Design & Décor, Initial Thoughts, Living with Style

Clothes Closet Capers: Saving Your Sanity

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It’s winter – time to take advantage of being indoors to organize…our selves, our entertaining essentials, our wardrobe. We’ve already touched on that hot button issue, closets, with “Super Secret Storage.”  Now we’re going to take a big gulp and head into our clothes closet (just to make the entry easier and provide inspiration, here’s Ralph Lauren’s closet in his home in Bedford, New York, above. Photo credit Durston Saylor).

How is it that the state of this closet can always have a subtle effect on our mood and sense of ease; procrastination at addressing it is one of the frustrating facts that makes it more annoying…as pretty and inviting as it may be (which is a goal unto itself.)

Remembering how good it feels when we do finally take the plunge – and I’m all about helping my friends (you!) feel good – I’m offering up some experts’ advice, tips and tricks and some inspiring closet images to help get you in the mood. Many of these tips are based on decisions I made 16 years ago, appreciating that customizing our own closet spaces was a big incentive for embarking on our house-building project. Specifically, my dressing room was designed as one large room – no doors, no hallways. I’m of the sentiment “out of sight is out of mind.” I can walk in and survey all in one fell swoop – summer on the right, winter on the left (the closet below plays off this same sentiment.)

That’s why folded sweaters and accessories, like shawls and scarves, are stored on open shelves. This design tactic helps “keep me honest”…unless something is removed, it’s clearly apparent that I can’t bring anything in (this seems next to impossible when it comes to shoes, but it can also make you ruthless.) Only those “necessities”(undies, stockings, exercise gear, etc.) that I can reach for from memory are relegated to drawers (full disclosure…evening wear is in a canvas wardrobe in my attic.) Blessedly, most of us are past the stage of a one shot clean-out, where everything is swept out of your closet and you start organizing from scratch. We already own the makings of a fab wardrobe; distilling it from all “the stuff” that’s also in our closet is the challenge!

So with that in mind, I’m blowing you a big KISS ( “keep it simple, stupid,” that old business chestnut.)

The experts suggest tackling this in stages, finding a way to make each entertaining:

  • For starters, and this might sound a bit novel, but it’s empowering…shop your closet with a fresh perspective; imagine it as a boutique filled with endless possibilities (there’s a reason those clothes are still in there).

None of us have the right to say “I have nothing to wear.” Think outside the box and try pairing items that you haven’t considered before; or give new life to an existing ensemble by adding a new accessory (this is an exercise I usually start when packing for a trip, which is why it turns into such a cursedly long task.) One helpful rule of thumb per the experts…does the piece coordinate with at least three other items in your closet?

  • Once you’ve enjoyed this exercise, proceed to the purge. Not in the mood, or short on time? Choose to do this in categories (ie. shoes or jewelry or white blouses…of which we all have a “gracious plenty”)
  • Set a date, allocate a specific amount of time  and gather the necessary supplies – trash bags, wardrobe hangers, boutique shopping totes, whatever suits, with post-its to label (“donate, sell, tailor.”)
  • Get yourself in the mood where you’re ready to make a quick decision and move on! Have a bottle of wine handy to denote that this is a celebratory exercise, “freeing” and setting you to move forward — and make way for more purchases.
  • Go with your gut and don’t get sucked into paralysis of analysis; call a friend to come over and support you.

Time to make cast-off decisions? Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  • Does it make you feel good (do you automatically reach for it when dressing)
  • Will you wear it again (perhaps with a new accessory or updated trend item)
  • And to really put it in perspective…How would you feel if you were wearing it and you ran into George Clooney (or fill in the name)?

This resonated with me, as my (wrong) thinking regarding giving something up can tend to the “I’ll just wear it for running errands.” One of our goals here? To get beyond that thinking; we should look good at all times! And so should our closet (even all-open closets can look gorgeous.)

Then, take comfort in the fact that there are many charities out there that can use your former possessions. One in particular that made a difference in my decision-making is Dress For Success. Knowing that my career wardrobe might actually have a second life and help someone establish themselves in the workplace, was all the impetus I needed. Also, this isn’t  about achieving the perfect closet in one fell swoop. But any effort is a step towards sanity. Still left with that dress you wore to a New Year’s weekend in San Miguel years back? Or the vintage Balenciaga  silk trench that you bought at a charity clothing sale? Keep it!

With each closet organizing session, the satisfaction that you’ll feel will be the impetus to take the next step to what is possible…stay tuned for Part 2 of “Closet Capers.” Coming Soon!

On that note, time to go sort all those white blouses…

For your interest…

You are What you Wear, Jennifer Baumgartner

Closet Organization:The Crash Course, Brittany Witkin

Style Bible: What to Wear to Work, Lauren Rothman

“The Closet Audit,”, January 2016

Online selling…

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

2 thoughts on “Clothes Closet Capers: Saving Your Sanity

  1. Great article! Also remember to separate your clothes by color. Separate pant suits and jackets by color and you’ll be able to combine things you’ve never dreamed of putting together before. Shoes, sweaters and scarves should be separated by color also. That makes it so much easier to find your clothes.

    1. Great detail, Dee. I’ll keep it for our followup closet details in a few months. Thank you for commenting! Miss you, B.

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