What's inside your closet?

Adapting to a Small Closet

What's inside your closet?
What’s inside your closet?

Last time we talked about how to solve a closet crisis in a creative way. Although those solutions are fine if you have a relatively decent space to work with, you might find yourself with a small closet or armoire with no additional room anywhere else to be found. Egads! You will have to adapt your wardrobe to fit your space.

Most people are so deterred at the thought of having to live with less clothing and accessories that they don’t even bother moving into a place with inadaquate closet space. But there are those who cannot afford to move or the brave few that have choosen small but cute and historic over large but modern and boring.

Let’s get right to a solution. You’ll need to analyze your clothing. Take every bit of clothing, shoes, accessories and whatnot and dump them into a big pile in the middle of your floor. I bet it’s a pretty big pile. Then separate into piles of like clothing, shirts with shirts and pants with pants and so forth. Now, ask yourself the following. Does everything fit? Is anything damaged? Do I really like all of this stuff? Chances are you are storing several items that don’t fit, are damaged or out of style. You probably didn’t even know what was taking up all the room. I guarentee, unless you routinely purge, you’ll have stuff you can toss or donate. See what’s left and if you need to continue or if you’re in a better closet to clothing ratio.

Next, separate your clothing by season. Look under your bed. If you’re not using the space under your bed to store off-season clothing you’re missing out on valuable space. If you can afford it, off site mini-storage is a great solution as well.

If you’re already storing items under your bed and you can’t afford food and a mini-storage simultaneously, you’ll need to economize your wardrobe. Don’t get upset, it’s really not so bad once you get over the initial shock. The following rules are golden:

  • Quality is more important than quantity.
  • I will no longer buy trendy things that I will only wear once.
  • Everything I buy I must really love.
  • Everything I buy must coordinate and create at least six outfits.
  • One item in… one item out.

It sounds worse than it is. Let’s focus on the benefits.

Quality is more important than quantity.

For example, a basic wardrobe of four of each type of clothing such as dress pants, casual pants, dress shirts, casual shirts, suits, skirts, and dresses will give you 34 articles of clothing. Choose carefully and these 34 will yield over one hundred unique outfits. Even the smallest closet can accommodate 34 pieces of clothing as well as a few sweaters, a warm coat and a light jacket. All you need to do to perform this miracle is to make sure everything you own is timeless, classic and basic. Sounds boring? Add character with accessories.

I will no longer buy trendy things that I will only wear once.

You don’t have room to be trendy. If you have a weak moment, make sure it’s a very small trendy item like a bracelette. A little trendy goes a long way and one inexpensive, trendy accessory, which will probably end up at a future stoop sale, is better than an entire trendy outfit that cost over $100.

There is a term in accounting called amortization. Basically you divide the cost of a purchase over the life of the item. If you apply this to clothing, that $20 blouse you wear once costs $20 but the black trousers that cost $200 that you wear 10 times a year for two years only costs $10. Although this example is simplified it might help make the purchase of a more expensive clothing more paletable.

Everything I buy I must really love. Everything I buy must coordinate and create at least six outfits.

When you’re limited, you analyze each purchase you make. Is this piece something you’ll wear for several years? Is it worth a place in your ultra efficient wardrobe? Does it work into your existing repretoire of outfits? There is no more room in your closet for the mediocre. Only bring new things into your closet that are worthy of their space. If you’re shopping and you fall in love with two shirts, bring them both home. Keep the one that you get the maximum coordination from. The good news is that once you slim your wardrobe down to only your favorite pieces, you will probably never have another “what was I thinking when I put this on” experience.

One item in… one item out.

An overstuffed closet results in wrinkled and damaged clothing. It takes discipline but it’s better to accept your limitations than cramm and shove. Once you reach maximum capacity you will have to govern what comes in. If you want to introduce a new shirt, an old one will have to go. If you’ve already whittled your wardrobe down to your favorites, it might be a hard decision but it also keeps those impulse purchases at bay and in the end you save quite a bit of money. A good strategy is to only go shopping when it’s time to replace an item. Plus, with a specific item in mind, it cuts your shopping time down as well.

This may all seem rather harsh but once you get the hang of managing your small closet, it really does work. I have three and a half feet of closet space to myself, which is half what I used to have before I moved into my row house. The rules have been invaluable in helping me get my wardrobe down to a size where it all fits inside, while still offering enough flexibility so I don’t have to wear the same thing every day. I did have to make some painful decisions in the beginning but it’s nice to be able to treat myself to other things, like fancy make-up, with the money I save and getting dressed in the morning, when my room is still dark, has never been easier.


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