Thursday, February 23, 2017

Closet Cleaning 354

Do you remember your college days when you finally made it through all of the "weed 'em out classes" you had to take your freshman and sophomore years? You got accepted into your program and then started taking the serious classes. And those were the classes you really loved. By that point, the professors were done trying to weed you out and were really trying to teach you how to be a great teacher, engineer, or accountant, right? For me anyway, that is when college really became enjoyable and it's because whatever you choose for your major is usually a passion of yours...and you love learning and studying about it.

That's where Closet Cleaning 354 comes in. It's an upper-level class and intended for people with a major passion and interest in getting the MOST out of the items in their closet. It's not for everyone. It takes a lot of time and makes you really, truly delve into your stuff and deal with it. So make sure you are up for the challenge!

The idea for this advanced college course came from a conversation I had with my daughter Ashley. As a college senior, Ashley was starting a new internship in her field of Public Health and suddenly needed to be more conscientious of her wardrobe and what she wore each day. She felt like she had a lot of clothes in her closet but putting them together in cute, work appropriate outfits was a little daunting. She had a couple of favorites that she knew looked good but what she needed to be really successful in the "cute and appropriate outfits department" was a way to determine what her very best pieces were and the best way to combine the pieces to make the best outfits. Capiche?

A form of this idea had actually been on my mind already because I was wanting some help in my own closet with identifying the best of the best. It's definitely the definition of "First World Problem" but with the clothes in my closet I was noticing that there were a few specific outfits that I wore that I was very confident with--I knew they looked good. The rest, not so much. Ideally, I thought, I would have someone tell me every morning "That looks great!" or "That's really not that attractive of an outfit. Other things you have look so much better."  But that's not something my hubby or kids at home are that comfortable with or knowledgeable about so I'm kind of up a creek there.

On a recent trip to visit Ashley, she and I talked about the dilemma and wanted to try out an idea:
What if you took a few hours with a friend (or a mom :) and went through your closet and tried on different things?  What if that friend/mom was really honest with you and helped you by telling you things like "that doesn't compliment your body type as well as this does" or "you have other things that are much cuter than that to wear with those pants." Or "you should wear your black boots, not your black flats, with that."?

What if they went through your closet with you and gave you ideas you hadn't thought of before about what goes with what and what compliments your body and its specific features? And what if you tried on the outfits you put together to verify that it works and then took a picture so you could remember what to wear on a day that you couldn't think of anything?

In the end, with this method, you have a cleaned out closet AND pictures of your best outfits!

Here are just a few of Ashley so you can see what I mean.
(by the way, I want you all to know that I'm really not that bad of a photographer...Ashley wasn't feeling super beautiful on this particular day and didn't want her hair and face showing in the picture. I think she ALWAYS looks drop dead gorgeous but I'm her mom and biased apparently so....)

I loved the pictures idea for a few different reasons. One reason is because taking a picture gives you another perspective besides the mirror to help you see which clothes look really good and which ones don't.  It's one thing for your friend/mom to see your outfit and think it's cute but YOU need to think it looks cute too, right? (more on that one later :) Taking a picture helps you to see it, over and over again if you need to.  I even thought it might be helpful to print out the pictures you take and put them in a small photo album (look at the dollar store) for your closet...just for those days you need an idea for a cute outfit and nothing is coming to mind. (Don't tell me I'm the only one who has those days?)

Speaking of my journey, I practiced this exercise too in my own closet. After accomplishing so much with Ashley it was exciting for me to think about really cleaning out and then organizing my closet into totally cute and workable outfits.

Because my daughters were 700 miles away and couldn't really help me, I had to find someone else close by who
1) had a personal style I liked and was similar to mine and
2) I knew would be honest with me.

It was a big favor to ask but I asked my good friend Julie to come over.
Truth be told, Julie is a dream. Not only does she have a great sense of style and always looks like a million bucks but she has great ideas about what goes together and how to make an outfit look great. Also (this is extremely important) I knew she would be honest with me and really tell me "yay" or "nay" about things.

And our get-togethers were awesome! In fact, it all worked even better than I thought it would.

There are so many things I gained from doing this Closet Cleaning 354 project. It took quite a bit of time, and a few sessions with Julie, and then even more time on my own, but I ended up going from 141 clothing items (88 hanging blouses/jackets, 21 pairs of pants/jeans, 8 sweaters, 20 skirts, and 4 dresses) down to 83 (46 hanging blouses/jackets, 14 pairs of pants/jeans, 4 sweaters, 16 skirts and 3 dresses! (For the record, I don't count undershirts, workout clothes, pajamas, or my one set of work clothes [as in get 'em dirty painting/gardening clothes] in the count). That's 58 items GONE or a 41% reduction (almost HALF!) And, the brilliant thing is that despite getting rid of so much, I actually feel like I have MORE clothes to wear! How does that work?! The truth is I don't know how that works but it's real.  When I get dressed now, I am excited about all of my clothes and love them all. In fact, since doing this project, when I think about going shopping for a new blouse or pair of pants my immediate reaction is "I already have so many cute things. I really don't need to buy anything else."

AND, on top of all that, I now have this awesome photo album that holds pictures of 50 of my most favorite outfits

and just stays tucked away in my closet for when I need an IDEA BOOST!
You have no idea how excited I am about having at my fingertips 50 cute outfit ideas that I feel comfortable and confident in. I love it!

Besides having a cleaned out closet and lots of cute outfit ideas, there are 5 other specific things that working through the Closet Cleaning 354 curriculum taught or gave to me that I want to share with you.

In this project, I learned:

1. To try wearing something in a new way
See this shirt? I bought it a while ago and really love so many things about it. The fabric is divine. The colors are right up my alley. It contains several colors that go with different things I own. But there was something just a little off about it. I didn't ever feel like it looked as good on me as it did on the hanger and I couldn't figure out why. When I showed it to "Genius Julie," she looked at it, thought for a second and then said "why don't you try taking off the belt it came with?" You see, I am a long waist-ed individual and belts, especially pre-defined belts on shirts or dresses, often are up too high on my body and don't look good on me. I suppose I could make the belt on this shirt work if I wanted to but look how much better it looks without it. I would have never even thought to try it this way if it hadn't been for Julie.

2. You actually can get permission to KEEP things too
You might think that a closet cleaning buddy is going to convince you to get rid of more than what you want to get rid of. But do you know what my experience has been? Julie actually convinced me, or gave me permission even, to keep a few things that I might otherwise have said good-bye to.

Like these:
This is a brighter pink blouse that I typically wear just a couple of times a year to Breast Cancer Awareness events. My minimalist dejunking mind said "You don't wear that enough; therefore it's not worth keeping." Julie said "Not true! That's a cute blouse that is a perfect color for Breast Cancer Awareness and you should keep it just for that reason!" Yay! Thanks Julie!

Here is a kelly green jacket that actually fits really well but doesn't get worn that often. "It's perfect, though," she said "for St. Patrick's Day or for Jake Smith Day (the son of some good friends who passed away and whose favorite color was green) or for Christmas, when everyone else is wearing red!" Super reasons Julie. I'll keep it.

A star covered blouse that I really love but every time I try to wear it, it feels a little too "4th of July" for me.  It does look a lot like a certain part of the flag, right? But Julie was clear. "That is a cute cute that if you only wear it on Memorial Day, 4th of July and September 11th it's worth it." So, it stays.

3. Even if someone else thinks it looks good, if YOU don't like it don't keep it
Julie had me try on a few different things that she thought really looked great. Most of them I loved. But there were a few that I questioned when she put them together, or when I put it on and or when she snapped the picture and I saw it through the camera view finder. And when I blew them up big on my computer screen, it was a resounding NO. And Julie agreed with me....even if she thought it was cute; if I don't feel good with it on then it's a no. In a way, this is similar to Closet Cleaning 224 where you are saying, in a very personal way "Does this bring me JOY?" And this is one case where it's perfectly acceptable to act selfishly.
I am very conscientious of my large boobs and I saw this picture and felt like this blouse just screams BIG BOOBS AHEAD!  I really like it on the hanger but not on my body.

I actually like both the pants and the blouse in this outfit but just not together. So this wasn't an example of getting rid of an item but rather just making sure I don't pair them together. Remember my goal was to find the BEST of the best and for me this just didn't cut it.

I was really glad, actually to see this outfit put together but when I see it on the computer screen or in printed picture form I realized something really important. This blouse and this jacket are just not my favorite. I feel like the blouse accentuates my NON-chizzled abs and the neckline of the jacket (that I stole from my sister so it's probably karma) is not my favorite. So even though Julie thought it was cute, it was pretty easy for me to let both of those things go.

4) It's OK to copy!
One of the things I discovered in this upper-level college course was a big help in putting together outfits. I wanted to do it right but felt a little overwhelmed and needed ideas. That's where the beautiful and wonderful Pinterest came in( did we ever survive without it?) I started typing into the search area things like "mint green skinny jeans outfit" and then looked to see what popped up, focusing on my favorites that contained something I already owned and then tried them out. Bingo! It's like magic!

5) Dress to compliment YOUR body type
I can hardly post this picture because it's so embarrassing but it's too good of an example not to share. This is a picture of me on the exact same day, minutes apart even. And yet on the left I look like I weigh about 10 pounds more than in the picture on the right. This is yet another bonus of trying on things, taking a picture and then being able to evaluate it. It was beyond easy for me to get rid of the black checkered skirt and shirt. Wowsa....I almost couldn't run fast enough to the Goodwill bin. It might look good on someone several pounds skinnier than me but it won't be in my closet anymore.

SO, there you have it. Closet Cleaning 354 instruction is complete. Now it is up to you to make it work. It is not going to be easy but if you are passionate about your clothes and closet, I promise it is worth it. Here are the basic steps:

1) Find a friend who's style is similar to yours and who you trust to be completely honest with you.

2) Invite/beg/plead with them to come over and help you go through your closet and clean things out.

3) Schedule a time for your get togethers and eliminate any distractions that could arise.

4) Before your friend arrives, put together outfits you already like or would wear OR look on Pinterest for outfit ideas you like. Lay things out on the bed and/or hang them from door knobs and dresser drawer handles around your room. Now is not the time to be all neat and tidy! This is work!

5) Let your friend begin working their magic and helping you put things together. Start trying things on, (sometimes in new and different ways), and eliminate things that don't work at all.

6) Have a camera nearby and take lots of pictures--of the GOOD and the NOT SO GOOD outfits.

7) Go to your computer and download the pictures. Look and them and eliminate more things that you can see don't look good or at least don't look as good as other things you own.

If you want the optional outfits photo book,
8) Print out the pictures of outfits you like and arrange in an inexpensive photo album.

9) Enjoy a cleaned out closet, a book full of cute outfit ideas AND knowing you look good every day!

10) Take your awesome friend who spent so much time with you OUT TO LUNCH!


  1. That was a really fun project. Thanks for letting me be a part of it & watch you work your magic up close. You are amazing!

  2. You're the best! Let's do LUNCH!? I owe you biggggggg!

  3. Such a fun afternoon! Love both you ladies!! -Maren