You Don’t Wear What You Can’t See, Part 1

Posted by Jill Chivers in Shop Your Wardrobe Strategies

I’m not a professional organiser, but I reckon I could be.  I’m naturally inclined toward structure, order, neatness and being generally tidy, and am fascinated by the art and science of organisation.

And having an organised wardrobe was one of the essential ingredients that allowed me to shop my wardrobe for my year without clothes shopping.  If my wardrobe were not as well organised as it was (is), I would have had little hope of being able to shop in it for such a long stretch of time.

Why so important?

I believe that having a well organised wardrobe is essential for any woman, but it’s especially essential if you are interested in being a conscious consumer and in shopping your wardrobe as much as, if not more, than you shop in the stores.

The simple truth is we don’t wear what we can’t see.

If you have to scramble through a draw or set of shelves to find something, you won’t reach for it regularly.

If you have to scrimmage through your hanging wardrobe space to find those pants, that dress, or that jacket, you won’t get full wear from that item.

If you have to sift and sort through piles on the floor, in baskets, or reach for items on shelves high up above your reach, then those items are being sorely underworn, underutilised and underenjoyed (a term I just made up, but I love it!  Do you suffer from too much underenjoyment?).

If you can't see and reach for it easily - you ain't wearing it.

If you can’t see and reach for it easily – you ain’t wearing it.

If you can’t see it, if you can’t reach it – you ain’t wearin’ it.  At least not to the full extent that you could if you could see it and you could reach it easily.

Angela Esnouf, a professional organiser from Melbourne, and a past president of the Australian Association of Professional Organisers, talked with me last year about having an organised wardrobe (check it out here).

In part 2 of this two-parter, I’ll share my top tips for getting your wardrobe organised so you can shop in it.

But first, some personal examples of being organised in your wardrobe.



I have quite a lot of hanging space in my closet, which I know not everybody has.  One of the keys to making the most from this hanging space is having matching hangers for the various categories.  All jackets are hung on the same kind of wooden hanger.  All skirts and pants are hung on the exact same type of wooden skirt hanger.  All skirts, tops and shirts are hung on quality white plastic hangers.

There’s no mish-mash of hangers in my hanging wardrobe space – all hangers are identical.  Not only does it look great, but it saves on space and keeps the items hanging nicely, so less crumpled clothing and no re-ironing (it’s bad enough to have to iron it once, but twice? — and because of bad wardrobe organisation – not a chance!)



My folding space is very well laid out – firstly by item type (long-sleeve t-shirts, cami’s, denim jeans, coloured jeans, etc) and then by colour.  Here you see here my denim jean stack, and some long sleeve t-shirts.

As you can see in the photo on the right, I use shelf expanders quite a lot (you can find them in the kitchen section of organising stores or in discount variety stores) – they’re just great.  They add additional height space for one, but using them also means you avoid the leaning tower of Pisa, where you have a big stack of say t-shirts all stacked one on top of the other, making it tres difficult to get at the items in the middle or toward the bottom.

Oh and yes, that’s my metal joyful woman piece there in the picture on the right, pirouetting on the shelf.  I have a few decorative pieces like her interspersed throughout my wardrobe, they are my wardrobe angels and give me a smile every time I see them.



During my year without clothes shopping, I got rid of about 40% of my shoes, and since returning to the land of the shopping (early 2011), I have added a few pairs.  Shoes can be a real temptation for me, and many women I know.  Add ‘shoe’ and ‘sale’ together and you a recipe for mass hypnosis amongst the female population (well, some of us at least).

I house my shoes on a custom-built shoe rack (when we renovated our house, the people who did our kitchen made this shoe stand) which makes them easy to see and access.

You’ll observe, dear Watson, that I only have one shoe fully visible – it’s partner is behind it.  In my very first media interview in 2010 when they showed a snippet of video of my closet and this shoe rack, I was asked about this, it absolutely fascinated Pippa, the Breakfast co-host on TVNZ.  And the reason is: you don’t need to see both shoes!  You know the partner is there, right behind it, so you only need to see one shoe.

Organising your shoes like this effectively doubles the amount of shoe space needed, as you don’t have both shoes taking up valuable eye line space.



I have a relatively small space in my wardrobe for accessories, so I’ve made the most of it by keeping it super organised.  The plastic sectioned boxes on the left are an economical use of space, and you can see through them to see what’s inside (although I’ve also labelled them – I enjoy a good labelling).  These kinds of boxes can be found in organising stores, and also in the bead/scrapbooking sections of fabric and hardware stores.  They stack too, which gives you a small footprint for a lot of stored items.

My rings are organised on a traditional wooden ring stand and on a little side plate where I can angle them to face the front (these are my cheaper costume rings).

I use quite a lot of kitchen organising pieces in my wardrobe, a good example being my bangles which I’ve housed in a fridge mini organiser.  It’s clear, quality plastic and is the perfect size for bangles organised on their sides; makes accessing them super easy too.

Thank you for taking the tour

So there’s a mini tour of my organised wardrobe.  It is an absolute pleasure to be in, and I sincerely feel I ‘shop’ in it – I get to create new and interesting ensembles in there every morning, and it feels like I never run out of choices.

No matter how many items in your wardrobe or what your core space is, it is possible to create a gorgeous, workable space that you love to be in.

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll give you my top tips for getting organised in your closet.

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    4 Responses to “You Don’t Wear What You Can’t See, Part 1”

    1. Rebecca says:

      Beautiful closet Jill – and great tips on organizing! I keep rather spare clothing closets with handbags stored on shelves with shelf dividers and clothing separated by color and type. My jewelry (which is my weakness) is placed either in boxes (those pieces not frequently worn) or in partitioned boxes in the drawer. I am very inspired by the beauty of your closets especially the shoe collection . Thanks for this post!

      • Jill Chivers says:

        thanks Rebecca – organising your closet is one of my most favourite topic, and it pays off so many dividends when it comes to ‘shopping’ (or at least getting the most from) your wardrobe. Glad you enjoyed these posts!

    2. susan says:

      I sure agree with all you’ve said. I use shallow shelves for shoes and stack them left shoes on right shoe back to front (does that make sense!?).
      I have all the same hangers too, non slip rubber on wire, except for a few for jumpers (padded ones) and a couple of great multi skirt and trousers hangers.
      I find organising my wardrobe a pleasure and do it often – at least every couple of months – which keeps things rotating and also allows me to be a bit more ruthless than I might be if things stayed from season to season.

      • Jill Chivers says:

        hi Susan – sounds like you have a great strategy for keeping your wardrobe organised, and an organised wardrobe is a working wardrobe!

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