By Stephanie Tweito Jacob
When you have a packed schedule, the last thing you need in the morning is to dig through piles of sweaters you never wear or agonize over which top goes with your navy skirt.
"When you're rushing out the door, you don't want to have to think about what you're going to wear," says Carrie Gjermundsen, a wardrobe consultant in New York City. Organizing your closet, paring down what you have and mixing in flattering new styles can bring speed and clarity to your morning routine -- and make you feel more confident too. Follow these four easy steps:
1. Divide to Conquer
Start by grouping your clothes by season. Next, arrange them by purpose: things you wear for work, weekends, evenings out and so on. Then place all the tops and bottoms in each group together. (For example, put work shirts in one pile and casual jeans in another.) Finally, arrange each group by color.
As you're taking inventory, eliminate anything that's dated, stained, stretched out or ill-fitting. Generally, if you haven't worn something in a year, you won't wear it again. If there's a shirt or dress you can't bear to part with, you can put it in the back of your closet or in storage -- but do consider letting it go if you can. "Chances are, you'll get more satisfaction out of something new," says Gjermundsen.
2. Try on
Anything you haven't worn recently or aren't sure you'll wear again, try on. Keep only those items that flatter your shape. (Ask an honest friend to help.) If something's more than one size too big or too small, toss it.
With each item you keep, take a moment to determine whether you have something to wear with it. If not, start a shopping list. Take a photo of the item as a reminder, or set it aside to take to the store with you. This will help you figure out what you actually need, says Gjermundsen. "One new element is all it takes to update an outfit," she adds.
Put this season's clothing and shoes front and center in your closet and dresser -- put everything else in the back or into storage. "You want the first things you see to be those items you need to get dressed in a hurry for work or out the door on a Saturday," says Gjermundsen.
Now it's time to hit the stores and fill in those wardrobe gaps. If you're not sure what to pair with a particular skirt or top you already own, bring it along and ask a salesperson. Keep your closet streamlined by focusing on items that work for more than one season. A chunky dark wool sweater may look cozy now, but you won't be able to wear it as long as, say, a lighter-weight sweater you can layer on cold days and wear by itself as the weather warms up. "Cottons and knits in navies and grays are perfect to take you from winter to spring," says Gjermundsen. "They go with tons of colors and they're a great alternative to black and white." Stripes also have a fresh, spring-y attitude, she says, as does bright yellow.
Stephanie Tweito Jacob is a freelance writer who specializes in beauty, fashion and health. She has held editorial positions at Allure, More and O, The Oprah Magazine.