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By Kristin Tucker A native of the Midwest, Kristin attended journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill and has never left the southern part of heaven. She has written for Chapel Hill Magazine as a style editor and keeps busy with non-profit event-planning for several philanthropies.

Closet Cleansing…Steps to De-Clutter and Feel Better

By Kristin Tucker Posted May 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm

When was the last time you REALLY surveyed your wardrobe? Last season? Last summer? The last time you moved five years ago? Confess! Your closet needs a barium enema and you know it. I’ll be the first one to admit that mine does. I avoid closet cleansing like the plague. There’s always something more pressing on my never-ending To Do List. Plus I have inherent pack-rat wiring (I swear it’s genetic!). What if I prematurely purge something? I’m trying to change my save-everything-for-sentimental-reasons-or-because-it-will-ultimately-come-back-in-style ways. So, I’ve got the perfect weekend challenge planned. Attack the closet!

As my friend Robyn Byrd Willson, former visual merchandising manager at Southpoint’s Coldwater Creek, used to say, “Let’s assess the situation!” Carving out the time and actually getting started are the hardest parts. Here are some closet purging strategies to help and inspire you.

  • Plan Your Attack and Mentally Prepare = Book a day with rain in the forecast or when you have a lull in your busy schedule. Put in on your calendar and treat it like an appointment. The key is commitment. Depending on how large your wardrobe is you will need a solid chunk of the morning or afternoon. Grab some trash bags or laundry baskets for the piles you’re about to create…..Consignment Shop, To the Tailor for Alterations , Goodwill or PTA Thrift Shop, Yard Sale, Worthy Friend, etc.
  • Enlist Reinforcements = Time to draft a drill sergeant. Ideally you need an impartial third party (like a professional) who can ask the tough questions and will not be emotionally tied to your clothes. A friend or family member who knows you well but is NOT afraid to be brutally honest and can spend an afternoon helping you assess will work. More on Closet Dictator’s job in a moment.
  • Test Each Item and Create Piles = You need to quickly assess each item in your wardrobe. Keep it or place it in one of the piles I mentioned in step one. Closet Dictator gets to ask the tough questions.
  • Have you worn it in the past year? If you can’t remember the last time you wore an item, then you probably don’t love it enough to keep it. Special occasion outfits are an exception to the rule.
  • Does it fit? If you don’t know, then try it on and let the Dictator give her opinion. If it’s too small put it in the Goodwill or Consignment pile. If it’s too big but you love it, put it in the Alterations pile.
  • Is it in good shape? Permanent stains, holes or broken zippers go in the find a new home pile….Goodwill, recycle or discard.
  • Organize What Remains = Now that your closet is full of keepers, find a system that works for you. It’s not about being OCD, it’s about making it easier for you every morning when it’s time to choose an outfit. Think about your closet like a department store. Section your items by style or color. Guys-Group denim in one area, casual work pants like chinos in another, suits in their own section, etc. Hang shirts together by sleeve length and style, e.g. long sleeve dress shirts together, polos together, etc. Ladies-Create sections for dresses, skirts, denim, dress pants, casual pants, etc. (We are much more complicated creatures in the clothing department than men…meaning we’re likely to have more sections!) Take it one step further and once you have sections for each style you can organize by color. Sounds pretty basic and borderline anal retentive, but it really does make it easier to “shop” your closet. This will help you create outfits more quickly and easily. You might already have a system that works, but if not….give it a try!
  • Purge the Piles = Load the car with your baskets of treasures and head to Goodwill, a PTA Thrift Shop or OCIM for a tax write-off or a Consignment store for a few extra bucks. (You need an appointment at most consignment shops.) Either way, you’re recycling and giving someone else a chance to enjoy your threads. And don’t forget to make a stop at the tailor for any items you found that need alterations. Internet savvy? You may want to go the online auction route and sell your items on eBay….especially if you found some pieces lurking in the recesses of your closet that are new with original price tags still attached (NWT). (Yes, there are people who buy clothes and never wear them!)
  • Establish New Rules = Strike a policy for your shopping habits. For every new item that enters the closet, one item must go. Commit to assessing and cleansing your closet more often. I suggest seasonally (And I really need to take my own advice!), but once a year at the very least.

If you’re still having trouble with closet overflow or organizational issues, I have the instant cure. Watch one episode of Hoarders on A&E. (Someone else’s case is always worse than yours.) When you can see daylight between the hangers and some sense of organization to your closet, you will feel better and lighter. I promise!

Local Resources: (Please add to the list!)
· Clothing Donations: Goodwill Industries www.goodwill.org, Orange Congregations in Mission www.ocimnc.org, PTA Thrift Shops, check local listings for the nearest PTA Thrift Shop or drop-off near you.
· Chapel Hill Consignment Stores: Refinements www.refinementsinc.com,
Stock Exchange www.chapelhillstockexchange.com

These are my closet cleansing thoughts. Please share yours below!

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