Why I Put My Closet On A Diet (In 6 Simple Steps)

Illustrated by The Blake Wright.

If the saying goes, "Clothes make the man," then I say, "Clothes make the woman crazy!" Here's why... 

In the best sense of the word, fashionistas are a little obsessed. So, maybe that falls under the "crazy-good" category. And, then there are the "I don't care" dressers, and then there is me: The “I care, but I struggle with my body" type, so I wear the same things over and over. I also like to shop to inspire myself, but then most of it ends up bloating my closet into a kaleidoscope of stuff I can't seem to see through. If anyone ventured into my closet, they would say I have plenty of clothes. Yet, I wear the same jeans on the floor from yesterday along with my favorite soft, slouchy T-shirt. Winter is inevitably jeans and a sweater. Summer is hard because I don't love short anything, so I struggle to stay covered and still look cool.  

But, the big problem is this: My closet keeps getting larger and larger with this unhealthy diet of shopping without clarity. What am I looking for, really, and why can't I find it?? 

Well, for starters, I'm almost 40, and the 20s clothes don't make sense anymore. And, after two babies, the 30s clothes don't fit anymore. I am at a clothing crossroads, and it's a painful one at times.

Illustrated by The Blake Wright.
Illustrated by The Blake Wright.

Most days when I walk into my closet, this little voice starts in: "Nothing is going to look good! You’re just going to look the same. Don't bother trying anything different; it won't look flattering!" By the time I've reached the rack, I'm already discouraged. Then, I turn to the jeans and T-shirt I won't question, and walk out sad, wishing I had something more exciting and inspired on.

But, that's the point: I want an outfit I won't question. I don't want to be out midday having an insecure "I wish I could go home and change" moment. So, I don't risk it. Yet, back at home, there are all these clothes just sitting there, getting saggier on their hangers. I never want to say negative things to myself when I walk into my closet every day. As a new mom, I have a new body and a new calmer fashion sense, and I want it to be a more peaceful process…but how? 

The Closet Diet

First: I did what everyone says you should do — I got rid of everything I don't really wear. 
All the “once in a blue moon” or the “it will fit someday” duds finally went in the donation or resell piles! (A great reminder: A good way to get a little extra cash or credit is to take some of your nicer pieces to a consignment boutique, which I did. But, more importantly, I also took most of my clothes down to my local rescue mission. I also work with Teens for Jeans, which is a fantastic charity! This way, I know where everything is going, and it’s always venues I respect — I know they will put the clothes in a more meaningful place.)

Illustrated by The Blake Wright.

Second: I did it a little at a time. 
The whole clean-out took a few weeks as I wanted to do it without haste, and with kids you have limited windows (naps are perfect times!) 

Third: I color-coordinated, which has been life-changing in itself. 
The rainbow helps because it’s visually clean. When you grab something neutral, you can then go over to your colors and throw something in to mix it up. 

Fourth: I categorized all my clothes. 
Yep, skirts with skirts and pants with pants and dresses with dresses. So far, with this approach, I find I'm already going to the exact garment I need, rather than standing like Winnie the Pooh in the closet needing a bottom but still staring at a bunch of tops. 

Illustrated by The Blake Wright.

Fifth: Be brave. Make deep cuts. 
Try getting down to a zen palette of wearable clothes — but what's wearable for you. For me, that meant I got rid of kooky prints that just weren’t good enough or crazy, loud colors I never seemed to wear. Case in point: I’m just not gonna wear the hot-pink Nike track shoes with the Chinese pajama pants anymore (yes, I once DID…) so out they go!

Sixth: Expect depression and/or identity crises. 
My closet seemed to be clean. But, no longer eclectic or wild enough. It actually seemed like I had no clothes. It got too sparse! I was sad. Had I gone too far? I was missing my old funky self and felt like I had become some conservative, boring woman — but not even in a cool, J.Crew way. I was more like, I don’t know…just not me. 

But, then something happened. There was such a noticeable lack of chaos that I could actually start playing clothes Jenga in my mind before I reached the closet. This was different. Normally, the inner dialogue was defeatist and avoiding. Now, I was looking forward to a minimalist curation that didn't overwhelm me. Holy crap! This closet diet is working! 

Illustrated by The Blake Wright.
Illustrated by The Blake Wright.

I started applying it to shopping. Instead of binge-buying to fill a hole, I now know what I actually wear, so I've been buying pieces thoughtfully. And, adding a little flair here and there, but with a floral print or a sequined top rather than some of the insane vintage pieces I used to buy (I still respect them, but I just cant wear them anymore).

Months later, my closet is sane and I am happy. I don't have a battle every time I get dressed. I say to myself, "You know what works, so just work it, and be good to yourself!" Yes, my body has changed a lot as a new mom. But, more importantly, it’s my responsibility to send good, empowering messages to my kids. We can’t rip ourselves apart and expect those negative messages not to reach our girls. It’s about doing what works for you and what makes you feel good. Much like a closet, we have to make space in our minds for bigger and better things. But, it never hurts to do it in a cute outfit — one that came out of your nice new closet. 

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