13 Sep 2011

De-Cluttering The Wardrobe


Spring is the time we associate with the big clean up and throw out…but autumn is the season where I am inspired to de-clutter my wardrobe. Summer seems to messy me up…the wardrobe becomes crowded, the drawers stuffed to overflowing and the shelves a jumble of mis-matched items. I regularly promise myself that I will straighten things out ‘in the morning’….but that morning never comes as the sunshine beckons me away from the dull stuff of tidying. I fall out of love with my cupboards right about now and dream of stream lined dressing…a wardrobe that is colour coded and outfit co-ordinated…shoes that line up in military style precision and coat hangers that are uniform and facing in one direction.

Sorting and organising is dull stuff but it is also therapeutic. There is a secret pleasure in wardrobe order, a sense of satisfaction and good feeling …it’s hardly sexy the idea of a ‘feel good’ spruce up…but it does feel surprisingly righteous. Apart from the psychological benefits of a thorough clean out there are also plenty of ‘fashion’ reasons to purge les placards…The problem with cluttered wardrobes is that we forget about what’s in the back and all those goodies hiding underneath …Those pieces that are front of sight become front of mind and that forms the basis of our everyday outfits….everyday…Putting together an outfit that works and one that we feel confident in takes time and requires thought…the idea of throwing things together on a random basis is not so successful in reality. Rummaging through a disorganised pile is a contrary step if our aim is to be well-groomed and elegant in that ‘French girl’ kind of way…What is the point of focusing on our perfect ‘essentials‘ and ‘extras‘ if we can’t find them?

So how do we do it….de-clutter, streamline, organise…make fashion magic out of messy mayhem?

Number 1….Make Time
Wardrobe management requires time and lots of it. There are many successful businesses devoted to streamlining wardrobes. I have never really understood the idea of someone else sorting out my cupboards as only I know what I like and don’t like…but some swear by it. Don’t start this exercise without sufficient energy or hours to finish…This is a lengthy process and one best done without interruption…Do it alone, listen to your intuition…… Once started there should be no turning back.

Number 2….Be Ruthless
Commitment is key….without a firm desire to eliminate, failure is certain. To ‘throw-away’ and ‘give-away’ are the goals, saving for the once in a lifetime wear is a no/no….So the too small, too tight, too old-fashioned, never liked it anyway and why did I buy that are out…The sale disasters, the unflattering, the baggy, the borrowed and the boyfriend’s old clothes must go….Be ruthless and re-cycle….Give them to friends or swap with your besties…Sell them on ebay or donate them to a worthy charity….Just don’t put them back in the closet.

Number 3….Empty
Every last shoe, sweater, tee-shirt, skirt…every last article must come out….Empty the wardrobe and start again with a clean slate. No leaving a drawer or a shelf because it’s too hard….pull everything out….because once it’s out there is no turning back.

Number 4….Sort
Once the cupboard is bare…the sorting begins…Make as generous as possible a space for this so that items and piles are visible and separated. Start piles…jeans, tees, sweaters, exercise gear…underwear…hanging… folding….you get the picture….all the while remembering to be ruthless.

Number 6…The Timeline
A ‘once a year wear’ does not an essential make…We all buy badly, even our favourite style gurus miss a beat or two, that is a given…but we must face the music and acknowledge our disasters….If it didn’t look good on the first try on then it is unlikely to have transformed second time and third time round…I want to believe in miracles, just not fashion ones.

Number 7….The Care
Good coat hangers are a must…wire hangers are a no, no….they ruin fabric and misshape clothing. Repair….sew on the missing buttons and re-sew the dropped hems…Dry-clean what needs to be professionally washed in preparation for the coming season or for what needs to be stored away from the season just passed.

Number 8…The Put Back
The flip side of ‘the empty’ and just as important. Now the piles are smaller, neater and recognisable…if the de-cluttering has been a success there will be room for the clothes to breathe…Plan the ‘put back’…Place clothing where it is convenient to get at….everyday pieces should be close to hand…Save the dark and difficult spots for bulky coats and evening wear…or whatever items are those that are worn less often.

Number 9…The Colour Code
An optional extra and perhaps too ordered for your taste….but colour coding makes planning and choosing an outfit easier. The caramels with the caramels and the greys with the greys…that kind of thought. Easier said than done when space is an issue.

Number 10….The Accessories
Start over with the belts, the bags, the scarves, the hats and the shoes and follow the same principles.

A new season, a new wardrobe…de-cluttering can make the old feel like new again….xv

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In This Post:



Tammy at The Drill Hall Emporium

Wow! You have certainly inspired me to head straight to my wardrobe (which I happen to share with my partner, unfortunately, putting me at an even bigger disadvantage than most of your readers) and start decluttering! Thank you for your step-by-step guide, all thoughtful points of how to tackle a mundane task. It is Spring here in Australia, I have started "spring cleaning" my kitchen already, but off to the wardrobe now! Have a wonderful week with your fresh start, Tammy


You have given me the shove I needed, I've finished the house spring cleaning and just getting my head around the fact the wardrobe needed a good spring clean. Tomorrow for sure. xx


Oh how I needed this inspiration! Next weekend this is going to be my big activity. My closet is a mess and it slows me down in the mornings. Thanks for posting.

Lost in Provence

Oh my, I had to thunk my hand on my forehead when I saw this because…it really, really needs to be done and I just can't face it! We moved not that long ago and silly me just threw things in the closet, any old way to get them out of the boxes–and it has stayed like that! Sigh. I have mega work in front of me…

And one more bit of advice to add to the list, especially for those of us whose weight tends to fluctuate–try it on! Always the best way for me to see, honestly, whether something works or not.

Mona Thompson Providence Ltd.

It's time to start that process and you are right it is a grueling day. Essential to start early and stick with it until you are done. It feels so good when you are finished. I agree with every point you made. Now I just need to find the time to actually do it. Have a great day. Mona

A Gift Wrapped Life

All great advice Vicki! I was thrilled to have done a 5-day purge of my closet last spring with the tunes "rockin and rollin" and I am being a good girl in keeping it nice and tidy. I just have one regret in purging over the years and that is that I didn't keep some of my "memory" outfits. Maybe one outfit per every 5-10 years that was my favourite, especially from the 70"s and 80's. A vintage time capsule so to speak. It would only be about 10 outfits but jeez I wish I had them just for fun. Also, next time I will have company…………just for fun. Have a great week Vicki. XOXO


Surely you don't meant that I must face my scarf/pashmina fetish squarely in the eye!!!! I'm having to take deep breaths!

Thant said, I downsized to a smaller flat from a roomy house in May. The purging that went on would have made your head spin. You're right, it does feel wonderful when it's done. I try to do my clothes each season as I change them out. The scarves you ask? Well……..

Grammy Goodwill

Excellent tips. I've been color coding my clothes for years. It's fairly simply because I mostly wear orange. hehehe I've been purging my closet since last spring. I was surprised to discover that it was easier to choose what to wear when I had fewer clothes. That is opposite to what I'd always thought. I actually got rid of a pile of clothes last week. I had given myself the summer as a deadline for losing enough weight to wear them. When that didn't happen, I took the clothes to Goodwill.


I loved this Vicki…I received similar advice years ago from another Aussie girl ( Zarli) and I have been an advid colour coder ever since. She was aghast at the state of my hangers. I learned from her that the type of hangers make all the difference..I have been collecting them ever since. You Aussies are just brilliant!

Funny, this morning I was thinking along the same lines…unfortunately it is not as glamorous. Any suggestions on how to organise a garage??

Best wishes for a wonderful week Vicki :)

Jeanne xx

Genie -- Paris and Beyond

Love this post (and the precious rack of ballerina attire en rose)!

When I get to this daunting task, I always enjoy #9 in your list and take it one step beyond… If there are black/white knit shirts, I put them into two stacks: "everyday" and "going out." When they are folded on a shelf I want to be able to grab one without un-folding.

I guess I need to start at #1….



This is always on my list to do Vicki. Recently I went through and reorganized although must admit I did not declutter NEARLY enough!

I do color code, it is so helpful and am going to go through scarves this week!


Art by Karena


This is exactly what I need to do. Alas, as I'm reading your fantastic list, I'm getting palpitations and a huge desire to flee…..Oh well, maybe next Spring….. Mary


So funny that you'd mention that, a few weeks ago I sorted all my clothes and put them back neatly in my closet, each color its own place. And yesterday I took up the task of cleaning out my mum's wardrobe, after having thrown away a lot of clothes she didn't need (and keeping some pieces for myself) I did something completely different: I came up with different styles, each shelf got its own 'theme'. So one shelf with Paris-chic clothes, including the matching jewellery, another with classy blacks and darkish, floral pieces etc. etc. I designed the outfits around the shoes she had, so now all she has to do is pick a shelf, pick a pair of shoes and throw something together without thinking too much – system works! And it looks really cute, like it's your own store!

Love, Lisa

hostess of the humble bungalow

It's a journey to the perfect closet. I am getting much closer to the ideal and have fewer items but they all work so well together.

I have one old favourite that I cannot part with…a 3ply soft brown cashmere cardigan and I have decided brown works with my white black and grey palette :)


I'm a "fall clean" person too. I needed to read this sage advice since I have a habit of thinking, oh, I may wear this sometime. Now armed with your list I'm off to de-clutter and actually be able to find what I want to wear when I look in my closet. :-)


What a great post! Like you, I am in the midst of really giving my wardrobe an overhaul. I have things in there I haven't worn in years. Years! Thanks for the list! So handy.


Great tips! I find that end of summer is my "cleansing" time at home, too. My summer clothes don't last as long as my sweaters and skirts and dresses for winter, it seems. Plus, I'm usually so tired of being hot and itchy and uncomfortable in my summer things, I'm ready to get rid of them so I don't have to wash them one more time!

à la parisienne

I've been color coding my closets since high school-it just runs in my blood to color code clothing/accessories, and I am so much more efficient at putting an outfit together when things are color coded. A few months back I reorganized and purged my accessories, but…my closet is another issue. I need a ruthless friend over my shoulder to help me. I know I would enjoy walking into my closet more if there were few items with better quality to choose from. I'm still working on this "parisienne" state of mind…

Bonne semaine,

Jacqueline @ HOME

Thanks so much with the help of sorting out my wardrobe Vicki…..I think that I tell myself everyday that I am goung to sort my wardrobe out and, everyday I don't !! It is such a boring job. My only excuse is that I can take something out of my wardrobe that I've had for at least 15 years and, it is still fashionable. I think that's because I bought well in the first place so, I am not a great believer in throwing things away if I haven't worn it in the last two years !! I have regretted that I've thrown things away, many times.
You have given me the incentive to have a good clear out though, so many thanks Vicki. XXXX

Ivy and Elephants

I am loving all the advice, … I need it! So I've made over my makeup and am ready to move on to the clothes. Thanks so much for the inspiration. You're going to make us French chic, yet!

Shell Sherree

Oh, Vicki, I love de-cluttering and organising. I have so little left to de-clutter, I have to be very careful or I'll move along something and regret it… like the boxes my rather special watch came in. Damn. {PS: I'm happy to accept any of the items on that rack if someone is moving them on…}

Ingrid Mida

I did just this very thing in preparation for my new role as masters student. I love being organized and it was time to make room for some new pieces in my wardrobe! You have such a lovely way of writing about it….

Pamela Terry and Edward

Believe it or not, I do this twice a year. Spring and Autumn. Living in an old house, the closet space leaves much to be desired, even though in the "new wing" we have larger ones. Since I developed a more ruthless outlook on garments I rarely, or never, wear, I'm much happier. And have more room for new things! But I must admit to owning quite a few ancient pieces.. high quality never fades!


Vicki, what an important element the correct clothes hangers are. An absolute must. Target has some really nice sueded ones which are priced very well & don't take up any extra room. I'm kinda obsessive when it comes to my closet organization, so I really appreciate what you're saying here. Apparel is too large of an investment not to store it properly. I respect my clothing, therefore, I care for every piece, handbags, scarves, shoes, gloves, hats, etc. Great post, darling one….

Carmie of the Single Nester

I've recently sold several pieces on eBay and what hasn't sold gets donated. I believe in the one in – one out rule. However, too much shopping this summer led me to not get rid of anything . . . until now.


Wonderful timely post, Vicki. It's Spring in Sydney and I need to clear out and pack away all the winter heavies. I'll come back to this post for more inspiration before I start. xx


Hi I have just discovered your blog. I know what you mean when you say that wardrobe declutters require time… Mine has taken 6 months and it is still not finished!


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