I'm Heather - lifestyle photographer & homeschooling mama. We choose simple and slow. Freedom and fresh air. And I like to make things beautiful.

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Inside My Closet | Extreme Editing

The contents of our closets can reveal a great deal about us. We like to think we choose our clothing to best represent us, especially as Americans who can afford to buy what we want, not merely what we need. But even beyond that, I would go further and say how much our closets contain can say a great deal more. Is it packed full, or sparse? Perhaps it would say "sentimental," or "streamlined," or "disorganized/haven't-actually-gone-through-my-things-since-college." Or maybe you don't know what looks good on you so you keep and buy it all, hoping that out of this messy surplus you'll be able to whip up a perfect little number. But I'm willing to bet more often than not, if your closet is full to the brim and your "cup runneth over," it does more to fill you with dread than security. The task of pulling together a great outfit can be daunting and if you're in a rut, you tend to go toward the same few pieces and looks you know work. So, if you know what you like and what works, why keep everything that doesn't? This is the beginner's level. It is time. You're going to need an afternoon and an honest friend, but you can do it. Purge your closet (piles: keep, mend, trash, and donate) - that's step one. Once you've done that, come back here and i'll tell you more.

So what' in my closet? Here's a breakdown:

10 skirts
30 tops/blouses
1 pair of jeans
4 cardigans
2 sweaters
6 dresses
3 pairs of slacks
2 blazers
1 denim jacket
14 scarves

This black dress is what I usually wear when I'm not donning my skirt

You may think, "30 tops?! That's a lot!" It is. I could probably pare it down more. I do have a few tops that are lovely but haven't worn in a few years and just can't bear to get rid of them. But these are all of my clothes. Not just summer. I don't get "tubs" or "totes" out every season to rotate my things. I see all my clothes all year round because I wear all my clothes all year round. The blazers not so much anymore since I don't work in an office, but everything else gets a turn pretty regularly. "Versatility" is my goal. I have to be able to wear it every season or I pass. *Side note: I do have one drawer of lounge-wear (t-shirts and soccer pants) and another for undergarments.

"Why so many skirts if you only wear one?" (see /artbyheatherhall/2013/08/one-skirt-all-summer.html)  That's a good question. Half of them are dry clean only, but beautiful and fit me wonderfully. I can't part with them, even if they aren't practical for my current lifestyle. For a while (before I was retired ;D), I would buy any skirt that fit me perfectly because I had the darnedest time finding one that did. This developed into a deeply ingrained shopping philosophy: you can never have too many perfect skirts! While this might not still be true, I find that it's become a non-issue because I don't search for them anymore. Heck, I hardly shop for anything. I've practiced being content with what I have and am glad to report I'm happier now than when I could spend an absurd amount every month on myself - mostly my wardrobe. How silly I was! Silly is not quite the right word. Foolish. Stupid. Asinine. You get the picture. Still mentally whipping myself for not using some self-control and saving habits while I had the money. Ah, well, no time like the present.

Even though I have all the clothes I do, I still only wear a dozen tops during the summer and maybe two cardigans with those same tops in the winter. The thing I'm having a hard time doing at this point is extreme culling. If you have already purged your closet, you may now advance to the next stage of editing.

You are at the point where you're left with the clothes that fit, are mended, and look good on you. They're nice. But you still don't gravitate towards wearing it (beyond if it's limited in purpose like an "occasion dress.") You have arrived at a new precipice in editing: extreme editing. This is where you look at your closet with a fresh lens and ask yourself the question: Do I love it? This is where I am at. The extraneous is gone - I'm at the good stuff. What can I do without? This is also where you are crossing the line into minimalism - a fun but extreme place to be. I say fun because I have approached this place by degrees, slowly shedding the baggage of extra stuff and seeing the exhilarating challenge of doing without the unnecessary. You can't hop over into minimalism weighed down with everything you have - it takes time and the practice of letting go. If you live a spartan lifestyle it is an easy jump - perhaps you're already there. I would say for most Americans, though, this is not the case.

This place is hard. I have two battling logics rising up in me: nix it - you don't love it v. keep it - it's lovely and you paid for it. It's hard to justify getting rid of clothing in perfectly good condition, that look great on me, and that I spent good money on - especially when I've already pared down my wardrobe significantly. Both JD and my clothes fit in one closet with room to spare for crying out loud! But I still feel the tug to edit more than I have, to not be weighed down by empty decisions and full hangers.

my clothes on the left, JD's on the right

Then again, I also know myself and my tendency to "discover" a shirt I hadn't worn in months and all of a sudden I'm wearing it everyday and can't go without it. There has been at least one moment of regret when I got rid of something, hastily, in my new crusade to rid my closet of excess, only to find a year later I'm kicking myself for not keeping it. (Cue: black skinny jeans I never thought I'd fit in again. Rrrrr! Why?!!!!!!!) For these moments I have to be careful, but I also don't want to hang onto everything for this reason - this is really the only instance that comes to mind where I'm still bitter with myself for letting go prematurely.

If you have multiples of the same thing, sometimes it is best to pick your favorite and send the rest on their way. The reason "one is great, four in different colors must be better!" is not always true. You will, more likely than not, gravitate towards one and leave the rest behind. If that is the case, take the look-a-likes out and pack them up for the thrift store. However, if you bought multiples because you wear it so much and you want to make sure you have a future supply should this one wear out, it is best to keep it. But look at your motives and the reality of your tendencies carefully first.

One thing I implemented when I found myself in a rut was to change out my ugly, white, plastic hangers for nice, wooden ones. (I bought 3 24-packs at Target for about $13 each.) I know it was money down, but as soon as I put my things on wooden hangers it elevated each item to the standard of what I saw in the store, if not better. Seeing them on wooden hangers made me remember why I bought it and all the potential it had. For me, it's all about presentation. If I am deciding between two book versions of Pride and Prejudice, I will go with the prettier one, even if it costs more. I am totally guilty of judging a book by it's cover, and I know that will translate in my closet as well. But you've got to make sure you have space for it - they take up a lot more real estate (roughly double) than wire or plastic hangers so you'll only want to invest the money and space at this point if you have culled it down to the best. I'd recommend you save this as your reward for editing :) You kept only the best and it looks like a Banana Republic in your closet? That's a win. Plus, if you like things organized and aesthetically pleasing, this will satisfy your eye-buds.

One last method I have used on questionable pieces lately is "test-driving." A pair of capris I haven't worn in years? Try them out at church on Sunday and see if they still fit/look good/wear out/etc. That scarf I haven't worn in ages? Same thing. If it doesn't pass the test, it goes. Although, I have been keeping scarves reserved in a dress-up bag for a certain daughter that will be playing dress up with mommy soon - something I'm probably more excited about than she is :)

It feels good to not have so much stuff cluttering up my mind and my closet, and to look at my closet knowing anything I'd select would look and feel good on me. It's liberating. I hope you can enjoy it, too.

Happy editing!

Alice & the Spotless Diaper

Party On a Dime