I get the most panicked looks when I tell women that I can help them with their closets. And if the idea of someone peering into your closet, with its messes and its mistakes, stresses you out, you are NOT alone.
That’s one of the reasons I created the Reverse Closet Edit Bootcamp.
But how do we end up with overwhelming closets to begin with? And how do we keep them from becoming cluttered again? The secret isn’t in your closet at all.
It’s your buying habits, not your storing habits, that create a cluttered closet. Here, 8 habits you may have that could be cluttering your closet!
We’ve all been there. You fall in love with an item and decide that the only logical thing to do is buy more of it. In alllll the colors. And then what happens? You don’t wear them. I think there’s a scientific explanation about the law of diminishing returns or something, but I’m not sure. All I do know is that this strategy rarely works unless you are using your wardrobe color palette as a guide. Buying 2-3 of the same item in different colors that are in your color palette and that you know you will reach over makes sense. Buying 5-6 in every color available just in case does not.
In the same way that multiples of an item in different colors doesn’t always pay off, multiples of an item in the same category can be equally unrewarding. Many women are in the habit of buying several items in the same category, whether that’s white sneakers or long-sleeved black blouses. But what often ends up happening is that you wear the best and forget the rest. Unless this is an item you reach more a couple of times a week, having multiples of a piece that fill the same role in your wardrobe is redundant and causes clutter.
For example, for a video I did a while back on black pants, I bought several styles to try on. I ended up keeping a black knit bootcut style (Betabrand), a black knit straight-leg style (Everlane Dream Pant) and a black dress pant style (The Find). Even though these items are different and have different details and benefits, they still fill the same category, and for my lifestyle and my current outfits, I reach for the Everlane pair the most.
Size fluctuations happen to all of us, but if we want a manageable closet that supports us where we are right now, we need to eliminate the extra sizes that clutter up our wardrobes. If you genuinely swing between two sizes in a given week or month, then that’s the limit of the size options your everyday wardrobe should contain. Be realistic and set goals that feel good to you. If you don’t plan on being a size 10 again, then there is no point in allowing your size 10 pieces to clutter your closet. Give them away. If you are actively in the process of losing weight and plan to get back to a size 10, store the pieces out of sight, and set a reminder. You might find that you reach your goal weight and feel like treating yourself to a few new items instead of revisiting the old ones, anyway.
Some occasions are so special that you will want to go all out and buy the prettiest outfit imaginable. Life is too short, after all, to not feel like a movie star as often as possible. If you are the bride or the mother of one, for example, go all out. You deserve it. However, for most special occasions, and certainly for the last-minute kind, I rely on some timeless and neutral evening-friendly pieces for special occasions that look different every time I wear them because I switch up the accessories. That’s why I think an evening cluster or cocktail cluster can be so helpful in these situations. I also rely heavily on Rent The Runway for that showstopping special occasion item that I get to wear and enjoy without it cluttering up my closet.
Sales are only helpful if they enable you to buy items you would not have been able to afford otherwise. Let me say that again. 🙂 Sales are best when you find yourself able to buy that splurge item you really wanted or needed. But they can be dangerous when we use a reduced price as an opportunity to buy something just because it’s inexpensive, or it’s a specific brand, or because we might need it someday. Buying something JUST BECAUSE IT’S ON SALE is the wrong way to take advantage of reduced prices and ends up costing us much more money in the end.
I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl, but when it comes to shopping for new seasons, special events, or anything really, I like to plan ahead a little. Rarely does last-minute shopping lead to anything amazing. Sure, sometimes it’s unavoidable. I recently went last-minute shopping for a special event with a beautiful client that was undergoing chemotherapy and whose outfit was stolen from her hotel room (!), and we found her a stunning look, but most of the time, we end up overspending on something we don’t love and will likely never wear again.
This one needs a bit of explanation. If there is a dream item in your wardrobe, my encouragement is to save up for that dream item, buy it on sale or look for a preloved version on a site like The Real Real or Vestiaire Collective. For example, if you really want a pair of Frye Boots or a Staud bag, and you know that it’s a piece that you will use and wear for years, then you should get those pieces, and not settle for the budget version or the look for less. What I have found is that my clients will keep buying lower-priced versions of their dream items, over and over again, and they end up spending the same amount of money that they would have spent on that one perfect item, and they’re STILL not happy because those dupes didn’t check the same box or fill the same role as that fabulous item. Within reason, hold out for the thing you really want, and then wear it like crazy. You deserve to treat yourself every now and then.
This is related to Habit #7, but slightly different. Often, when we are shopping for specific categories, whether that’s a new pair of jeans or spring sandals, we can too quickly settle for a good-enough item that checks some of our boxes, rather than holding out for the item that is really going to be a go-to in our wardrobes. Yes, we do need to make compromises on occasion, because sometimes the exact perfect combination of fit and price and details isn’t available, but often, we just settle, and then we wonder why our wardrobes don’t work for us.
My focused but flexible approach can help here. Decide which details you are willing to compromise on, and which you aren’t.
Which of these closet-cluttering habits might be responsible for your overstuffed closet? And which can you commit to breaking today? Let me know in the comments!