How to Whittle a Wardrobe Rotation

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Declare-Order-Logo-Concept-500px miniI get a lot of questions about how I maintain my whittled wardrobe rotation.  Here is a three-step synopsis!

Whittle: to reduce the amount of, as if by whittling; pare down; take away by degrees (

When I first started keeping fewer clothes in rotation, the process of whittling down involved PILES and PILES of clothes – so fret not.  You’ll get more efficient at it too!

Because I have been whittling for five years now, I realized I can fit all my options in ONE PHOTOGRAPH!  In fact, most everything will make the cut, because I own so few clothes these days, but I still take the time to think it through.

It is a little weird for me to place everything on the floor and not the bed, but I wanted to capture it all together.  Disclaimer: Some items were pulled from the laundry basket, so they look a little worse for wear!

IMG_0837 (2)

What you are seeing are the tops, bottoms, and dresses that I will be choosing from to wear for the next month.  I prefer to start with an empty closet space and hang only the clothes that I will be wearing in the closet.  Everything else I own fits into a six drawer dresser and one under bed storage bin!


Ready and waiting!

Here is my three-step Whittling thought process:

  1. What will I be doing professionally in the month ahead?   

This month, I have a NAPO-Chicago chapter meeting, my current Declare Order clients, my current position with local elementary school kids, and the National Association of Professional Organizers Conference!  I want to keep this in mind so that have appropriate options for everything.

  1. What color story is emerging?

Based upon what colors I am seeing in magazines, on colleagues, etc. I have an idea of what I might want to be wearing, but it also depends upon what is revealed as I look at the options.  I am pretty sure that I will be using teal and tomato, but navy and white is appealing as well.

Sure enough, the tops divide pretty evenly into these two camps. I see “navy and white” and “teal, tomato, and olive.” So…


  1. How can I layer and combine what I have chosen?

Now the trying on begins.  Because of the crazy Chicago weather, as well as air conditioning vs. being outside, I have to consider layering.  I try various combinations to arrive at a decision.  I am going to eliminate any light blue, but keep teal.  I will keep one

clothes whittled.jpg

Process of elimination…

of the two trapeze neckline tops (the black because I have a Black and White party to attend).  I will keep the lighter weight of the two navy and white striped options because I can layer and still get the desired effect.  And I am not generally a “print” person, so I will remove two “print” tops.  My goal is to wear everything by the end of the week and have minimal laundry as a result.

In the end, my whittled rotation that has earned closet space for this month or so contains:

1 navy and white print dress

1 navy blazer

2 cardigans (navy and tomato)

2 long sleeve tops (teal and beige print) that have a ¾ sleeve roll-up option

4 short sleeve tops (2 black (not pictured), 1 navy and 1 navy print)

4 no sleeve/strappy tops (olive, navy and white stripe, black, beige and tomato floral print)

6 bottoms (3 navy, 1 dark navy and 1 beige)


20 basic items TOTAL

The overall color story for the month worn on real people (courtesy of Ann Taylor Loft, Limited Express, and the Gap) is something like this.


Black Lightweight Wool Two-Button Blazer - Black

Black Lightweight Wool Two-Button Blazer – Black


This rotation does not include the two sweaters I decide to keep handy for when I am cold (always) around the house.  Nor does it include pajamas or clothes to wear when doing yard work or walk/hiking.  It also does not include the two long sleeve cotton tops and two tank tops that I might need for layering.  Those live in the drawer.

Think you can do it?  You may have to start by just doing one type of top at a time if you have waaaaay more clothes than I do.  But just becoming conscious and considering the idea of keeping few clothes in rotation can change habits for the better in the long run!

Please comment below with questions and will be happy to help you!



Coming Out of the Closet – Top 10 Reasons I Love My Capsule Wardrobe

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Coming Out of the Closet – Top 10 Reasons I Love my Capsule Wardrobe

IMG_5549Everyone is talking about capsule wardrobes! Included in the conversation are, “personal uniforms.” It simply means more people are wearing the same clothes all the time. On purpose!

I wear the same clothes all the time.

In fact, I have been living with very few clothes for several years. I kind of felt like I was cheating – especially when people didn’t seem to notice! For me, deciding to have fewer clothes in rotation was a combination of efficiency, frugality, and being picky about what feels comfortable. Having a set number of clothes was working for me, but I wasn’t sure other people would understand.

Now that the idea has hit mainstream, I no longer have to hide my habit in my mostly empty closet!

Thinking about giving it a try? Can’t even begin to imagine? Check out my top ten reasons and let me know what you think!

The “Top 10 Reasons I Love My Capsule Wardrobe!”

  1. EASY DAILY DECISIONS: I wear what is clean. No time is wasted deciding “what to wear.” The clothes mix and match, I am comfortable in them, and they fit. If I discover I don’t wear something, it doesn’t stay in rotation for long!  My daily decisions come down to  which accessories to use.
  2. CLUTTER-FREE CLOSET: Living without boundaries for stuff creates clutter. Putting a boundary on clothes reduces closet clutter and makes my wardrobe easier to manage. I keep a certain number of white hangers for tops and black hangers for bottoms. If I find I am in need of an extra hanger, I probably have too many items in rotation!
  3. PILE-FREE LAUNDRY: I run out of clean items about once a week. Most everything gets tossed together into a Cold/Cold wash cycle and air dried. Some items air dry right on their hangers. If I wear something for a few hours, I hang it back up inside out to wear again later in the week. No more piles of cast-offs withering on the floor too wrinkled and dusty to be worn!hanger
  4. EVERYTHING FITS: I gained a few pounds over the winter and changed the clothes in my wardrobe rotation accordingly. Experience told me it was a temporary gain, so I pulled my elastic waistband pants into heavy rotation. Now the winter weight has been shed (Whoot!) and my favorite jeans and summer capris are out of the drawer and back in the mix!
  5. CALORIE-FREE CHEATING: When I get tired of the clothes in my rotation, I “cheat” and borrow something – from myself or my teenage daughter. I pulled on a “trendy” cardigan of hers a few mornings this winter rather than purchase something new. Cheating helps to get over the blah days, or times when I need a change and accessories just aren’t cutting it.
  6. I LEARNED I DON’T LIKE TO WEAR RED: I like black. Or navy blue. Most everything in my rotation is black or navy blue. Whenever I have red in rotation, it tends to hang there all week. Over time, I just stopped including it. Even the smart red cardigan I grabbed for free at my SWAP party is back in the drawer and is probably headed to the donation pile. Who knew?
  7. BUYING SOMETHING NEW IS A “BIG DEAL”: I don’t shop for clothes very often and when I do it is with a purpose. Not just “anything” gets into my rotation. For Valentine’s Day, my husband bought what has become my new favorite thing. It is a BB Dakota Oliana French Terry Jacket that has taken me from February to June! I have worn it casually, or more dressed up with slacks and a scarf. My husband is pleased he found such a versatile addition! (Little shout-out to Jill over at Jeans and a Cute Top Shop for hooking him up!)
  8. OLD FAVORITES: Speaking of favorites, I have a pair of black elastic waistband slacks that my sister “donated” to me over ten years ago. I air dry them every time I wash them. These trusty slacks have been in active heavy rotation about four years now because they work with everything! I stitched together a few seams and recently purchased a possible replacement. They deserve to be retired!hanger
  9. THE JOY OF ROTATING: Ahh, rotation day! Rotation days happen about once every two months. I sort through clothes that are not in rotation and make the appropriate seasonal changes. I usually start with too many pieces and spend an hour or so deciding what I will wear for the next two months. I used to select a “color story” so it took longer, but I have become pretty attached to black, navy blue, and grey and my clothing inventory is at an all-time low.
  10. ONE LESS THING: Over time, I have developed more of a “personal uniform” and have purchased two of the same item (sometimes in a different color) when necessary. Not having to spend time on my wardrobe every day, frees up my time and keeps me on schedule. It is one less thing.

Clothes are actually really simple. We are the ones who make them complicated. Time to declare a little more LOVE in your basic wardrobe! Try it with your kids too!

Junk Food Clothing

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Closet thighs

Closet thighs

Closet too full?

How much of it is “junk food clothing?”  You know, bought on impulse, feels good in the moment, but goes straight to your closet’s thighs?

Clothing is purchased on impulse for a myriad of reasons.  Some shoppers think they will feel more confident for an upcoming event in a new outfit and rush out at the last minute to find an item to boost their confidence.  Others have difficulty walking out of a store empty-handed.  The thrill of a good deal can also contribute to impulse purchases.  Whatever the reason, the items bought on impulse are often the ones adding to overall closet clutter and disorganization.

Can’t find that black t-shirt for tomorrow?   The Big Box store is five minutes away, it will be fairly inexpensive there, and it will look fresh and clean.   You run to the store instead of facing the overstuffed closet.   But the shirt is probably baggy in the wrong places and is too tight in others.  It ends up in the back of the closet.  With the other three.

Clothing purchased on impulse is often less thoughtful.  It fills a need or craving, but in the end is empty calories.  It can, however, be a hard habit to break.

Curbing the “junk food clothing” habit is much like curbing the “junk food eating” habit.  It helps to learn to recognize your triggers and find replacement behaviors.  You know you should make “healthy” choices readily available for food and the same goes for clothes.   Go through your closet.  Consider giving the front-and-center closet space to the “healthy” clothes.  Healthy clothes are the pieces that work for your body, during this Spring season – the pieces that “fit” right now.

When you are purchasing a new item, try planning ahead.  Look through your clothes and try to shop knowing EXACTLY what you are looking for.  Look for versatile pieces that work for more than one occasion.

Your closet will thank you 🙂

closet 2

Declaring Order in the Closet

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Warm weather blew in quickly this year!  Tis officially the season to Declare Order in the closet!  This is a manageable task if you do it on a regular basis.  Once there is a rotation system in place, it can take an afternoon to switch out seasonal clothing, sports equipment, or entertaining pieces.  Image This photo (from Pinterest) demonstrates the potential end result of a clothing closet with summer weight handbags, shoes, pants, and tops easy to see and retrieve.

Don’t have a system?  Declare Order can help!  We can guide you through your own closet re-organize and help achieve colorful long-term solutions for your unique needs…Have a system, but have no time to implement it?  Declare Order can provide an extra set of hands to get you caught up on that too.  Contact Leslie at  DO it today 🙂

The Least I Can Do

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The Least I Can Do…

(The 12 Least Intrusive Ways I Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle in the Suburbs)*

    Over the past few years, I have become more conscious about how my decisions impact the world around me.  Unfortunately, the more I learn, the more my stress level increases because I am not certain how to achieve these changes in a realistic way.  I created “The Least I Can Do” to summarize the modest progress our family has made over the past few years (hooray for us!) and to offer inspiration to other families who might be feeling the same pressures.

1. Bring my own bags to the store.

It took several years to work out a system because I never remembered to bring them.  Or I would bring them and leave them in the van!  These days, my reusable bags live in a re-purposed cabinet by the door that also houses my purse and serves as a landing/launch pad for various papers/receipts.  I stop there before heading out the door.

2. Grow tomatoes.

We grew tomatoes in planters on the deck railing last summer.  It was the only place we could think of to keep them away from the rabbits and our nosy schnoodle. My tween really, really wanted to do a garden patch but we didn’t get to it.  I think herbs and tomatoes may be a good goal for next summer.

3. Use cloth napkins.

THIS, my family does well.  We have a stash of paper napkins to cover food in the microwave, but for everything else, we use cloth.  It has been over 3 years!  (We even use cloth when entertaining kids – though I often feel the need to remind them not to throw the napkins away.)

4. Use cloth towels.

We do this well too!  No paper towels in this house – well, except for the roll in the far bottom cupboard behind the paper napkins for the microwave.  My sister left it when she visited from Michigan.  Cloth kitchen towels just don’t work for her, so she brings her own paper towel roll 🙂

5. Recycle, recycle, recycle!

Our suburb does not charge for recycling, so there is a monetary advantage here as well.  I re-purposed a lined, lidded, wicker laundry hamper in the kitchen to gather recyclables.  Recycling is more work – what with all the sorting of packaging, but it is the least I can do!

6. Hang to dry.

I never thought I would do this one, however…our dryer went on the fritz at the end of December 2010.  We hung clothes for a couple of days…and then a couple more days.  And then we worked out a system.  And then the weather got warmer.  And now here we are!  Never got the dryer fixed and have only had to hit the laundromat twice for major bedding loads.  (Gas and electric bill are each about 10% lower.)

7. Wear less.

In September 2010, I attempted the “Six Items or Less” clothing experiment.  Now, the average amount of clothing I keep in rotation is about 12 Items or Less – rotated monthly.  (For example, instead of purchasing a new shirt for “The 4th of July,” I purchased a shirt “for July.”  I had four other shirts, four shorts, one pair of slacks, and one pair of jeans in rotation.)  It really reduces stress about what to wear.  Really!

8. Avoid buying on impulse.

One of the most powerful weapons stores have is how they market items on the shelves.  Have you ever been tempted to buy a soft blue blanket when walking past an end-cap?  Remove it.  Carry it over to a home decor aisle that has colors similar to the interior of a room in your home.  It doesn’t look as good when it is not between the green and pink blankets – does it?  The least you can do – is resist the urge.  Put it back.  Reuse what you already own.

9. Reduce whining.

No means no 😉

10.  Resist spoiling my kids.

Proper nutrition, enough sleep, and plenty of time to play.  This is advice I give other parents:  Reduce the number of “outings” you take.  Kids don’t need constant outside stimulation.  I recently read that boredom breeds – creativity!  Teach kids to re-use what they have.  For example: ball mismatched socks for rainy day sock wars, invent new card games, build forts with couch cushions or barbells from milk cartons.  Make sure they have chores that are appropriate for their skill level and teach them to help prepare meals.  You won’t regret it.

11.  Learn.

I am currently researching rain barrels, composting, and a garden plot (or, at least, an herb garden).

12.  Have one responsible car.

I drive a 2004 silver Honda Odyssey mini-van, but our other car is a 2008 red Prius.  We are becoming more aware of when we an walk or bike.  It’s the least we can do!

I am inspired by creative solutions.  So tell me, “What cool ways do you do to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle?”

*Format inspired by posts on

Six Items or Less – I Did It, So You Don’t Have To

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Put your closet on a diet!

When it comes to food, you probably know what your bad habits are.  Mine is Coke.  The sugary corn-syruped one.  But what about your clothes?  What bad habits do you have?  Did you even know you had clothing habits?

Before I challenged myself to attempt the Six Items or Less clothing experiment last fall, I think I would have said the following about clothes: “It’s hard to find clothes that are comfortable.”  And, “My 9W feet are why I don’t wear cute shoes.”

What I learned was I actually had bad habits.  For example, buying clothes in a hurry that didn’t really fit!

Eight months into my journey, I no longer make excuses.  I have learned what works for me and make an effort at the beginning of each month to create a set of comfortable, versatile options.  Down to the toes.

What bad clothing habits do you have?
Discover what a clothing diet could reveal for you!

I am not suggesting you attempt the Six Items or Less challenge – because I already did that for you!  Your goal (as with a food diet) is to eliminate the bad habits and create new ones.  You can start by reducing (not eliminating!) the percentage of clothing items you have at your fingertips on a daily basis.  Focus on just keeping the good stuff!

Phase 1:
As with any diet – PREPARATION IS KEY!
1.  Locate a “staging” area large enough to temporarily accommodate ALL of your clothes.  Yes, ALL of them.
2.  Sort clothes by type.  Yes, ALL of them.  T-shirts, Cute Tops, Blouses, Long-sleeve shirts, jeans, pants, shorts, dresses, leggings, long skirts, mini-skirts, costumes, prom dresses, sweaters, cardigans,…
3.  Take a break.  From ALL of it.

Phase 2:

Prepare the environment by removing distractions.
1.  Select a few items from various categories that fit RIGHT NOW and might be useful in the next 30 days.
2.  Put everything else away.  In your regular closet and drawers.
It’s just 30 days!  No big deal.  You can have them back : )
3.  Bonus points – Donate some things.  Or give them to your sister.  Or whatever.

Phase 3:

1.  Try on what you did not put away.  Scrutinize the fit.  Eliminate a few more.
2.  With what remains, try all kinds of combinations together.  Eliminate a few more.
3.  Set aside an area of the closet to access these items for the month.
Get sweaty items, pajamas, and underwear don’t count.  Use what you need.  : )

Did you pare it down to 10? 15?  Put one more away!
Good Luck and Bon Appetit!

You shouldn’t need to pull ALL your clothes out again. : )
It just helps the first time to see what you have.

Good Will Hunting

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Shopping for clothing at Goodwill – when it is not an economic necessity – is not universally appealing.  I get that.  I also get a Liz Claiborne shawl collar cardigan for $4.99!  I recommend inspecting every inch of the garment, shopping on half-off certain colored tag days, and always, always trying pieces on.

     If you are not inclined to poke around Goodwill, here is a colorful tip about Lands End Inlet.  Last winter, I was in search of a robe to replace my ratty maroon old-timer with the broken zipper.  I learned I could get an additional 20% off the already discounted price if I selected an item that had been monogrammed.  Monogrammed?  Always intrigued by unique ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle, I kept an open mind and found my new best friend, “Patricia.”

My good will embassador!

“Patricia,” as she proclaims from below my left shoulder, is my red fleece hoodie robe.  She falls about mid-calf and zips up the front.  My family teased me at first, but have come to accept Patricia as an honorary member of the family.

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