Simplify Your Life: Purge Your Closet

Less is more, says fashion consultant Jennifer Mapp Bressan.

Closet and fashion consultant Jennifer Mapp Bressan. Photo by Amanda Lockwood

I thought I was a ruthless closet editor—until I met Falls Church-based fashion blogger and closet consultant Jennifer Mapp Bressan.

“I grew up in the era of going to malls as a hobby,” says the self-described recovering serial shopper. “But then you go through milestones in life—going out in your 20s, settling into your career, having children—and all of these milestones have clothes attached to them. You get to a point where your closet doesn’t reflect your lifestyle anymore…which leads to a lot of guilt and unnecessary chaos when you go to get dressed in the morning.”

Mapp Bressan’s own closet was ground zero when she finally resolved to streamline her life. She curated a “capsule” wardrobe consisting of some 40 articles of clothing and outerwear—roughly 20 neutral staples and an equal number of seasonal accent pieces—plus shoes and accessories that can be worn in a given season, all rigorously edited for fit, quality and comfort. Her closet is now organized so that all of the options, from headbands to heels, are visible at a glance. “My entire wardrobe is on one garment rack and I’ve never felt more stylish,” says the mom of two. “Getting rid of 80 percent of my clothes was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done.”

Now she’s helping her clients do the same, starting with a “brutally honest” closet edit, then filling in any gaps with a targeted shopping list. She also creates a customized “Closet Mapp” to help each client visualize ways to creatively mix and match pieces. (Rates start at $500 for five hours.)

Not quite ready for a full-on purge? As an interim step, Mapp Bressan suggests putting the clothes you don’t wear (but have a hard time parting with) into closet purgatory: “Weed out questionable items and store them out of sight for three months,” she says. “If you really miss something, you can grab it back.” Here are her top tips for trimming closet fat:

1. Off-season, out of sight. “Nearly 50 percent of the closet clutter I confront is visual distraction,” she says. “Start simple: Remove every off-season item and store those pieces in a secondary closet” or alternate storage place.

2. The fit test. “If it doesn’t fit, don’t front. Box it up or get rid of it.”

3. Lifestyle reality check. What’s your day-to-day routine? “If you used to work in a law office and are now at home with the kids, you don’t need several sets of suiting separates.”

4. Denim deep dive. “Let me guess. You have 25 pairs of dark-wash skinny jeans, right? Pick three to five of your favorites and donate the rest.”

5. But it has tags! “Be honest. It has tags because you bought it on an impulse and it matches nothing or fits funny. Return it. Too late? Commit to wearing it in the next 10 days or pack it up for donation or consignment.”

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