Stacy Smallwood is passionate about fashion. As owner and head buyer of Hampden Clothing, an upscale women’s boutique, Smallwood goes to Paris, New York, Milan and London to buy the most up-to-date stylish clothing and accessories not only for her store, but also herself. Over time — call it an occupational hazard — she has acquired a lot of clothes.
So her closet — an extra bedroom she had transformed into a large walk-in — was a disaster, nothing like the sleek, well-edited and organized displays in her shop. Clothes, shoes and bags were jumbled; she had never bothered to edit out older or unworn items. And she spent years rationalizing the dilemma, saying, “I love it and might wear it again.”
But most mornings, she would stare blankly at her closet and, like many women, gravitate to the same pieces again and again. “Despite being in fashion, I was struggling to get dressed every morning,” Smallwood says, “so I would often start my day in a bad mood.”
One day, she said, “I looked around and was sick of the mess, and I knew the only way for me to get clarity of my mind was to start with my environment.”
Smallwood enlisted the help of professional organizer Julia Pinsky, founder of Pinsky Project. Pinsky, who had a long career in fashion and merchandising before beginning her organizing business, says she specializes “in making a home look minimal yet maximized.”
She began tackling Smallwood’s closet as she does all projects. “You have to take everything out to see what you actually own.” This means sorting by category. Take shoes, for example. Women often keep dressy shoes in their bedroom closet, boots in a coat closet and everyday shoes in a mudroom. But when organizing, you want all shoes in one place so you can edit out those you don’t need. Pinsky warns, “Do not put anything back until you have completed the entire sorting process.”
Smallwood still follows Pinsky’sediting rule: If you haven’t worn it in a year, sell or donate it. Smallwood sold most items on the Real Real, an online luxury consignment shop. Pinsky also recommends selling items on the website Tradesy and donating to thrift shops.
After editing, Pinsky grouped togher clothes that needed to hang and those that needed to be folded or stacked. She then reworked and maximized Smallwood’s space. “We got rid of all existing shelving and built a new system that used the full height and width of the room.” For a cost-friendly option, Pinsky recommended using Ikea’s Pax system. With her efficiently designed framework of hanging space, shelves, drawers and bins, Smallwood ended up with enough room for a vanity.
Once the architecture was in place, the women organized the items by category: tops, dresses, jackets, pants, skirts, shoes and bags each got their designated area. And items in each group were arranged by color. Pinsky says if you make sure every item has a place, you have no excuse not to put it back.
For hanging items, Smallwood invested in all new coordinating hangers, which create visual order and symmetry. “It’s crazy how much easier it is to get dressed in the morning when you start your day with a sense of calm,” Smallwood says. “I am no longer frustrated by not knowing where to start.”
Pinsky’s parting words to Smallwood: “Do not bring anything into your house that you do not need, love or will have no use for, even if it was free, a good deal or a gift.”
Said Smallwood: “I think we often don’t realize how much our environment plays such a big role on our mood, our self-esteem and even our style and the way we dress. By organizing my closet, I can now create looks I had never put together before, and I don’t dread that moment every day of deciding what to wear.”
“When you are organized,” Pinsky said, “everything in your life begins to feel more efficient.” But, “you have to be ready to make the change. You have to be ready to let go of things.”