Home » Blog » 3 Things That Took My Closet from a Cluttered Mess to Streamlined and Functional [Episode 30]

3 Things That Took My Closet from a Cluttered Mess to Streamlined and Functional [Episode 30]

For most of my life, I had a love-hate relationship with my closet. I enjoy fashion and getting dressed, but I wanted it to be effortless (and spoiler alert: it wasn’t). If you can relate, listen to this episode of The Simply + Fiercely Show to learn how I took my closet from a cluttered mess to streamlined and functional.

In This Episode:

  • The mistake that led to my overflowing closet in the first place
  • What I do with clothes I’m tempted to keep “just in case.”
  • How I get dressed as a minimalist (and no, I don’t wear the same thing every day!)

Featured In This Episode:

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Note: this is not an exact transcript and has been edited for clarity.

3 Things That Took My Closet from a Cluttered Mess to Streamlined and Functional

Hey everybody, it’s Jennifer here from the Simply and Fiercely Show. Today I want to talk with you about your closet. This is a topic that I am so, so passionate about, it was the starting point for me with my minimalist journey.

 Everything from closet decluttering to minimalist wardrobes is something that I could talk about for hours.

The love-hate relationship of Jen with her closet

A little bit of background for those who are new here, I was a shopaholic for at least 15 years. I started pretty young and it got to the point where I was shopping up to 7 days a week sometimes. I had an entire guest bedroom that I used as a walk-in closet.

I don’t know if any of you can relate but I had this really strange love-hate relationship with my closet. I’ve been a minimalist for over a decade, and I’ve had a minimalist wardrobe for over a decade, but I really do love clothes.

I love fashion and I love putting outfits together. As I said, I had this massive walk-in closet. I used to pull everything out, one at a time, and I loved everything. I thought everything was beautiful.

But, and this is where minimalism and everything comes into play, I also hated my closet, it was like this really weird, contradictory relationship. I hated my closet because I was very aware that it was taking up too much time in my life.

The time that I spent shopping for clothes not to mention the money, oh my goodness, I spent so much money. And then trying to figure out what to wear each day, sometimes that was a huge battle.

It took up so much physical space as well. I’ve never lived in a place where I had tons and tons of extra rooms so my walk-in closet was a room that could have been used for something else.

I always wanted to be effortlessly stylish. I was so obsessed with those magazine articles where they would be showing a mini capsule with 10 or 15 trending items.

They would do this editorial shoot where they’d have all these magnificent outfits, and the woman would look so polished and put together. They were just always able to create these amazing outfits out of just a few items and I was so fascinated by that, I wanted that so much.

The side story of Jen’s growing closet in the mid 2000s

Despite having a massive wardrobe with what felt like nearly an infinite number of options, it just never felt like getting dressed was effortless. Just to give you an idea of the scope, I genuinely think I could have gone an entire year without repeating outfits.

It was stressful and took a considerable amount of time. I spent a lot of time looking at outfits that I saw in magazines or online and then trying to replicate those outfits. Yet, I never felt like I was pulling it off.

I never had that confident, effortless ease with getting dressed. It led to this cycle where I felt like I was always shopping because I was always looking for that magical piece that was going to pull my wardrobe together so I could become that person who was so effortless and fashionable without trying.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. My closet just kept growing and it was a huge mess. It was impossible to declutter because I loved everything, but it started to consume too much of my life.

 In my head, minimalist dressing was boring, and I didn’t want that. But I also was tired of all the effort and all the stress.

 I just wanted it to be easy.

The three core lessons that changed Jen’s cluttered closet to streamlined and functional

First lesson – The difference between the style that you genuinely love wearing and what you admire on other people

So, what was it that made that happen?

I’ve tried to distill it down to three core lessons that I’m going to share with you in this episode.

The first one was probably the number one thing that was the biggest aha moment.

Some of you may have heard me say this before, but I’m going to repeat it anyway. It’s so simple yet mind blowing, and I think that everybody needs to realize this.

There is sometimes a huge difference between the style that you genuinely enjoy wearing, and what you admire on other people.

I’m going to say that again because I really want to drive this home.

Just because you like something in a magazine, just because somebody walks by and you’re like, ‘Oh, my God they look amazing. I love that outfit’. That does not mean that you really want to wear it yourself.

Let’s break this down. As I said, I was very, very heavily influenced by what I saw on other people. I loved the fashion blogs and magazines, or even people I’d see on the street.

One of my old jobs was in the city. I remember going out on my lunch break and if I would walk by someone who I thought had a really stylish outfit, I’d be running to the shops to try to buy pieces to replicate that look.

But then I would put the clothes on, and I never felt put together, it never worked on me. Back then, the narrative that I let myself believe was that it was me.

It’s because I’m not pretty enough. It’s my body. If just lost some weight, then I would look like that woman. If I just, you know, spent more on skincare, got a new haircut, etc. I always had this real cycle of self- hate. Thinking that it was me. That I’m not good enough and that’s why this outfit doesn’t work on me.

And there’s a lot behind that. I’m not going to pretend that it’s just one thing. There’s so much psychology and emotion and all of that we could talk about.

But what I will say, just to keep it simple right now, is that the big aha moment that I had is that it wasn’t that there was something wrong with me, or how I was getting dressed, or my body. It’s just that sometimes a style isn’t for me.

And I don’t mean that in the sense that certain bodies shouldn’t wear certain things. I really hate that idea.

You’ve probably heard some people shouldn’t wear stripes, because it’s not slimming. Or that you shouldn’t wear something after a certain age or, you know, if you have an apple body shape, for example, you shouldn’t wear certain clothes, right?

I hate that kind of rule. I think that you should wear whatever makes you feel good.

For example, I’m 42 and according to the rules of the fashion world or society, says that I really shouldn’t be wearing some of the clothes that I wear.

But I love shorts, like quite short shorts and short dresses, I’ve always worn them. I feel comfortable. I feel free. I get hot easily, so I like having my legs out. That’s what feels best for me, and I don’t care what any of the rules say.

So, when I say that a style isn’t for me, I don’t mean that I’m ‘not allowed’ to wear it. What I mean is that I don’t feel comfortable in it, it doesn’t feel like me.

For example, one look that I really love, and it was very trendy in past years, is blazers. It seemed like every fashion article that I stumbled across online was about how a blazer was the number one accessory to elevate every outfit.

I would see pictures and I have a friend that works with me that was wearing a pink blazer the other day and she looked so fantastic. I loved the outfit.

But I know from experience that I don’t love blazers. I used to think that it was a confidence issue. If I was more confident, then I could wear them.

Again, putting that blame on me when in reality, I don’t want to wear them. I find them too structured. I don’t even like long sleeve shirts, to be honest. I’m always hot and I don’t like that restrictive feeling. So, I don’t like to wear blazers.

It might sound silly, but just accepting that and realizing, hey, it’s not me, it’s just me choosing, ‘Hey I don’t like them’, it’s a preference.

I can admire it on you. It looks beautiful on you. I think that my friend looks so fashionable when she wears them. But it’s not for me and that is something that took me so long to realize.

It’s like a weird power dynamic. When I was younger, I would read fashion magazines or trends or whatever, and feel like I needed to be good enough to wear them. Am I cool enough to wear this new trend? Am I cool enough to pull off what’s in the fashion magazine.

Now it’s kind of this flip where I can see those magazines for what they are, this is marketing. They’re trying to vie for my attention. Now they need to be good enough that I want to wear them. I need to feel empowered, comfortable, and it needs to make me feel like myself.

That kind of acceptance went so far towards not only decluttering my closet but changing the way that I shop and the way that I get dressed.

Second lesson – Change the narrative about why you keep clothes

The number two thing that helped me take my closet from cluttered to streamlined and functional, was also changing the narrative about why I keep clothes.

Anytime I talk to people about closet decluttering, a few things come up. Things like, ‘I know that as soon as I declutter it, that item will come back into fashion, and I’ll want to wear it again.’ Or ‘I’ll lose weight, and then I’ll fit it again.’ Or I just spent so much money on that item, it feels like a waste to get rid of it.’

This is a huge umbrella of reasons why we keep clothes. I teach eight-week programs and we talk about decluttering and look at things like why I was keeping things and how I got rid of them a little bit differently.

For example, I would always be so worried about waste. I had a lot of really expensive items that were amazing vintage thrift store finds or designer items that I found in an outlet. They felt too good to get rid of and felt so valuable.

One big switch that really helped me was thinking about what I value most.

Yes, this is an amazing vintage dress, but you know what I care about more? My wellbeing, my peace of mind. That matters more than the most beautiful dresses out there. That is what’s too good to give up.

That dress is just a dress. I’m going to give it to someone who can appreciate it and love it. But I’m getting rid of it because that’s what’s right for me.

I know that not everybody has an infinite budget and sometimes we do have to keep things just in case.

I’ll be honest, I keep my favorite jeans in two sizes because my weight goes up and down. I don’t have 20 pairs of jeans; I only own three pairs but two of those pairs are the exact same jeans in two sizes. So, I do have to keep a few things just in case.

But if you have a whole closet full of clothes that don’t fit or things that you just might use one day, how does that make you feel? I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel kind of crappy and it goes to that whole idea of well being.

I want myself to be happy and I think that’s something that’s really hard, especially for women.

Putting my needs on a pedestal was a big help. Saying ‘I want to put myself first. I want to put me feeling good ahead of other things like wasting money.’

My number one tip that I always tell people if they’re worrying that they’ll get rid of something and then regret it, I always encourage people to flip the narrative and change the question a little bit.

For example, if you want to keep a pair of shoes because you might have to go to a certain event like a wedding or something, you can ask yourself if you decluttered that pair of shoes and you got invited to a wedding, what could you do instead?

It’s a little switch but it gets your brain looking for solutions instead of problems. What you often find is if that situation happened, yeah, it would be a minor inconvenience, but you have something else you could do. We’re all very resourceful people. There are other things you can do.

Those are some of the thoughts that I had that really started to change the narrative about why I kept clothes. I started really prioritizing my comfort over the clothes.

It’s kind of like what I said about the magazines, about how it was like that power dynamic. It’s not about me trying to please fashion. This isn’t about me trying to please my clothes. It’s about me putting me first and then everything else falls in line behind what I really need for myself.

Third lesson – Dressing in a personal uniform (…What is the concept of personal uniform?)

Okay, the third thing that really helped me transform my closet, I want to say that it transformed my life even though that sounds really cheesy. It was just clothes. but at the same time, it’s transformed me because I feel more confident.

I think confidence is everything sometimes because when you feel confident and you feel good in your skin, you approach everything in the world differently.

I feel more confident, and I have that effortless wardrobe that I always dreamed about. The thing that made it all happen for me was dressing with a personal uniform.

When I first heard the concept of personal uniform I thought, ‘Oh my God, how boring’. It makes you think of people like Steve Jobs who wore the exact same outfit every single day. That’s not for me and it’s probably not for you either.

When I talk about personal uniforms, I don’t mean wearing the exact same outfit every day. What I did is basically come up with a formula. The formula is a mix of things like the silhouette of the outfit, the shape, the fabrics, the colors, etc. Kind of like a recipe.

For example, if you learned a basic muffin recipe, you could then make lots of different muffins. You can add in feta cheese and spinach, or you can add in blueberries. You can make sweet muffins, you can make savory muffins, you could probably even stretch it out a bit and make a cupcake.

These are all variations on the core concept of a muffin. Once you learn how to make a muffin, all those other variations are not that challenging. It’s a bit like that when getting dressed.

Let me talk about that in terms of clothes because you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about muffins.

For example, as I said earlier, I like shorter dresses. I realized that I like lightweight dresses because I live in a hot climate. I like them to be loose and flowy and short, I also wear shorts underneath. 

I could show you all the dresses in my closet they would all look pretty much the same shape. But when you look closely at my closet, they don’t look the same. They’re very different colors, there are different variations to the fabric, the length, the sleeves, there are slight variations.

But if you just kind of saw the silhouette, they’re pretty much the same and that’s what I mean by uniform. Very broadly speaking, I figured out what kind of clothes that I like to wear.

I probably wear some variation of the same three or four outfits almost every day.

For you, for example, it might be something like skinny jeans, ankle boots, and a sweater. Obviously, you can play around a lot with that. You could wear different colored jeans, even mix in leggings, different fabrics, different colored sweaters, different colored boots, etc.

But you’ve got this framework that works for you so you’re not reinventing the wheel all the time trying to create new outfits from scratch. You get really clear on what you love and what you can pull out of your closet every day that makes you feel fabulous.

Once you get that written down, it’s a formula that you can replicate over and over and that is how you achieve that effortless dressing that I was talking about earlier that I love so much.

Invitation to the Personal Uniform Workshop happening on November 5, 2023 at 7pm Eastern time

If that’s something that you want to learn more about, I’m teaching a live Zoom workshop about uniform dressing. It is going to be on November 5th at 7pm Eastern time.

I’ll break down exactly how I create a personal uniform. I will show you examples from my own wardrobe and other examples, because what’s really important about this personal uniform concept is that it’s personal for you.

If you’d like to join us, the workshop is free for anyone who is inside my program, the One Day Closet Cleanse.

If you’re reading this and you’ve already purchased the One Day Closet Cleanse, then keep an eye on your inbox where you’ll get an invitation to attend this live workshop.

If you aren’t in the program, it is a self-paced closet decluttering program, where I walk you through step by step how to do pretty much everything I’ve talked about on this podcast.

I’ll walk you through a really step by step process where you don’t even have to think, you just follow the instructions to define your own style. Then you use that as a guideline to help you declutter your closet.

There’s another bonus live workshop that I recorded earlier this year, which is ‘How to stop buying clothes that you never wear’, which was an amazing workshop. It’s now included for free within the One Day Closet Cleanse.

When you join, you get the closet decluttering formula, the ‘How to stop buying clothes you never wear workshop’ and you’ll also get your invitation to the Personal Uniform Workshop.

It’s going to be live on November 5th at 7pm Eastern time but will also be recorded.

It’s always great if you can attend live because then you can ask questions, etc. but if for some reason you are reading this after November 5, 2023, and you join the One Day Closet Cleanse, you will get access to the recording of the Personal Uniform Workshop.

I hope to see you there, but if not, I hope that some of the tips in this podcast episode are helpful.

Have a good week and I’ll talk to you all soon.

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