Closet Audit Tips

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When someone is interested in cultivating a new personal style and image, the best place to start the process is by doing a closet audit.  A closet audit involves going through all of your clothing, shoes, and accessories and assessing everything based upon your image goals as well as the color, style, fit, and fabric of each item.  You then release the items that no longer your body, lifestyle, and style preferences, and compile a shopping list to fill in any wardrobe gaps that have been identified.

An Effective and Liberating Process

The closet audit process is not only highly effective; it is also liberating, cathartic, and empowering.  At the end of what can sometimes be a lengthy and tiring process, you’re left with a nicely organized closet filled only with the pieces that support your image and style goals for success in all key life areas.

I feel that everyone can benefit from conducting a closet audit at least once per year.  It can be difficult to do because of the emotions that are often attached to our clothing, but it’s my hope that the questions I offer below will help make things easier.

Try Everything On and Ask Yourself These Questions

I suggest that you set aside at least a few hours to go through everything in your closet.  Ideally, you should try everything on and ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do I love it?  (Rate each item on scale of 1-10; if less than 8, alter or donate!  See “The Power of Alterations” for information and suggestions on tailoring your clothes.)
  • Does it fit?  (If it’s too tight, either donate or store elsewhere if you think it might fit again soon.  If too loose, consider alterations if you still love the item.)
  • Is it flattering?  (Does it highlight the parts of your body you love and downplay any areas you might not love as much?)
  • Is the color good for my skin tone?
  • Is it age-appropriate?
  • Is it my style?  (If you’re not sure of your style, tear photos out of catalogs and magazines of things you love.  Compare to what is in your closet. Also see this article for more tips on finding your personal style.)
  • Does it fit my lifestyle?  (We often buy things for “someone else’s life.” Your wardrobe should be appropriate for who you are and what you do.  More on this HERE.)
  • Have I worn it in the past year?  (In most cases, barring formal wear and a few sentimental pieces, items not worn in over a year should go!)
  • Do I feel good when I wear it?  (You want to feel attractive and confident in your clothes and ready to take on life’s important events and challenges!)
  • Do I receive compliments when I wear it?
  • Would I buy this item today?  (Ideally, your answer should be yes!  Wardrobe mistakes and outdated pieces should be passed on.)

Perhaps Enlist an Assistant

It can be helpful to invite a friend or family member to assist you with the process (and offer to do the same for him or her), especially if you know that person will offer honesty and constructive criticism.  In other words, don’t ask your mother to help you if she thinks everything looks good on you.  Remember, you want to edit your wardrobe down to a more manageable size and have it support your image and style goals.

Just Do It!

I hope the questions and suggestions above will be helpful to you when you do your next (and perhaps your first!) closet audit.  A closet audit may take a lot of time and energy, but the rewards are extremely powerful.   The bottom line is that you should follow the advice of Nike – Just Do It!

Wear Everything in Your Closet!

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Declutter your closetMany of us have far too many clothes in our closets!  Contrary to what you might believe, having more clothing does not make it easier to get dressed.  In fact, a preponderance of choices can be overwhelming and make the dressing process far more difficult than it needs to be.

If you love and wear everything you own, it can make sense to maintain a larger wardrobe.  However, I’ve found that this isn’t the case for most people.  Far more common is the situation in which there are a lot of unworn garments in a person’s closet.  This can make it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were.  Your “star players” can be obscured by a bunch of ho-hum garments that are merely occupying valuable space in an overly stuffed closet.  That’s a situation we want to avoid!

A Simple Tip – Wear Everything!

The tip I’m about to offer is very simple and straightforward and is particularly useful when combined with my previous tips, “The Hanger Trick”” and “The Power of Tracking.”  My suggestion is that you push yourself to wear items that haven’t been worn in a while.  See, I told you it was simple!

If you’re like most people, when you go through your closet deciding what to wear, you pass over certain garments time and time again.  I suggest that at least a few times per week, you actually challenge yourself to wear one of those frequently rejected pieces.  Pull it out, create an outfit with it, and wear it!

Actually wear the item out of the house.  It may be better to wear the questionable piece on a short errand or low-risk situation (a first date may not be an ideal situation for test-driving your clothing!).  That way, if you find yourself hating it, you won’t have to keep it on for very long.

Wear It, Then Make a Decision

This is a two-part tip.  The first part is to wear the item in question.  The second part, and this is very important, is to make a decision about it!  When you get undressed later that day, decide what you want to do with the garment.  Did you find an unexpected “diamond in the rough” and wonder why you never wore such a great item of clothing?  If so, great!  Hang it up and vow to wear it again regularly.

If you couldn’t wait to get the garment off your body, you should know what to do.   If it’s in good condition, add it to a donation bag for charity.  After all, just because you don’t love something, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t.  One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, as the old saying goes.

Aim for All 8’s to 10’s in Your Closet

Some items will fall into more of a gray area, but I always tell people they should aim to have all of their clothes be “10s” or very close to that.  If something is an 8 or a 9, it is a keeper.  Below that, do you really want to wear something that doesn’t make you feel fabulous?  None of us really needs a huge wardrobe and “8” to “10” pieces can be found at all price points, so why keep things that are just so-so?

Alterations can definitely take some garments from ho-hum to magnificent and many people forget about this valuable opportunity.  If you really like a garment but it’s just not right, try taking it to a tailor to see what can be done.  I’ve rescued many a garment by having my personal “miracle worker” (for those in the Point Loma area of San Diego, I highly recommend Tiffany’s Alterations) perform her magic on it.

A Personal Example…

FYI… I personally use all of the tips I recommend on this blog.  As we’re now into the second half of 2012 and there are still items in my closet that haven’t been worn this year, I use this tip almost daily at this point.

Just yesterday, I wore a black lace top that hadn’t been worn since 2011.  I discovered I still like the top, but it’s an odd length – too short for pants and too long for skirts.  It’s also longer in the front than in the back.  I’ve decided to shorten the top and even out the length all around.  I feel confident I will then love this top and wear it regularly with skirts,  However, I would have never figured this out if I had left it unworn in the closet for months – or even years – on end.

Goal – A More Streamlined Closet

I hope this tip will be helpful for you in better managing your wardrobe.  Remember to wear those questionable items in your closet and then make a decision about what to do with them – keep (and wear!), alter, or donate.   Over time, you will be rewarded with a more streamlined, functional, and pleasing closet.

Try On Again at Home

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After you shop, I always recommend that you try your new purchases on again once you arrive home.

There are several reasons for this recommendation:

1. Harsh Lighting & “Skinny Mirrors”

Shopping Tip - Try On Again at Home

It is easier to assess an item in a familiar environment.

Store lighting is artificial and often harsh and some stores are known to have “skinny mirrors.”

(If you’re a “Seinfeld” fan, you might remember the episode in which Elaine bought an ill-fitting dress at Barney’s due to this phenomenon.)

2. New Pieces Should Play Well with Others

You can try on the new item with your existing pieces to ensure that it “plays well” with them.  I recommend that each new garment should be easily incorporated into at least three outfits (the more, the better!).

3. Test Drive New Garments

You can “test drive” the new pieces more easily at home.  Move around in them, sit down, do the things you would normally do.

This is especially important with shoes.  When you try on shoes in a store, you’re often walking only short distances on a carpeted surface.  You’ll get a better sense of long-term comfort if you wear the shoes around your house for an hour or more.

4. Store Return Policies

Some stores have strict return policies.  If you try things on as soon as possible at home and end up determining that something won’t work out, you can schedule the return for a convenient time within the store’s return window.

5. Don’t Let this Happen to You!

In most overly packed closets, you’ll likely encounter unworn garments with tags still attached.  In many cases, these items have been in the person’s closet for months or even years and can no longer be returned.  This tip – try everything on again at home – would likely eliminate at least a portion of such problems.

I hope this tip will be helpful for you on your future shopping excursions. Stay tuned for more shopping tips to help you get the most out of your clothing dollars and avoid shopping pitfalls.

The Power of Tracking

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How often do you wear your clothes?  Do you have any idea?  Most of us think we wear the items in our closet far more often than we actually do.  It can be a useful practice to track what you’re wearing and how often.  This article highlights an easy way to do that, as well as my personal experience with tracking and how it’s helped me become a smarter shopper.

A Simple Tracking Method

I started tracking how often I wear my clothes at the beginning of 2011.  I decided to do this because I had an overly full closet, was shopping on a regular basis, and still found myself making purchasing mistakes.  I reasoned that if I learned what I was wearing most often, I could them buy more of those types of pieces and fewer of the items which languished in my closet.

My clever engineer husband devised a simple tracking method.  We purchased a box of tags on strings and hung a tag on each hanger in my closet.  For those items that are not stored on hangers, such as jeans and shoes, I created a tracking spreadsheet that I kept on a clipboard in my closet:

Clothing Tracking Spreadsheet

Wardrobe “All-Stars” and “Benchwarmers”

Clothing Tracking Hanger TagEach time I wore any item, I would mark an “X” either on the item’s hanging tag or on my spreadsheet.  I also used the “hanger trick” that I wrote about in a previous article.   My tracking only took a few seconds each day, but provided me with valuable data as the months went by.  I was able to see that I was wearing my jackets, cardigans, and jeans frequently and my tops, dress pants, and dresses less often.

At the end of the year, I took inventory of my wardrobe “all-stars” and “benchwarmers.”  All-stars were defined as clothes worn four or more times, but I actually wore a lot of them many more times than that.  My biggest “all-star” was a casual jacket that I wore an amazing 116 times in 2011!   Wardrobe “benchwarmers” were designated as things not worn at all or only worn one to two times over the course of the year.  Sadly, I had quite a few of those…

I learned I had far more tops than I needed.  All in all, only thirteen of my tops achieved all-star status!  I had also accumulated a number of shoes that were so uncomfortable, I only wanted to wear them to walk in and out of a restaurant.  Not surprisingly, such shoes aren’t very versatile and receive little wear.

Better Decisions & a More Manageable Closet

My shopping decisions have definitely improved since I started using my tracking system.  I now buy more jackets and fewer tops, as one example.  In combination with the regular closet purging I do (more on that on future articles…), my closet has become more manageable and a lot less cluttered.

I’m continuing to use my tracking system in 2012 and I have no plans of stopping this activity.  It is so quick and easy to do and it’s extremely beneficial.  Why don’t you try it for at least a few months to see how it works for you?

The “Hanger Trick” Tames Your Closet

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Have you ever heard of the Pareto Principle, otherwise known as the “80/20 Rule”?  This principle holds that in most areas of life, the few (20%) are vital and the many (80%) are trivial.  Simply stated, 20% of what we do produces 80% of our results.

The Pareto Principle and Our Closets

While the Pareto Principle initially referred to wealth distribution, it can also be applied to our wardrobes.  In truth, most people only wear 20% of their clothing.  The other 80% is simply over-crowding our closets and taking up valuable space, leading to the common phenomena of staring into a full closet and exclaiming, “I have nothing to wear!” Read the rest of this entry

Holidays and Appreciation

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Festive holiday wreathAs this is the holiday season, I gave some thought as to what might be an appropriate post for “The Healing Project.”  While for many people, this is a joyous time of year, for countless others, it’s a time of stress and despair.

As I am not a particularly religious person (I always call myself “spiritual but not religious”), I have had to give some consideration as to what this time of year represents to me.  In this post, I share some of my personal insights on Christmas and the holiday season and what I consider to be the greatest lesson for this time of year.

It’s the Holidays – Time to Buy!

As Christmas approaches, we start to see the holiday decorations in the stores and television and newspaper ads for gift suggestions and sales.  We are told to show our love for those in our lives by buying them the “perfect gift,” often at a premium price.  Since many people are already strapped for cash in the midst of the recession, the stress induced by the pressure to buy is higher than ever.  We wrestle with questions of who to buy for, what to buy and how much to spend.

We rush out to crowded shopping malls and comb the packed aisles and racks in search of a gift which will either serve to express our love or fulfill an obligation.  Most of us don’t stop to wonder, “Is this what Christmas is all about?”  Religious or not, we can probably all agree that Christmas has been distilled down to a shopping  and buying related event in this country for many people.   If we think about it, we may consider it a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.

No Gifts – Bah Humbug?

In my family and circle of friends, there isn’t much gift-giving that happens anymore.  This started a few years ago with one family member opting out of giving gifts, and like a domino effect, virtually everyone else jumped on the “no gifts” bandwagon.  I now only buy gifts for a few people, although I enjoy spending time around the holidays with a number of others.  I consider it a win-win proposition, as I experience much less stress this time of year yet I still get to enjoy being around the key people in my life. However, without the hubbub of purchasing, wrapping, and sending gifts, I’ve had to give some introspection to the topic of what Christmas means to me.  More on that topic later in this post…

A Thanksgiving “About Face”

On the other hand, for many years, I dreaded Thanksgiving.  As someone with a long history of eating disorders, I didn’t like the association this holiday had with overindulging in fatty food.  I considered Thanksgiving to be a day when I would either have to veer off my Spartan eating plan or be faced with a barrage of questions as to why I wasn’t stuffing my face like everyone else.

I have since changed my perspective on Thanksgiving dramatically and now consider it to be a more authentic occasion than Christmas.  After all, the purpose of Thanksgiving is to simply reflect upon the blessings in your life and express gratitude for all that you’ve been blessed with.  If a person is religious or spiritual, showing appreciation toward God for what he has given you is a part of the occasion, but it also includes the expression of thanks to those in your life who have shown you kindness, respect, and love.

A Beautiful Thanksgiving Gesture…

I received a very touching letter (handwritten at that!) from a friend this Thanksgiving.  In this letter, my friend simply expressed her sincere and heartfelt appreciation for my friendship.  It wasn’t a long letter; in fact, it probably took her less than thirty minutes to write, address, and mail.  Yet this letter is one that I still have on my desk so I can read it every now and then, and it continues to bring tears to my eyes.  It feels so good to know that my presence in this person’s life is meaningful.  This friend doesn’t buy me Christmas presents, but I don’t care.   Her letter meant more to me than any Christmas present ever could.

The True Meaning of the Holidays

I shared the story above because I have decided that the true meaning of the holiday season for me is the message which Thanksgiving represents, gratitude and appreciation.  I’ve decided to not just take one day to reflect upon the blessings in my life, but to consider the true gifts that I’ve been given throughout the entire holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s – and hopefully beyond)!   I believe that most of us don’t take enough time to pause and express thanks for the bounty that exists in our lives.  If we think about it, the majority of us have more blessings in our lives than curses.

The Glass is Half Full

I’ve decided that I’m going to adopt a “glass half full” attitude toward life.  It really is true that whatever it is you are looking for, you are sure to find it.  If you search for what’s missing in your life, a list of the things you lack will be easy to compile.  However, if you take a moment to reflect upon what’s present, you’ll create an even longer list AND you’ll feel much better for it.

Don’t Wait to Appreciate Your Life!

I don’t want to wait until I receive a dire diagnosis or lose someone dear to me to count my blessings.  I especially don’t want to list my blessings in hindsight.  I want to enjoy them in the moment, where they exist each and every day.  So instead of lamenting my lack of significant income, I am grateful for the freedom I have to pursue my interests and passions and to be able to spend the majority of my days doing what I choose to do.  And instead of cursing the wrinkles and gray hairs which now mark my middle-aged visage, I am happy for the wisdom which I’ve amassed through spending 44 years on this planet.

I will not take for granted that I will be blessed with another 44 years or more, as that may not be the case.  The countless tragic stories we hear on the news and experience in our personal circles make it all too clear that we cannot control how much time we have.  In a flash, this miracle of life can be taken away from us.

Fear Not, My Friends…

The uncertainties of life do not have to make us sad or afraid.  If we live in the moment, we can experience joy and gratitude in every breath and in each blessed day.  I am so happy to be alive and I am so grateful for my life, flaws and all!  I appreciate the blessings which I have been given and I vow to carry that appreciation with me as I move forward in life.  As this holiday season progresses, I will strive to make every day Thanksgiving.

Closing Quotes on Appreciation

I close with a few quotes which I feel punctuate my message well:

  • Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Hilary Cooper
  • When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Anthony Robbins
  • As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
  • If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”  – Meister Eckhart
  • He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus