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How to Find Your Personal Style: Declutter Your Closet

Susan's take on finding your personal style comes from her experience as a decluttering coach as opposed to as a stylist.

What you wear all the time gives you clues as to your personal style.

What you wear all the time gives you clues as to your personal style.

The Secret to Finding Your Personal Style May Be in Your Closet

If you're wondering what your personal style is, chances are you’ve taken more than one online style quiz. You’ve likely gazed at a few Pinterest boards as you’ve tried to figure out if you like preppy clothing, romantic dresses, bohemian layers, or the clean lines and bright colors of a sporty style.

What you may not have thought of doing is looking at the clothing already in your closet. Now, I know you may be thinking that the reason you’re looking at online style guides is that you don’t like what’s in your closet. And that’s my point.

Get Clues to Your Style from the Clothing You Don't Wear

The clothing you don’t or won’t wear is different than items you can’t wear. Garments that you can’t wear include pieces that don’t fit, are stained or damaged, or require alteration. You can’t wear these items and they add clutter to your closet.

However, if you could put a garment on your body and walk out the door, but you don’t, you want to consider why. Your answer is information that will help you identify your personal style.

Figure Out What Colors You Wear

  1. Open your closet door. What colors stand out the most?
  2. Do you wear all the colors in your closet? Sort through the items hanging there and pull out garments or accessories in colors that you don’t wear.
  3. Why don’t you wear these colors? Do they leave you feeling drab or with low energy? Do you associate a color with a uniform you wore (or wear)?
  4. Now, grab a notebook and pen and draw a line down the center of the page. Label one column “What I love wearing” and the other column “What I don’t wear.”
  5. List the colors you don’t wear in the appropriate column.
  6. Before listing the colors that you wear all the time in the “love” column, consider if you really feel great wearing these colors or if you wear them for some other reason. (“I should wear black until I lose those 30 pounds.”)

Identify Clothing Characteristics You Don't Like

Look at the clothing you don’t and won’t wear to show you the characteristics that don’t appeal to you or don’t feel comfortable on your body. Note your observations on your chart. For now, just focus on the items you’ve removed from your closet and ignore what’s still hanging in there.


Look at the hemline of your shirts. Do you see a lot of straight lines or curved, drapey hems? Is the overall shape straight or flowy? How about your pants – slim, relaxed, flowing? Look for the predominate shapes you notice in the pockets, how the sleeves are set into the shirt, etc.

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Run your hands and fingers over the fabric of the clothing you’ve removed from your closet. Are the pieces stiff, heavy, lacy, velvety, soft, slippery? Don’t worry about the proper fashion industry term for a characteristic. Use the words you’d use when in a store.


Have you removed a lot of patterned clothing from your closet or solid colors? How would you describe any patterns—bold, floral, delicate, geometric, artsy, subtle, etc.?

Note down the characteristics you seem to dislike on your chart.

You'll feel more comfortable wearing what you like that forcing yourself into the constraints of a particular fashion style.

You'll feel more comfortable wearing what you like that forcing yourself into the constraints of a particular fashion style.

Identify What You Like About the Clothing You Wear

What Characteristics Do You Like?

Now that you’ve identified qualities that you dislike, are there more items you want to pull from your closet? However many or few items remain, look at what you do like about what remains and make notes on your chart.

As you look at the clothing you like, are you noticing any contradictions? Maybe you said you don’t like tailored items, but you have a pencil skirt in your closet that you love. Go back to the pile of clothing you pulled from your closet. Maybe you dislike something because of the color or pattern and not the cut of the fabric and shape of the garment. This helps you clarify what you like and dislike.

Identifying Your Personal Style

As you look at the clothing in your closet and the qualities you’ve identified as the reasons for liking these items, do you see clues about your style?

If you see a lot of neutral colors and tailored items, you may lean toward a classic style. Lots of pieces in earthy colors that you can layer; maybe you lean toward the boho style. Flowing fabrics with delicate patterns and pale or pastel fabrics? Perhaps a romantic style.

If your wardrobe doesn’t reflect a conventional style, create your own label—romantic goth, boho business casual, California preppy, film noir rockstar, whatever you want.

Shopping for Your Style

Even if you don’t know how to label your style, the most important part of this exercise is the list you created identifying what you like about the clothing you’re keeping and what you dislike about the clothing you removed from your closet. If you buy what you like and avoid buying things like the items you ignored when they were in your closet, you’ll start to develop your unique style.

© 2020 Susan Caplan McCarthy

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