When it comes to the art of the wardrobe, Darling knew just the two women to ask for advice. Cathleen Simmons and Mercedes Curran are stylists who know the tricks to defining personal style, as well as how to let go of unnecessary pieces. Receive from their wisdom below on the perfect way to clear out the clutter!

Every few months, my best friend comes whining to me about how her closet is exploding, and says she needs help cleaning it out. It’s not her fault that her job as a clothing sales representative continuously fills her life with free samples of some of the most beautiful clothes you’ll ever try on–so when she reaches out to get rid of it all, I know it’s serious. I also know it means fancy hand-me-downs, and I’m never too busy to graciously accept those.

The reason my friend asks me to come over is because like most of us, she sees clothes as being far more than just something we put on our bodies. They aren’t just cut pieces of fabric, they are memories and they make us feel good. Although it might sound crazy to some, clothes can hold sentimental value, so naturally, we need all the help we can get when it comes to letting precious items go.

So who’s in need of a master closet cleanse? I promise that once you experience the pleasure of getting rid of things you don’t need, you’ll feel the lightest you have in months. It takes a good friend and some strong will power to give up the graphic tees in the oven and the shoes in the living room bookshelf (you know who you are)!

In order to get the closet of your dreams, first set some time aside to get inspired. It’s not easy to just jump into it head on (unless of course, that’s your style), so browse the web for images that spark your interest in personal wardrobe taste. If you have even more time, print those images out and put them up to remind you of your goal.

To make this easy, here is a step-by-step guide to beginning. Remember, this is indeed a process, so the feeling of being overwhelmed is natural, but have fun with it! This is your chance to start fresh for spring—new trends and open space!

Step 1:

If your closet isn’t already organized by style (shorts, skirts, pants, tanks, tops, dresses…etc), take everything out and categorize.

Step 2:

Designate three piles before you dig in. The items you want to keep will obviously stay in your closet.

One for re-selling. Places like Crossroads, Buffalo Exchange and other small consignment stores give you money or store credit for bringing in and selling your old goods to them. It’s a score for both parties!

One for donating to a thrift store.

One for “dear friends.” Perhaps a friend always mentions how cute you look in that dress, or you know that shape will look great on your roommate. It’s always easier to give stuff away knowing it’s going to a good home.

Step 3:

Right off the bat, get rid of everything you know you don’t want to keep.

Things you’ve never worn; even if you thought you might wear that dress you found on sale at Nordstrom two years ago, you probably won’t.

Things that don’t fit; be realistic, if they haven’t fit since freshman year, toss it. They probably aren’t in style anyway.

Things that you’ve worn so many times, they have holes and deodorant stains (yikes).

Step 4:

This step is monumental. INVITE A TRUSTED FRIEND. This should be someone who you feel knows your style, will make wise decisions on trend, and can see what does or doesn’t fit right–and will say the right answer when you hold up the bridesmaid dress from 2004. We promise you don’t need it.

Important: Before you begin, keep in mind the inspiration that you pulled. The colors, textures, shapes and emotions of your motive will keep your closet clean and coordinated. If the garment does not match your style, let it go so that someone else may cultivate their own ideal wardrobe.

Step 5:

TRY ON ALL shorts, skirts and pants. Finding the foundation of bottoms in your closet will then tell you what tops will work and what you will need to add later. Seven tops per bottom is a good gage to follow.

Tip: When trying on clothes, make sure you are using a full-length mirror. Look at proportion and silhouette, and take a look at the front and the back. This is where your friend will come in handy letting you know that your jeans are definitely not supporting your bootie in the correct way.

For help with this you can also look to the Darling article Self Shaped.

Step 6:

Tops, sweaters and dresses are next; jackets, shoes and accessories are last. If there is any doubt at all about keeping something, that’s probably a good sign not to keep it. My rule has always been: if I don’t LOVE IT, then I LEAVE IT (even when I go shopping).

Step 7:

Once you have sorted through your entire closet, dresser, and secret spot in the console table, review everything you have left, and start to make simple outfits. You’ll quickly notice that there are things you’ll now need to complete your look. A black blazer here, a simple cardigan there…make a wish list of all the items you want to intentionally shop for and add them to your Svpply.com feed, (read the Darling article here about this), a visual shopping and inspiration list. We want to buy clothes that will be a strong addition to the rest of our wardrobe, something that is worth the purchase.

Optional Action (maybe just for the particularly wonderful type A’s): Add your cherished clothing items that you have now established to a closet-log app like Stylebook. Hang a white sheet over a curtain rod, or something the like, that you can hang a hanger on. Quickly photograph your items hanging in front of the sheet. The app allows you to take out the backgrounds and categorize by type. Then you can log outfits by occasion or season and even mark a calendar when you wore that new favorite item. This can help you to make wise decisions when next shopping–because you are aware that if you do make that purchase you must love it enough to take the time and effort to add it to your digital closet–and if it’s not, it’s probably not worth dishing out the cash for.

Step 8:

Take your sorted piles and load up that back seat. First take the items to the resale store. Once they have made their choices, look through the remaining pieces. Pull out anything else that you think your friends may just love (only love) and add the rest to the donation pile. Drive to the nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army and with a sigh of relief drop off that extra closet clutter that was weighing on your daily routine.

A few more helpful tips:

There is so much joy in sharing and giving. One great activity to do that provides for an opportunity to spend time together and find new treasures without spending your hard earned cash is to have a clothing swap. Contact those gals that you care about and maybe have had a time or two of “awe” at their new purchase, send them this article, and mark a date to bring those items that are no longer a treasure for you but may be for one of your girls to trade. You could even try out one of our new favorite recipes to share as the trading is taking place.

I would like to think that no one uses wire hangers anymore. These beasts are the most damaging kind of hanger out there. How many times did you ruin a top because it left massive dents? Now that your closet is clean, it is worth the investment to start collecting black velvet hangers. Nice and thin, they save space while helping items stay put with the sticky nature of velvet. No slipping off, brilliant!

Store out of season items like your jackets and coats in plastic containers to be kept out of sight either under your bed, or even better, in the garage until you need to use them.

Instead of forgetting about your new purchases because they immediately get lost between other clothes, designate an area in your closet where only new items go, that way you remember you have them and wear them first. My friends make fun of me, but once they try it, they love it! I wear the item a couple times, and then it goes back into its place with the rest of my clothes.

The more often this process takes place, the more comfortable it becomes to make decisions, not just with clothes, but in helping to eliminate decision anxiety on a daily basis. So as you place your best looks back into their new, more roomy home, give thanks for the privilege of having these tools that can so easily craft the impression you make on those around you.


Photo Credit: Ohjoy