Style consultant Rose-Mary Roche takes us through her step-by-step guide to the ultimate wardrobe cleanse. Start by pulling out your favourite five items and peel back from there. The result? A pared-back selection of considered choices that help promote clarity of mind as well as confidence. Photography by Doreen Kilfeather.
Most of us just have too many clothes – the result of overconsumption, emotional constipation and an inability to edit our wardrobes. Now, more than ever, we are conscious of contemporary culture’s obsession with constant acquisition and the opportunity we have right now to change that.
We know that basing our sense of self-worth on our possessions is flawed. Carrying around the accumulated spoils of decades of shopping is detrimental to both our quality of life and peace of mind. It is all too easy to feel overwhelmed by the clutter of too much 'stuff' and feel powerless to tackle the sheer volume of it.
By adapting a calm, motivated approach, it’s possible to cull items we no longer need, and leave a carefully selected range of clothes that make us feel confident and give us pleasure each time we wear them
Liberation of letting go
I feel that the most successful method to tackle too many clothes is to focus on keeping only those items that inspire genuine emotion in us. Starkly simple but highly effective. When this method is applied to our wardrobes, the effect can be not only liberating but life-changing.
By adapting a calm, motivated approach, it’s possible to cull items we no longer wear, want or need, to leave instead a carefully selected range of clothes that suit us, make us feel confident and give us pleasure each time we wear them.
Preparation is key
Start by allocating time for the process of weeding out your wardrobe and closets. If you have a serious stash of clothes, break the job down over a couple of days (or consecutive weekends), and let’s face it, we have plenty of those at the moment. Arm yourself with bin bags and/or cardboard boxes, a selection of good hangers (invest in good quality streamlined, wood, velvet, and/or moulded plastic/rubber ones) and storage containers in advance. Get a full-length mirror, a free-standing hanging rail is great if you have one but the top of your bed will do. Take a deep breath and start:
First analyse your wardrobe and which items you wear the most. Look at why you gravitate to those items and the features that you like about them. Then pull out your five favourite garments across various types e.g. – trousers, dresses, jackets, tops etc. Keep these as a reference for the template you want to adhere to and functionality you aspire to in everything you keep.
Look at which body parts your favourite garments emphasise? Which features do they conceal or minimise? Also look at the items you never wear. Evaluating your mistakes can be just as beneficial as identifying favourites. Analyse why they haven’t worked for you – do they match other pieces in your wardrobe, do they require lots of maintenance or are they simply too old/frumpy or too young/ revealing? Get rid of items you don’t wear. If it has been over a year since it was on your body, try it on again and re-assess it. If you haven’t worn the piece in two years, retire it.
This is where it can be extremely beneficial to take photographs of yourself trying things on. It is amazing what a photo can reveal that you don’t necessarily see facing a mirror. If there is someone in the house who can help you all the better – get your accomplice to photo you from the back as well if you think a piece is too small or too large – we often forget about the rear view – which can be make or break.
Hang all your garments facing the same way and give each item their own individual hanger. Double-hanging garments means you don’t see items clearly
Make different piles for your cull: charity shop (once they reopen), throwing out (clothing recycling bin), gifts for friends/family, repair and re-modelling (once they reopen). Place all the items you are keeping on the hanging rail (or bed) as you work though the wardrobe.
The perfect hang
Discard any wire hangers or broken ones. Hang all your garments facing the same way and give each item their own individual hanger. Double hanging garments means you don’t see items clearly and for pieces like jackets, destroys their shoulder-line and sleeves. Use clip hangers for trousers and skirts, rather than folding them over a hanger.
Get rid of items you don’t wear. If it has been over a year since it was on your body, try it on again and re-assess it. If you haven’t worn the piece in two years, retire it.
Review the quality of your clothes – do they look cheap and shabby or smart and polished? Are they fit for purpose? Start taking out those items which are shabby or damaged. Review and if they are beyond redemption, put them in the throw out/fabric recycling pile. Take note of pieces that might need to be replaced or refreshed on future shopping trips. If you still really like an item and it can be repaired or re-modelled, set it aside in alterations pile.
Ditch the ‘diet’ clothes
If an item makes you feel self-conscious about a part of your body or is unflattering for your shape – bin it. Clothes should give you confidence not undermine you. Never keep items that you will diet into “someday” – live for now not the never, never.
Versatility is the key to a functional wardrobe – place those items that you get maximum wear out of toward the front and middle of your wardrobe. Place the items you wear the least e.g. special occasion towards the back.
Sort items by colour and type: i.e. hang similar shades and tones together. Also group the same types of items – jackets, trousers, dresses side by side. This will help you to see if you are overbuying certain pieces.
Put seasonal pieces away when it comes to the end of their season – e.g. pack heavy coats and knitwear away in spring/early summer. To make room, put these items away in spare rooms, trunks or wherever you have extra space but be careful of storing clothes in damp places such as basements. Ensure that when pieces are being stored away they are clean and laundered.
For items that are to be folded such as knitwear, t-shirts and jeans – instead of folding them flat try to fold them rolled/folded upright so that you can see everything you have at a glance.
Shoes & smalls
For shoes – either use a shoe rack or keep your shoes in their original boxes stacked on shelves, with photos/descriptions of the shoes on the outside. Don’t archive shoes for posterity: like your clothes relinquish those you haven’t worn in a couple of years. Don’t keep masses of stilettos if you now never wear them and live in flats. Always ensure that you air shoes and they are totally dry and clean before boxing.
Sort through your socks and smalls – store them sorted by colour and stacked neatly vertically. Chuck out any underwear that is saggy, sad or ill-fitting. Store handbags in their original dust bags away from direct sunlight, preferably on a shelf unit. Store scarves in drawers rolled rather than folded, again sort by colour and season.
Keep accessories such as belts, sunglasses and gloves in dedicated drawers to make them easy to locate. Keep fine jewellery in individual pouches and boxes to avoid scratching and tangling.
Once you have your now beautifully organised and streamlined wardrobe. Promise yourself that you won’t revert to the clutter habit and in a short time you will see the benefits that your calm, de-cluttered closet will bring to your life:
- You will feel lighter, clearer and more focused. You will save yourself time and stress every morning when you are dressing. By only keeping pieces that you love and wear, you will feel more confident in all your clothes.
- Your perspective on buying clothes will change and you will be more focused and effective when you shop. You will be able to evaluate what you need versus what you don’t and won’t be distracted by superfluous splurges.
- Your mind set will feel happier and calmer – order not chaos will be the start to your day and this will set the tone for your mood throughout the day.
By making choices, you will feel energised and able to channel your energy flow in a positive way.
Being able to exercise choice and choose those items that create a positive emotion in us is an immense privilege, and once we take ownership of it, we can feel stronger in other spheres of our lives too. Clarity of thought leads to considered choices and that is beneficial not only to our wardrobes but also to our daily lives.
For more information on Rose-Mary's personal shopping and wardrobe weeding service visit rosemaryroche.com
Featured image: Ciara Flood photographed at home by Doreen Kilfeather for a previous issue of IMAGE magazine.
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