A real-world wardrobe clean up

Let me put my hand up and say I love a good “closet organization” video on YouTube. I know the story by heart now, person with way too many clothes declutters and finds a whole pile of ready-made solutions to turn her closet (and it is invariably a her) into the place of her dreams or helps man in life to do the same with his closet. At the start of the video the place is a hot mess and by the end it looks glorious. If only real life worked like that. So partly because decluttering and organization are two of my favourite topics, partly to show that the real world isn’t necessarily like social media (and that’s totally OK) and partly just for some fun, let me tell you about my slow and sporadic progress to wardrobe peace.


Now this is where life gets interesting. I really needed to purge and honestly I don’t know why because, apart from underwear, I honestly can’t remember the last time I actually bought an item of clothing, apart from one occasion a few years ago when I was given Marks and Spencers vouchers for my Christmas and decided I might as well use them for a new pair of jeans. I didn’t bother to try them on, they didn’t fit and I wound up selling them on eBay because I couldn’t be bothered going back to the store. There’s a very simple reason for this. I hate clothes shopping. I don’t like shopping for clothes online because I want to make sure they fit me and don’t want the hassle of sending stuff back if it doesn’t. I don’t like clothes shopping in the real world because it takes up time I grudge. Somehow, however, I had managed to end up with, literally, sacks full of clothes I didn’t want and certainly didn’t need, some of which had clearly never been worn. If you’re looking at the photo above and thinking “well I don’t see much sign of a big change” then let me put this into perspective for you, in the before picture I had clothes in the wardrobe plus clothes in a full-size dresser, plus clothes in an ottoman, plus clothes in various random places. In the after picture, everything I own is in the wardrobe and organized in a way which works for me for now. It’s not perfect perhaps, but it is a lot better than it was and it will get better over time.

I wish I’d kept pictures of all the stuff I donated, but I didn’t so let’s move on to the interesting point. I hardly moved anything on for rags/recycling. It was almost all either donate or keep, even if I didn’t really want it and here’s why. I discovered that I had a lot of clothes, which in my view were absolutely fine to wear, but which these days charity shops, in the UK at least, would probably not have accepted for resale (they would have put it in for recycling). For example, I had a lot of stuff with tiny stains or holes in them (which either had been or could be repaired) and in the UK, at least where I live, charity shops want stuff as new. So I wound up keeping them and shall use them until I consider that they are ready to be moved on to be used as rags or recycled in some other way.

Rather ironically I also discovered that there were clear gaps in my wardrobe for stuff I don’t use a lot but should have, what I think of as my “in-between clothes”, in other words, the stuff in between what I wear for slobbing around the house and going to work. I also discovered that I really needed to update my footwear because it was getting to be on its last gasp (again I hate shopping for footwear). I’ll sort these out at some point (basically when it starts to annoy me enough :-))

So then it was on to organization within the limits of what I can do with what I have. For example, not only is my wardrobe small, it also has to hold not just my clothes and shoes but also some other items I’m in the (slow) process of using up (at least until my decluttering process gets further advanced). In addition, I was aiming to reorganize with a budget of zero for the simple reason that this will (should) only be a temporary arrangement to be reassessed later. Admittedly you could probably say that about any reorganization, but I had this in mind from the start.

Here’s how I made it work, for me.

Items I rarely use, for whatever reason, went either to the far right off my hanging rail (i.e. the hardest bit to access) or into the bins you see at the bottom of the “before” picture, which also went to the far right of the floor space. My few items of proper long-hang came next. Then, everything else went onto hangers. I divided my tops by colour and then by whether I considered them to be casual or formal and then just put them on top of each other. Yes, this means I sometime have to take one or more off the hanger to get to the one I want, but frankly I consider this a reasonable compromise in my situation. I split out my heavy jumpers and cardigans by light and dark and my trousers between casual and formal. All my trousers are in neutral colours (I prefer plain trousers and interesting tops) so to be quite honest I don’t usually care which particular pair I pull on in the mornings as long as it’s clean, all I need to know is whether it’s suitable for a smart occasion (like work) or whether it needs to be kept for around the house. I should buy a few pairs of “in between” trousers, but I’ll deal with that at some point.

The chest of drawers at the bottom was kicking around another room under-used, so it was easy enough to empty it and relocate the original contents and then put it into my wardrobe. It holds underwear and accessories (mostly the former).

On the far left, you can just see my shoe organizer. I meant this to go over the door of my wardrobe, but it was too wide. I then tried hanging it over my main door, but it was a bit inconvenient to have it there given that the door is used regularly and also I didn’t like the look of it so I had the idea of attaching it to a standard coat hanger and hanging it like a piece of clothing and that works fine.

Is it worthy of Pinterest or a proper fashion-feed on Instagram? No, it’s absolutely not, but it really has made my life easier and for now I’m happy with it. Real life isn’t always like social media.

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