Style Makeover: How I Realized I Had a (Huge) Closet Problem

A few years ago, as a junior in college, I wrote two posts about creating an “intentional closet.” The idea was simple: your closet should reflect you, your values, and your personal style. It was far from revolutionary, but it seemed to capture people’s interest; in the three years since, the two posts have been read over 60,000 times, making them the most popular clothing-related posts on my site.

And in those same three years, my wardrobe went from “intentional” to “absolute disaster”.

What happened?!

Let’s jump forward to this past August. When it came to our bedroom, Ken and I lived in a constant battle against chaos. My wardrobe didn’t contain itself to the closet; it also took over the laundry basket, the bed, and the floor. And despite my clothes’ volume (and surface area), I could never find something to wear that feels like “me,” because virtually all my clothes were from previous chapters of my life.

This was a bigger deal than I first realized. In the previous year and a half, I’d:

  • Graduated from college,
  • Moved to a new continent,
  • Started a new career path,
  • Gotten engaged, and
  • Lost 40 pounds.

Meanwhile, my closet had stayed the same. I was a 25-year-old programmer in Europe, planning her wedding and about to start a new job, wearing the outfits of a 19-year-old American religion major (and let’s not even get into sizing). But I just couldn’t justify buying new clothes when I had enough. So, I wore the same few items almost every day, even though I had started to hate them. Once I got a job and could afford new clothes (and would need them for work), I could Queer Eye myself and give myself a style makeover.

I hadn’t realized what an impact it was having on my life until August. Disliking my clothes had become somewhat normal to me, and I knew that I didn’t feel like myself in most of them. I knew that our bedroom was hellish to be in: we never opened the curtains so that our neighbors didn’t see the mess all over the floor when they walked by. It had started to feel like a cave (I called it the textile den). Even worse, clothes trapped dust, and I’d been having terrifying, severe asthma attacks in the middle of the night. But I didn’t put two and two together until I got my first job interview.

Style makeover — how I realized I had a problem

The Style Makeover Realization

In the months before my closet realization, I’d been learning to code. The week of the come-to-God moment, I’d changed my LinkedIn profile and resume to reflect the new direction, and within a few days had my first interview. I was thrilled that my hard work was starting to pay off. As a bonus, I couldn’t wait to revamp my wardrobe for work. But, before I could make a list of what I needed, I had to figure out what I had.

I made a spreadsheet and called it my Closet Audit. Piece-by-piece, I went through every item of clothing I had to write down its category, how often I wore it, when I’d bought it, and notes about the item’s condition and fit (along with about 10 other things). I didn’t think much of it until I took a break about halfway through my closet and re-read my notes:

“Scratchy, horrible feeling.”

“Way, way too big.”

“Too short.”

“Bleach stain.”

“Has a hole in the crotch.”

And my favorite,

“Nnooooooo.”

How had I gotten here? Had I honestly never realized that most of my clothes were ill-fitting and falling apart?

At first, I felt frustrated and a little ashamed of myself. But, I realized, this wasn’t something to be upset about. This was an opportunity to give myself a style makeover, and curate a closet that actually reflected me, my life, and my values — at age 25, not 18.

Over the course of the next three month, I did just that.

  • I removed four trash bags of clothing from my closet,
  • Honed in on a style and color palette, so I could make the most out of the rest,
  • Bought a handful of pieces to get more variation from my existing clothes, and
  • Have spent the two months since then living with a much smaller closet, manny more options, and a lot less stress.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing how I did my Closet Audit and what I learned; how I developed a style profile for myself; how I made a fabric and fit guide and chose a color palette; and finally, what I got rid of and how I built it up again. Follow along here on the blog or on Instagram at @saralaughed!

Sara Laughed

Author: Sara Laughed

I'm Sara, a blogger, programmer, and American abroad. I live in the Netherlands my boyfriend and our 11 plants, and in this space blog about my life, discoveries, and mistakes. Follow along here or on social media!

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  • Oh, Sarah, fabulous! I’m a mama with several years on you, and I have been fully intending for over 6 months now to overhaul my clothing – I know I have things at least 10 years old (from previous job and pre-mama body) in there, but Mama always gets short shrift in prioritizing projects around the house – and I LOVE this idea of “auditing” to help get there!!! You rock.