Wardrobe Wizard: Closet Detox

Following our page five article about the New York Times best seller “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo (read “Kondo Style” here), and another article on how I organise my desk (read “Desk Efficiency” here), it seemed only natural that I would also write an article on detoxing your closet - it is, after all, a big part of what I do for a living! It felt particularly timely with Chinese New Year around the corner as I know that many of you are already busy organising your home and decluttering in preparation for the festivities.

In my home, I schedule two major household detoxes a year. Contrary to Marie Kondo, however, I prefer to tackle my closet last. When it comes to the closet, here’s how I go about it:

PREPARE

  1. Time: you want to be able to go through your closet without interruption and without worrying that you may not finish, so set aside ample time. This is important because if you don’t finish in one go, there is a big chance that you will never get to the finish line.

  2. Visualisation: I recommend heading to Pinterest to create a visual board of different closet space you admire, or save the tips that are offered to make your closet look amazing.

  3. Shop: don’t get too excited, this is simply to get some of the essentials to make your organisation easier, not a shopping spree for more clothes (that comes later!). Things you will need:

    • Hangers - I like the simple white ones from Ikea for most things, and the padded hangers from Muji for more fragile garments.
    • Scented soap - To be used inside your closet to keep it fresh. I personally use lavender as it is also a moth repellent and has a nice neutral scent.
    • Label maker - This is really up to you but I label everything in my home as well as office, it just makes it easier to find things and, more importantly, to put things back in their place.
    • Containers- Shoe boxes are great but any other boxes lying around your house will do as well, so you don’t really need to buy any. If you do want to buy to make it all perfect, the acrylic boxes from Muji are great (I am borderline obsessed with them). 
    • Entertainment - Download a show or a podcast or a great playlist to keep you going. I often catch up on podcasts when I detox any part of my home. 
    • Ikea Bags - I find it easier to have few of those to place the items I will be sorting by category later. Plus, they cost peanuts and are super sturdy so they can take loads and make your life easier for the after-sorting situation. 

ATTACK

  1. All or nothing: Pull out everything in your closet and I mean all of it. There is no such thing as a partial closet detox if you want to do it right. This includes the items you are hiding under the bed or in another room and includes accessories and jewellery.

  2. Lay it all out: Put all your belongings on the floor and use your bed as the sorting space first, and later as the folding space when you are about to return everything that made the cut back into your closet.

  3. Don’t panic: Now that you can see everything that you own in one place, don’t get overwhelmed. We all have tons of things we don’t need and you are successfully taking the first step to a lighter existence!

  4. Method: Simply start sorting as it comes, but not by category. Personally, I divide the "sorting situation" into four piles: “Keep”, "Give Away”, “Sell” and “Repair”. This is where the Ikea bags come in handy since having everything ready to leave your house makes it easier later.

  5. Joy: to make the sorting process easier, take Marie Kondo's advice: ask yourself each time if the item you have in your hand at that moment brings you joy. This may seem strange at first, but trust me, you'll know what to do with it and which Ikea bag to put it in. It's like magic.

TAKE FIVE

Once you’ve gone through all this, take a step back and assess what is left in the keeping pile as well as the space you have for it. Take advantage of your well-deserved break to start thinking about how you would like your closet space to look like. This is the perfect time to head back to your Pinterest board, but don’t get carried away by it and start pinning more ideas. Focus! Personally like to divide my closet by type of items. Some like to fold everything which is the case of Marie Kondo personally I do a mix of both - however I do fold my jeans - because I love jeans, it means I have lots of them and jeans don’t wrinkle so being folded (see pictures) takes less space and make them more accessible when I open the drawer. 

TIDYING

  1. Ordering: Now that you know how you would like to have your clothes organised, time to fold them, hang them and for label the shelves to keep the order.

  2. Labelling: I label the shelves, especially for my bags as I keep them in dustbags or original boxes, so its easier for me to know where is what when I need it without having to take everything out. I label everywhere where I can’t see the content; this includes my wedding dress that is kept in an archive box as well as my winter outfits so I know where they are when I need them or reminds me to air them.

3. Folding: To gain as much space as possible, my tip is to learn how to fold each type of clothing, but also to use the top of boxes as divider (see picture). For folding, a quick search on YouTube will help learn how to fold each kind of garment if you don’t what are the best practices.

4. Accessories: For all of my accessories, I decided this year that I need it to see what I have, otherwise it gets forgotten and unused for months. So now a top of a drawer of my closet is the home of my little collection of custom jewelry and scarves. I am happy to report that all of them have finally seen the light of day and are getting use after years of being captive inside a dark drawer. If you see it, you will use it.

NEXT STEPS

Time to donate, repair and sell your items. The great thing about having placed everything in an Ikea bag is that half the work is already done.

  1. Donate: Head to the Hilton Hotel in Singapore where the team of Club 21 and UN women will accept all donation of your unwanted clothes. You could also look for association in your neighbourhood that accepts donation of clothes. Please bare in mind that donation clothes should be in wearable condition it is not nice for anyone to wear spoiled clothes those are just perfect to make rags to clean your home or your bags.

  2. Repair: Be honest without yourself about whether it can be repaired or dry cleaned. Sometimes it’s just beyond recovery and you need to let go. This also shows you that some items do get spoiled even if you did not wear them, I am talking about moth holes in sweaters you wore only once, humidity stains on whites fabrics etc.. It’s a reminder to keep a lean wardrobe. This is also the time of year to start new habits, one of which should be to keep a basket in your wardrobe to fill in as you go with things that need to be repaired so you can get this done as you go during the year and not end up with a piece that you can’t wear but have been storing for years because of missing buttons. Next thing you know it is out of style and you have not enjoyed it.

  3. Sell: You might have gone overboard at your favourite designer sale, or like most of us your style, size, and lifestyle has changed and some pieces have just been sitting there making you feel guilty that you’re not using them. You are not parting with them because you know they have a good second life in them. The solution is to sell them. Instead of having negative dollar sign written all over those pieces taking up expensive and limited space in your closet, you can sell them and get the plus sign dollar on your bank account for your next purchase. We call it the net benefit of upcycling everyone is happy even our dear planet earth. If you’d like to consign with THE FIFTH COLLECTION, click here

Make sure you take the time to take note of what is leaving your home and how it makes you feel. Personally, I feel I accomplished by lightening my load. Sometimes it even feels a little like shopping because I rediscover items that were hiding and unused and that I realise I would like to wear again. Last but not least, I know more specifically what I need to add to my style and what I need to stop buying in bulk - I’m looking at you, white T-shirts! 

What I have learn by detoxing my closet?  If you do one big detox a year consistently, and plenty of small ones in between, you will buy fewer things and shop more intelligently for yourself by concentrating on exactly the pieces that will enhance all the others your already own. If you edit your wardrobe often, you also lose less money when it is time to sell it because those pieces are still current. Vintage falls into a different category. If you miss the fashion boat when selling certain pieces, they depreciate more sharply. When you see what you have clearly, your style skyrockets because dressing up in the morning is not a chore anymore; it's your own private fashion show!