Let’s Talk About Your Closet! An Organization Guide Inspired by Celebrity Stylist Tara Swennen’s Workshop

While at home, many of us finally had the chance to actually declutter our closets like we said we would years ago. But that can be easier said than done. Closets often become a space to store things we’re not ready to deal with yet, like clothes that are too small or too big to wear again and sentimental items. 

According to the Council of Textile Recycling, the United States creates about 25 billion pounds of textiles per year. That equals 82 pounds of stuff for each U.S. citizen. McKinsey and Company reports that from 2000 to 2014, the average consumer bought 60 percent more stuff. Of course, this varies based on whether or not you’re a shopaholic or if you are more of a minimalist. Either way, that’s a lot of clothing. 

Tara Swennen is a Los Angeles-based celebrity stylist who is The Hollywood Reporter’s Top 25 Most Powerful Stylists and has also been inducted into the Costume Designers Guild for her work on the NBC Primetime show, Cane. Tara has also helped numerous clients with their own style goals, and often that involves cleaning out their closets. ‘Clothes can be really stressful,” and a cluttered closet can make that even worse. “Your wardrobe should function as a vehicle to make you feel beautiful,” she says. “We have too much stuff in our closet,” Tara says, and contributes this to fast fashion.

Stylist Tara Sweenen

One of Tara’s first steps is finding which items are essential and which are not, “You really have to be brutally honest,” Tara says about getting rid of clothes. “Your closet is essentially real estate and every item needs to pay rent,” she says. The rent in this case is actually wearing that item of clothing, and Tara further elaborates by saying that each item must be worn at least four times a year. She says that this doesn’t include special items, like swimsuits or other vacation wear. 

Tackling any big project like this can get very overwhelming, very fast. So block off a few hours, and invite some friends and family to help. Tara recommends doing it in chunks, either area-wise or time-wise, and making sure your favorite tunes are playing. Maybe you need to sort through your jeans first or your sweatshirts, and once you pick a section, Tara recommends getting everything out and into one place. She says most clients use their bed, and this way they can see everything at one time. She says often when working with a client, once they take everything out, they find items of clothing that have gone missing. “Make sure that you get it all out,” she says. This gives you an opportunity to clean your space too, so make sure to have a dust rag and vacuum ready. 

With everything out in one place, you can start dividing everything into five piles; the ‘I love it’ pile, the ‘maybe’ pile, clothes that are too big or too small but you want to keep, the donate/sell pile, and the trash pile. An environmentalist, Tara suggests that before you throw something out, make sure you can’t repurpose it, like an old t-shirt can be cut into rags. 

By picking up each individual piece of clothing, you will be able to determine if it is really something you want to keep. First of all, Tara says, if it makes you happy, keep it. And if it’s out of season, put it somewhere else. But you also need to ask yourself: have I worn this in a year? Does this work with three other items in my closet? Does this fit my body right now? Was this a gift? Have I never worn this but spent too much money on it? Asking these questions are important, but they’re not meant to shame you. “Get rid of the guilt, replace the guilt with joy,” Tara says. 

With items that don’t fit, it’s okay to keep them, Tara says, but put them away, so you won’t feel guilty or sad whenever you look at them. “I know it’s good for some inspiration but you don’t need 20 of those pieces,” Tara says. Another big issue is with items that were gifts. Tara says that this is often a problem with her celebrity clients, and she reminds them (and us) that “There is someone else in the world that can probably utilize it more.” Accept the gift, knowing it’s intention, and get rid of it. 

Soft boxes like these are especially great for storing unwanted clothing items because you can see into the box due to the plastic window. If under the bed is your go-to storage space, these dividers are perfect for that. Slim hangers are also great for creating more room in your closet to hang up items you love. These velvet, non-slip hangers are great for creating a cohesive look in your newly organized closet and free up more rack space. If you’re really short on rack space, this hanger allows you to ‘stack’ multiple other hangers on one metal piece. 

Tara also recommends with emotional items, you should take pictures! Tara says she did this when she got rid of her daughters baby clothes, you can still look back at the picture and feel sentimental, and “Then it’s not a huge bin of clothes that you’ve been storing for no reason.” Or is it something that you spent too much money on, Tara says, you can sell that item on a site like The RealReal and hopefully make back some of your money.

Now comes the hard part. To decide if everything fits, or if something needs to be taken to the tailor, you need to try everything on, unless you’ve worn it recently, Tara says. One of the tricks Tara also likes to use is trying on all her jeans and pants with either a heel or a flat, and whichever shoe looks best, marking a little ‘h’ or ‘f’ on the waistband. 

Once you’ve completed the detox, it’s time for organization. Put clothing back in your closet by item, and then subdivide by color. Transition your clothing from cool tones to warm tones, with patterns and textures at the end. “Really just release the guilt because there is so much joy in bringing that organization into your life,” Tara says. This is also the time when you need to get rid of everything you said you would. Put the bins in the attic, throw away the trash, and drop off your donations. 

Next comes ‘the choose your own adventure’ for your image, as Tara calls it. You have the chance to project any sort of image you want to people, and now that you have eliminated unwanted items of clothing, you can actually see what vibes your existing wardrobe gives, and if you want to change that. 

Journaling can also be an extremely helpful tool during this part. Figure out who you want to be and what image you want to have. “Your distinct style is an extension of your personality,” Tara says. Write down whatever you want, and use Pinterest of other sites to find images of what inspires you. By creating a wardrobe mood board, you can use it to inspire you when you shop for new items to add to your closet and figure out what’s missing from your style. Tara mentions that some people enjoy having a 33-36 piece capsule wardrobe, full of pieces they are excited to wear everyday. 

Now that you’ve tackled your clothing, it’s time for everything else. That’s right- shoes, bags, and jewelry. Tara also recommends creating a ‘junk drawer’ of anything you might need before running out the door. She mentions items like Spanx, lint rollers, shoe pads, lifts, really any tool you need to make your outfit comfortable and presentable. Putting items like this in a two tiered organizer ensures easy access when you’re running late, and means no more frantic rummaging through a drawer to find an old lint roller. This goes for jewelry too. If you keep all your baubles towards the front of your closet, you’ll be able to easily pull whatever accessories you want to wear for the day. 

But here comes the hard part. You’ve done an entire closet detox, and you need to keep it that way. Obviously, you’re going to want to try and keep it as decluttered as possible, but life happens, with that comes clutter. 

Last but not least, “Know that repeat style is okay,” Tara says. Creating a uniform that works for you is great, “Just make sure that your uniform is uniquely you,” She says. Even Tara uses a uniform, and says it’s one of the things she’s known for in Hollywood. A uniform should be a zero stress way to get dressed in the morning, after all, Tara says, “Fashion is supposed to be fun.”

Watch Tara’s full tutorial here or below and find more information at Girls Nite In Online.

GNI may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on this site.