Did you read The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe as a child? I did. It was my first experience with reading that was fascinating and repellent at the same time. (How would C.S. Lewis feel if he knew that he laid the foundation — that he prepared my mind — for the works of V.C. Andrews?) Anyway, the thing that has stayed with me from TLTWATW (aside from the sacrifice of Aslan, a major plot point) is a fairly minor moment, when one of the inhabitants of Narnia asks Lucy about the place she comes from, which he then calls “the bright city of War Drobe.” I always think of closets as War Drobes.
Someone suggested months ago that a peek inside my closets might be illuminating. It may illuminate things better left in the dark, but here goes . . .
I live in the bright city of Washington D.C., in an apartment building that was built in the 1920s — a time when people had much less clothing than they have today. That is a known fact. The apartment has four large (double-door) reach-in closets, a linen closet, and a utility closet. My clothes live in two of the big closets, like this:
When I bought this apartment, the closets were inefficient: one bar across the top in one, two bars in the other. After weakly struggling to plan better closets myself, I hired a terrific organizer, Nicole Anza of Neatnik, to develop and execute a scheme. An excellent, and relatively modest, investment.
These closets look ten times crazier in these pictures than they do in person, but they are organized. Allow me to explain, in words, what you may not be able to see in the photos. Clothes are grouped by category (e.g. “blouses”) and if the category is large, then organized into sub-categories (e.g., sleeveless blouses, short-sleeved blouses, long-sleeved blouses). Then, within each category, they are organized by color (from light to dark) and within each color, by fabric (casual to dressy) like this: white cotton, white linen, white silk, yellow cotton, yellow silk, etc. Why all this categorizing? Because it makes it easy to find a particular thing when I am looking for it (Where is my purple dress?), and easy to search through a type of things when I have a vague idea about what I need (I need a white blouse!).
Here are the jackets, a little closer. These are sorted by type (casual and dressy) and then color.
I keep the dress boots in their boxes (efficiency) on the floor. They summer in a storage closet in our building’s basement.
I store my summer shoes (mostly sandals) in the storage closet during the long off-season. Right now, they are probably chatting with the Christmas tree ornaments. I keep a couple of pairs of lighter-colored shoes that bridge the seasons in the closet to have handy in April and May.
There is a lot of guidance out there on closet and wardrobe management, but the ultimate parameters of your wardrobe are highly individualized — based on your lifestyle, your income, your values, and the actual dimensions of your closet. I’m not going to tell you your life.
But I will offer a few guiding principles for you to mull over.
(1) You shouldn’t have more clothing than you can manage — i.e., you shouldn’t have more clothes than you have space to store, time to launder, and money to dry-clean and repair as needed. “Space to store” means enough space to actually see, and navigate through, your things.
(2) You shouldn’t have more clothing than you can wear — e.g., assuming a season is 3-5 months, you should be wearing everything (except for novelty items, like cocktail dresses) at least once. At least. If you couldn’t wear everything in your closet over the course of 60-100 work days, you have too much. (I am giving myself a pass on sweaters.)
(3) You should spend a little time and money outfitting your closets so that they can house your things efficiently and once this is done, you should spend a few hours each season putting things in order.
(4) You aren’t going to love every single thing in your closet, but if you don’t love, it — it better be useful.
For those of you wondering about the Capezio box on the floor of closet on the left: I keep my pointe shoes because they are beautiful and I put them on every few months, bourree through the kitchen and then limp back to the bedroom.
And for those of you who found nothing beautiful or useful in this post, here you go:
P.S. I hope at least one of you spat out your coffee >laughing< at the V.C. Andrews reference.