Hello! I’m Lee, creator of the lifestyle blog Style Bee, where I chronicle my efforts to live with a lean closet, buy less, choose well and showcase the best makers and brands that I discover along the way.I’ve spent the last year editing and reducing my closet and have managed to eliminate about 60% of my wardrobe. It feels so good to open my closet doors in the morning and see only the things that I truly love to wear, rather than a space that’s packed to the gills with stuff I don’t really want and definitely don’t need. That being said, eradicating the excess can be tricky, so Poppy Barley asked me to share some simple tips to help you ensure a successful closet edit. For years I really struggled to edit properly. I would end up just reorganizing my stuff rather than actively eliminating things. Before I knew it, I’d be right back where I started, in front of an overflowing wardrobe with nothing to wear. I’d keep things because they were "cute", "fun", "expensive" or something I’d wear "one day" but really I never wore any of it again. Meanwhile, someone else could have been enjoying it. I’ve now done several significant closet clean outs in the last year and I can say, without a fraction of a doubt, that I really don’t miss one thing that I said goodbye to. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you just start ditching everything on a whim. It’s important to approach an edit strategically and objectively so you can walk away feeling refreshed rather than emptied out. So here are my 5 tips to help you make sure your excess clothes and accessories end up in the right place.
STEP #1 - PLANBefore you worry about parting with anything it’s important to have a game plan and a goal in mind. Otherwise I guarantee that you’re more likely to keep too much and find yourself staring over within no time. Consider the following:
A) Your Personal StyleHow would you describe it? Start by jotting down 15 words you might use such as, minimal, classic, bohemian or trendy. Then circle your top five words. That’s essentially your personal style profile.
B) Colour PaletteA lean colour palette is key to a lean closet but it need not be bland! It’s just good to have a set of colours in mind before you edit so you’re aware of an over arching visual story.
C) Setting a GoalWhat is it that you’d like to achieve with this closet edit? It there a certain number of items you’d like to reduce to? Maybe you just want to have enough room for your clothes. Whatever it is, it’s good to make note so you have something to work towards. It might seem like a lot of planning but it will only take a few minutes. Having spent years cleaning out my closet without actually ever editing it properly I’ve come to find this step very useful. I put together a simple worksheet you can download and use to help keep your game plan handy.
STEP #2 - EXPOSEIt’s time to make a mess! Pull everything out into the open, whether it’s on clothes wracks, on the floor or on your bed. It’s important to be able to clearly see everything you have, ideally all at once. We so often over stuff our closet space to the point that we can’t even see our clothes and forget what we have. This way it’s so easy to spot duplicates, see overarching colour palettes, and rediscover pieces you’d totally forgotten. If you’re tight on space, start with sections of your closet like sweaters and coats or dresses and work your way through the categories.
STEP #3 - SORTNow it’s time to manage the chaos! To avoid turning your room into a cyclone use these printable cards to mark which piles are which and even consider having bags or boxes at the ready so you can easily move piles around. Start by allocating space for the following categories:
KEEPThe stuff you truly love is pretty easy to pin point but it can be tough to make a call on some items. My basic benchmark for whether something stays or goes is if I’ve worn it within the last 8-12 months. If not, then it’s out. Of course some special occasion items are an exception but generally that’s my baseline. If it doesn’t adhere to my personal style I let it go and if it’s too small or too big or uncomfortable in any way it gets the boot. Start by limiting yourself to only 20 - 30 ‘keep' items.
SELLThere are lots of easy ways to sell your clothes. Many people use Instagram as a shop space and handle payments via PayPal. It’s easy and no commission is taken from your price. Depop is another option. It’s an app created to buy and sell your clothes and other items. If you have some high-end designer goods TheRealReal has a great reputation. Personally though, once I’ve decided something needs to go, it needs to go, like now. So I like to sell my good quality items via local consignment.
DONATEThere are tons of options for donating your good condition but not necessarily resalable clothes. One great option is to have some girl friends over and let them have at your rejects. Who knows, maybe someone’s had their eye on a pair of your shoes or a bag for ages. Now they can finally enjoy it. Other options of course include Salvation Army, Goodwill, Value Village, thrift stores and so on. Chances are there’s even a clothing donation drop-off bin in your area.
TOSSUnfortunately at a certain point some things are just meant to hit the dust. I try to recycle what I can, make dish rags out of old t-shirts and stow away gross but still wearable clothes for days when I’m painting, moving or gardening.
STEP #4 - ORGANIZENow you’re at a point where it’s time to start putting things where they belong. Now, I believe, the best way to feel like you have something to wear is to actually see that you have something to wear. Keeping your options visible is my #1 suggestion but of course, we can’t all have epic walk-in closets. Here are my tips for organizing your closet for optimal visibility:
- Colour coordinate. I know it seems neurotic and a wee bit OCD but I’ve found that if everything is sorted by colour I can zero in on the one I want and go from there. This makes it really easy to put looks together and keep tabs on what I actually have.
- Keep categories separate. Keep all your t-shirts in one section, sweaters in another, pants in one section, shorts in another and so on. Keep all your bags and shoes in their own place too. Same goes for accessories like scares and sunglasses. The better you can get a clear picture of what your options are the easier it is to get ready and to avoid buying something you already have.
- Stow away off season wares. A great way to give yourself more closet space is to store clothes that you won’t wear for a few months like sweaters, boots and coats in the summer and light dresses, shorts and sandals during the winter. I’ve been using a set of bins from IKEA for years and they slide easily under the bed. Just don’t forget you’ve stored stuff when the season comes back around!
STEP #5 - MAINTAINNow you’re probably feeling pretty darn good. You’ve got a beautifully edited closet, bags of clothes ready to sell or donate and maybe you’ve even got a better sense of your personal style. Awesome! But if you’re not careful, you’ll be right back where you started, so here are a few easy ways to maintain your new lean closet.
- Conduct regular closet edits every 3 to 4 months. This is my main tactic and so far it’s been great!
- Stick to a 1 in 1 out policy so you never add something without getting rid of something else.
- Embrace a Shopping Fast where you don’t shop for 30 days straight. It’s a fun exercise for your style and your wallet! Read more about Shopping Fasts here.
- Make A Wish List and shop selectively. Read more about why I swear by seasonal Wish Lists here.