Organizing My Clothes Closet

The Banks family has embarked on a journey of creating a house of order in 2016. The first category to tackle was clothes. I started my thorough examination and culling of my clothing last summer. I knew I wanted to make real changes, but I wasn’t sure how. I considered why I had so many clothes. Here were the categories I identified:

  • Clothes I love.
  • Clothes I wear every day.
  • Clothes I wear to the office.
  • Clothes I hope I can figure out how to wear to the office.
  • Clothes that I like but can’t figure out how to wear.

The first two categories were easy. I have clothes I love. I get excited to wear them. (My super fuzzy bathrobe may top this list…) Then I have my everyday wear: jeans and long-sleeve shirt. I wear this outfit every single day for nearly 9 months. During the summer, it becomes jeans or capris and a short-sleeved shirt. Yes, I’m awesome like that. The reason this is my daily ensemble? I’m comfortable, I’m warm, and I don’t stand out as a fashion faux pas (“Clueless” anyone?).

Clothes I wear to the office – I go to the office 1-2 times a year for a few days. This means I need, at most, 6 outfits per year for the office. I have three pairs of dress pants, so those are the standard. The tops are different. I have a few that are simple that look good. I keep those. But when it comes down to it, I have no sense of fashion. I also live in Alaska which doesn’t help the lack of fashion. In 2012, Anchorage was voted as the #1 Least Fashionable City. I once saw a guy wearing only long-johns in the grocery store! Because of my lack of fashionista qualities, my infrequent trips to the office stress me out when it comes to clothes. I don’t want to show up and be the weirdo that lives in Alaska. Since I come so infrequently, I’m often making a first impression on several people at the office each time, so I have several tops and accessories that I don’t know what to do with, but hope I can turn into something impressive for work.

I am a vintage clothing girl. If it were up to me, I would live in bright-colored bell-bottoms on weekdays, and wear elaborate 1950s cocktail dresses to church every Sunday (the dress for my junior prom was one of these. For senior prom, I went with a chartreuse 1960s dress). Most of the crazy awesome clothes I never figured out how to wear already left the closet long before this year, but I still have some crazy stuff in there–the stuff I really want to make work because they’re so awesome. (Mr. T still has his leopard print tie AND his shag carpet tie, for the record… those are what attracted me to him…)

So, I had my categories defined. What to do next? What any sane 30-year-old would do: Invite teenage girls to breakfast! At the end of the summer, three girls from my church were just about to leave for college. I invited them over for a graduation breakfast and told them I planned to have them go through my clothes. They were super excited! (“That crazy lady at church is making us food and letting us go through her closet! What a treat!”) True to promise, I pulled ALL my clothes out of the closet and set them on my bed. I told them their mission was three-fold:

  • tell me what to toss
  • tell me what is awesome
  • and put together 3 outfits for my upcoming work trip

They were harsh and hilarious. (One had previously told me: “Gap is kind of an old lady store. You would like it!” I do, thankyouverymuch!) It helped having three different girls there because they each had a different style and they argued over a few pieces. (“This is hideous. Definitely get rid of.” “No no no. I saw her wear that last Sunday with this skirt and it looked really good.” – these were my favorite comments!) At the end of the afternoon, I had a large pile of rejected clothing, three outfits (with accessories!) put together for my work trip, and some surprising pieces of clothing that were “so cool!”

One of the teenage girls adding accessories to my work outfits.

One of the teenage girls adding accessories to my work outfits.

Obviously, after they left, I rescued a few things from the reject pile (grateful they were headed off to college and wouldn’t see me wearing them!). I also added a few things to it that I didn’t like wearing. Then I organized my closet so I could see everything at a glance and lived with it that way.

This month, Mr. T and I started our home organization year with our clothing. After doing the first wave of culling last summer (thanks to the teenage girls), I had a good sense of what I needed. Anything I hadn’t been able to combine into an outfit since last summer left the closet.

What About the Socks?

I have a history with socks. I love socks. When I turned 12, my mom said I had two choices for my birthday party: I could invite 6 people and have them bring presents, or I could invite as many people as I wanted, but I could only ask for one pair of socks (this is genius, by the way, because when you say “no presents,” people still bring them or feel guilty not bringing them… when you ask for a pair of socks, people actually just bring you socks!). As the super extrovert that I am, I chose the latter option (did I mention I love socks?). That first year, I had an awesome party and ended up with probably 50 pairs of socks. They were awesome. I had socks for every holiday! I had toe socks with spiders on the big toe for Halloween, Christmas socks, Hanukkah socks! The next year, I still had probably 35 pairs of socks left, so I asked for socks to donate to a shelter. This was also a great idea.

Before I left for college, I had one last sock party for myself. I knew socks intimately at this point. I was spoiled from having so many options. When I was actually down to only a few pairs of socks about 8 years ago, I bought a pack of basic, white socks because they were cheap. And they were depressing. When I actually set out to tackle my sock box this month, it felt good to rid myself of the socks that I hated. I bought myself a set of new, super soft socks at Costco ($5.99/6 pairs), threw out all the socks that depressed me (or had holes), and put in the new pairs. This simple change helped my closet feel so much better.

The downside is that the new socks aren’t perfect, but they’re very cozy. They do, however, double as a Swiffer because they pick up everything (and after several washings, don’t ever get clean again). Lesson: don’t buy new stuff just to bring you joy. Getting rid of the other socks are what felt better. But I replaced them with new socks that I also don’t love… so I’m back to where I started essentially. The difference is that I know how great it feels to allow myself to let go. And after wearing each pair a few times (and they get unwashable), I will happily let them go.

Blame those darn hula skirts from Santa for today's sock dirt collection!

Blame those darn hula skirts from Santa for today’s sock yuckies collection!

I realized during this process that socks are something I care about. Maybe more than my shirt and pants. It’s weird, I realize, but when I stopped forcing myself to wear socks that I hated because I had them, I immediately loved the rest of my clothes so much more. Yet another way knowing yourself makes a big difference! I’m still going to continue my search for the perfect socks, but not right now because I have about four pairs I still absolutely love and these new pairs to wear for awhile.

I bet you didn’t anticipate half of this post to be about socks! Me neither. Now we know where my priorities stand.

Next Category to Tackle: BOOKS! Update coming next Wednesday!

clothes

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18 Comments

  1. SOCKS? lol – I have never known someone who loves socks so much! And I love the idea of teenage girls helping with your closet – I wish I knew some! I have never been stylish, and don’t have a great sense of accessorizing… I often wish I had someone to just come in and clean out my clothes. Nowadays, I purge by throwing anything that doesn’t make me feel ‘good’ into my donate box. No second chances!!!

    • MaggieBanks

      That’s a great move! And yeah… hilarious about the socks, amiright? Goes to show I really don’t care about fashion! 🙂

      • Yeah – I cut off all my hair earlier this year for ‘efficiency’. Fashion is over-rated.

        • MaggieBanks

          My hair is almost touching my shoulders and I keep threatening to shave it off! I am the worst when it comes to long hair! I have no idea what to do with it, it’s always in my way, and it takes TIME. Ugh. Mr. T hates cutting it though… so he has to work himself up to it. 🙂

  2. I just went through a similar exercise with all my clothes the other day. I didn’t have any teenaged style critics, but I have moved about ten times in the past ten years, so for every item, that was my guide: “How many times have I moved since I last wore this?” If it was more than one, it probably needed to go. If it was four or five times, I couldn’t help but feel a bit shortsighted having hauled it all over the place so many times. Then there were the socks with holes in them… uh, why didn’t I throw these away months or years ago?

    I’ve now culled my clothes down to about 50% of what they were before, and I feel much better without having added a single material possession to my life.

    • MaggieBanks

      Moving frequently would be good for making conscious decisions about stuff. But I suppose it’s just as easy to just throw it all in and pull it all back out at the new place. Books and clothes are really the two stagnant categories. The rest of the stuff is easy come easy go, which is both good and bad.

  3. I think I love socks just about as much as you! When we went through our closet a couple of weeks ago, I had a very difficult time getting rid of socks and I’m really not sure why…

  4. Tawcan

    A great idea, I totally need to organize my clothes, have way too many t-shirts in my drawer that I don’t wear anymore. I have no problem getting rid of socks though. 😀

  5. Love how you are brave enough to ask the teenage girls for advice, they can be brutal!
    My daughter gives me unsolicited fashion advice very generously (keeping it real!)
    As I work part time (and some days in the office and some at home) I have the top half of the wardrobe for work clothes and the bottom for non-work, so at least that narrows down the choices.
    As for socks, well we live in Australia and I only wear them for about 3 months of the year (except for running socks which I will invest in). Instead, we have excess sun hats and swimming costumes.
    Good luck with the books, love to hear how you will deal with kids books, I haven’t cracked that yet.

    • MaggieBanks

      I’m not looking forward to the advice of my own children! Those will not be good. 🙂 We finished the books and it feels great! We only got rid of the kids books that the kids all agreed were “boring” or that were duplicates (I did not realize how many duplicate books we had!) and I only kept the board books that Lui LOVES. And now it works great!

  6. J

    I love the sock-hogging plot twist of this post! This made my day. Congratulations on successfully organising your closet, Maggie! It’s a tough job (and a very messy one) but I guess the good thing about it is that you’ll never want to go through it again so you’ll probably try harder not to accumulate more clothes. Good luck with the book sorting! I can only imagine how difficult that will be. 🙁

    • MaggieBanks

      I’m less worried about that books than I am the darn craft closet. Being non-crafty myself, I keep them solely for my children and that they come in handy sometimes… I don’t even know where to start there!

  7. Des

    Hahaha ok, I have Thoughts about socks too, but I think they’re just about the exact opposite!

    When I was growing up, every few weeks my mom would gather up all the unmatched socks in the house and make me sit down to try to match them, because she would not let the basket of unmatched socks go. To her credit, there were probably well over a hundred of them that, through various laundry loads, had lost their mate, and she is not the kind of lady to let perfectly good socks go to waste. So about once a month, we lost a solid two hours trying to solve the worst puzzle EVER.

    I’m pretty sure that was a formative experience in my life, because here’s how I approach socks now: I don’t match them, ever. Not intentionally, out of some desire to set new sock trends, but because I consider matching socks a waste of my time and talent, and just thinking about it gives me flashbacks to all those wasted hours trying to coax matches out of unmatchable socks. I’ve desensitized my feet to the point where I can be perfectly happy wearing one wool sock and one cotton ankle sock, just so that I never have to worry about matching socks ever again.

    The only, very recent, effort I’ve ever put into socks was actually after I was gifted a set of four pairs of the Costco merino wool socks (Kirkland brand.) I went straight out and bought myself four more pairs, because omg. They are the only socks that have ever kept my feet warm, and that’s worth the effort. They do pill in the wash, but if you’re looking for amazing new socks – they’re worth a shot!

    And if you have eight pairs, you can totally mix and match the colours, for fashion or for avoidance of the matching process!

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks for the recommendation. I did look at those, but I do have a ton of wool socks and my feet get hot! Also… you wearing two different MATERIALS/SIZES of socks makes me gag a little in my mouth. My highly sensitized feet would revolt! 🙂

  8. Oh my gosh I LOVE that half this post was about socks. So underrated, yet so amazing!

    By the way, I received a 3 set gift pack of these socks for Christmas a couple years back (Brookstone Nap socks):

    http://www.brookstone.com/nap-socks-1-pair/851335p.html

    They’re pricey, but SO amazing and I’ve had them for several years. Just try not to get them in White, because the same gig happens where they collect everything & it’s challenging to keep them clean when you romp around the house in your PJs all day over the weekend. 🙂

    I think you approached your closet with great strategy. Inviting 3 teenager girls to help? Such a good idea (by the way, I love Gap too!).

    • MaggieBanks

      I’m loving the crowd-sourcing sock search! Thanks for the recommendation! And the teenage girls were the perfect touch. 🙂

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