No matter what your style one of these tips will help you rediscover the treasures your closet holds.
Closet with clothes rack
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| Credit: Lucas Allen

A version of this article originally appeared on

Whether you live for shopping the latest trends or wish you could spend every day in your favorite pair of jeans and a white T-shirt, your clothes project a message about who you are. The great thing is that you have the power to control that message entirely—as long as what you already own isn’t standing in your way.

From having a wardrobe that’s bursting with every item of clothing you’ve had since childhood to owning a ton of pieces that you never wear (the definition of wasted money), there are many ways your closet can stop you from being the most stylish version of yourself.

To cut through the clutter and help you get the most from the items you already have, here are eight easy, inventive ways for you to make over the closet you have without spending a ton on new trends.

1. Follow the Rainbow

Every day for a week, make sure that your ensemble includes an item of a certain color: week one is red, two is orange, three is yellow, etc. This will encourage you to search through your closet and actually wear the pieces that have been languishing, unloved, underneath your go-to items.

2. First In/Last Out

In her new book, You Are What You Wear Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner says that the majority of people wear 20% of their closet 80% of the time. There are a number of variations on this “first in/last out” wardrobe strategy, which prevents you from wearing a few pieces non-stop.

Instead of wearing the same small percentage of your closet every week, try this: After wearing an outfit, hang it in the most remote corner of your closet, which will force you to see only pieces you haven’t worn recently. If you’re totally uninspired by a piece staring you right in the face, decide whether to consign it or not. Another approach (which might be better if you like to organize by item type—dresses near dresses, shirts near shirts) is to hang each item inside out after you wear it (assuming you don’t have to wash immediately). This way, you can easily see which pieces you’ve recently worn, and which items you may have forgotten about.

3. Write It Down

Keep a journal of what you wear each day, and how it makes you feel. This will help you identify which shapes, fabrics and styles work best for your body and lifestyle, and will prevent you from making purchases that aren’t perfect for you. This strategy is ideal for those who have a ton of clothing but feel like they haven’t yet hit upon a cohesive style.

4. Have a Friend Consult

Sometimes, all it takes is an objective eye to take your wardrobe from fine to fabulous. Invite a friend who’s style you admire over for dinner and a styling session. Have them raid your closet and put together outfits, then photograph them for easy reference. You might be surprised what they come up with.

5. Choose Your ‘Uniform’

Look through your closet and think about what you wear all the time. While your uniform might be two or three basic types of ensembles, having multiple versions of these go-tos will free up time in the morning. Since you won’t be spending money on different clothing trends each season, you can play around more with shoes and inexpensive jewelry.

6. Downgrade Your Wardrobe

Do you have dressy items in your closet that you deem “too fancy” for everyday wear, or that you’re just waiting for the right occasion to use? If that occasion hasn’t happened in the past year, chances are it’s not going to happen next year.

In another tip from her book, Dr. Baumgartner suggests you think of your closet as a pyramid, with dressiest clothing at the top level and the most casual, lazy weekend clothing at the bottom. If you “downgrade” how you think of your clothes by one step on the pyramid, she says, you’ll get more use out of them–which could really help you if you tend to underdress or need to amp up your look on a daily basis. This could mean wearing that beautiful silk blouse to the office or wearing that structured blazer to a weekend brunch (even though you were saving it for a work occasion). Imagining items in a new light will give them a new life.

7. Document Your Duds

Are you a collector? Maybe you have what seems like hundreds of necklaces, or maybe you’ve got a ton of little black dresses. Let’s set aside whether you need so many variations on the same item and make sure you’re actually putting your collection to use! To stay organized and ensure that you actually wear all of your favorite article of clothing, keep a photo of each pair of shoes, necklace or dress on your computer. When you’re choosing which item to wear each morning, you can quickly go through the album and decide, without rifling through your closet or just choosing the first one you.

8. Use the Golden Wardrobe Ratio

For chronically cluttered wardrobes, Dr. Baumgartner advises using the golden wardrobe ratio: For every three items that stay in your closet, two must be thrown out, donated or consigned. While it might be difficult to part with so much of the clothing you’ve collected over the years, you need to examine why you’re hanging on to so many items—especially if they’re not actively in use. Once you pare down your wardrobe to the essentials (and lose the ratty T-shirts and mismatched pieces of yesteryear’s Halloween costumes), you’ll have the momentum to tackle the other important projects in your life—and look great while doing them.