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Closet Cleaning 101

By Sheryl Kraft

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Lately I find myself wanting to rid myself of a lot of clothing in my closet.

Maybe it's because it's a new year. Or maybe because by this time, I've finally embraced the whole quality over quantity thing. Besides, it is altogether true that there is truth to that 80/20 rule: You wear 20 percent of your clothing 80 percent of the time. So, who needs all those shirts/pants/dresses/shoes/boots/sandals/sneakers anyway?

Yet each time I attempt to edit my closet I end up frustrated and feeling like a failure. "I need that," I tell myself when I consider ditching the black sweater (another black sweater?) I never wear.

"I can't get rid of this," I insist, when I run my hands over the smooth velvet of the green embellished jacket I fell in lust with 10 years ago.

But that "someday" when I might need those garments never seems to come, and my closet remains a storehouse for many unworn, unloved items, silently jeering at me each time I dare to enter.

I recently met image consultant Carol Davidson. Every time I meet someone like Carol, I want to kidnap them and lock them in my house for a couple of weeks, so they can help me get over my closet conundrum once and for all. People like Carol have a special knowledge and knack for simplifying their lives by knowing just the right things to keep in their closets, and they always seem to have the perfect thing to wear no matter what the occasion. They embrace fashion and love to spread the word.

But rather than kidnap her and end up in jail in an orange jumpsuit not having to worry about my wardrobe, I decided to enlist her help via a phone conversation and subsequent follow-up.

"The less you own, the more you wear what you have, and the lower each item's cost-per-wear," Carol explained.

I totally get that and am a fan of Carol's advice on what she calls "Fashion Mathematics"—what to add and what to subtract from your closet so you can streamline and simplify your wardrobe. Once you've done a bit of editing (meaning clearing out those things you no longer like or have use for), she said, you'll be able to see, at a quick glance, how many essentials are already in your closet—plus, you'll have a clearer picture of what you need to add.

Here's how she suggests you get your close in order:

1. Set aside a few hours and try to eliminate interruptions (no emails, phone calls, little ones or furry friends).
2. Set the mood. Have a playlist of your favorite tunes to keep you motivated and energized.
3. Separate clothing and shoes by season (either spring-summer or fall-winter), plus anything that can be worn year-round.
4. Make sure items are in one place to eliminate unnecessary back and forth.

Still with me? Now the tough part begins (sorry, that wasn't the tough part).

"Just looking at an item is not enough," Carol insists. "You've got to look at the item on you."

That means trying things on.

After all, stuff happens: clothing shrink, bodies change. Plus, it's easier to spot things like stains, open seams, holes, or other problems when the items are actually on you rather than on the hanger.

Cut!

This is the part where I usually get overwhelmed and stand there looking and feeling utterly and completely paralyzed and then abandon the whole idea. My closet, once again, has taken over my life, rendering me helpless.

Enter New Year's resolution: Don't be a quitter!

Now it's time to get honest with yourself, asking the tough questions:

1. Color: Does it flatter your personal coloring—your skin, hair, eyes?
2. Fit: Does it fit you now? If not, what's the likelihood of it fitting in the near future? (Hint: Maybe it's time to lose that favorite-pair-of-jeans from your college days.)
3. Style: Does it represent the real you and the image you want to project? Does it look dated?
4. Relevancy: Does it reflect your current lifestyle and who you are today?
5. Condition: Has it seen better days? Is it worn out and beyond repair?
6. Last date of wear: Here's where the rubber hits the road. If it was longer than two years since you last put it on, there's a pretty good chance you'll never wear it again.

You've hopefully gotten this far, and by doing so, have pared down your closet so that it's no longer threatening and terrifying (like mine). What happens next is the fun part: making sure you have all of the key items to make up a complete wardrobe.

Coming soon: I'll let you in on all the basics Carol says you need to take the stress out of getting dressed and to keep you looking good so you'll never whine, "I have nothing to wear!" to a closet full of clothing. And I guarantee that if I follow this advice myself, my closet won't become a cluttered, confusing mess.

But first I have to practice what I preach and do the hard work of cleaning out. And once I do, only then will I deserve to tell you—and myself—what to keep in your closet so you can do more with less.

This post originally appeared on mysocalledmidlife.net.

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