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Friday, April 6, 2012

Please Don't Feed the Monsters

'Women usually love what they buy, yet hate two-thirds of what is in their closets.'  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

So what if the only thing standing between you being your most chic and gorgeous self is….your closet?  

The Monster That is Your Closet. You feed it with new clothes, clean clothes, etc.- never to be seen looking good again. That is, if you can find them again. The clothing jammed in on mismatched hangars, no space to breathe let alone actually see what you've got in there. The forgotten little piles in the corner made with sincere intentions to have mended, reorganize, whatever.  We both know that if you were to look there would be many, many, MANY things that you've completely forgotten you had. Not just in your closet, either- the lesser monster would be….The Dresser.   And just think- these clothes that are no longer even in your conscious memory are getting a free ride on rent- they're not earning their keep. And for most of us closet and dresser space is premium, precious real estate. 

To a certain extent there will be a sort of imbalance in your wardrobe; we need 'special occasion' clothing that simply isn't going to be worn as much.  Evening wear, clothes for specific sports- clothes for activities that you engage in for a small percentage of time.  You still need these clothes when you need them, so they deserve the closet space- providing they fit, flatter (if possible,) you like them, and actually do use them when the occasion calls for it. If not, then don't give them that space. 

The majority of what doesn't deserve the closet space is clothing designed for every day wear that isn't serving it's purpose.  Whether it's no longer your 'style,' or your size, it's outdated, or it's really too worn out to wear.  My personal Achilles heel is 'the mistake.'  I spent good money on it (even if I bought it at a thrift shop for a song- then it's 'it was such a bargain!') and it's in great condition…but for whatever reason, I don't wear it.  I have difficulty admitting I made a mistake. So, I lie to myself.  Finally, I admit my mistake, and get rid of it. The thing is if I were to acknowledge my mistake as soon as I realized it and get rid of it, my life would be that much more organized, and my closet that much more functional. Ah well, I am human.

Now is as good a time as any to get down to it and train the monster. (Don't look at me like that. Nobody WANTS to do this.)

There are 2 different ways to attack the Monster we call the Closet.  All in one day, which for many of us is TOTALLY OVERWHELMING, or in stages, which for some is just dragging an unpleasant chore out for..f a r...t o o...l o n g.  If you choose the second option be prepared with somewhere to keep items that are destined for repair, donation, the 'maybe' pile until you're done with the whole process.

Start by having 4 containers; they can be large plastic tubs, or just large garbage bags, or whatever you have on hand. (I like the big blue Ikea bags.) Label each- preferably with at least an 8.5 x11 piece of paper; one for 'donate,' one for 'mending/alterations,' one for 'maybe,' and last for 'trash.'  (Most of us will need more than one for trash. But start with one.) Be sure the labels are prominent- you do NOT want to mix these bags up.  Also- it helps to start this process with new hangars that are all the same; I personally like the flocked hangars that prevent clothes from slipping off.  Make sure you also have proper hangars for skirts and slacks.  If they're all the same your closet will look 'neater.'  I find this very calming. 

Now, take all your clothes out of the closet/dresser, or if only doing a section, take that section out and put all on your bed or another large surface. Go through each item and if it's worthy of consideration run through this list of questions:
  • Is it in good enough condition to consider keeping? If it's ratty or just plain worn out, get rid of it.
  • Is it in one of my colors or neutrals? If not, can it be dyed? If no, then out it goes.  If yes, go on to the next question.
  • Does it have good design lines for me, and will it work with my style? If no, could it be altered? If no, out it goes.  If yes, proceed to the next question.
  • Does it fit well?  If no, can it/is it worth being altered? No, out it goes; yes, on to the next question.
  • Have you worn it within the last year? If no, unless it's a formal or otherwise 'specialty' item or has serious sentimental value, out it goes.  If yes, proceed.
  • Do you like it? Enough that you'll wear it regularly?  If no, then put in the 'maybe' pile. You may feel differently about it when you try it in combination with things you hadn't tried before. If you still hate it or feel ambivalent about it after all that, then for goodness sake get rid of it! 

Everything that got a 'no' somewhere along the line either goes in the 'donate' or 'trash' container. If donation, fold neatly. Everything that needs alteration or dying or other repair goes into the 'mending/alteration' container, folded neatly, please.

Now if it needs it, clean the closet or dresser. (Sorry, has to get done sometime.)

Everything you're sure works for you in every way put back in the closet/dresser; If you'd like, hang suits together; or break everything up into categories- skirts together, tops together, pants/slack together.  Dresses together. Evening wear together, and so on. You can also categorize by color.  Or if you generally wear monochromatic outfits you can group darks together, lights together, and so on.  Whatever works for you.

Don't forget to go through your shoes as well; and when you're done organize them in such a way that they'll not wind up in a heap on the floor, getting scuffed and forgotten.

And it doesn't pay to belabor this process. You know in your heart if an item isn't working for you.  Don't let your ego get in there with 'but-but- it was expensive!' 'all my friends would KILL to have this!' 'my mother gave it too me and she'd be so offended!'  None of these excuses are valid. If it doesn't flatter, fit, and reflect your style, it doesn't belong in your wardrobe. Period. 

Once you've gotten everything put in it's proper place in the closet or appropriate container, sit down with your calendar and make a date to take things that need alteration to the tailor; a date to take shoes to be fixed, take things to the cleaner, etc.  And make a date 3 or 6 months from now to go through the 'maybe' pile and either put back into the closet or donate/throw away.

See? Isn't' that a pretty, well behaved wardrobe? Doesn't it make you feel good? Now just put it on a nice diet- only things that meet your strictest criteria, and the very best you can afford...choose very selectively and your Monster will always be a beautiful thing...

Happy Dressing!