Just the idea of cleaning out your closet is probably enough to induce a mild panic attack. It’s full of everything from embellished peasant tops to bandage mini skirts and there’s a whole dark area at the back that you don’t even try to access anymore. At this point, you probably couldn’t name half the clothes in your wardrobe if your life depended on it, let alone make outfits with all of them that you would actually want to go out in.
It’s not your fault. This sort of thing just happens. Fashion is wonderful and fun and exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. There’s always more and more stuff and you want it all. You walk into a store or go online and all the beautiful things you see intoxicate you and you start buying things, unsure of how or where to wear them and the next thing you know your closet is full of things you never wear and you need a running start just to get the door closed. It’s time for an edit, but it’s not enough to just get rid of stuff.
That’s just a temporary solution. It’s time for something drastic. Something to help you approach your wardrobe differently and break out of this cycle of buying clothes you don’t know what to do with and never wear. It’s time for a fashion reset.
Step 1: Organize
First thing’s first, you’ve got to get organized. Start by making piles on one side of the room. Skirts over here, blouses over there, sweaters over there, etc. Don’t worry about taking them off the hangers or making them look nice. If you do that, you’ll never get through it.
Step 2: Pull Out Your Greatest Hits
Go through each pile and pick out the one piece in that pile that you wear the most. Not your favorite piece, but the one you wear the most. Be brutal with yourself. It’ll be worth it in the long run. Once you’ve identified your greatest hits line them up on the opposite side of the room.
Step 3: Color Code
Look at your greatest hits and write down the main colors you see on a piece of paper. Don’t get distracted by ditsy prints with multiple colors. Just close your eyes and think of how you would describe the piece to someone in a few words and write down the one or two colors you would most likely mention. Even if you have 10 greatest hits, there will probably only be about four or five colors on your list. That’s good. Now take your list, head back to your original piles, and pull out only what matches the colors on your list. If something is really gross or you’re sure you’ll never wear it, just leave it. If you find that you have multiples of the same item — 4 grey sweaters, 3 pairs of almost identical jeans, etc. — grab the one you wear the most and leave the others. Don’t rationalize subtle difference. Be brutal.
Once you’ve pulled out all your color matches, take them over to your greatest hits and make new piles by silhouette, just like the ones on the other side of the room. These are the clothes you will be wearing for the next three months. That might seem like too long, but you need that time to let yourself reset. With such a reduced color pallet, it should be easier to utilize what you have and put together outfits based on what silhouettes and design details work best together. Over time you’ll hone in on what design elements work best for you, which will make you a more strategic shopper in the long run instead of just following the trends.
Step 4: Put It Away
Start putting back all your color-coded picks. Organize them by silhouette, then by color. That means putting all your skirts together in color order, then putting all your pants together in the same color order. Take your time with this step. Get to know these pieces of clothing a little better, especially if you haven’t worn them in a while. You’ll probably start making up new outfits in your mind long before you finish hanging everything up.
Once all your star pieces are organized and put away, start folding up what’s left from your original piles. Get some boxes and designate one for skirts, one for sweaters, etc. then close the boxes up and write the date on them. Then find a place to store them outside of your room so you won’t be tempted to go ripping into them a couple days from now when you’re resolve begins to weaken. If you don’t’ have boxes, trash bags work too. Just make sure you label them so they don’t get accidentally thrown away.
Step 5: Save Your Money
Resist the urge to go shopping. Rather than buying new clothes, take the money you would normally spend on clothing in a month and set it aside.
Step 6: Buy Yourself Something Nice
After two months, take the money you saved and buy yourself something really nice in one of the colors from your list. Because it is one of your star colors you know it will go with everything you’ve been wearing, so it’ll really feel like it is worth the extra money.
Step 7: Resume Shopping
Once your three months are up, you should be seeing your wardrobe differently. After focusing on silhouette and design details, you should have a better sense of where the holes in your wardrobe really are so when you begin shopping again, you can do so with a real sense of purpose. Take your color list with you whenever you go into a store and only look at pieces in those colors. This way you can hone in on what works for you and your wardrobe, without getting distracted.
Step 8: Start Adding New Color
After another month (or two, if you’re feeling satisfied with your wardrobe), look at your clothes and think about what color would go best with the pieces in it. Gold? Red? Yellow? Once you’ve decided, go back into your boxes of discarded clothes from months before and pull out only the items you like that match that color, then make it a priority to buy yourself one nice new thing in that color that fills a hole in your wardrobe. For instance, if you already have a skirt, a pair of pants, and a sweater in that color, maybe you buy a jacket, or some boots.
Over time you may choose to start reincorporating more clothes and colors, just make sure to take it slowly at first — no more than one every other month — so you don’t fall back into old habits and start buying a bunch of stuff that’s not really versatile enough to be useful.
Finally, at the end of a year, get rid of anything still in the boxes from your initial closet clean out. If you’ve managed to go a whole year without wearing something you probably don’t really need or want it anyway and you’ll probably be amazed you ever owned a lot of it in the first place.