Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Hang of It

This is not my closet. Nor do I suspect is it your closet. It may be one of Iris Apfel's closets. The fabulous 90-year-old fashionista bought another apartment in her Manhattan condo to hold her goodies. If this were my closet, the world would have to come to me. Because I wouldn't leave it.

Can you guess what is the subject de jour?

I've just switched my closet from summer to fall/winter, an act of faith in south Texas where fall is but a state of mind and pumpkins at the supermarket. Like someone who has just had her teeth cleaned and vows never to eat again, I hauled, packed and hung all day swearing never to buy another thing ever.

While I am conscientious about this ritual (no space to be otherwise), it's fairly easy for most of us to shove a few more things in and "think about it tomorrow". Here are some opening volleys to get you energized:
> Research shows we wear only 20% of our closet 80% of the time.
> Clothes that hang in the closet over a period of time shrink of their own volition.
> Because you wore that particular piece in 1976 doesn't mean you can wear it again (even if the '70s are back in style).
> Cleaning your closet is the only way to find what really lives there.

> It's important to do this task all at once, so give yourself plenty of time. If time is not on your side, divide the project into segments, i.e. all blouses one day, all pants another.

> Cover your bed with a sheet. This is to protect your clothes from lint, dust and pet hair that may be on the bed.

> Consider your closet your personal shrine to getting dressed. Nothing should live there except clothes and accessories. Hide the Christmas presents someplace else.

> As you remove each item from the closet decide which of three piles it will go on the bed: KEEP, MAYBE or OUT.
Items in the KEEP pile will be things you know you love, look good in and really wear. You can bet this will be your smallest pile.
Items in the MAYBE pile look good on the hanger. You just can't remember how they look on you as it's been a while since you wore them.
Items headed OUT can then be put into a bag or box for charity.

> Be ruthless about your mistakes. Here are seven reasons to get rid of a piece of clothing:
1) You spent tons of money on it, but you never wear it. This is a constant reminder of money wasted. Just seeing it in your closet makes you feel guilty.
2) It doesn't fit; it never fit; it might fit someday. Keeping something because it used to fit will murder your self esteem.
3) You already own multiple pieces of it and these are the ones you aren't saving "for good". There is no good; it's all good; good is right now.
4) The color is not right. You can't force yourself to look good in certain colors.
5) It was part of a fantasy scenario, a costume, a celebrity emulation— not you and not for your real life right now.
6) It itches, chafes, wrinkles like crazy, keeps slipping, makes you fuss with it or break out in a rash.
7) You love it; you wear it to death, but it's on its last legs.

> When you've cleared the closet and taken the OUT bags to the car, you must try on everything remaining. This is where some of those KEEPS might turn into MAYBES.

> Ideally everything in your closet should pass the 4F test: Does it FIT? Does it FUNCTION in my life? Does it FLATTER my shape, coloring, personality? Is it truly FABULOUS?

> Put the KEEPS back in the closet. There should be plenty of room in there now.

> Pack away the MAYBES. Stick them in an under-bed chest or empty suitcase. Make a list of what's in there for reference. If you haven't worn them in six months to a year, give them away too.

> Don't get rid of those wonderful items like your college sweatshirt or your first prom dress or anything else sentimental that is taking up space in your closet. Those deserve to be archived in a clearly labelled box. In a rash of attic cleaning I'm sure I threw away my wedding dress as the box was not marked.

> Of course no wire hangers! Invest in decent ones. I blogged a few posts ago about the wonderful skinny velvet hangers that actually hold garments without slipping. Some people prefer folded sweaters and t-shirts. I like to drape mine over the hanger's cross bar. Nothing beats clip hangers for holding skirts.

> Plastic or no plastic? I've always read that keeping clothes in plastic dry cleaning bags is a bad idea due to leaching chemicals from the plastic. Lo and behold I see that Rachel Zoe's Chanels and Oscar de la Rentas are all sitting in plastic in her closet. Nevertheless it's hard to see what's behind the plastic, so I opt to remove it, switch out the hanger and keep the bag for another use.

> Arrange clothes in a consistently logical way. For instance, arrange solid shirts and blouses from shortest sleeve to longest, lightest color to darkest. Then do the same with the prints. If you have multiple pairs of denim make a hang-tag for the hanger describing that pair (ie "dark wash bootleg").

> I prefer to keep my shoes in boxes and have p-touched a label for each. Otherwise I end up with a jangly mess on the floor.

> There is nothing fun about closet cleaning. You may learn some lessons about what you wore/didn't wear last season. It's possible you may unearth a treasure or two; more likely you'll be reacquainted with some unsound purchases. You may be determined to shop wisely from now on. What you can be is proud of yourself for accomplishing the task.

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