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How much is enough? How to edit your closet (part one)

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California Closets

“You’ve talked about cleaning out your closet before,” Gina writes, “and paring down to just the clothes you wear. How do you cut those ties…i.e. get rid of things that you like but just don’t really wear. Or those ‘just in case’ clothes — ‘I might need this or that.’ How many pairs of khakis do I really need? Or how many shorts etc… Any advice and insight would be a huge help. I’d really like to pare down but have such a hard time doing it!

Oh, Gina, you’re not alone. I promise.

Editing your closet is always a daunting task, for exactly the reasons Gina points to: what if you get rid of the wrong things? How do you really know what he right things are? And how much really is enough?

There are a couple of simple strategies Gina can use to decide what to keep and what to part with. She should start by pulling everything off-season out of her closet and storing it somewhere else. She doesn’t need to make any decisions right now about her winter clothes; instead, she should focus on pieces that are wearable right now. If possible, store all the winter things in another closet until the weather changes. (And feel free to take this opportunity to clean and mend those pieces, too. Why not!)

Once Gina has pared down to only the clothes that she could be wearing right now, it’s time to figure out what she really is wearing, right now. There are a couple of ways to do this. She can hang everything in her closet with the hangers turned around (the open part of the hook facing out, rather than in); as she wears something and returns it to the closet, she will turn the hangar the right way. This will let her see, at a glance, what she’s really wearing. Gina can also opt to move things she’s worn to the back of the closet, bumping unworn pieces to the front. The system itself doesn’t matter; what matters is that she has some way of figuring out what she’s really wearing.

Gina should also keep track of what her outfits every day during this window. She can do this by keeping a list of what she wears each day, or by taking a photo of every outfit. I like the photo option because it provides a clear visual of what you’re wearing, and lets you see if and how you’re mixing up your separates. It also lets you see what you’re not wearing, or what specific styling ruts you’re falling into.

After Gina has gotten her closet organized, she should set a series of deadlines for herself; her closet clean-out won’t be a one-day project (sorry, Gina). In the first two or three weeks, she should just get dressed every day, just like she’s been doing — no special effort to wear certain things or remix what she has. At the end of the that window, she can look at the hangers and see what she’s really been wearing. Those are pieces she should plan to keep.

(Exception: if she’s wearing something just because it’s there, and she doesn’t absolutely love it, then I would say think twice about keeping it. A tightly edited closet should only include pieces you feel strongly about and really like wearing.)

Ok, Gina, it’s time to get started! Next week, we’ll talk about how you know what to keep and what to give away — you know, once you’ve figured out what your basics are. Right now, it’s time to get your closet organized — that means all of you. Do it!

You’ll be glad you did.

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