organized closet

Who Are You Now? A Guide to Getting and Staying Organized

The organized enough clothing closet: Get rid of hangers and plastic from the dry cleaners immediately. Group items first by category.

“I know myself, but that is all…”
Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise

Fitzgerald understood better than most the double-edged sword of the American dream. He also created the character of Gatsby, the iconic self-made man, and yet a tragic one. Today, almost a century later, a vast world of products to buy makes it possible for the average person to reinvent herself anytime she likes. But it is a constant merry-go-round: If you can be anything, what should you be?  How can you hope to know what you need if you don’t know who you are?

Advertisers are canny: They spot our vulnerabilities, whether they are selling Dos Equis beer (who doesn’t want to be the most interesting man in the world?) or Dior lipstick (“Shine, don’t be shy.”) In five minutes of paging through a catalog recently, I was sucked in by the following ad copy: “WHO’S THAT GIRL? She’s LAID-BACK, but not scared to stand out. She’s POLISHED, but not perfect. She knows that covering up is sometimes SEXIER than baring all. Her STYLE is her own.” I wanna be that girl. Don’t you? And maybe the zip-tote on the following page ($298) will help me get there.

So much of clutter is the stuff we’ve been hanging onto because we, at one point, had a certain vision of ourselves—one that it isn’t quite current or honest. It is project clutter, like the knitting has been sitting in the same spot for years. The breadmaker that’s still buried in the back of the closet, gathering dust. The boxes bursting with memorabilia for scrapbooks yet to be made.  But it is also in the bedroom: the three-step skincare regime (you’ve yet to do step one), the size-4 suit, the chunky necklace you forget to wear. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, brilliantly termed these items “aspirational clutter.” One of the sharpest tools in the organizational arsenal is self-knowledge. Most of us have it—we just don’t like to use it, because it isn’t always pretty. Letting go, especially of ideas about ourselves, isn’t easy. As you confront your space, it is good to remember these three mantras of letting go:

The universe is abundant—letting go of the old makes room for the new.

When I have time, something new will appear.

I already have everything I need.

Trite? Maybe. True? Definitely. Do we forget it all the time even though we instinctively know it? Yes.

Who Do You Think You Are When You Get Dressed?

Self-knowledge is particularly key in de-cluttering your wardrobe. Clothing presents one of the biggest letting-go obstacles for my clients. “That was then. Who are you now?” I ask them.

Bodies change, but life also changes. Just because you can still fit into your Versace minidress from 1999 doesn’t mean you will be comfortable wearing it today. We view letting go of clothes as letting go of our past, and maybe on some level that is true, but it is also a good thing. You want your closet to be vibrant and full of fun stuff that you love to wear now, not a graveyard of past lives.

I used to be an actor. I absolutely believe in the power of costume and the importance of presentation—but I also know that you can get pretty far with a black turtleneck and a good story. Just as an actor has to be vigilant with himself to guard against false notes, we all have to be rigorously honest about who we are and what we genuinely like to wear. Do we want to be the person who would wear a skintight leopard-print dress, or are we that person? Sometimes we buy clothes to try to become a certain kind of person. More than a few times, a client has told me, “Even though everyone at my office dresses very casually, I want to start dressing more professionally, because I think it will help me move ahead in my career.” Excellent; I support that. But in actor-speak, we would say, “Commit to that choice.” From an organizing perspective, that means that you can keep those new suits you bought, but you need to donate several pairs of khakis and a bunch of the jersey tops that you used to wear to the office before you decided to upscale your wardrobe.

The Organized Enough Clothing Closet
– Get rid of hangers and plastic from the dry cleaners immediately
– Group items first by category (i.e., all shirts together.) Then, within that category, hang items by color (typically light to dark). Finally, put categories in length order, so you might have shirts, pants, jackets, skirts, dresses.
– This consolidates your “tall” space, freeing up room so you could, for example, store tall boots or a laundry basket under your shirts.
– As you remove items to wear, always place hanger to the far right, or left if you prefer.

About the Author:
Amanda Sullivan is a professional organizer in New York City, she founded her company, The Perfect Daughter: Chaos Control in 1999. She is also the author of Organized Enough: the anti-perfectionist’s guide to getting- and staying- organized. Amanda lives in Manhattan with her husband and their three children. To find out more about Amanda or read her blog check out her website at:

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