Howard County shopping: An exciting closet safari

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One may think that a favorite pastime of a fashion consultant is shopping — au contraire, mon ami! Don't get me wrong, it's a close second, but de-cluttering is what really warms my heart. Most Americans have far too many clothes, and of course what is the frequent complaint? "I have nothing to wear!" A closet can be cleaned, but if you are unaware of how it turned into a jungle in the first place, it's likely to reforest over and over.

Why is my closet cluttered?


Lack of knowledge of personal style. This is the No. 1 closet buster. Wearing what you really like and what makes you feel most confident are the only garments you should ever have on your back. Try this exercise: Choose five items in your closet that you would miss if your closet suddenly disappeared. Study those garments and what it is you like about them: color, fit, silhouette? Consider those attributes when shopping.

Unrealistic about size. Most people's sizes fluctuate. But some people use this as an excuse to keep multiple sizes of clothes even if they have not worn them in years. Most people want to be thinner, but it's important to be honest with yourself about the current sizes you wear. I always tell my clients that there is no room in any closet for guilt. Having a dress that's four sizes too small hanging in the closet will give a woman anxiety and add to her poor body image. Dressing your size appropriately is slenderizing and adds to self esteem. Think about the too-small sizes. Chances are, they are already outdated. If you are fortunate to one day get back into that size, I can guarantee you will not be putting on those old duds.


Sales. I am all for saving money, but a bargain is only a bargain if you actually need the item. I believe that it is better to pay full price for one item that you really love than to buy 10 items that you may like, or tolerate, only bought because they were such steals. When tempted by a sale item ask yourself, "Do I love this?" If the answer is no, then put it back.

Out of control inventory. If you are going to the grocery store to get fixings for spaghetti, you will first look in the pantry to see if you have enough pasta, sauce and Italian bread, right? Many people, because their closets are cluttered, do not know what is actually there. That is a recipe for repeat offenses. If you can't find the white blouse you need, you will buy another and of course the closet gets more cluttered.

The Fun Part

Hopefully you can identify your pitfalls. Some people are more attached to clothes than others, so you may need an honest friend to help you.

Simple Closet Cleaning

1. Remove everything from the closet.
2. Make piles for discards for your favorite charity.
3. Hang up only the keepers. Don't keep items you haven't worn in the past year (two years at most).
4. When done, go back through the keepers to see if you were brutally honest and get rid of more on the second pass.
5. Bag up discards immediately and remove from the house right away.
6. Enjoy making outfits from the clothes you love, and maybe reward yourself with a new piece that you love, and need.

Usually, people who hire a wardrobe consultant are expecting a long list of suggested purchases. Many are surprised that, in the end, no further shopping was necessary. A whole "new" wardrobe was ready and waiting to be discovered.

Jeannette Kendall is president of Success In Style, a nonprofit with locations in Ellicott City and North Laurel that provides free business attire to disadvantaged women and men seeking employment. or 410-750-6475.