Ashlee Piper is a pro at the art of closet cleansing. As the woman behind the gorgeous eco-lifestyle site The Little Foxes, Fashion Editor for Thoughtfully Magazine and an eco-friendly fashion contributor for Ecouterre, Ashlee has green fashion on her mind 24-7 and is helping us break down the process of minimizing that wardrobe.
Get up to speed on our closet detox with Ashlee in the Closet Detox Part 1 here. From purging your goods to creating that elusive “capsule wardrobe,” find out why a closet cleanse matters, then join us below as we get into into how to make it happen.
There’s nothing quite so liberating as clearing the cobwebs of emotional purchases, aspirational jeans and crap with tags still on ‘em to winnow down to only the stuff you wear and love. But, I get it – the thought of tackling that behemoth of a closet can be, well, daunting. Don’t fret! Though I’m not technically with you, I’ve created this fun and foolproof guide (complete with perfectly-timed musical accompaniment) to get you rocking and rolling on literally cleaning house. Let’s get started!
Step 1: set the mood + gather materials
First, set the mood: get the Closet Detox playlist here! Set aside 3 whole, unadulterated hours to yourself (no skimping on this.)
Next, gather materials:
- awesome hangers, if you don’t have some already
- pen and paper
- 1 storage container / bin
- 3 large reusable bags
- full-length mirror
- vacuum and cleaner for closet and drawer
Step 2: Map Your Life + Determine Your Targets
Time: 45 minutes
Carolyn Joy Rector suggests 37 items, so I held myself to the same standard because she’s a minimalist goddess and I secretly wanted to make her proud even though I’ve never met her. I did not, however, include bags and jewels in that quota because I’m weak and need to accessorize. But different lives call for different accouterment, so select a digit that sounds right for you. Can you rock jeans at work, or do you need a separate arsenal of ladylike suits a la Olivia Pope? Do you spend most of your time in yoga pants or shuttling kiddos around? Once you’ve set your target number, map out where you spend your time and the wardrobe demands those activities call for.
For example, my estimates were as follows:
45% – work, where I can dress casually, hallelujah! (To do: Fix work-life balance, stat.)
40% – social and sleep, where I can wear whatever I darn well please (and if you sleep in the buff here, you’re going to really save on clothes).
15% – special occasion, where I need to have some killer dresses to bring all the boys to the yard: pumps, clutches, or a special ensemble that looks good on camera.
Once you map out your activities, allocate how many of each article of clothing you’re going to need based upon the season. You’re lucky it’s summer, because a winter capsule wardrobe (in Chicago, at least) is usually eaten up by scarves, hats, boots, gloves, socks and copious amounts of frowning, but I digress.
For instance, if this was the 1990s (roll with the analogy for a sec) and you worked at Blockbuster six days a week and only did laundry once a week, you’d need 3-4 pairs of pleat-front khakis to keep your sanity. Remember your basics, too. Unless you’re gifted with a body that needs no underpinnings, you’re going to need bras, underwear, socks, the occasional tights and even Spanx. Factor those in and make your number robust enough to accommodate real life needs without allowing too many emotional inclusions to creep in (when I included these into my 37, the number went up to 52 because I like bras).
After mapping your life (sounds so serious), your targets may look something like this:
- 2 pairs of dressy/work pants
- 2 pairs of skinny jeans, 1 blue and 1 black
- 2 blazers
- 2 versatile day/work dresses
- 1 formal dress
- 1 pencil skirt
- 1 pair heels
- 1 pair wedges
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 cover-up / kaftan
- 1 jacket
- 3 V-neck T-shirts
- 1 pair running shoes
- 2 pairs sandals
- 1 pair flats
- 3 pairs yoga pants
- 4 workout tops
- 8 versatile tops
- 1 jumpsuit
You get the idea. Moving on…
Step 3: Go Scorched Earth, AKA, The Purge
My advice probably flies in the face of that of organization experts. It’s often suggested that people pare down their clutter little-by-little, but if you’re anything like me, that won’t work. I usually get rid of two shirts only to incorporate four new ones into the mix. Party fail. Besides, this is a detox. You don’t embark on a 5-day juice cleanse with a side of burgers, right? So, I recommend taking everything out of the closet. Yep, all of it. If you have a ton of stuff (you know who you are), this may take you longer than the one and a half hours allotted. And if that’s the case, let us take a moment to thank the closet gods that you’re doing this activity because, damn. Why a time limit? Because this should be an unemotional process. The longer you have to reminisce about how you thought you’d wear that dress that is two sizes too small on your first date with Keanu Reeves (points to self), the less likely you are to purge it. And we are here to clean house.
Before you remove the contents of your closet, set out the storage bin and the reusable bags ready because they have a purpose:
The Storage Bin: for out of season items
Bag 1: for consignment (or clothing swap among pals)
Bags 2 and 3: for donation
As you remove items from the closet and drawers, create piles based upon type. Pants, shoes, shirts, dresses, etc. The consideration process should look like this: If an item is out of season (i.e. winter coat, boots, sweater dress), put it in the storage bin you have ready and prepare to store it until its season arrives. Then you can determine if it works for you. If an item is too big, too small, in disrepair or isn’t your jam anymore, put ‘em in the appropriate bags for consignment, swap or donation. Any remaining items in the piles, you should try on in front of a mirror and be honest (or ask a brutally honest friend or small child with no filter). If something doesn’t fit, looks wonky or doesn’t make you feel like a million bucks, don’t let it back into the closet. Remember, you don’t have to meet all your targets with your existing clothes. It’s awesome if you can, but if you don’t have the right item right now, you can always acquire it using the steps set forth in Part 3.
You’re now left with a vacant closet/drawers, items you want to keep, and probably a few items that need repaired that also make the cut. Most excellent.
Step 4: Celebrate the Space + Share
Time: 45 minutes
This may be one of the few times you have a blissfully clear closet, a blank canvas. So, bust a move and vacuum up the dust bunnies and clean that bad boy, top to bottom. Honor that beautiful space. Then lovingly hang and fold the items that made the cut and neatly arrange them back in the closet. This is when you can sit and stare at the glorious space you just created, both physically and emotionally.