Keep It in the Closet

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My dream closet: an airy, sophisticated, orderly refuge.

I’m both a clothes horse and a neat freak, two traits that do not necessarily play well together. Consequently, I make it a point to regularly clean out my closet. I enjoy the process (it feeds both my shopping and my culling tendencies) but even those who dread it usually find that the results make the process worthwhile: A clean closet/concisely edited wardrobe saves time and makes you look and feel better.

The new year is a great time to pare down, declutter and generally lighten the load. I started off 2016 by overhauling my closet/wardrobe, and thought I would share some of my tips, tricks and lessons learned. There are hundreds of great closet cleaning/organizing suggestions out there, but this is the process that works best for me, and I think it’s pretty foolproof! Here are a few things to keep in mind before you begin:

1. Know your style. If you don’t, take some time to identify it. When you look at Pinterest or fashion mags/sites, what looks do you gravitate toward? Soft and feminine? Boho chic? I would peg my style as “classic with an edge.” My go-to looks are jeans with blazers or biker jackets and heels/boots/booties, pencil skirts and silk blouses, tailored suits or trousers, and LBDs. My pieces are predominantly black, and often embellished with edgy rocker-chic details. Yet one of the items I pulled from my closet this go-round was a Lily Pulitzeresque sundress. It was frothy, feminine and lovely, and its aqua shade entranced me when I bought it, but it wasn’t me. It hung in my closet unworn for ages before I accepted that I would never wear it and sent it on its way. Which brings me to number two:

2. Forget about sunk costs. We’ve all bought clothes we’ve never worn, and it seems such a waste to get rid of a garment with tags still attached. We trick ourselves into thinking that if we hang onto it, we might wear it, and therefore we didn’t waste the money. Here is where you have to be honest with yourself. The funds are spent and can’t be recovered (a sunk cost). If you won’t wear the garment, you are burdening yourself by keeping it; just let it go.

3. Consider your age and how you want your wardrobe to work for you. When I was in my 20s and my style was still evolving, if a trend looked good on me, I bought it, no matter how impractical or flash-in-the-pan. Most of those clothes have now been discarded. By my mid-30s, I decided to buy primarily investment pieces, timeless classics that will never go out of style. Most of these items–tailored pencil skirts, cashmere sweaters–will work as well for me in 20 years as they do now. (I know we’re talking about culling and not shopping, but here is where I have to advise you to always buy the very best quality you can afford. Don’t spend money that you don’t have, but the adage is true: One quality item is worth ten cheaper versions. With care and maintenance it can give you many seasons of wear and in some cases will last a lifetime.) I don’t believe in hard and fast style rules. I think anything potentially works these days: I wear white after Labor Day, and I have a chic friend who is 50 who can rock a miniskirt without looking like “mutton dressed as lamb.” However, I do urge you to consider your age, lifestyle and goals–and how your clothes can project and aid you in those pursuits–when you turn a critical eye to your closet.

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One of my style staples–boots and more boots.

Once you know your style and free yourself from regrets over any “wasted” spending, it’s time to open those doors and dig in. I like to pull everything out of the closet and pile all like items together. Then the fun begins–trying it all on. It’s like a day at the mall, and you’re guaranteed to find things you forgot you had. Pick one category at a time, e.g. jeans, try each item on, and ruthlessly evaluate it. Does it fit? (My weight has a tendency to fluctuate by 10 pounds, so I let myself keep garments that are one size too big or one size too small. That’s it.) Is the item in style? Does it flatter my body? Do I feel good in it and love it? (I always ask myself: Would I feel comfortable in this if I were wearing it when I met a VIP?) If you can’t answer yes to all questions, toss it out.

At the end of this process, you should have a large pile of rejects. I had six big bags full, half of which went to a consignment store, and the remainder to charity. The items that passed muster and stayed are things that are stylish, flattering and, most of all, are pieces that I truly love. I like my closet organized by type of garment, and then within that type by color (did I mention that I’m anal?), so I put all of the keepers back in the closet using this system. It’s especially aesthetically pleasing if all of your hangers match–ribbon-pink Huggable Hangers are my weapons of choice.

Now that the hardest part is over, it’s time to turn the same ruthless eye to undergarments, footwear, handbags and accessories. Although I keep my closet neat and cull it every year, I had been lax in going through my jewelry. This time around, I gave it a hard edit and reduced my collection by about one-third. Costume and fine jewelry both were tossed out. You may find yourself hesitant to part with gold, platinum or gemstone pieces, but if you don’t love or wear them (and there’s no extraordinary sentimental value attached), let them go. Sunk costs! They’re just taking up space. These days, you can easily sell those pieces for cash back.

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Displaying some of my most-frequently worn costume, vintage and fine jewelry pieces makes it easy to “grab and go” in the morning.

It’s a fact that we wear what we see so, if space allows, I recommend displaying your favorite and most-worn jewelry pieces artfully on beautiful trays. You’ll probably find yourself reaching for things more often than you would if they’re stowed away in a jewelry box.

When you’ve completed the process, you’ll have a mini department store in your closet, one that is a pleasure to “shop” each morning. And, if you’re like me, you’ll feel good that you’ve unburdened yourself and simplified your life just a bit. An organized home really does make for an organized mind and an organized life. Studies show it can help you think more clearly and work more efficiently. Here’s to lightening the load in 2016!

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Taylor Swift Is More

As some of you know, before I started writing and editing full time, I spent 20 years as a music publicist. Over that time, I had the chance to work with hundreds of (usually) amazing artists, from newcomers to living legends to contemporary superstars. Often, people ask me which artist was my favorite to work with, and I never hesitate to tell them that it was Taylor Swift. The next question is usually a variation of, “Is she really as wonderful as she seems?” The answer is, “More.” I’ve had the good fortune to work with Taylor numerous times over the last decade, and I’d like to share two stories that illustrate her grace, class, empathy and intelligence.

On one occasion, Taylor was doing an interview with Matt Lauer in the gallery at a popular Nashville museum. Behind a stanchioned-off area, a large group of lucky museum visitors had gathered to watch. I knew from past experiences that Taylor usually spent time with fans at such events. However, on this date, she was on a very tight schedule and due to fly to London immediately after the interview. When Taylor finished with Matt, several members of her team hurried her to the elevator and out of the gallery, bypassing the fans. I remained with Matt and his crew, and remarked that I was surprised her companions  were able to get her to leave without a visit to those fans. No sooner had I uttered those words–a total of perhaps 60 seconds since Taylor’s departure–than the elevator doors opened again and Taylor stepped out. She immediately went over to the fans and spent time with them, tirelessly hugging and posing for selfies, before she departed. This tells you two things about Taylor: 1) While she may have a great management staff working with her, she makes the decisions; and 2) She never turns down a chance to make people happy, to make their day brighter. Honestly, I felt ebullient myself just watching how much joy she brought to those lucky museum visitors.

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Taylor performs at Bridgestone Arena on Sept. 25, 2015. (Photo: Tina Wright)

On another occasion, Taylor was again at the museum, this time for an interview with ABC. While the crew was setting up, I had the chance to hang out with her one-on-one. We mostly shared girl talk–comparing notes on fashion, among other things. She was extremely complimentary about my style and what I wore–this from someone who is one of the world’s best-dressed women. She complimented my PR work, hugged me, and laughed and chatted with me as though I were a member of her #squad instead of just a casual colleague. Though there were other industry and media folks around, not once did she look over my shoulder. When we were talking, she was wholly PRESENT, and made me feel like there was no place she’d rather be than with me. This is the gift of people who are truly charismatic: They don’t drone on and on about themselves, no matter how accomplished they are. Rather, they make everyone with whom they come into contact feel special. Taylor has this ability in spades.

In two decades in the music industry, I have had hundreds–maybe even thousands–of unforgettable experiences. But none of them mean more than the times I was able to work with Taylor, talk to Taylor, watch her perform or interact with her fans. She has a quick mind and an amazing array of talents, but it is her generous nature that I love most. So yes, she really is as wonderful as she seems. More.