Inventorying your wardrobe is as much about the process as the final inventory itself. But I also know building a closet inventory can feel like a daunting project.
The first time I made a clothing inventory was for a theater’s costume collection and I was worried it would never end. But it did. And over time I’ve adapted the process for personal style and personal wardrobes, PLUS developed some methods for helping you actually finish the project.
In this post I’ve rounded up three techniques, four tricks and one tip for building your personal wardrobe inventory (and actually completing the project). I hope they help.
3 techniques, 4 tricks, and 1 tip to keep your closet inventory project running smoothly.
(A quick note first. These techniques are for you if you’re worried about starting but not finishing your wardrobe inventory project. If you’re only in it for the process and don’t care about finishing, follow your heart and bring on the chaos.)
Technique #1: Lightning round first drafts first
I first heard of lighting round first drafts in the context of large writing projects. But I like applying this idea to all sorts of daunting projects.
The basic concept: build a very fast first draft of your wardrobe inventory with broad brush strokes, and then fill in the details.
When it comes to building your wardrobe inventory, this process could look like:
- Building a very simple visual inventory first and then fleshing it out into a more comprehensive visual inventory.
- Building a very simple visual inventory and then translating that into a more in depth spreadsheet. (This is the implementation I’m using.)
- Outlining your inventory in your spreadsheet using one or two columns first and then filling in the details.
- Building a simple spreadsheet inventory and then expanding it into an in-depth spreadsheet.
Remember that you know your closet. If you don’t need anyone else to use your wardrobe inventory then inventory your clothes so it makes sense to you.
I may not be able to distinguish between two nearly identical black shirts hanging in your closet, but I bet you can. (And if you can’t, they might not be worth keeping.)
The first draft of your wardrobe inventory doesn’t have to be a work of art – it just needs to be a functional tool for you. If you’re taking photos, they don’t need to go on Instagram or Pinterest. They just need to help you identify the clothes you own. If you’re building a spreadsheet, it doesn’t need to be perfectly formatted with every cell filled in. It just needs to help you identify the clothes you own.
If you want a wardrobe inventory work of art – go for it! I love a beautiful inventory!
But if you’re worried about finishing inventorying your clothes, build your lighting round first draft first, and then refine it into a work of art.
Technique #2: Gentle curiosity (aka notice, note and keep moving)
As you’re building your wardrobe inventory, you’ll probably run into some speed bumps. These speed bumps can pretty quickly derail the entire project if we let them.
You may run into: “what was I thinking?!” or “I wonder if I still fit into that” or “does this look good on me?”
We keep a lot of skeletons in our closets and building a wardrobe inventory will uncover many of them. This is where the technique of gentle curiosity (aka notice, note and keep moving) comes in.
When we uncover a closet skeleton we can say “oh hello closet skeleton. I see you. But, I can’t be distracted right now, I’m building my wardrobe inventory. I’ll make a note in my handy-dandy inventory and will be back later.”
In addition to closet skeletons, you’ll likely stumble across some rabbit holes – maybe less disturbing than skeletons, but no less distracting.
Closet rabbit holes may look like:
- Getting distracted looking up new closet storage solutions
- Ordering more hangers
- Being tempted to rearrange your dresser (again)
- Trying clothes on
- Putting together new outfits
- Debating consignment vs donation for clothes you don’t want to keep
Part of the process of building your wardrobe inventory is to uncover these things. These are all very good things to implement or consider… after you’re done building your wardrobe inventory.
You’re probably building your wardrobe inventory because something in your closet isn’t working. Use building your closet inventory as a chance to get curious about what is leading to your wardrobe dysfunction.
For example, as I was building my current wardrobe inventory I found a couple pieces that I love, but had slipped my mind because they weren’t stored very well. I had a couple skirts folded over hangers, and a sweater that didn’t live with my other sweaters. This suggests to me that I might want better storage solutions – a couple more skirt hangers and storing all my sweaters together. As these possibilities come to you, make a note and keep going.
Your new to-do list can happen after you build your wardrobe inventory. For now, make a note (mental or literal) and keep building your inventory.
As you’re noting your skeletons and rabbit holes, also make note of what IS working.
What’s working could be as simple as: your most loved clothes migrate to the front of your closet, and the clothes you wear the least migrate to the back. (Bonus tip: if this is you, start your closet cleanouts from the back of your closet working forward. You’ll be less likely to run out of energy halfway through.)
Something in your closet is working. Don’t overlook that.
A couple last reminders when it comes to using gentle curiosity (aka notice, note and keep moving):
- How clothes look on a hanger DO NOT equate to how they’ll look on you.
- Consider using your wardrobe inventory to either diversify your wardrobe or go all in on your style.
- Your notes can be mental or literal. But remember you’re building a convenient place to keep notes about your wardrobe.
Technique #3: Photographic Consistency
This third technique is for you if you’re incorporating photos into your wardrobe inventory.
Photographic consistency boils down to: set yourself up for as much photographic consistency as possible. And do it from the beginning.
A couple key things to consider:
- First, decide if you want to photograph your clothes open, closed, or if you don’t care. (If there’s a chance you might care in the future err on the side of consistency.)
- Then take photos against a door or door frame (or wall with decorations or a pattern), this will help you get a sense of length. It’s especially helpful if you have similar garments of different lengths, like coats, skirts, dresses, tunics, etc.
- Try to take your photos at a consistent distance to help you get a sense of proportion throughout your wardrobe. I found the best way to do this was to hang the hanger on the hook over my closet door and take the same number of steps back each time I took a photo. It really helps distinguish between the black velvet robe that I know comes down to my ankle and the other black robe that I know comes down to my calves.
- Finally, aim for consistent lighting. This might be trickier (and it’s one of the reasons I photographed my inventory over a couple days instead of all at once). But if at all possible, I highly suggest it, because it helps with color constancy. The colors of your wardrobe inventory may not be perfectly accurate, but if they’re slightly off in a consistent way, you’ll have more success translating ideas or outfits between your inventory and your closet.
There you have 3 techniques to help you build your wardrobe inventory. Ready for a couple tricks?
4 tricks to finishing your closet inventory project
1. Set aside a chunk of time, but it won’t take as long as you think. I found I could photograph about 60 pieces of clothing in an hour – so about a garment per minute. BUT that hour also included setting up and cleaning up. If I had continued for more than an hour at a time, my time per garment would have averaged even shorter.
2. You can speed up the process even more by getting a batch of clothes ready at a time, then inventorying that batch of clothes, and then putting them away. Rinse and repeat.
3. If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend an over the door hook for both inventorying your wardrobe, and also just to have in your wardrobe. I love this one. And use it for everything from photographing clothes, to organizing capsule wardrobes, to making sure new purchases stay visible.
4. You can also combine building your wardrobe inventory with putting your laundry away. Pull it out of the basket, add it to your inventory, put it away.
And before we part ways for today, one last tip for inventorying your wardrobe.
One final tip to complete your closet inventory:
Don’t forget to include the clothes you’re wearing while you build your wardrobe inventory. (Ask me how I know.)
Get your copy of The Wardrobe Inventory Workbook
If you’re ready to start (and finish!) inventorying your closet, pick up your copy of The Wardrobe Inventory Workbook: 4 steps to closet clarity.
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