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So you’ve purged your closet already right? Of course you did! What else were you doing the week before Christmas?

Since you’ve done step 1 to creating a working closet, let’s keep going. Step 2 is assessing your closet’s needs. I didn’t say YOUR needs, I said your closet. There is a difference. Your needs are simple: to be clothed. But your closet on the other hand has a responsibility to cloth you every single day. This can only be possible if you stock your closet accordingly.

1. Take inventory of what you have. This could just mean figuratively or literally, however your brain works. I take a mental inventory of everything in my closet every once in a while; it’s a nice reminder of what I have. I am Kendi and I have short-term closet memory loss. It’s nice to have a refresher of what I have.

2. Make a list of closet needs. So let’s say you went through your closet and you discovered that you don’t have a black pencil skirt that fits any longer. A black skirt would work perfectly with what you already own,  so this would be a basic need. Create a list of items that would really tie your wardrobe together. Everyone’s is different but mine would looks something like this:

black pencil skirt
high-waisted khaki trousers
cable-knit sweater

Put this list in your purse or type it into your phone. That way the next time you are out shopping you will know what you really need. It’s just like a grocery list, you don’t need three loaves of bread just like you don’t need three black identical skirts. Also, it helps to have direction when you are shopping. Misguided shopping leads to a misguided closet.

Make sure that everything on your need list fits into your current wardrobe. Remember, you want a working closet — a closet that you can walk into and create an outfit by simply choosing a few items. If everything works together, then this is possible. (Working together doesn’t mean everything has to match. It just means that you don’t throw something random into your closet that you’d never wear but you bought because it was one sale.)

3. Now make a want list. I treat this list as a splurge list. Maybe there is a new trend I want to try or maybe I just want something that isn’t a direct need. That goes on this list. So my want list looks like this:

full a-line skirt from Anthro
brown suede heels from Urban Outfitters
drapey cardigan from Gap

You notice that I got really specific on this list. These are my wants — I’ve seen these items online and I know that I’d like to add them in. But they are not essential to my working closet, although they could work. Your Want List should also be saved somewhere. But this list does not get fulfilled until your Need List is fulfilled. Once you buy your basics, you will find that your wardrobe will be easier to build upon.

I like to think of the want list like the frosting on a cupcake. It’s the first thing you taste but the last thing you need.

4. We touched on this a little bit last week, but set your two lists aside and step back into your closet. Since you’ve assessed what you want and need, now look at what you have. Put your remix skills to work and start creating outfits. As you are putting items together, try them on and make sure the outfits work. Yes, that’s right play dress up in your closet. Or as I like to call it “Kendi’s going out and trying to figure out what to wear”. Just be sure to hang up your items after you take them off and don’t toss them on the ground like I do. Not that I do that, I’m just saying that to help you, of course.

5. Wear some of your experiment outfits that you put together. You’ll quickly figure out what you like and don’t like to put together. This also helps with your need and want lists. Maybe you hate pencil skirts after all. Mark that off your list and figure out a new style. Maybe you love them and want more. You get the idea. But mainly get to know your closet and figure out what you expect from it. Soon you’ll be on your way to figuring out your style and telling your closet exactly what that is.

As always, leave your tips below! Seriously. You guys have really good tips. Leave them, or else.

Part 1: Purge

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Monthly Capsule Wardrobe

Each month I create monthly capsules out of my favorite pieces, perfectly curated for each month.

72 Responses

  1. great tips! i have already mentally started putting my need and want list together. and seriously, since i purged my closet this past weekend, i can already tell a major difference. it has been much easier for me to get dressed without breaking down! haha


  2. I am going to purge my closet next week when I'm off work so your post has PERFECT timing!!! I have a hard time parting with my clothes because I think…what if…but then I never wear it again. Thank you for this post!

  3. Im the total clutter queen of closets!! I have SOO many things not organized in there…its a shame to even walk in my "walk in"….I need more space is the issue, lol…so Im determined to get my "you know what" in there and make some progress over the Xmas break….I have taken some steps….a few hanging shoes organizers and a couple for the backs of the closet doors:)

    Stop by and say Helloβ™₯

    Statements in Fashion Blogβ™₯

  4. Great advice as always Kendi. If only I could practice some self control during sales I would be good to go. I think that may be a great New Year's resolution.

    26 and Counting

  5. I love you mentioned playing dress up with your closet. I started doing that and taking pictures of the outfits…fast forward a few years and now I have blog of outfit ideas. I'm glad to know I am not the only one who plays dress up as an adult. haha

  6. I love how you separated "needs" and "wants" and that one was general and one was specific. I am definitely going to d this, since I end up with lots of wants and nothing to wear.

  7. It is very smart to take a critical look and discern what you actually need! And sometimes what you don't need. I know I gravitate toward certain colors and my goal isn't a monotone closet!

  8. This may sound silly, but I have started keeping pics from the runway/fashion mags with me, so I can recreate the outfits or a portion of them. For me personally, it's fun to show an almost-runway look for just a few dollars. Thanks for your closet and wardrobe tips. I will link them to my blog.

  9. I do the same thing! When I find outfits I like (and that fit with my style) in magazines and on blogs, I put them on a bulletin board I have hanging in my closet. If I'm short on inspiration one day, all I need to do is borrow a look from one of those. The trick is to make sure the pictures you hang up work with what you have in your closet or you'll be torturing yourself!

  10. I love the shopping "grocery list"! I've made a need list in the past after purging my closet. My next step is working on not settling. For example, in the past I've written down white button up shirt as a need and ended up purchasing the first one that came along simply because it was a need. I've found that most of the items on my need list are classic staples that are going to be in stores/online two months from now anyway. Doing research always pays off…turns out I needed to try on 4-5 different brands/styles of a button up shirt to find the one that looked best on me.
    This was kind of a "DUH." moment for me…the opposite of an Oprah "AHA!" moment.

    I'm so excited you're doing this working closet series! πŸ™‚

  11. Oh these tips are so great, I enjoyed reading about the mental notes for needs and wants.
    This helps me to keep organized when it comes to shopping!

    Merry Christmas!

  12. Yay! I was waiting for part two! I love reading fashion blogs and learning more and more that I don't need a billion clothes to look fashionable. I learned so much from the 30×30. I love this Create a Working Closet series. Thanks Kendi! πŸ™‚

    Better Than a Milk Mustache

  13. i find that taking everything out and putting things into piles helps me…this is what made me realize i have way too much turquoise.
    i'm loving this series! thank you kendi!!!

  14. My husband and I call my "dress-up" time FASHION MONTAGE! Except mine always happens twenty minutes before we need to be some place! I started doing the same thing- making a list of my absolute needs, but it is a habit that needs to be maintained! Love your blog- just found it today and its already bookmarked! πŸ™‚

  15. I keep a folder in the bookmarks section of my browser that is dedicated to clothes I find online and really like, but don't need. If I still like it a week or two later, I'll add it to the shopping cart. It helps keep me from impulse shopping!


  16. I am already loving this series Kendi, I think I will follow along on my new blog…you have time (around the holidays? yeah right) take a look.

  17. Love the closet series! My problem is that I have a very bad idea of what "need clothes" are…I have way too much fun buying items that are crazy and then I get frustrated because they're all so specific that it's hard to put together multiple outfits from them. Any more suggestions on what make up core outfit pieces?

  18. Great post! I'm going to do this after Christmas – so excited! πŸ™‚ I've been meaning to organize/deep clean my closet for a while, so thanks for inspiring me!! wish me luck?

  19. i love this. thanks, kendi. i actually did purge my closet last weekend! the hubs and i both. we donated 6 boxes of stuff!

  20. i meant to say also that i have a list of things i want but they are not separated into needs and wants. great idea! thanks for your tips.

  21. When I first read this title I thought it said "Part 2: Asses". I was a bit confused, but figured "well I suppose asses are a very integral part of a working closet. I mean there are absolutely no assless chaps in mine". Then I realized that there was a second "s" there.

    Anyways, the point of this anecdote: when will you be posting a "Create a Working Closet, Part 5: Asses?" I feel it's only necessary.

  22. I purged the closet! It was excellent. I'm relatively bare bones. It's so organized and I love it. I'm definitely excited about this series.

  23. I have a sticky note on the desktop of my computer with a similar need/want list. I've kept the same one for years now, and it really helps to focus my shopping. I regularly delete things if I've bought them or just change my mind. if I've had a certain item on the list for a while, i know it's definitely something that's worth purchasing.

  24. Going through my closet, I discovered a ton of navy. Three navy cardigans, all my pants are navy save for two, a whole slew of navy shirts. What would you say works well with navy? I've tried jazzing it up (meaning red) but then I feel too much like an american flag. Any suggestions?

  25. @ Megan Kay:
    I always love to put yellows, pinks, light grey or pale green with navy – they always look good without looking like a flag! (white also looks great with navy)

  26. I go through my closet every 3 months and purge the items that I no longer love. You'd be surprised how your tastes can change in such a short amount of time. Purging your closet of the items that are over worn, damaged, or worse- MAKE YOU LOOK FAT- ensures that you will only be wearing your most flattering pieces.
    Then, I take the clothes to a consignment shop and spend the money earned on clothes that will work for me- A FREE CLOSET UPGRADE!


  27. I sometimes look at what colours I am missing, I tend to own a lot of red, blue, black and purple, I suit more colours than that so I think about what colours I suit and try to add a few items in those colours to jazz up my wardrobe.

  28. This definitely helps! Especially during the Christmas sale season when all I wanna do is impulsively buy unnecessary items. Is there a part three in the future?

  29. Kendi- are you a genius? Seriously, I have been called the fashion queen from friends and family but I am nothing compared to you! Amazingness. The way you compare and describe things ex) the frosting on the cupcake as wants… I want to bow down to you! Thanks for all of the tips!

  30. So what you're saying is… make a list of what I want, buy 2 loaves of bread and eat a cupcake.


    (great tips btw)

  31. Personally I go to a private school so I don't wear actual worthwhile clothes everyday. What I do is I have a notebook and I tally exactly how many times I wear something and I put the price and name of the item above the tally marks. That way, I KNOW what I'm wearing and what I'm not πŸ˜€ this made me realize that I don't really wear long cardigans or waterfall-ish items. I've had this list for the better part of 2010 and it's working pretty well for me πŸ™‚

  32. I just found your blog from a link on Healthy Tipping Point and I love it! I am addicted πŸ™‚ I love the clothes, writing and photography (such beautiful sun flare in so many photos!)…excited to continue reading.

  33. My closet is in tears right now because it is in such poor shape. I have crowded it to the max…I will definitely be purging soon to make room for some new goodies that Santa is bringing. I made some mini notebooks for people for Christmas (just covered in scrapbook paper) which would be perfect for jotting down an item when you realize you need it or need to replace something that you have. I find that a sheet of paper tends to just get lost in my jungle of a purse.

  34. I have read a ton of things on making a working closet. (I felt desperate before to clean out my closet.) I currently feel like I have been successful after probably 2 years of trying.

    I think you have a very unique way of doing this working closet thing! So great job Kendi! I love reading your thoughts. πŸ™‚

  35. Doing the remix this last month or so helped me realize how many core pieces I've been missing. I have 2 white button-downs, but neither of them fit properly, for example.

    I purged my closet 3 months ago when I moved to our new addition and I'm really proud of myself for that. But I need a few essentials.

    Unfortunately, I've had a recent obsession w/ clothes and I have a boring life that required comfortable, washable, easy clothes (I am a SAH mom w/ 2 kids under 3) and I really wish I had a reason to wear some skirts, etc.

  36. I sort my closet by items. Cardigans and sweaters are grouped together, button-downs, pants and skirts, basic tops, blouses, etc. This makes seeing what I have and what I'm lacking and what I'm wanting really easy, and makes getting dressed in a hurry a lot easier in the morning too! I guess it's more of an organization tip, but it helps for purging purposes too.


  37. I'm so excited about this series now! I purged and assessed and put together some outfits and I'm actually realizing I do have a lot in my closet – it was just hidden behind a lot of things I didn't like/fit. I think I have a solid list ready to go!

  38. I'm loving your tips!
    I am determined to clean out my closet as soon as I go back to College (maybe not a great timing idea, but all of my clothes are there).
    Thanks for the tips! πŸ™‚

  39. i have no tips. absolutely none. however, i completely disagree with the cupcake analogy. i could take or leave the cupcake; all i want is the frosting. wondering what this means with regards to my closet…

    thanks for this series. i am really loving it! great useful ideas. =)

    merry merry and all that.

    okay, i do have one tip. if you have little girlies (like i do) save the shoes from your purge and keep in a big basket under your bed. then, when you are "assessing," the girlies two will have something to keep them busy (trying on momma's shoes and gazing at selves in mirror.) wow, that mirror is powerful, even (and especially) to a two year old.

  40. Fantastic tips! My biggest tip is to pull my accessories out where I can see them. That seems to open up a whole world of outfit remix options I forgot I had.

  41. Response to Giedre: My favorite fashion commentator …well, favorite fashion EVERYthing is Tim Gunn, from Project Runway, among other things. He says (from Time Magazine):

    "10-essentials list for getting your wardrobe right. It's the blazer, the classic white shirt, a skirt, a day dress, a basic black dress, black pants, jeans, a sweater of some kind and a trench coatβ€”you can wear it to the grocery store or the opera. The last one is a sweat-suit alternativeβ€”something that you feel good in and look good in and that you can go out and walk the dog in."

    If you google Tim Gunn's 10 essentials there are better descriptions of all those things πŸ™‚

  42. Yesterday I tried to do a purge and, like so many times before, was failing miserably to actually get rid of anything. So then I decided to try something new and do 2 piles: Keep and Maybe. Suddenly I was sorting like nobody's business, and at the end realised that when looking at the whole Maybe pile, it was actually a Donate to the Thrift Store pile. I think my brain takes it all too seriously and I have trouble making black and white, yes/no decisions! So yeah, just wanted to share that this worked for me. πŸ™‚

    Lydia x

  43. I love this series that you're doing!

    I think it's so important to also consider the same things with jewelry and accessories. I tend to gravitate towards certain kinds of jewelry or certain color pallets of scarves, so taking inventory and assessing my needs is vital.

  44. I can't do a purge in a day. I'm just not cut out for it. What I do is hang a divider at the far end of my closet rod (I'm blessed with a long Texas-sized walk in closet) and every time I wear something, it goes to the right of the divider. Over time, the left hand side gets pretty narrow. Then comes the purge. I make myself go through item by item, and either create an outfit out of it for the next day, or admit I'm not going to wear it. There are maybe a dozen pieces left, and after I rescue my cycling jerseys that get worn for MS150 season, it will go to the resale shop.

  45. Great! I always get to the store and get distracted by my wants and can't recall what my needs are! Going to write it in my day planner now!

  46. I totally attacked the post holiday sales with my list and did really well! I am wearing my first outfit I put together out of my closet and I like it…we'll see how this works as I start to add more accessories in!

  47. I'm a new reader, and love your blog! Do you have any tips on how to determine your personal style? I have Frankenstein-esque style. A little of this, and a little of that, but it doesn't fit together, which makes me feel frumpy most of the time. It also makes me not want to shop ever, because I feel as if I'll regret my decisions! I'd love a few posts on how you came into your own style-wise, and how we can do the same. Thanks!

  48. I play dress up constantly, like for an hour every night. When I find an outfit I love, I photograph it with my phone and save it for those mornings when I've got "nothing to wear" and need some quick inspiration.

    LOVE this feature. LOVE it.

  49. This has come at the best time. One of my goals for 2011 is to finally have a working closet! I love all the tips. Sometimes it is good to have a few of something, especially if you love it. I love blue clothes and mary jane shoes.

  50. Love this πŸ™‚ I pretty much already do these things, but your post put them together so nicely. And *thank you* to the commenter who mentioned the Tim Gunn list. That's a handy one to keep for reference and to share with others!


  51. This is sort of just a love letter, no tips here!(:
    I absolutely love your blog and your personality! Sonetimes i forget your not a celebrity!My new years resolution was to become more organized and fashionable, two things my closet DEARLY needed! I absolutely looooove purging my closet and assessing it! Can't wait till you have more updates on how I can fix my closet!(;

    Ps. Can you give me some tips on how to properly clean and organize a bathroom or maybe a desk!

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