How to edit your wardrobe to make getting dressed easier and more enjoyable

Expert tips to help you streamline your closet more strategically — and avoid unnecessary purchases.

Expert tips to help you streamline your closet more strategically — and avoid unnecessary purchases

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Whether to improve your space as you spend more time at home, or spurred by the idea of making a fresh start in a new year, you may find yourself in decluttering mode. 

In the same spirit, this might just be a good time to revisit your wardrobe with bold edits in mind, especially if you've been mostly working from home or have found your dressing habits greatly changed since the start of the pandemic. At the very least, a thorough review of the contents of your closet, drawers and dressers may unearth some old favourites, reducing unnecessary purchases!  

Where to start

There are many approaches to editing your wardrobe (including the KonMari method popularized by decluttering expert Marie Kondo) but whichever you choose to use, it's important to dedicate sufficient time to the process. "When you're ready to do this, don't do it in the morning before school ... rushing out the door," says Afiya Francisco, a Toronto-based style expert. "And if you can't dedicate a day to it, then accept that it will be a multi-tiered project, where you might get back to it maybe every Saturday for two hours." You may have to live with little piles of clothes in your bedroom until it's all done, but the results will be worth it. "It's going to be messy before it gets tidy — just see it through," says Francisco.

Whether you're editing your entire closet all at once or just one drawer at a time, Francisco recommends starting with a visual assessment of what you have. "Take it out, take a look at it, and see what is stained, what is ripped," she says. Getting rid of those damaged items that you haven't gotten around to repairing is an easy place to start if you're looking to downsize. "If you haven't mended that hole [already] the likelihood of that happening is slim," says Francisco.  

Leah Van Loon, a stylist in Calgary who offers closet editing and personal styling services also recommends a fast initial review; she has her clients do a speed round of edits where items are separated into "yes," "no" and "maybe" piles. "The yesses and noes have to be fast; you either know you want it or [know] you don't," says Van Loon. "Anything that's a maybe ... you have to try it on, or [assess] the repairs that are needed." Van Loon says you should be left with items you could wear now — at a minimum items that fit well and are in good condition.

Reconsider your strategies

I've been swapping out my closet biannually for years now, according to the seasons, but both Van Loon and Francisco suggest phasing out that practice except when it comes to specialty items such as snow pants. "I'm a big believer of keeping everything you can wear in one space and having it available to you," says Van Loon. "A lot of stuff you can wear in the summer, you can wear in the winter, if you're layering it. A lot of stuff you can wear in the winter, you can wear in the summer, in the evening." "What I do," says Francisco, "is I rotate within my closet and within my drawers. So right now my shorts aren't necessarily at the front, but they still are within my closet, because I've pared down enough that I don't necessarily have to be making room for new-season things." 

As well, the usual advice about donating or getting rid of anything you haven't worn in X number of months does not apply right now, with the past year being anything but usual. So how to decide what to keep or toss with that in mind? Consider both the clothes you've been gravitating to most often over the last eight months, and what you actually miss wearing and might wear again in the near future, suggests Francisco. 

Tips for paring down

Beyond both the initial quick edit and considering what is useful to keep on hand, it can be challenging to pare down your wardrobe, for instance, to part with pieces you've invested money in, or used to really like, but haven't worn in a long time. 

Both Van Loon and Francisco recommend trying on any items that you're unsure about. Sometimes that can help you remember why you liked a piece in the first place; other times, you'll quickly realize why a particular garment hasn't been worn in years. "You should be trying things on, you should be holding things," says Francisco. "When you actually hold something, there is a tangible element to it … that does help you be a little bit more discerning when it comes to editing items out." Outfit selfies might help, too, suggests Francisco, to get perspective on how you look in certain items. 

Also, try not to hold on to pieces that don't work for you as-is. Minor repairs on garments you wear often are one thing, but Van Loon advises against holding on to clothes that need serious fixes or alterations. "I'm really wary of projects that are trying to save something," she says. Even if a piece is really nice, there's little value in keeping it around if it no longer fits your aesthetic or lifestyle. Instead you could donate that garment, or sell it to someone who will actually put it to use. 

Organize what's left

Once you've gotten rid of the noes and sorted through all the maybes, it's time to really organize your new, edited wardrobe to maximize use and functionality. "A lot of times, you'll be inspired to wear something that has not inspired you in the past, just by moving things around," says Van Loon. Van Loon recommends organizing your clothing by type and size, rather than by colour. For example, your tops could be hung from smallest to largest, with sleeveless or shorter items in front and long-sleeve styles at the end. You could further sort by colour within each category, all helping with making clothes more accessible and visually appealing. 

Van Loon also recommends putting pieces that you aren't wearing at the moment but aren't going to part with out of the way. "Put it at the back part of your closet or onto one side so that you're not looking at those things that you can't use right now," says Van Loon.  

In the end, you should be left with a wardrobe that fits in every sense, with everything accessible, thwarting superfluous purchases that can happen when half your wardrobe is stored out of sight, and making getting dressed each day just a little bit easier.

Truc Nguyen is a Toronto-based writer, editor and stylist. Follow her at @trucnguyen.

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