At first, it might seem strange that I set about tackling a closet revamp right in the middle of my No-Buy Month. After all, if there’s a time to hold onto things, wouldn’t that be when you’re not buying anything else? But like many people noted in the comments, buying less makes you rethink your possessions. It certainly made me take a second look at the stuff filling up my closets and my drawers. And I can say, nearly four days post-closet clean, that I’ve never had less clothing than I do right now. What is amazing is that it feels like I have more than ever. Everything in my closet is a favorite and when I get dressed now, I honestly feel like I’m at a boutique. Trying these shoes with those pants or that blazer with this top – I’m having so much more fun getting dressed that I feel even less inclined to shop for anything new.
My visions of a grand closet reorganization started when Wear No Evil: How to Change the World With Your Wardrobe came across the Design*Sponge desks. Not only was the book filled with good closet-cleaning tips, but there were also suggestions on how to evaluate what you should buy moving forward. In the book, author Greta Eagan explains how we can use our consumer power for good – like buying local organic food – and that we can do the same thing with our fashion purchases. Greta wants us to ask ourselves a simple question: Do our clothes reflect our personal values as well as our personal style? Her book seeks to answer that question and help us find a way for our clothes, like our food, to be high quality and good for us and for the planet.
The first step was wading through the mountain of clothes looming in my closet. Greta came over to give me a little help cleaning everything out. I’ve never had someone go through my clothing before, and it was a huge help in deciding what to keep and what to let go. You can always call on a trusted friend to help you, or if you need a professional, Greta offers closet cleaning help to New Yorkers (and she’s offering a limited $50 discount with the code: designsponge to readers). (If you’re not in New York, you can check out the National Association of Professional Organizers for a list of organizers nationwide).
Click through to read Greta’s secret to closet cleaning, shopping responsibly and to see the result of my closet cleanse!
Greta’s Closet-Cleaning Tips:
This is the first step in deciding what to keep and what to let go. It turns out that I look best in cool colors (I’m pale with green eyes). This came in handy when I was on the fence about a couple of pieces. If they weren’t in my colorway, I put them in the Let Go pile.
Make three piles. A YES pile, a NO pile and a MAYBE pile. The NO pile can be a little harder, and this was where Greta was most helpful. If the pieces still had a tag but hadn’t been worn, that was a NO. If I hadn’t worn it in a few years, it was a NO. The hardest things for me to let go were things that were well past their prime but had once been expensive. Things that I once absolutely loved but they just weren’t my style anymore had to go, too. I tried to remind myself that they served their purpose and that I didn’t have to keep them forever. I kept two sentimental pieces – a scarf that once belonged to my grandmother and my high school basketball jersey. My MAYBE pile was pretty small (once I got going, I was excited to let things go to new homes), but you can keep this pile for as long as three months. If you don’t pull something out to wear, it should go to a new home.
Greta recommends rotating your wardrobe the same way that you eat what’s in season. When it’s hot, it’s watermelon and wedge salads, and when it’s cold outside, you want a cozy scarf and hot soup. This step frees up a lot of space in your closet and means that you have more room to really display the clothes that you are currently wearing. I also made a fix-it pile, things that I would wear if they were taken to a tailor or a cobbler.
I pulled a few things out of my donate pile that I hadn’t worn very often, or were vintage, to sell on eBay. (Money to be earmarked for my next experience.) Everything else went in the donate pile. (You could also host a clothing swap with friends for your pieces that deserve a new home.)
After sweeping out the closet and wiping down the drawers, everything went back inside. It was all about making my clothing and shoes visible so that I would have more choices when getting dressed. We organized the closet by type of clothing and then by color. I had already invested in slimline hangers, which give you twice as much space, so that got a thumb’s up. I hung jewelry and belts on the inside of the closet door.
Greta has developed an Integrity Index to evaluate the clothing you already have. It’s a way of seeing if your clothing reflects your values. Greta does not advocate getting rid of clothing items just because they don’t meet the factors that you deem important, rather it’s a way of understanding what you’re buying and training yourself to really read labels. I found that I had a few pieces made from natural fibers and some locally made things. (For example, my Made in Italy dress that I bought in Italy last summer got a check in the “local” box.). Some of the other qualifiers on the integrity index are whether the garment was made with natural fibers, was made using natural or low-impact dyeing, is fair trade or second-hand. Greta gives 16 possible integrity index options (she explains each thoroughly) and then suggests that you choose the five that are most important to you to focus on. I went through my closet with the checklist just to see how I was doing. I looked at the labels and determined where the garment was made and what was it made of. The goal is that when I buy future garments, I take a second to look at the label and see if, in addition to style, there are other characteristics of the company that fall in line with my personal values. It’s a very flexible system (and it’s not about punishing yourself!). It’s about making conscious decisions about what we buy, and since I’m already trying to slow down my consumption, I love that this is another way to hit the pause button.
I asked Greta to share some of her favorite brands for eco-friendly fashion and here are her top 4:
- Amour Vert– designed and made in California from eco materials like Peace Silk, Organic Cotton and Modal. Cali cool meets Parisian chic.
- ASOS Africa– they’ve helped to build a safe and fair production center in Africa and partner with local artisans to produce the collection.
- Angela & Rio– designer style and quality bags made from vegan materials. They also link their bags to charitable causes.
- Svilu– designed and made in the NYC garment district from sustainable fabrics. Quality designer clothing.
In Wear No Evil, Greta quotes William Spear, of Feng Shui Made Easy, as saying, “if your drawer, closets, and shelves are stuffed and overflowing in a disheveled mess, how can you expect the Universe to deliver anything more? There is no space for more!” In all areas of my life, I’ve found this to be true. The more crowded things get, the less time or space you have for new good things. I’ve found that often the best way to redecorate is to pare down so that the gems in your home really have a chance to shine. My closet is now ready to let good times roll. Now, it’s time to tackle the junk drawer(s)!