Part 2/3 - Reveal Your Essential Wardrobe
This is the second installment of Reveal Your Essential Wardrobe!
This series was born of a desire to help you kickstart the new year with tips and tools to move from resolution to sustainable solution, at least when it comes to getting dressed in the morning!
In the previous installment - Part 1 - Learning to See [here] - we prepared to streamline your wardrobe by revealing your signature style.
Today, we'll plan to streamline your dressing routine.
Part 2 / Planning to Simplify
I believe we need to take an operations management science approach to any "organizing" endeavor because if we only streamline the physical objects, clothes in this case, we miss the greatest opportunities to simplify our lives.
This is why, unlike conventional wisdom, I don't advise that you "just finish" what you started. Once you've discovered your signature style, resist the temptation to jump into performance - that is, decluttering, storing, donating, and getting back to life.
Getting dressed is a collection of processes that go beyond our clothing. Hear me now: Clothing is just the input!
It's critical that we plan the totality of what makes up "getting dressed" to achieve meaningful and lasting results.
Let's take a closer look.
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1 / Getting Dressed
A routine is a series of steps taken toward a specific end - it's a process.
"Getting dressed" is the main "clothing" routine. But it only works optimally when it's supported by functional processes. What are these supporting process? Laundering, Storing, and Shopping.
Dressing, Laundering, Storing, and Shopping work in tandem as a system. If one of these routines breaks, the whole system becomes dysfunctional and underperforms.
To begin, I invite you to imagine your ideal dressing routine.
Current State/Ideal State
[NOTE: Block 15-20 minutes for this exercise. Avoid interruptions and distractions (see Script Your Focus here).]
Fold a piece of paper lengthwise. On the left side, write "Ideal State"
Document, in as much detail as possible, what Dressing would be like in your ideal world. There's no wrong answer.
Once you're done, write "Current State" on the right side and save this piece of paper so you can add to it next time you get dressed.
(Nerd Alert: This technique is called Value Stream Mapping - see link at the end to learn more.)
The second step is to observe, with engaged curiosity, what actually happens.
Current State/Ideal State
[NOTE: Choose a morning you don't anticipate too much stress (hello, school mornings!) to do this exercise. Don't overthink it.]
Under "Current State," write out observations on:
- What steps did you take to get dressed?
- What were some of the pain-points, including little inconveniences, you experienced?
- What felt wasteful or unnecessary?
- What delighted you about getting dressed today?
- What ideas come to mind about how it could be improved? How do these ideas fit with your ideal state?
Now that we're armed with desire and evidence, we can begin to redesign your main routine by tweaking the processes that support it!
This process of trial-and-error casts your "future state(s)" - you can think of these as the pit stops you make along the way from current to ideal state.
2 / Laundering
The majority of my clients have an underperforming laundry routine. Shocking, right?! :)
We're all there together: It's endless. It's thankless. But it doesn't have to be hard.
Civilization[Home Management] advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.
Alfred North Whitehead
Let's crack the laundry code.
In very broad strokes, design a workflow: Dirty --> Laundering --> Folding --> Storing --> Other (Mending, Dry Cleaning, Donating)
- Where does laundry start for you? Where is dirty laundry kept? How many people use this gathering system?
- What happens during laundry time (or day)? Are wash and dry cycles done on the same day? How much time does it take?
- What happens to folding?
- Who is responsible for laundry? for folding? for putting clothes away?
- What happens to non-standard laundry - things that need repair, special cleaning, or purging?
Think about what needs to Start, Stop, or Continue to strengthen the process.
Here are a few examples of successful tweaks clients have made to their laundry routines:
Giving each family member a hamper and their own wash and dry load so there's no need to sort clean laundry.
Putting a large pillow-case inside the hamper and transferring clothes into it for easy carrying when the laundry room is far away.
Keeping white baskets in the laundry room to tote folded clean laundry back to closets. (Always return these bins "home.")
Establishing a laundry day for the whole household or each family member.
Dividing and conquering: Breaking the "laundry project" into smaller tasks that different family members own.
For example: dad runs the wash and dry cycles; mom folds; each kid puts their folded clothes away.
A couple more observations on planning before performing routines:
- Planning helps us rehearse and encode change (this is called cognitive rehearsal in psychology).
- Planning as a family can increase success rate; when process breaks down, everyone notices and participates in repairing it.
Now, redesign your laundry workflow and experiment with it. The goal is not perfection. The goal is ease.
Continue to intentionally tweak your routine until laundry becomes easy to do and gets done consistently.
3 / Storing
And on that note, a practical closet always wins over a pretty one. It's much harder to maintain pretty if it's an upstream swim.
Take cues from nature. Water doesn't flow uphill.
Store your clothes the way it makes sense to you, and only you:
If you enjoy file folding (like Marie Kondo), great.
If you enjoy folding items flat on a shelf, like a store, go for it.
If the power struggles disappear when kids' clothing are folded as complete outfits (think a PJ set) with undergarments and socks, do it.
The common denominator here is that things must respect your natural approach while creating ease. There has to be a return on your attention and time investment beyond just a quick pretty fix.
That is the surefire way of honoring your clothing routine when life inevitably throws you a curve ball. (For more on this topic read the How to Avoid the 4 *Messiest* Organizing Trends post, section 3 / Unnatural Folding Techniques.)
4 / Shopping
Even if you love minimalism and capsule wardrobes, you're going to shop for clothing. It's just a fact of life.
But shopping intentionally is very different then shopping reactively.
Take everything you learned from Part 1 - Learning to See and:
- Make a visual board (e.g. Pinterest) of your "parts" outfits/uniforms
- Take a designer inventory and research similar designers (type their name on Google search and see who else comes up)
- Schedule a color consultation to discover your ideal palette (I recommend Your Color Guru)
- Use this pre-work to shop at multi-brand stores like TJMaxx, outlets, or online
- Submit his pre-work to a stylist from a subscription program (e.g. StitchFix, Nordstrom Trunk Club)
Want to level up your shopping game?
Get on a schedule.
An essentialist doesn't waste time doing the same work twice or spreading it over time. Decide how it's most advantageous for you to shop - seasonally, sales-only, or as-needed/spontaneously if shopping is truly relaxing for you.
If you subscribe to a styling service, avoid monthly boxes as it creates additional work with returns and you might feel tempted to keep things you don't love to get the discount or if return window expires before you get to it.
Want to be a ninja? Never compromise.
Here's some sage advice from Sherry Petersik, of Young House Love fame:
You want your closet to be filled with your very favorite and most wearable items – so when you’re out shopping, think to yourself “is this new shirt better than all the other shirts I already have, so it’ll bring up my average – or do I love everything I have more than this shirt?" Because if the latter is the case, that bad boy is gonna bring down your [wardrobe] GPA – and ain’t nobody got time for that.
Sherry Petersik, Young House Love
I hope this post has been enlightening and that you picked up a few ideas to try! Join me again next week for our grand finale: clearing the decks and bringing your essential wardrobe to life!
PS - Read the first post in this series.
PPS - Read the next post in this series.
Further enriching from today's post:
What is Value Stream Mapping? at LucidChart.com (a.k.a Current State/Future State)
Start, Stop. Continue Retrospective Template at Miro.com (a.k.a. Start-Stop-Continue)
How to Avoid the 4 *Messiest* Organizing Trends by REVEAL METHOD
MY MINIMAL WARDROBE – HOW HAVING A “UNIFORM” SIMPLIFIES MY CLOSET & SAVES ME MONEY by Sherry Petersik at YoungHouseLove.com