Owning Well: A Manifesto on The Life-Cycle of Your Things

Want to Get Organized?

We here at Done & Done NYC are more than just professional organizers. We are global thinkers.

When our closets are messy and overflowing, it is likely that we are holding onto shoes we don’t wear, clothes that don’t fit us, linens that are old and grey.  A good closet purge can lift your spirit and free you of the physical burden of disorganization, but the issue does not end there. But unless we look deeper, we are likely to stuff our closets with more clothes, and the issue will repeat itself.

So the question emerges: How to we end up with so much stuff we don’t use?

Our team has spent hours sipping coffee and debating this very issue. Do people shop carelessly or too much? Are we sentimental creatures that hang onto clothes for the memories? Is it human nature to see an empty space, like a closet, and want to fill it? Why does this make us feel safe, happy, and secure?

We all have some combination of these habits and traits. And it’s totally okay – we are all for the restorative magic of a little retail therapy. We also wish to hang onto our t-shirts from high school that bring back so many carefree memories. Online shopping? Been there. And we believe that we can keep these habits, as long as you practice research, mindfulness, and honesty around your choices.

The key to maintaining a functioning, organized closet every single day of our lives comes down to three basic truths. 1. Know that an item will work for you before it comes into your home 2. Take care of your things so carefully that they will last years; and 3. Know when it is time to let go, and let someone else enjoy the things you no longer use.

Our method can teach you how to bring in clothes (as well as kitchen equipment, furniture, books, and the like) that are high quality, long- lasting, and useful to you. You can learn how to clean your clothes in a way that makes them last longer. And when you have gotten as much use out of them as possible, you can develop a system for letting them go so another person can enjoy them.



Hone Your Buying Instincts

You know that piece of clothing that just works? You probably bought it for a specific occasion, but every time you think of wearing it, you know you’ll feel confident, comfortable, and stylish.

Can you imagine how easy your mornings would be, how slim and organized your closet could become, if every single piece of clothing in there felt perfect?

This takes a bit of work. You are reframing your attitude towards shopping and clothes ownership, and that means changing the habit of instant gratification that we have all developed in the click-and-ship online shopping age. But by renewing your relationship with clothes  you will never look through an overstuffed closet and think, “I have nothing to wear.”  Getting dressed in the morning will be a breeze, for once, because all of your clothes will bring you confidence to take on the day.

Photo by Jupiterimages / PHOTOS.com / Getty Images

Photo by Jupiterimages / PHOTOS.com / Getty Images



Get Fittings: 

As anyone who has ever shopped for a wedding dress knows, fashion sizing is a baffling system. Knowing that you’re size six in one brand of cigarette jeans has little bearing on what size you are in a relaxed wide leg trouser. Fabric density, cut, and style preference change the fit of every single piece of clothing. So, we need to get some hard facts.

Know your measurements. This is particularly important for pants and button-up shirts. It’s important that the clothes fit well in the shapeliest parts of your body – the rest you can have cinched in by a tailor.

Get a bra fitting! Many women wear bras that don’t fit them because they are used to being a certain size, and don’t re-measure through weight fluctuations and age. Wearing a bra that is too small will be uncomfortable and put undue stress on the material and will fall apart much faster.


Pick Fabrics Wisely:

Every woman has fabrics that don’t work for her. Do you sweat through silk every time you wear it? Do you feel sloppy in linen because it wrinkles after ten minutes? It doesn’t matter how lovely seems, if you don’t feel good wearing them all day skip it. My failure fabric is twill. No matter how stylish the cut, I feel frumpy in it. Yet, I bought twill skirts and pants many times thinking they were the practical option, and I wouldn’t find anything better. Don’t fall for this fear of scarcity. You can and will find something perfect for you.


Learn from your past mistakes:

I cannot count the number of times I have said to myself in the early 2000’s, “Wow, that cap-sleeved empire waist dress looks so cute on that J-Crew model!” Or, “Sure, I can wear sack dresses, too!” I was so confused when I would buy these dresses, and the fantasy that the catalogue sold me didn’t come true.

Since then, I have learned a few things about dressing for my body type. A perfect, fitted button down makes me feel sexier than a short skirt, because I don’t feel a whit of self-consciousness. Dressing for comfort does not mean always wearing muu-muu’s and flipflops, it means knowing precisely what outfit will feel so right on your body that you won’t have to think about what you’re wearing at all for the rest of the day. You mind is then free to experience life!


Photo by Siri Stafford/Photodisc / Getty Images

Photo by Siri Stafford/Photodisc / Getty Images



Use your Imagination

Take stock of your closet. What is it that you need? When it occurs to you that you’d like to purchase something, picture three events to which you could wear it. Do you want to dress it up or down? Is it season specific? Would it work with a jacket or a sweater over it? If you really understand your needs, you can buy something that is high quality and endlessly versatile.


Research the Brand

Know your fabrics and brand’s manufacturing process. High-end brands are pricier, yes, but if you take care of them correctly, the clothes last longer and will retain their quality and shape.  Expert in sustainable consumption in fashion Delfina Lopez Freijido wrote to us, “Durability is the cornerstone. If what you are buying has the capacity to last and you see the value in it (the feel, the colour, the functionality) beyond what fashion trends are dictating, it is [likely] a good choice.”

Read reviews of clothing you want to buy. This will reveal quality control issues like loose stitching or poor durability.

Many mid-to-higher end brands (like Lululemon, Madewell, James Perse) offer complimentary tailoring. Also, companies like Patagonia and Reformation are starting recycling programs. You can receive store credit or other benefits if you ship your used items back to them when you are finished.  Taking advantage of these features will give you more bang for your buck, and support brands that are prioritizing sustainability.

Try Things On!

You’ve probably guessed from what we’ve been writing, but putting your hands on clothes before you buy them is important. Not that we are against online shopping, but we only do it when replacing items we have already worn, like nightgowns and undershirts. If you are disciplined about returning things, online shopping can be a great option, but make sure to consult the sizing chart before you add to your cart – sizes are not static across brands!

Take It Slow

Our expert Delfina says that when she wants to buy something, she doesn’t pull the trigger right away. She will go to the shop to look at it, try it on, and then go home to think about it for a few more days. Do this – compare the to other makes and styles. Return to the questions you asked yourself – you dress it up or down? Can you wear a sweater over it if you need? If you are a yes on close to all of them, go for it.

Capitalize on your excitement about your new purchase and wear it within a week or two, weather permitting. Put the item to good use soon, otherwise it may slide to the back of your closet and you won’t be sure if it’ll ever become one of those cherished pieces that works for you every time.

If you are coming off of a big closet purge, take your time in rebuilding your wardrobe. Make each purchase count, and imagine how it would work with your other clothes. Like a classic fashionable French girl, in no time you can have a collection of clothing that fits your body beautifully and works together in infinite variations.

Stay tuned for Part Two of Owning Well: Clothing Care


Featured Photo by Jupiterimages/Polka Dot / Getty Images