were long and bordering on dumpy got shortened or tapered into a more modern silhouette that gave them new life. Skirts and dresses can be shortened, and pants can get cropped or slimmed down to be more relevant or flattering.

Now comes the unpleasant but critically important part. (This is where I got bored.) Pack it up, or put it back.

Sweep closet floors and shelves, and wipe down the inside of drawers to start with a clean, fresh backdrop.

Pack up all of the off-season items so that they can be used next season without needing to be cleaned or pressed, if possible.

Pack up the donate items and make an itemized list, if your charity of choice requires it.  Take the “tossables” place them in the garbage can, and don’t look back!


Take what is left and transfer it all to matching hangers. The disarray caused by a jumble of different hangers is distracting. Invest in hangers that can be used over and over again, and give all those wire hangers back to your dry cleaner to recycle. Durable plastic hangers are inexpensive, and well worth the money spent.

As you put things back, place them in the closet or drawers by category. It makes things look neater, and items easier to find.

Once the purging and organizing is under control, it’s time to make “looks.” Put together a few perfect go-to outfits and make sure you have all of the elements to make them work. This is the perfect time to assess what you have and what you need. Are you using the same pants or layering piece for every outfit? If so, it’s time to add a few other variations. Would everything be perfect, if only you had a certain type of shoe or accessory? Add it to the shopping list. Try to avoid the common trap of having a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Either add the pivotal elements to making your wardrobe work, or go back and reassess if it could be of better use in the donate or remodel bin.

If you are a little bit “fashion challenged,” take photos and create a “look book” to remind you of your newly created outfits. As you expand your wardrobe, think about adding pieces that fit into your current mix and enhance what you have.

Flip through magazines and fashion blogs to see what the must haves of the season are, and consider adding some of them to your wardrobe to keep it fresh and updated. A few well-placed additions can make everything you own seem new again.

It’s a lot of work, but once it’s done, you will be glad you persevered and accomplished the task.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have my own piles to deal with. Ughhh!

photos: glasshouse images

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