less is more: downsizing and decluttering your wardrobe: maintaining the less is more! (part 3)

i have to tell you…you have come a LONG way with this decluttering project! you prepared yourself for the process by thinking positively and readying your mind, body and space for the taskand then you did the dirty work, and actually decluttered your closet and wardrobe! pat yourself on the back! i’m telling you, that is pretty darn awesome. you worked really hard! *applause, applause!*


but you know, those pesky wardrobes are beastly creatures! they are prone to entropy! you slip up and accidently make a couple harmless, perhaps thoughtless shopping trips, and neglect it by jamming stuff into it without care, and before you know it, that sorry good-for-nothing closet has slipped right back into the sloppy state of yore, the very same state you struggled to stymie with all that sorting and such! it’s become a messy monster again!

so, my ears are ringing!! i hear you asking: what tactics can i employ to facilitate the on-going task of keeping my closet clean, useable, and ultimately, making sure it remains a reflection of ME? are there other ways of shopping that won’t lead me down the path that ends in sartorial sin?

well, chickadees, i am here to help! to keep your closet/wardrobe in a sweet state, you must concentrate on two simple things: awesome organization and smart shopping!


organization comes first!

-after all of the hard work you did purging those unnecessary, ill-suited-for-you and ultimately rejected clothes and accessories out of your closet, you are likely to have LOTS of leftover hangers. right away, i suggest that you count out a limited number of hangers, say, 20 or 25, and set them aside on the closet rod or place them in your ironing basket. when you start to accumulate new things, you are only allowed to fill up that limited allotment number of hangers…and absolutely NO MORE. to continue and compliment the earth and people-friendly suggestions i offered up in the last post, think about donating the rest of your remaining hangers to a charity or thrift store, family member, or friend. allow someone else to get use out of your discards! it cuts down on clutter too, and hey, that’s the point, right?

purging:  the aftermath!

-once you’ve tossed those superfluous hangers, turn to the items you still have hanging in your closet and organize them by type, and/or color. skirts go together, pants together, dresses together, blouses together, and so on, and so forth. wanna know what i do, type a that i am? i actually organize my clothes even further by keeping the orange dresses in the same vicinity, the green dresses hangin’ together like best buds, and…you get the idea. this system really works for me. i know where everything is because it has it’s place. and when i do the laundry for the week, i can slip the clean clothes into their proper place because the organizational framework i created is there. it probably takes about two brain cells more effort to pop the black blouse in the proper closet spot with it’s fellow blouses than to jam it into the closet haphazardly. pinky swear!

apply the same type/color organization scheme to your drawers, if you have them. put bras with bras, socks with socks, jeans with jeans and so forth. when you go to reach for such things in the future, you’ll know where to find them. if it helps, get some drawer dividers to corral all the different items and keep things in their proper place.

try your very hardest to put things back in the places you have set aside for them…end that tossing stuff on the floor or back of the chair behavior NOW! you took the time to sort through your things, right? well, put the same resolve into picking up after yourself and keeping organized. the organization, if maintained, will decrease your stress levels like you wouldn’t believe! structural stress sucks…and it’s totally preventable.

-when the times comes, purge again…following the same process i detailed in the previous post! purging is a task that you really need to do on a semi-regular basis. you can decide what interval works best for you. every 6 months, every year? if you’re super organized and love calendars, you could perhaps jot down a date on your schedule that works for you. just resolve to stick to that date! do it for yourself, for your own mental health. remember that it’s a good thing, and healthy for you and your space!


now comes the REALLY fun part…smart shopping!

-before you hit the shops, check that mood board…again! remember who you are, and what you want to express to the world via your own special and unique take on personal style. resolve to only purchase that which you LOVE, to only acquire clothing and accessories that fit in with and your personal aesthetic and flatter your figure. if an item you are considering does not do either of these things for you, you are probably better off without it!

-the purging process, while totally necessary, and healthy, can also leave one with some gaps in the old wardrobe. be smart about the way you will fill these wardrobe gaps from here on out! sit down in front of your freshly organized and utterly lovely closet with a pen/pencil and a pad. ponder what you truly and honestly require to fill in the gaps in your wardrobe. what is missing that could support and enhance what you already have, and take your wardrobe to the next level? be specific. if you know where you think you might find such an item, jot that down as well. you are essentially making a plan for smart shopping that you can later pop in your bag and carry with you when you are out and about in the world. it can serve as a reminder of what you NEED, so you don’t fill up your closet with frivolities you DON’T NEED. it makes you accountable and keeps you honest.

so, just got finished cleaning my own closet out last week. i made just such a list, and my list of things to get looks something like this:

-interesting, well-made black flats
-interesting, well-made red flats
-high heeled sandals with real wooden heels (chie mihara?)
-vintage acid wash skinny jeans
-leggings in a warm-gray color
-good quality black tights
-colored tights
-hand knit sweater coat (knit by me)

this little list resides in a tiny notebook that lives in my purse…perfect for taking notes of this sort.

think quality over quantity: tis better to have a closet with a limited selection of well-made, well-designed garments, than a chaotic, jam-packed closet brimming with crappily made, cheap, overly trendy garbage that doesn’t work for you and your REAL style and REAL body anyway. people cry and moan like this all the time: “but, i can’t afford the *nice* stuff! i can only afford the cheap stuff…and lots of it!” yes, you can afford the nice stuff! especially if you stop buying a ton of cheap garbage that in reality adds up to the cost of one or two REALLY nice things! delayed gratification, people! if you have great stuff you’ll be able to and want to wear over and over again, you’ll be able to maintain the clean state of closet nirvana you have worked so hard to create of late! and don’t forget the thrifts/consignment shops…they can be a cheap way to acquire nice, gently used, high quality garments. finding such garments may take some effort on your part, but remember, anything worth doing is worth the effort, time, and money.

-again, eschew those tedious and often tricky trends. sure, keep your eye open to what’s happening in the world, but don’t let the masses determine what works for you. don’t believe the hype (aka, the marketing machine) that makes you feel like you NEED to have the latest and the greatest. you don’t NEED to shop for stuff constantly…you don’t NEED to look like a spread in ELLE. cheap, new items may allow you to “save” and spend now, but you’ll soon be spending again to replace them…and that’s exactly what the stores want you to do! it’s a trap! make your closet and your clothes work for you…not the other way around. besides, trends and cheap junk can sabotage a newly sorted and sweetly organized wardrobe! shop smartly…shop for YOURSELF. there’s no need to “fit in” if you know who you really are. be critical of the messages being sent to you by marketers, and think critically about what you REALLY NEED and what you REALLY WANT.


let me know how it goes, everyone! if you took any of this to heart, or if it helped, and you want to share your successful decluttering and organizational story with me, by all means, do so! i’d love to hear about it.

i’m here to help! and happy to share when i think i have something helpful or interesting to give to you or show you.


less stress!
less stuff!
more happiness!
more YOU!

think critically, be fabulously organized, and shop smartly!

remember, LESS **IS** MORE!


  1. Pingback: bits and bobbins » archives » less is more: downsizing and decluttering your wardrobe: the sorting process! (part 2)
  2. jennifer

    moving is one of the perfect times to take care of this task.

    the part that rings truest to me is not organization (i’m okay with that), but the act of putting limitations on purchases and collection of garments. the wardrobe refashion challenge has made a bit of difference in my buying habits (and frequency), as i’ll only buy handmade, sweat free, or secondhand garments. it really limits my choices as to what i can buy.

    i have the hardest time reconciling what i love with what i’ll actually wear. i wish you’d write something similar to the ‘less is more’ feature, only in regards to figuring out what you actually love and will wear and will wear again and will feel comfortable in.

    apparently, i can’t do this for myself and need a guru to follow. ugh! personal style 😦

  3. tricia

    jennifer: well, as far as addressing how to figure out what you love, that’s what doing a mood board is for! your gut, as mentioned throughout part 2, will give you a clue as to what works, or to what you love. i think it’s hard for me to tell people what they love…they have to figure it out for themselves. it is intuitive and different for each and every person. meditating and playing with collages and things of that nature can help in the focusing and meditative process.

    what’s the problem with what you love? why won’t you actually wear what you love? they have to match somehow…otherwise, it cannot work.

  4. sarah

    gosh, I hadn’t thought of setting a hanger limit. How simple and brilliant! Since I started purging my closet regularly, I noticed that filtering what goes back in has come naturally. I’m less likely to buy heaps of the cheap crap when I KNOW that in six months I’ll be tossing it.

    You know, I have to admit, I too have trouble wearing what I love in public. I think it’s an insecurity about standing out, about having such a personal expression out there for just everyone to see. I WANT to … but I fear it, you know? I’ve been having this conversation with a new acquaintance (and great dresser!), who assures me she went through the same thing about a year ago when she started expressing her personal style. She said that after keeping at it through a few awkward months, looking like herself in public (as opposed to looking like everyone else) became “normal,” even expected by her peers. I’m actually looking forward to teaching next fall, because when I find I’m more creative in dressing when I have to dress up.

    Any thoughts on this? Did you always dress fit your personal style, or was there a time when you consciously changed your look? Was it challenging? How do you deal with standing out? I know I’m a grown woman and shouldn’t still be hampered by these invisible pressures, but I am sometimes. Any tips for breaking the mold?

  5. Aarika

    This was fantastic! I had to go back and read all 3 parts, and it inspired me so much I had to write all your steps down and immediately go to town on my de-cluttering! :]

  6. SwanDiamondRose

    my problem last summer is that i over-purged! i got so strict with myself that i have almost no summer clothes. so… i am thrifting again.

    tricia i got “tagged” so i am tagging you-

    i feel a bit funny to pass this on, i’ve never done the tag thing before but it is a nice one.

  7. jennifer

    “You know, I have to admit, I too have trouble wearing what I love in public. I think it’s an insecurity about standing out, about having such a personal expression out there for just everyone to see. I WANT to … but I fear it, you know?”

    Sarah– that’s exactly it. Perhaps we should just take the plunge.

    “I’m actually looking forward to teaching next fall, because when I find I’m more creative in dressing when I have to dress up.”

    I’m a teacher, too! And I, too, am more creative with my clothing when dressing up. I think it’s because I feel secure in buying and wearing more embellished pieces, in accessorizing, etc. I think my personal style could be described as something ‘funky classic’ in that I like a classic formal feminine look with embellished and interesting additions. When dressing in my personal style– as opposed to my every day not-satisfied-with-this style– I feel dressed up, and so I feel that work/events are a more appropriate time to don the style. Every day isn’t really a formal arena, and so it’s hard for me to reconcile the style desire with the personal comfort and practicality that I need.

    (Plus, how does one dress ‘funky classic’ when one has to ride a bike wherever one goes?)

    Anyway, Sarah, I think we should just go for it, and maybe use the start of the school year as a jumping off point. In between now and then: mood boards, purging, and collection of truly lovable desirable stuff.

    Tricia – Sorry for hijacking!

  8. Kira

    Ahh, I’ve been telling my friends for years that they need to organize their closets by color/item! I have had my closet organized this way for awhile now, and recently helped my clutter-prone sister organize hers this way. It’s so much easier and helps me keep track of things. And when I’m thinking “hmm…I want to wear green…I don’t have to search through 40 shirts to find the one I’m looking for. If only my roommate would listen to me on this…the sight of her closet sends me into panic mode.

  9. tricia

    jennifer and sarah:

    that’s it…the block is really FEAR. are you concerned with what other people will think? is that what the fear is about? or is it something else?

    standing out is relative, i think. is the look you want very far away from how you look now, or is it a major shift? could you make small steps toward the look you want, to make it less scary? it’s a paradigm shift, yes, but if you want it bad enough you have to make the behavioral shift that’s necessary to overcome the fear.

    it doesn’t sound as if either of you favor a look that is particularly extreme. chances are, people will notice, but it might be a good thing, because you’ll feel more like “yourself”. it would be one thing if you were like, “i’m very preppy but i really want to tattoo my whole body and wear clown costumes everyday.” see what i mean? what you might think is a big shift may not be perceived as such by other people in the world. people close to you might notice a shift, but other folks, strangers, will have no idea you have changed. they will assume you were always the way you are now. they can’t read your mind and don’t know your past.

    i think that a lot of people think that other people are looking at them and judging them all the time, and sure, they might. but most people don’t really mind what others do…they have their own lives and thoughts to deal with…and they aren’t as concerned about you as you might self-consciously believe.

    really, IT DOESN’T matter what other people think. it matters what YOU think. you have to love yourself, believe in and trust your own gut, mind, and heart, and be confident in your choices. you have to let go of the fear and just own it!

    human beings are incredibly flexible. you are allowed to change over time…you are allowed to take control of your own life, and by extension, your own closet. 🙂

    i have always been rather experimental, since childhood. sure, there are times i’m like, “how does this look?” but i don’t let fear paralyze me. there are far bigger fish to fry than whether or not someone (usually a stranger!) thinks my cocktail hat looks strange. 😛 life goes on, you know? even if they do think i am a fruit, i don’t care. i feel more comfortable being myself and expressing myself. if i didn’t allow myself to be myself, i’d be extremely unhappy. life is too short to worry about what other people think about my clothes or my choices. and in the end…its just clothing, right? 🙂

  10. sarah

    Tricia – too true! It’s funny, I’m so comfortable in so many areas of my life, but CLOTHING seems to be the one stubborn holdout of my wallflower “don’t notice me!” nerves while also being something I covet like crazy. What is that?? I think you’re right, I just need to bite the bullet. It would probably be more fun if I did.

    [OT: Jennifer – are you my long lost twin? Ditto ditto ditto on style & bikes! I think I ought to start posting on wardrobe_remix. It might be the extra push to start putting together interesting looks before the year starts … get my feet wet, maybe?]

  11. Erica

    I so enjoyed and appreciated this three-part series. The process of purging that you described is a constant, ongoing process for me. I am always editing and refining my wardrobe, I enjoy it actually. In the past I searched high and low on the Internet for some tips on ways to better organize my closet, so this has been very helpful!

  12. ally

    I love this series you are doing.

    I have a book where I used to keep makeup and outfit ideas– a collage of images from everywhere. I should start filling that book again. You’ve inspired me.

    Since moving to London I have had to up my game in terms of being really specific shopping and decluttering. You are like the coach I need. Heh.

    I have such a small armoire here– no closet! The way I organize it is by date. Things I just wore go on the right, and “fresh” things I haven’t worn in a while come up on the left. So it’s kind of like an outfit automat. I hang an ensemble together on one hanger so I’m not bewildered by individual pieces and how to make an outfit out of them while I’m pressed for time– it’s all been sorted beforehand. If, when I’m getting dressed, something comes up as “today’s outfit” and I don’t want to wear it, it goes back at the end of the line to the right. If an outfit is rejected more than once, it’s a sure sign I need to get rid of at least one of the elements.

    I complain a lot about the price of things in London, and I know some of my friends deal with that by shopping in the sales at the cheaper stores or at Primark. When I first moved here I tried to get by on that method for a few months but everything fell apart– sometimes while I was wearing it. ARGH. I just felt shoddy wearing shoddy things. And the things in the thrift stores are of course, fallen apart crap from those same stores.

    I have had good luck with TopShop and LIberty or Get Cutie (a custom boutique in Brighton), and save up my money to buy things from there. (I know TopShop is supposed to be “cheap” here , and some of it is, but if you look for quality you can find it there).

    I go through my closet at every solstice and equinox. Might sound kooky, but those are the times I renew myself and my life, and so I have a good eye for what I want to keep or get rid of. It gives me eight chances in a year to purge! My armoire is so small that it only really holds 40 days worth of clothing anyway, and much of that is worn again.

  13. candid cool

    Your posts are so interesting, thought-provoking, and incredibly well-written. I agree with the quality over quantity. I see the argument on What Not to Wear as well, when Stacy & Clinton tell the person that for all this crap they would have bought one nice cashmere sweater (or something to that affect).

  14. swissarmyknife

    thanks for the tips! I am undergoing a huge purge on my closet. I am giving away some specific things to a few specific people, but had no idea on what to do with the remaingin stuff. after reading your post i remembered this charity shop, where they accept donations to help stray animals. thanks for helping me remember that 😀

  15. Anouk

    Youu really inspired me! Sunday will be the big decluttering day, ill let you know how things worked out!
    I do have one question though: When planning my wardrobe (ive tried this before) I always wonder what quantities I should work with. I mean, how many shirts/skirts/pants etc do I need?
    I find this really hard and its one of the main couses I keep buying cheap stuff, ´because i can always use an extra shirt´. Id much rather have less higher quality pieces though. What do you think? And could you give me an idea of the size of your wardrobe?

  16. tricia

    jennifer and sarah: i just wanted to let you know that this talk of fear and expression of personal style is something i’m going to address soon, here….i think it needs to be done. 🙂 it’s screaming out for a post. 🙂

    aarika and anouk: yay! let me know how it goes. comment or email me and let me know about it if you feel like it, afterwards.

    anouk: well, in that photo you can see about half of my main closet. in one of the previous posts, you can see a photo of my armoire, which holds my clothes and my husband’s clothes together. i think a good amount of clothes depends on your lifestyle, and the size of your closet. it’s incredibly hard to prescribe a certain amount of things that works for everyone across the board, you know? i think maybe a good rule of thumb is to have as many of a certain item as there are days in a week, say, 7, or of course, less. for instance, maybe 7 pairs of pants, 7 skirts, 7 knit tops, 7 blouses. with that, you have the possibility of 2,401 possible permutations of outfits! so, you can see, it really doesn’t take much…it just takes some creativity in how you REMIX them.

    again, this is probably something i need to write about! and i think i will.

    stay tuned everyone! more posts on this sort of thing to come…probably next week!

  17. sarah

    Tricia –

    THANKS! (and thanks for letting us post so much about this) I am really interested in reading your upcoming post about this…

  18. Estella Baker

    yayyyy I did it!!!! I even color coordinated my tops like you do!

    ^there’s the link if you want to see 🙂

    I love your idea of only keeping a certain number of hangers in the closet! I loved all 3 of your posts on cleaning out your closet 😀 Thanks for everything!

  19. Anouk

    First of all: Thank you for your lovely three posts! They really inspired me to start decluttering. As I posted before, Im moving soon (we get the key of our new house next Monday and plan to move on the 11th of August) and these posts have helped me to start to sort through my things so that Ill only move what I need.

    The experience was great fun!! I tried to follow your rules as good as I could. Though I could have come up with some of the tips myself, it was good to have someone telling me I need cheery music and a glass of water. It made things feel more like a nice afternoon on my own (quality me-time) than like cleaning up.

    And a nice afternoon it was. I tried on EVERYTHING in my wardrobe, except for my wintery winterstuff (Ill surely dive into that later, though). I learned quite a bit about myself, my bodytype and the colors that suit me! For example, I took a very critical look at what skirt length suits me best, what neckline goes best with my body type, what proportions look best on me. It was good to see a lot of things in my closet really work. It was even better to throw those things out that didnt. What a relief!

    I ended up with some very nice colorcoordinated piles of shirts that are a delight to look at compared to the mess my stuff looked like before. I also used your tips about hangers. I have made quite a few bags to donate and have put some other items up on the internet for sale.

    Its now time to read your third installment thouroughly and to make a list of things I want to buy in the near future. As I was composing outfits, it occurred to me I need to buy more high quality basics to put the special things in my wardrobe together.

    Some extra tips Id like to share for future decluttering:
    – It was very useful to prepare myself beforehand by putting on makeup and doing my hair. I would include wearing some underwear you like to see yourself in, too. Besides, it helped me to keep some good basics aside to combine tops or pants I wasn’t too sure about with as to help make my silhouette look right.

    That’s all for now. Thanks for your tips: you can see that someone´s been using them!

  20. tricia

    anouk and estella:

    AWESOME! you are so welcome!

    i am so glad to hear that something i wrote helped someone!

    and anouk, great tip! thanks for suggesting it.

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  24. Marcia

    I love this series of posts, Tricia, and it’s the first time I’m visiting you. I have linked to it on my sidebar – hope you don’t mind? 🙂

  25. Margie

    Hi, I loved your views on de-cluttering.
    You make it sound something we should want to do, and something beneficial and loving to ourselves; rather than an agonising chore we should do but can’t bare to face.

    I recently had yet another clear out of clothes i never wore, and thought i have to either stop shopping or start actually wearing the clothes i buy.. like most of the female population i had a wardrobe bulging full of clothes but never had anything to wear on a saturday night! I asked around some stylish friends before sorting my clothes and some things i found useful:

    Going through my clothes and sorting them into outfits: i.e, matching skirts with tops, finding tights to go with them, which boots go with those jeans etc, does it need a necklace, etc. If i didn’t have a co-ordinating item, i would decide whether to get rid of it or to make a project to find the bits needed to complete the look.
    Magazines and websites helped enormously for inspiration.

    Once i had an outfit i hung it in my wardrobe and made a mental note of where i would realistically wear it next. This way, i was left with a rack of ready to wear outfits that i knew went together and looked good. I don’t have a camera but found taking pictures of the outfits on mac photo-booth helped for to see , objectively and without emotions, the clothes, how they went together, and how they hang on my body. It also showed me how i look from behind and picked up postural quirks; i.e, slouching and fidgeting with hands.

    So far this system has worked really well, there are still days when i just grab a pair of leggings and a fleece and go out with wet hair, but on the days it matters, I am a lot calmer and feel more confident about the way i look. The only draw back is that i only have so many combinations so often wear the same outfit more than once, but who cares!? Nobody actually noticed anyway. I would rather be seen wearing the same thing over and over again, if i liked it and looked good, than wear something new every time but look and feel rubbish!

    I liked the points you touched upon, asking; why do we feel compelled to buy these clothes that we don’t need, and don’t always suit us? I have recently moved to london and am definitely feeling the pressure of having to look “trendy”: I even have have friends who won’t wear the same outfits more than once! Madness.

    Why do we do this to ourselves!?! I can definitely relate to the posters who feel that they lack confidence to express their true style or creative side through their clothes. I believe there are a few reasons for this:

    Personally, I absolutely have to fight against the mentality of saving things “for best” I.E, that one special party / date / interview etc. Of course that special time either never comes, or when it does, the clothes are dated or i don’t feel comfortable wearing it, because it feels so far removed from what i am used to wearing, and don’t want it to be a big “ta-da! she’s had a make-over!” center of attention thing.

    I think another aspect is, if we have clothes in wardrobe, make up in our bag etc that we never wear (in public) that we do not have the courage to fulfil our own personal potential.

    Also, If our personal style reflects our true selves, and people don’t like our style, does that mean they don’t like our personality?! After all, rightly or wrongly, we all judge people by appearances. I know because of my self-consciousness, i would be mortified for people to think or say “what are you wearing”?

    I would love to hear other’s views on this topic, it sounds like a universal issue, particularly with girls. Come on sisters! Lets encourage and take inspiration from each others expression of style!