Who knew something as simple as reorganizing my closet would make me feel so empowered?
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neat closet organized by organizational psychologist
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In the days before my Zoom meeting with Joanna Lovering, an organizational psychologist and style coach, I wondered if I really even needed a helping hand with my closet or my approach to fashion. I’m generally pretty tidy, I purge my belongings about twice a year, and I’ve been working from home for about a decade, so honing my style never felt like an imminent priority.

Ten minutes into our nearly two-hour session, I realized this experience was exactly the jumpstart I needed. Not only did Joanna offer a new set of (much-needed) eyes to my existing organizational approach, but she helped me discover and open doors that I didn’t even know were there.

What’s an Organizational Psychologist, Anyway?

When you really think about it, our closets are extremely private places. Almost sacred, in a way. They accumulate functional items we wear often, but also sentimental pieces that rarely see the light of day. More than that, our garments and accessories are not just a reflection of who we present to the world, but, as I realized speaking with Joanna, a direct look into how we view ourselves.

Yes, having a clean and organized space—one that prioritizes function and aesthetic—can help streamline our lives and not send us shuddering every time we open the closet door. But really thinking about the garments we buy, keep, and wear provides deeper insight into ourselves. Culling old pieces and adding new ones can actually help us understand more about who we are and can even propel us to the next level in our careers and relationships.

organized closet with organizational psychologist
My new and improved closet after meeting with the organizational psychologist.
| Credit: Wendy Rose Gould

Just like any other therapist or psychologist, an organizational psychologist knows exactly what questions to ask in order to help you dig deeper into yourself and refine your focus. They can help you understand why you tend to buy the things you do or why you struggle to let go of other items. It’s truly both an internal and external cleansing experience.  

5 Changes I’ve Implemented Since Our Session

The first thing we did in our sort session was to create a personalized decision tree for me to use from that day forward. My decision tree included the following questions: Does it fit? Does it show signs of excessive wear? Does it align with how I want to present myself? Using these questions, and some other tips from Joanna, I implemented the following changes.

1 Experiment With Non-Baggy Garments

Perhaps one of the most eye-opening moments of our sort session was when I realized just how much baggy clothing I own. This isn’t an inherently bad thing, and I do feel comfortable in loose garments, but we did some exploration here that made me realize this was both a body confidence issue and a fear of looking “too sexy” because of my curves. (I grew up against a very traditional backdrop.) Joanna inspired me to experiment more with form-fitting garments. For example: wearing a tighter top with a cardigan or a scarf.

2 Swap Out Hangers for Something Chicer

This is something I’d been meaning to do for ages. I was pretty excited to say goodbye to my bulky, mismatched plastic hangers and replace them with chic velvet hangers. Not only are they easier on my eyes, but they free up quite a bit of space. I purchased three sets of the Pretigo Velvet Hangers 50 Pack ($23; amazon.com).

RELATED: The 10 Best Hangers to Keep Your Closet Organized, According to Reviewers

3 Relocate Nostalgic and Sentimental Items

I have a number of garments I keep in my closet that I haven’t worn in years, and I know I never will again. Joanna helped remind me that my closet should be a functional space that works for me. Having it cluttered with non-wearable pieces just makes getting dressed more of a hassle.

The thing is: I don’t have to get rid of that ‘80s-style dress I wore to a themed party once or the flashy sequin number that I wore on New Year's Eve a few years back. The solution is to put them in a clear storage box—like the Container Store’s Our Boot Box ($8; containerstore.com)—and put them on the top shelf of my closet so I can still see them and get that warm and fuzzy feeling.

4 Replace Old, Worn-Out Garments With New Pieces

The garments we wear the most show their age more quickly than others. But because we love them so much, it’s really hard to say goodbye. Joanna reminded me that I’m a grown, professional woman who shouldn’t be wearing a frayed sweater or a grayed tee—even if I love it. The solution is to replace it with something new and similar. In certain cases, taking the item to be fixed and refreshed is a solution (I’m doing that with a pair of very worn, but very comfortable fall boots).

5 Reorganize My Jewelry and Accessories

Because I purge my garments so frequently, I didn’t feel that intimidated doing so during this overhaul. My jewelry and accessories, though? That’s a whole different story. I haven’t purged my accessories in over a decade, and I owned pieces that I hadn’t even worn in the last 10 years.

To get more excited about this project, I purchased a few organizers, including Mebbay Stackable Velvet Jewelry Trays Organizer ($25; amazon.com), Mooca Acrylic Eyeglasses Frame Riser ($18; amazon.com), STORi Clear Plastic Vanity ($13; amazon.com), and Lemonadeus Earring Holder for Hanging Earrings ($16; amazon.com). It took hours to reorganize, but it completely transformed my accessories space.