My Heart, My Closet (and an IG live 1pm ET today!)

wardrobe oxygen closet

This is my current closet.  I took this picture Sunday evening.  On the right is my husband's stuff; I have the left and the back.  When we bought our 1940's row home in 2000, our bedroom was what is now our home office.  That closet was small, and not only was it small, one wall was slanted to accommodate for a stairwell, making it even tinier.  We're talking about 4′ of bar with half of it only tall enough to hold shirts and a single shelf above, of course too high for me to reach on a regular basis.  This closet is ginormous in comparison.  Yet, I don't share it often because in 2019, it wasn't cute.

Oh no you say, who cares what your closet looks like?  Let's see the realness.  But you say that, but the numbers say otherwise.  When I share my “realness” I get fewer views, fewer comments, fewer shares.  After my capsule wardrobes, the most pinned images from my site are stock photos of big, beautiful closets I purchase for advice posts.  Scrolling through Pinterest and Instagram, photos that get the most engagement are those of closets the size of a large bedroom, color-coordinated and well-lit, usually with a chandelier and piece of velvet or leopard-print furniture to sit in while placing on a pair of designer shoes. Cloffices became a thing in the past decade, where individuals would transform a room in their home into an office/closet combo, their Mac sitting on a desk surrounded by bars and drawers of clothing and shoes.  Home decor even became about fashion, with people framing Chanel bags, placing orange Hermes boxes along books and knickknacks, and buying prints of past fashion magazine covers or signs directing you to Prada Marfa. If a closet is small, it's still hashtag goals.  It's dappled in sunlight with vintage silk slips and shifts of delicate linen hanging on padded hangers or it's meticulously organized with labeled storage bins and a carefully edited collection of 33 pieces hanging in a rainbow from white to navy to charcoal gray. 

The perfect closet became the American Dream: an example of financial success, knowing yourself, and being organized and efficient. 

I decided 2020 would be the year I redo my closet.  I researched tools at The Container Store and on Amazon, I checked out the prices for professional companies like California Closets to come and reconfigure the whole damn thing.  I decided this was an investment, I am a fashion blogger after all, I need a great looking closet right?  I am so glad I hadn't yet made that investment.  It seems so unimportant right now.

And then March 2020 happened and our closets became a constant reminder of excess, of lives we can't live right now, of how we feigned confidence and competence with each Amazon purchase and Instagram swipe-up.  How we kept thinking that a purchase would fix it, whatever our “it” was and now it's all collecting dust.  This weekend I went in my closet to find a pair of hiking boots and went through the rack thinking it would make me sad but actually the opposite.  

quarantine fashion 3

See that rack over my shoulder holding shoes?  I wrote about it almost three years to the day in a sponsored post for eBay. It used to be 2/3 longer but less than a month after installing it, it broke.  I tried to fix it with tape, with screws, with rubber bands but after it crashing in the middle of the night for the second time I threw that crap away. But now the broken edges become hooks for all my totes and backpacks not being used and who needs more shoe storage when all I'm wearing are slippers, Birkenstocks, and those Bogs boots for the garden?

Inside my closet is one of those fabric gadgets that Velcroes around your closet bar and has shelves and “drawers” to store small accessories.  I had an amazing sturdy one I bought in 1998 but you can see in this 2011 post that it was starting to stretch out and be less functional. I ended up replacing it, I see my current one in a 2015 post of my closet.  Like my over the door shoe rack, this organizer is a piece of crap. The shelves slide out, the “fabric” is actually plastic and over time has become brittle and cracked.  We've heard bangs in the night from the shelves slowly sliding out and the fabric box of scarves or purses slamming to the ground.  I had a replacement one in a virtual shopping cart but never pulled the trigger to buy.  I'm glad because it seems silly right now to spend money to organize silk scarves and clutch purses, two wardrobe “essentials” that are currently collecting dust.

The closet has a very high ceiling, but only a single shelf above the bars.  Last year, my husband went to Target and bought a bunch of white particleboard storage cubes and screwed them together to create makeshift shelving.  It was such a sweet gesture and gave me more storage, but the size of the cubes are awkward for shoes and I still felt as though I wasn't maximizing the space available.  And it looked better but it still wasn't cute.  But now?  Now it's just fine.  I don't need my shoes to be attractively displayed, I just need them protected for when they will be worn again. 

I have a newfound respect for my closet.  Its size prevents me from buying more and forced me to regularly assess end edit its contents.  Over the years it amassed a collection I love and truly miss wearing.  And it's a closet that is doing just fine with broken organizers and awkwardly-shaped storage bins.  My closet is like me: it's not especially large, not especially tidy, but full of color and personality.  It holds beautiful items, ridiculous items, sentimental pieces, and plenty of “get ‘er done” basics. It's a lived-in and loved-in space in my home.  Sometimes it gets really messy, even when it's organized it looks chaotic but it's a chaos that I know and I understand. And my closet it for me, not for Instagram or Pinterest or anyone else.  Especially now, as we're spending all our time in our homes, it's important to make our homes for us, not for the approval of others. 

Instagram Live Closet Edit: Tuesday, April 7 at 1pm ET

That being said… at 1pm ET today I am going live on Instagram with Rosana, founder and chief stylist at DC Style Factory to do a virtual closet edit.  I hired her in the past to help me create outfits for a fashion conference, and trust her completely.  Her company is now offering virtual closet edits to help us navigate our wardrobes now and for the future, and I think it's a brilliant way to get a true feeling of control without buying another gadget or garment. If you'd like to watch, follow me on Instagram and if you're logged in you'll receive a notification of when it starts.  When it's over, I'll try to save it so you can see it for 24 hours. I'll also try to record it so I can upload it to YouTube and will share a quick recap of the experience in a future blog post.

Who would have thought a pa ndemic would be the catalyst for me to accept my closet?  And you know what?  It IS cute!

 

11 Comments

  1. Allison
    April 14, 2020 / 9:58 am

    Ah, this post! It is so timely and needed right now. I think we all need that perspective. Thank you!

    Love,
    Allison with a tiny closet in Michigan

  2. Suzanne Cross
    April 13, 2020 / 2:19 pm

    Alison, I really applaud you for doing this at a time with so much uncertainty. It’s tough to let things go when we don’t even know what tomorrow looks like. I also LOVED seeing your comment regarding your closet “It’s size prevents me from buying more…” I’ve always said that to myself when I envy other’s large walk-in closets. Then I took over my son’s when he left home! Now I’m trying to consolidate back to one. I have way too many, “This outfit would be great for this particular event.” AKA my fantasy life! I’m also trying to use what I have for storage instead of plowing $$ into fancy bins, etc. The getting items out of the drawer onto a hangers is a real struggle, though…..

  3. Rachel
    April 13, 2020 / 7:12 am

    Wish I could magically up the stats for this post on every social media platform because it was a great read! Being based in Edinburgh, cloffices have always creeped me out – so much space for stuff! I say that despite having a chest of drawers overflowing with clothes that are too small but which I refuse to part with – mostly due to ecoangst!

  4. Laura Dick
    April 8, 2020 / 10:41 am

    I so enjoy reading your posts! You make me laugh out loud and nod in agreement…

    Thanks so much!!!

  5. J
    April 8, 2020 / 9:30 am

    Oh, Allie — this post is exactly what I had in mind when I asked you about your closet set-up! Thank you so much!! I LOVE how you are working with what you have right now for storage and organization — that’s the reality many of us are dealing with at the moment, instead of buying all new cute matching storage pieces that aren’t necessary or even in the budget at this point in time. I know you said “real-ness” doesn’t get you many clicks, but this is the content I’m here for. “Closet p*rn” is lovely to look at, but just not realistic for my life or lifestyle, so that’s why I’m so grateful to see examples of how other people make their real closets work for them, both in terms of the closet’s contents and how the pieces are organized to be most useful and accessible. I wasn’t able to watch the IG video, but I look forward to seeing the recording. Thank you so, so much for what you’re doing!

  6. Jax
    April 7, 2020 / 11:34 pm

    It’s interesting — the more and more time I spend at home, the more I’m focusing on improving my home instead of my wardrobe. That would also include a closet declutter, though I’ve been steadily chipping away at it for a couple years now. What I really need to do is re-organize and re-arrange where stuff is placed — I don’t have the best setup right now.
    And I’m super obsessing about decluttering and beautifying my home office, now that I’m working from home (feel super lucky and grateful to be doing that).
    I did shop a bit 4 weeks ago when I started WFH and began to see this could last for a while — just bought some very inexpensive, comfortable long-sleeve tees (still chilly in our California home) and a couple pairs of leggings. And really enjoying wearing my 2 pairs of James Perse sweat/lounge pants — I actually feel somewhat presentable in them. And I wear jeans out for my walks. There was a great Madewell jeans sale (everything $75) that I was very tempted by, but I have more than enough, esp. for not wearing them often now.

    It is interesting how radically our focus changes.

    Also, cloffices sound obnoxious but also super intriguing to me. It is kind of real? Like Cher Horowitz would definitely have had a cloffice! And also Elle Woods!

    • Jax
      April 7, 2020 / 11:38 pm

      I would love to have seen your concept/ideas and Pinterest board for your cloffice! Obviously, you’ve moved on. 🙂

  7. Leu2500
    April 7, 2020 / 11:08 pm

    The closet edit was fun & informative. Are we going to see that silver top in a holiday capsule this year? I hope so.

    And thank you for the look into a normal sized closet. Closet porn isn’t realistic for those of us in older homes.

  8. April 7, 2020 / 6:01 pm

    A real closet 🙂
    It’s funny how now I walk into my closet and look at all that is hanging there and wonder when I will wear anything from there. Right now it’s just collecting dust and does not service my quarantine.
    We are to move soon and the closet was just installed a month ago in the new home and its totally empty.
    I was late to see the live but I am watching in in the stories.

  9. JC
    April 7, 2020 / 4:46 pm

    The broken rack with the shoes and backpacks is real life. I love it!

  10. Jenny
    April 7, 2020 / 2:44 pm

    I love this post! I love everything about it — the photos, the ideas, the tone, the real talk. Thanks for saying what so many of us are starting to get to in our mind. We have enough and we are enough.

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