An expert's guide to stop hoarding and detox your wardrobe

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Nothing to wear in a closet chaotic with clothes? No idea what to throw and what to keep? Follow The Times' deputy fashion editor, Carolyn Asome's six-point plan to finally getting to grips with your wardrobe.

The news that the Duchess of Cambridge is a fashion hoarder may come as something of a surprise given her reputation for thriftiness (yes, like normal people she REALLY does wear an outfit more than once) although in her case, “hoarding” is a deliberate strategy to avoid causing fashion stampedes when she turns up at a public engagement.

For example, the Moloh coat (below) that she wore for the Christmas Day service at Sandringham has not been available to buy for two years, but for the rest of us, I think we can be honest here and say that hoarding isn’t quite the same thing. Personally, my ‘hoarding’ reached a low point a few years ago when, due to the never-ending clutter, I realised I’d bought the same top twice. The original top (complete with tags) was stuffed at the back of my cupboard.

So I decided to detox my wardrobe and it changed my life immeasurably. My clothes, shoes and accessories now fit into six small-ish drawers, a (monastic) two sets of rails and five shoe racks. So ruthless have I been in my culling I could probably challenge George Osbourne to a duel of cutbacks… and win. Getting dressed in the morning is no longer the half-an-hour struggle despairing that I have ‘no clothes’ to wear. For a start, I can actually see everything and consequently any ‘gaps’ that are missing. There’s arguably a lot less but it’s an edited, super-slick selection of things I love.

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t another bossy fashion article exhorting you to chuck out the whole damn lot and buy into a catwalk trend. But there’s a lot you can do to look better dressed (and quicker) which doesn’t require the services of an expensive style consultant or investing in a prescriptive (and costly) Poliform wardrobe.

Everything I owned was subjected to the following questioning: Did it fit properly and did I feel good wearing it? The overlying stipulation was that I had to really love each piece that stayed and that it had to give me the ‘lift’ or sartorial equivalent of a good-hair day. A lot perhaps to ask from a pair of trousers, but that way I was always going to find something I would want to wear. And I was going to be happy wearing it.

It was simple, kindergarten-ish sounding criteria made up entirely by me but it worked. Clothes that hadn’t been worn for three years (I made that figure up too) no matter how wonderful looking/expensive/one off/designer-y were donated to charity or given to friends. Anything that didn’t fit properly and couldn’t be remedied at the dressmakers was also discarded. As for those ‘fashion heirlooms’ I had been stashing in the event of having a daughter, well I got over myself and got rid of those too. (N.B For the record I’ve since given birth to two daughters and still don’t feel bad about it). For every one item that I have slightly regretted binning, there are probably twenty that I don’t miss.

A lot of the reluctance to undergo a wardrobe detox is actually the fear of ending up with too few clothes. In our consumer crazed society, we often choose quantity over quality. Don’t look on this challenge as a new year resolution made to be broken. Think of it as the year you started dressing properly. Happy editing!

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1. Sort out what actually suits you

Borrow a rail and take a long, hard look at your wardrobe. Stick your favourite pieces, the ones you genuinely love (and feel great wearing) on that rail. There might be less on that rail than you’d anticipated. But don’t panic by adding less favoured pieces which will only defeat the object. If you really can’t bear to do this on your own, enlist the help of a trusted friend/sister.

2. Don't be lazy: start a clean, mend and alter pile 

From that selection sort out what needs to be dry-cleaned, washed or mended. Don’t put off sorting out minor repairs or getting new buttons sewn on - your edited new wardrobe needs to look fresh and appealing. 

3. Edit the fantasy rail

This is where a bit of steely resolve is required. Put aside anything that hasn’t been worn for two to three years or has never felt quite right when you wear it. Ask yourself why it doesn’t feel right? Is it the wrong size? Is it still age/job/life appropriate? Now might be the time to come to terms with the fact that you are never going to look like Victoria Beckham if you currently resemble Miranda. If you are keeping it in case you might shed those few final pounds, ask yourself whether you have reached your ‘ideal’ target weight in the past two years. Be brutal: that ‘ideal’ target weight might not actually be the right weight for your body and realistic with your lifestyle.If it’s because it’s the wrong colour/shape/ neckline then start a selling on/charity pile. If these items can be salvaged, add to the mend and alter pile. Repeat the above with underwear chucking out greying bras and ‘comfy’ options with frayed elastic. Do the same for shoes and boots and don’t forget to give your tights, socks and jewellery the same dispassionate overhaul.

4. Assess what is left

By now you should be left with an edit of clothes and accessories that you love and enjoy wearing. By clearing away the clutter, you will begin to see other positive aspects emerging. You will realise that your favourite items have similar necklines and skirt lengths or a particular cut or colour: the future wardrobe uncluttered with bad buys and fashion mistakes. You will also be able to spot things that are missing. A great shirt perhaps? Or not enough tops – we should aim for five tops to every pair of trousers or skirt. You will also have a better idea of what coat/jacket shapes you need, in that you will (possibly for the first time) see what they will be worn with. Make a list.

5. How you ‘merchandise’ is up to you

Do you arrange your cupboard by sticking all your trousers, skirts or tops in sections? Or should you do it all by colour? There isn’t one right or wrong way. Whatever works best for you. What is more important is that you can see everything easily and that you don’t ‘forget’ about anything.

6. But do invest in proper storage 

The jury’s out on what type of hangers you should use. I favour wooden ones while other wardrobe experts like narrower, coated ones which take up less space. If you have to settle for the thin wire ones that you get back from the dry-cleaners, it’s a good idea to pad over with tissue paper so that they don’t spoil the shape of your clothes. Dry cleaner bags should be removed as being covered will only discolour clothes. Shoes and boots should be stored with the appropriate footwear trees so they retain their shape. This may seem like a lot of faff but is worth it in the long run. If you must keep more items than your wardrobe can reasonably hold, buy clear plastic boxes for out of season clothes.

 

 

 

By Carolyn Asome, deputy fashion editor, The Times