7 Steps to Closet Zen

Woman in closet staring at items.

Standing there staring into the mass of fabrics and colors, I heard the Netflix’s “Ba-BONG!” go off in my head.  Not One. Not Two…or Three…but Four. FOUR! Four closets jam-packed with clothes!

And over half of them I hadn’t worn in years. 

I had read her book a couple of years ago and truly appreciated her philosophy, but simply couldn’t (Wouldn’t? Didn’t?) find the time to focus on making things happen.  But this time, watching the television program, her concepts in action and not just mentally visualizing but seeing the beautiful results in real life technicolor, it made me want to get up and get started.

I realized in that moment 2019 was the year I would de-clutter, get organized,  reclaim space and obtain….Closet Zen.  

Organization Inspiration

As someone who helps clients organize their closets, I couldn’t believe that it was time for me to organize mine

Initially, I considered contacting California Closets to have a custom closet built, especially since we’re empty-nesters and have the space; however, I realized that many of these once cherished items were no longer my style. (Again, I hadn’t worn half the pieces in years.)

And, after watching several episodes of “Tidying Up” (Oh, the beauty of binge watching),  I was inspired to try out the KonMari Method created by Marie Kondo.   I made the commitment.   It was easy once I looked at a few pieces, asked the joy question and quickly realized my priorities had changed.

My clothes have always been my “friends” since they make me feel and look great. I truly enjoying coordinating outfits and colors along with making a piece look original every time I wear it with different accessories.  Clothes can reflect your personality, your creativity and change your prospective on life.  Clothes can also provide people a sense of who you are and reflect your objectives, your mission, your goals.  When done correctly, the right outfit can make you look like a work of art.

But now it was time to say good-bye to some long, cherished friends.  They had served their purpose and made me happy during their reign, but no longer. And that is o.k.  I’ve come to terms with this. 

So, with inspiration from Ms. Kondo, here are the steps I took to de-clutter, de-stress and start the new year with a clear, clean, organized space filled with joy and calm energy. 

May you find the same refreshing sense of Closet Zen that I did by using this 7-step process.

1. Decide How to Solve the Problem with Your Closet

[This is a very important step and will guide you throughout the process so don’t skip!]

Before you start breaking down your closet and throwing clothes away, decide what the problem really is.

Are you doing this because you have too many clothes you don’t wear? Can’t wear?  Won’t wear?  Do you have clothes you haven’t worn for years? Do you want to organize your clothes by category and color?  Are you tight on space? Has your style changed but you hate getting rid of pieces because of the money spent? Do you have too many casual clothes and not enough business or work wear?  Do you have clothes in your closet that don’t fit right or are not styled for your body type?  Whatever the problem is, figure out your goal before starting.  Recognizing the problem and having a defined goal, will help you stay on track.  It also helps make speedy, efficient, decisions and prevent donation or consignment regrets, later.

2. Make A Game Plan

Closet cleaning can take a morning, an entire day or a full weekend or two, depending on how many closets you are tackling; so, make certain to carve out enough time to tackle it all, otherwise you could get discouraged by having an unfinished project staring at you each time you walk in the door.

Gather boxes, bins or bags for the items you plan to donate, consign or trash and put in the room next to whatever you will use to help organize, such as a bed, a sofa or a table.  I suggest having something to help hold clothes to review and analyze and to not throw everything on the floor, if it can be avoided.  With realistic expectations and a plan, you will see results and remain inspired to the end, versus being overwhelmed, becoming frustrated and stopping mid project.

So take a deep cleansing breathe (pun intended) and begin. 

3. Categorize, Set Aside & Analyze “Yes” Pieces

Start with your larger clothing pieces, for instance; dresses. Take them all out of the closet and pile, per type (dresses, coats, pants, skirts, blouses, etc.), on your organizing platform (bed/sofa/table).  Once the closet is empty and you’ve organized the piles by type, then let the analysis begin.

Designate three additional sorting piles or bins and either mentally note each one or label with a sheet of paper  “Yes”, “No”, “Maybe”.  [NOTE:  I do recommend bins because you can go faster by tossing things into the bin or box. Bags tend to slow things down by having to open and stuff items in each time.]

Ask Analysis Questions

Starting with one pile at a time, pick up a piece and ask yourself these questions:

Do I still like it?  Yes? No? Maybe?  Put in the designated bin/pile/bag.  Go quickly.  Too much pondering and you may lose your nerve.  Many suggest the hard and fast rule:  If you haven’t worn in a year, GET RID OF IT. Some even use 6 months as the cutoff; however, I don’t adhere to this.  For me there were clothes in my closet I completely forgot I owned since I couldn’t see them!  So the 6 month rule didn’t always apply.

Once everything has been sorted in the three Yes-No-Maybe piles, turn your focus to the “Yes” items. 

Try On “Yes” Items

Now is the time to try on each Yes item to make sure it fits well, you feel good in it and it gives or sparks joy. Also, make certain it’s in your color palette and gives you confidence.  If you don’t feel any of these things, then it may not be a “Yes” item.  Toss to the Maybe pile. 

As you’re trying on the Yes items, ask yourself these questions:  Have I worn it in the last 12 months? (Marie says 6 months).  If the answer is No, then ask Why? Is it style?  Color?  Size?   Is there something other than time that could make me love it again?  If it’s not in your color palette, then I suggest you not keep it, even if you do like it.  In my case, I no longer wear colors outside of my palette and don’t find them complimentary to my skin tone nor the primary pieces in my wardrobe, so why keep something I will rarely wear, but this is up to you.  (Click here to find out about Color Analysis).

Once you’ve tried on all the Yes pieces and confirmed they truly belong in the Yes pile, move to the next step. 

4. Bag Up the “No” Pieces

Be sure to purchase strong trash bags or heavy-duty boxes to bag up anything that’s stained or ripped beyond repair or to give away. Label so you know where they are going.

I highly recommend that you donate or sell any wearable pieces to a thrift or consignment store. You can also donate to “Dress for Success” organizations that help unemployed women interview for jobs.  I volunteer and donate clothing to Wardrobe for Opportunity in Oakland, California, a nonprofit organization, where women can shop for outfits for the interview process. You should find organizations like these in your areas to donate. Once your No’s are bagged, take them out of the room and start a new bag for any future “No” pieces.

You may find duplicate clothing pieces, for example the same color shirt or dresses that look similar. Do you really need all of them? Donate or get rid of duplicates.

5. The “Maybe” Pile

The remaining pieces should be your “Maybe” pile.  Assess the feelings that you have when evaluating each piece and ask the following questions with each piece in order to decide:

#1: Does this piece help me reach my goal (i.e. work attire) or my personal style?

#2: Have I worn it in a year?

#3: Does this piece fit my body (and if not, can it be tailored)?

#4: Does this item bring me joy, make me feel confident or good, when wearing it?

If you answer No to to even one of these questions, it should go into your “New No” bag.  You should only keep items that serve your purpose and solve your closet problem.  

6. Separate Your Final Piles

Separate the rest of the clothes into the following piles:

  1. “Yes” pieces that need tailored or dry cleaned
  2. Pieces to donate or sell
  3. Stained, ripped, or unwearable pieces

7. Organize Your Closet

Now you can put your final “Yes” pile back into your closet, but make sure to organize by color to find pieces easier and faster. Also, categorize your tops, bottoms, outerwear, dresses, accessories, etc.

For items that need to be folded and put into drawers, I highly recommend watching Marie Kondo’s video on folding, found here.  It is a simple process that makes it so easy to find things in your dresser drawers.

Congratulations! You have officially de-cluttered your closet. You should feel an amazing sense of accomplishment and hopefully, peace and calm.  To help maintain the consistency and flow of your closet, I suggest incorporating the “One-for-One Rule”: When you add a new item to your closet, you MUST donate, sell or give one away. I promise, this will help you maintain you Closet Zen and be filled with joy.

Would you rather have someone help you obtain Closet Zen? Check out our closet organization options.

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