In Your Closet: The Smartest Way to Edit Your Wardrobe

March 10, 2014


Now that the sun is out, I’m in spring cleaning mode. The first thing I’m tackling is (naturally) my closet . I’ve been thinking a lot about each piece and asking myself whether it fits into the overall goals personally and professionally. With that in mind, I’m clearing out the old and adding new pieces in a strategic ways.  And since we’re moving into Spring Cleaning mode, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share the process that I use with my clients (and in my own wardrobe).


But first a quick explanation of where this strategy came from. Here’s an interesting statistic that I’ve found to pretty accurate from clocking significant time in a lot of closets:  80% of how you are perceived by those around you -- whether in your the workplace, your personal life, or your larger public image -- is a direct consequence of what 20% of your clothing (i.e., the fraction of your wardrobe that you actually wear) is communicating. Were you thinking like an advertising executive and wanted to put a dollar figure on that, it translates to a marketing budget of somewhere around $340 (if you’re a man) and $680 (if you’re a woman).*


You’re a busy person, so you’ve probably have very little time to think about what that the 20% of your closet is communicating. Here’s an exercise I created for clients that will help you evaluate this in your own life.


Give it a try!



Write down the first three things that come to mind when you read this question:


If three people (not related to me) were asked to describe my personal style, I secretly hope they’d say  ________________ , ________________ and ________________.”


Tip: It’s useful to pull up a new note on your phone and save it for later use if you’re not near your closet or just not in the mood to look at it right now.


Since hope is not a strategy, I’ve created a quick process that will help you get from hoping to being. (Which is where all the good stuff happens!)


Take out your favorite and most frequently worn items and lay them on your table or (made) bed.


  • Ask yourself these questions about the pieces now in front of you:


1) Are these items in great condition? (Translation: they have no rips, no pilling and no stains?)


2) Do these items fit the body I have today? (Are you wearing pieces that are a little too tight or too loose with the hope that someday either you’ll lose the weight or the items will magically resize themselves?)


3)  Do the pieces I am looking at make me feel any of the three ways I wished someone would describe me in the first exercise above?


  • For items that are a “No” in Questions 1 & 2, set them aside. These two questions are a bit of a closet editing trick: I’m fairly confident that no one ever completed the first exercise and came up with “sloppy, careless, and inattentive” for their three wished-for personal style traits. (If you did, then we have bigger issues to talk about. Give me a call. This one’s on me.) These items just need to be properly washed, mended or tossed. Super simple.

  • Make a quick list of the items for which you cannot confidently answer “Yes” to Question 3.


Inevitably the answer will be no for some of the items you wear regularly. Great news! That means you get to choose again -- and you get to choose with a clearer sense of what you want your clothes to do for you. You have the choice to use clothing as a tool in your life. Keep that list of adjectives for the first exercise somewhere on your phone or in your wallet so when you shop for new items, you can do a quick check to see if the pieces you’re buying align with how you want to feel and what you want to be communicating.



*According to the US average 

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