Closets. They're the stuff entire Pinterest boards are dedicated to. They're first-world problems and in their more outlandish luxury scale, a very American phenomena. I'm not the kind of person that has an end goal of acquiring a 1,000 square foot closet with a chaise lounge to laze around on while I contemplate my next red-carpet ensemble for driving my kid to school. Let's be real. I need quick access to everything and easy visibility so that I can simply pair two pieces of clothing before I've had a cup of coffee in the morning and can't yet rationalize color coordinating. For reals.
Living in Italy for a semester abroad in college, I learned how other cultures live out of a wardrobe versus a closet; having fewer things of greater quality and actually utilizing every piece of clothing like an asset. Lately, I have been increasingly drawn to this mentality because of a growing awareness that the current fashion industry has some serious issues which are impacting the quality of life for the people that manufacture apparel in very dangerous and drastic ways. I'm not alright with that. I can't in good conscious buy or wear something that has quite literally had a harmful impact on the life of another person. Go watch The True Cost on Netflix or read this Refinery29 article about sourcing ethical denim and see what I mean.
Making a commitment to maintain a minimal wardrobe can very literally change the lives of others and is actually fairly simple. It requires scaling down, shopping consciously, sourcing ethically, buying less and donating responsibly.
I can't say adopting these habits will happen overnight because it's actually a very conscious struggle every day to remain mindful in the face of temptation. There will inevitably be a learning curve in changing the way you shop; i.e. reprioritizing your budget to buy reliable brandnames that do things ethically, learning to thrift or shop consignment, building a network of local artisans and handmade makers that specialize in facets of apparel, etcetera - it's a deliberate choice to change habits or have less in order to afford better. However, it's a struggle to learn anything new. Struggling simply means change is happening and intention is taking root. So struggle on. When it comes to fashion, change needs to happen.
Downsizing is essential in this process. It's true that having less is liberating. However, it's far easier to neglect that truth and let accumulation take over; and our culture thrives on that instinctual consumerism. But purging also helps simplify organization efforts, and feeling organized is paramount to maintaining good mental and emotional health. Seriously. Scaling down can act as a natural remedy to insanity. At least in my own personal case this is true.
So a few weeks ago, when piles of laundry I had no desire to put away began to pile up in my closet, on our bed and in random places throughout the house, I knew it was time to reevaluate. Again. Like I said earlier, these habits don't happen overnight. It's a process of refinement, both literally and figuratively. But I do know I have made better habits over the last several years as these ideals have converged and sunk in. Some of these lessons learned are worth passing on. Especially when it comes to maximizing function and storage in small spaces and donating responsibly.
So if any of this sounds relatable to yourself, here are some things I have found helpful:
1. If you can't see it, you won't use it.
This falls into the category of 'out of sight, out of mind.' You simply forget what you have if you aren't looking at it, regularly. So if you haven't worn it at least once in the last year (accounting for all seasons of weather) just get rid of it. And whatever you are keeping needs to be visible. Utilize the wall space you have to hang hats, cross body handbags and jewelry.
These two-sided clear pocket hanging organizers are the perfect way to sort your jewelry and small accessories. They're easy to access and you can see all your options quickly in order to make a decision fast; or at least fast-er.
I organize mine by assigning each side to a type of jewelry; bracelets on one side, rings on the other and necklaces on the front side, earrings on the back. I found these natural canvas ones on Amazon here for just $13 each.
2. Make every inch count.
Great solutions can cost very little. Grab some nails from the garage (or score some antique copper ones like I did from an estate sale) and turn your larger statement piece jewelry into a gallery wall. For my favorite squash blossom necklace that needed a wider surface to hang from, I simply cut the wider half of a champagne cork off and nailed it to the wall. This turns blank space into something beautiful and functional.
3. Use the right tools.
Depending on the shape, height or layout of your closet use the right storage tools for maximum efficiency. Layering 'add-on' hangers for shorts, skirts, dress pants and sleeveless dresses are one of my favorites. Hanging shoe organizers are great for sandal storage in the summer and rolled-up sweater storage in the winter. I sort my clutches and small handbags with a desk file organizer I picked up at a thrift store for $1.
Another one of my favorite closet tools is a swiveling four-sided belt hook. I use one hook for dress belts, one for waist belts, one for casual leather belts and one for chain link belts.
4. Reach for the sky and your shoes.
Since my closet has high ceilings I have two upper shelves. I store a lot of my shoes on these shelves because I prefer to see my shoes rather than throw them somewhere on the floor out of sight. Keeping them visible helps me visualize them with clothes as I try them on. On the lower of these two shelves, I also keep everyday basics so they're readily accessible; things like denim (folded), clutches or small handbags, and intimates like lingerie, hosiery, bras and bathing suits (in stackable boxes from Ikea).
5. Out of season, out of sight.
Now that we actually live in a place that has true seasonal weather, there are certain items I know I'm not going to need in the July heat of Texas that I will inevitably need in the potential freeze come January. When the humidity is at 89% I can stow my knee-high winter socks and heavy knit scarves somewhere else and very literally forget about them. So for seasonal items like these and their counterparts, I keep two clear stackable storage bins on the floor opposite our laundry hamper; swapping them from top to bottom for easy access to the things I need as the seasons change.
6. Recycle. Reuse. Repurpose.
Malala Fund is a global initiative working to empower girls and amplify their voices through advocacy for education. If you live in the US, you can donate gently used kids' and women's clothing to support Malala Fund. Simply request a postage-paid Schoola bag, fill it up, and leave it for your mail carrier. It's easy and free, with 40% of the proceeds going directly to help girls go to school. Get your bag here: www.schoola.com/malala.
Organizations like AMVETS accept clothing donations nationwide to support programs across the country for our American Veterans. They accept a wide variety of items ranging from men's, women's and kids' clothing to household items and even furniture. And they'll come to your doorstep to pick it up, all you have to do is call them. To find an AMVETS donation hotline in your area visit here.
7. Shop what you have. Love what you own.
Three or four times a year I shop my own closet. I spend a weekend going through fashion magazines or blogs looking for styles I like and then I 'shop' my own closet to find what I already have that I can use to recreate those looks. Its easy, saves me a ton of money, and I wind up actually loving what I own even more because I find value in versatility.
So I hope you will join me in this challenge to simplify and #shopethical. Small changes can make big impacts if we join together to make our purchase power demand industry standards that align with our personal values.