4 Tools of My Essentialist Closet

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been working hard to declutter and simplify my closet. I don’t have one of those amazing capsule wardrobes in which everything goes with everything else (although… it’s pretty close, actually), but I’ve been consciously keeping my clothing choices to a minimum for the most part.

(I do have more cocktail dresses than someone with my social calendar reasonably needs, but I like them.)

And while minimalism is all about reducing the things you have, essentialism — which is what I strive to practice — is the disciplined pursuit of less, but better. I interpret this to mean that it’s perfectly acceptable to add things to your life if they make the experience simpler or better somehow.

So here are a few things I have added to my closet that have improved my experience of dressing myself every day immeasurably.

Hanging Jewelry Organizer

I struggled for years to find a way to organize my jewelry in a way that would allow me to actually see and use it. I started with traditional jewelry boxes, but everything is hidden away, and if you have even a medium-sized collection of costume jewelry, it’s hard to keep it tidy in a box of a reasonable size!

Then I tried trays with little nooks. That worked OK from an organizational and display standpoint, but everything got dusty.

Then I decided I would buy a shadowbox with a hinged door, and display and store my jewelry that way. The box was pretty expensive, and then I had a hard time finding pins that were sturdy enough to hold my heavier necklaces. Once again, it also wasn’t really big enough for all my jewelry — and it’s not like I have THAT much!!

FINALLY, I stumbled across a “little black dress” jewelry organizer at TJMaxx, and all my needs were answered (similar item from Amazon pictured).

It hangs in my closet, taking up no more space than a single item of clothing. It has a zillion pockets and loops and hangers, so it can hold my entire jewelry collection. It prevents things from getting dusty. And because the pockets are clear, I can see everything at a glance, which means I wear more of it.


I also use it as a divider in my closet, keeping everyday clothes on one side, and cardigans and jackets on the other.

Multi-bin Laundry Basket

I’ve never been great at staying on top of the laundry. When I really sat down and thought about why it was hard for me to stay on top of it, I realized one of the biggest barriers was sorting the laundry.

I wanted to be able to do one load (or so) every day (or so). That required dumping out our entire hamper and sorting everything into piles on the floor in the closet or bedroom. Then I would wash one load and the other piles would either a) live on the floor or b) go back into the hamper — necessitating that I pull everything out and sort it again the next day.

Is this a silly thing to prevent one from staying current with one’s laundry? Yes indeed. But once I figured that out, I decided it wasn’t a stupid expense to buy a new hamper with multiple compartments.

This one ridiculous thing changed my laundry life! The version we bought (similar to the one pictured) has removable bins, so I can carry one bin — one, pre-sorted load! — downstairs to wash, and the others stay right where they are.

I’m certain that some people are rolling their eyes at this… But I’ve come to realize that if I can identify a stumbling block for myself and remove it, it really does make all the difference!

Sturdy Hooks

Again, this is kind of a “DUH” moment, but adding a hook like this to my side of the closet has made a world of difference in keeping our walk-in closet (and surrounding bedroom) neat and tidy.

I’m one of those people who tends to wear an item of clothing (like jeans) more than once before I wash it. But that presents a dilemma: where to put the garment between wears?

Sometimes I could manage to fold a pair of jeans and toss them on top of the pile on the shelf, but more often than not, they ended up in the chair outside the closet. Not a great solution. (And no, apparently I was not capable of putting them on a hanger and hanging them back up.)

Enter the hooks! I use them for my bathrobe, items of clothing I intend to wear again before washing, and a tote bag to keep clothes headed to the dry cleaner. (I don’t have much that gets dry cleaned, so I only end up going maybe once every few months! So I need a place to keep things between visits.)

Portable Steamer

As you may be able to tell by this point, I’m a little bit lazy when it comes to laundry and garment care!

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to look good, or that I don’t care how my clothes look; it just means I want to get the best look in the easiest possible way.

In other words: I rarely iron.

It wasn’t really an issue until recently; I work from home and don’t often wear a lot of clothes that need to be ironed. But when we bought a new washer and dryer a few months ago, the washer purported that it would get more water out in its spin cycle, necessitating less time in the dryer.

This is true.

The flip side is that it spins everything SO HARD, that clothes come out drastically more wrinkled than they did with our old washer.

My husband was diligently pulling out my shirts, most of which I let air-dry to help preserve the fabric longer. But that meant they were ending up in my closet looking like someone had balled them up and shoved them in the bottom of a duffel bag for a week.

Knowing myself (and realizing that the likelihood of me taking an hour to iron all my tops every week was about nil), I remembered that I’d bought a travel steamer last summer when I wanted to pack a linen dress for an event I was attending in San Francisco. I dug it out and set it up just outside my closet, where there is a little file cabinet (a flat spot for the steamer to sit while warming) and an outlet.

It works like a champ! This model (I have the turquoise one!) heats up very fast, holds more than enough water for one shirt, and gets out the worst of the wrinkles for a “casual press” look that I can definitely live with. It now lives on the file cabinet just outside my closet at all times so that I can grab it quickly any given morning and give something a once-over.

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