The first sign that I could use more organization in the new year is that I am late for a consult on how to achieve more organization in the new year. It’s 8:50 a.m., and I am sprinting toward the coffee shop two blocks away from my apartment in an effort to make it back by 9:00 sharp, when a professional organizer is set to arrive. The second sign is that before I open the door to my closet, I preface it with, “Please don’t judge me, but . . .”
Suffice it to say, I know a thing or two about hoarding. So before heading into another year with all my same-old, I set out to clean my closet once and for all—or at least until next season—and decide to consult multiple experts along the way to find out exactly how to tackle this daunting project. Here, seven key points to keep in mind before you unleash your own editing powers on that wardrobe of yours.
Cleanse Your Way to Better Karma
If you get cold feet before the big cleanse, that’s normal. I am riddled with pre-closet-cleanse anxiety in the week leading up to the purge. These were things I liked enough to buy, once. What if I have another chance to wear that Marc by Marc Jacobs dress? What if I finally discover how to style that Moschino blouse? I don’t have the answers, so I call Karyn Starr, a stylist and cofounder of the aesthetic consulting firm White-Starr. “In order for the new you to come in, you have to get rid of something,” she says. “If it’s not serving you, it can serve someone else. It’s like good fashion karma.” So the next time you buy something new, consider giving away an item to maintain your pared-down closet and up your fashion karma.
Even Professionals Need Professional Help
As a Vogue.com writer, it’s reassuring to me when Starr debunks the myth that the sorts of fashion professionals who work in the industry do not face the same closet-cleansing problems that plague most other people. “You can be a fashion designer or a writer and still not be good at editing [your own closet],” she says, adding, “Every writer needs an editor.” Nor is it indicative of your fashion sense, or lack thereof. “I have a lot of clients with amazing taste and incredible style.” It can be hard to limit your options, not to mention find a pal with an opinion you trust and the patience to take on the task. That’s when a closet-cleanse professional can swoop in and be like the “brutally honest” bestie you never had.
Pass the Edit Test With Flying Colors
Immediately following an in-home consult with Maria Kontovas, a professional organizer from Neat Method, I place an order for 100 slimline hangers and 40 slimline hanger clips. Far from an impulse purchase, I carefully contemplate the range of available shades in what feels like a long-term investment: Black? No. I hear those rub off on lighter colors. Pink? No. The vision for my newly cleansed closet is more grown-up. Seafoam green? Yes! I recall Vogue.com Managing Editor Alexandra Macon once touting, “They make me feel at peace.” A cohesive closet starts with matching hangers, and the color sets the tone. But before you get hung up on rehanging, first do it by garment type, then within each section by season with lighter fabrics followed by heavier, as well as by color of the rainbow (ROY G BIV) with white at the beginning, black at the end, and arranged from lightest to darkest. It’s like merchandising your own closet.
Put Your Style in Single File
While the majority of the focus is placed on the closet, my dresser is also in need of some TLC. I have had my fair share of mornings sifting through tissue tees and toothpick jeans when I just could not find what had to be there. The solution, I learned, is simple: Instead of folding and stacking, Kontovas taught me how to maximize my drawer space by incorporating a technique known as filing. You fold the garment according to the depth of the drawer before lining it up vertically like a file folder. This approach allows you to locate every item at a glance, without making a mess or, worse, wrinkles.
A Detox Is Best Served in Small Doses
A streamlined closet isn’t built in a day. Detoxing, according to Starr, is best done in three- to four-hour sessions. “That’s when everybody caps out,” Starr tells me. But you should start with the section that will be the most difficult to cleanse, as that’s when you will have the most energy. With this in mind, I kick off my own detox in the dress section, trying on one after the other until they have all been evaluated by fit and condition and placed in one of four labeled piles: Keep, Toss, Donate, or Maybe. The Maybes, Starr explains, are the head-scratchers when you can’t make up your mind. Starr suggests coming back to the Maybes at the end, that way you can still be efficient and every item you aren’t sure of still gets a second look.
You Lived, You Loved, Now Let the Garment Go
It isn’t long into detox day one before I come across a beloved strapless dress with gold zipper detailing. I remember buying it in college after my first big breakup because it looked infinitely better than the way I felt at the time, only now it’s a bit too snug to zip up comfortably. Before I swear off carbs and dust off my all-but-forgotten stationary bike, I remember Starr dismissing garments that do more harm than good with an anecdote. “I understand that it’s vintage YSL, and I know it fit you one day when you were breakup skinny. But it’s not serving you now. It’s just negative energy.”
The Shoe Fits, but That Doesn’t Mean You Should Wear It
On day two of my detox, I unearth a tangerine Alice + Olivia bubble dress I wore to my sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner in the summer of 2009. The dress still fits, but something is just off. “You’re like, ‘Wait, why did this look so amazing on me when I was 30 and at 35 it just doesn’t work—it just doesn’t look chic anymore?’ ” Starr explains. “It doesn’t mean it didn’t look good on you five years ago. You had your moment in that silhouette, in that look, and it was a great moment, but the moment’s gone.” The dress will mean something someday—only to someone else.