The joyful closet
January = Netflix and Hibernate: no pants, no shoes, no problem. I finished season 1 of Ken’s Convenience, Roma and Private Life and decided to check out Marie Kondo’s new show because the internet told me to. My sister swears by her folding methods and since I have experience in closet cleanouts, I was curious to see if I could learn tips from her ethereal approach to navigating piles of SWAG tees and old cargo shorts. Unsurprisingly, she works without judgment and a charming balance of empathy and pragmatism.
I’ve witnessed the vulnerability my clients feel with an outsider combing through their wardrobe and it’s not unlike the 7 stages of grief: disbelief in the number of cargo shorts they own, bargaining to keep one more pair and finally acceptance they can indeed survive without them.
We often keep clothes we don’t wear, or even like, because of our emotional attachments. It could be aspirational: fitting into pre-baby skinnies; or a moment in time that gets projected onto a piece of clothing, like the shiny pants you wore when you partied with Keith Richards (true story). There’s also the idea of cultivating an heirloom. Although I’m divorced, I keep my wedding dress because one day my daughter may want to upcycle it and wear it to prom with her date Blaine.
Kondo’s makeovers on her show are always precipitated by loss or conflict or an impending milestone but IRL, a closet cleanout isn’t just to rid the superfluous, but to create a clean slate from which to build a functional, versatile and timeless wardrobe. It’s also one way to reduce stress, the kind you feel when it’s been 20 minutes and you’re still in your towel standing in front of your closet wondering what to wear. Despite our inclination to conflate more clothes with more outfit options, we’re wired like toddlers: fewer choices make our decisions easier with less regret. Eliminating what doesn’t fit, what is no longer relevant for your life and what doesn’t make you feel good, er, spark joy, is the first step in a strategy whose goal is to make getting dressed easier.
The beginning of the year is the perfect time to embark on this task whether you go at it alone, with a friend, or by hiring someone like me to assist. Regardless of who’s in the room, here’s a cheat sheet to get started:
- Prep: commit to 2-3 hours and make sure clothes are clean and in one place
- Dress: wear nude unders and a good bra (no sports bras!) so you can assess with the right foundation and without the distraction of a VPL
- Accept: dump the jeans that are too small. You don’t need something in your closet that makes you feel like shit. Give them to a friend, consign or donate.
- Ask: be honest! Do you wear it regularly? Does it fit? Does it look good? How would you feel if you met Oprah while wearing it? Are you keeping it because it cost a lot or you feel guilty because it was a gift from a friend, or Oprah? If in doubt, get a second opinion.
- Let go: make those piles: Keep, Donate, Recycle. Contemporary clothes in good condition can be consigned and lots of great non-profits accept gently worn clothing.
- Assess: visualize your ideal wardrobe and determine what’s missing. Make a list of key pieces and prioritize which items you need now and what you can buy over time.
I love a makeover montage like the next gal, but in reality, building the right wardrobe takes time. Start small and shop thoughtfully. When I buy for the store, I use the capsule wardrobe as a guide so I’ll always carry these building blocks each season: a great-fitting tee, black pants, an easy dress.