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How I Learned to Get Organized

Updated on January 10, 2022
Victoria Moore profile image

Victoria Moore has been a professional Los Angeles-based fashion/feature writer for over 20 years. She loves vintage, tap, and reading.

Victoria Moore's coordinated life

Layered outfit: Green jacket, pink top, yellow skirt, navy blue leggings and silver jewelry
Layered outfit: Green jacket, pink top, yellow skirt, navy blue leggings and silver jewelry | Source
Tops folded neatly on a closet shelf.
Tops folded neatly on a closet shelf. | Source
Tops, bags and hats arranged neatly in a closet.
Tops, bags and hats arranged neatly in a closet. | Source
Scarves hung in the closet on an accessory holder.
Scarves hung in the closet on an accessory holder. | Source
Floral scarf with black and white tee.
Floral scarf with black and white tee. | Source

Creating a Space of My Own

Have you ever tried to organize years of stuff after moving from a larger place to a smaller one? If you have, have you also wondered where everything came from and why you're still hanging onto it? That's the predicament I found myself in four years ago, when I decided to "declutter" my space and simplify my life. Since then I've had to move again, and go through another organizational process, that altered my philosophy about clutter again. This time I decided to utilize a professional storage facility, and store items that would've turned my current place into a hoarder's paradise.

Please don't recoil in horror and think that I need an intervention, I just need to create a space where I can feel calm and inspired. One of my biggest challenges is the accumulation of paperwork, books and other things I acquire as a professional fashion/feature writer and Special Education Instructional Assistant Substitute. Whenever I buy a new magazine, visit a museum, or shop at a store, I subtract empty space from my apartment and add stress producing clutter. This continuous battle between order and disorder definitely provides an interesting daily challenge.

During the past summer, I took FASHN 9A, a fashion illustration class at Santa Monica College. I'd always collected magazine clips for style ideas, so I was drowning in ephemera until I had to organize them for this class. To accompany my assignments for the fashion figure, face, hair, hands, shoes and technical flats I grouped them accordingly. Now that the class is over, I've placed them in folders, near my course instructions, resources and notes and stored them in plastic bins underneath my bed for easy retrieval.

Bound Out of Need:

Initially, before I tidied up, purged and stored my remaining belongings, I assessed my psychological and emotional bond to them. "Am I hanging onto my old globe and children's bible because they represent a happy time from my childhood or am I just too lazy to buy updated ones and toss them?," I asked myself. Safely nestled in storage, my nostalgia made my decision for me.

"Holding onto things is, in a sense, holding on to our past lives and some of our dignity," said Russell Belk, a professor at the University of Washington in the article Psychology by the Square Foot by Victoria Clayton (Los Angeles Magazine, August 10, 2003).

Once I'd decided what I could and couldn't live without, I had to find a way to store the belongings I'd brought with me, in an attractive and orderly way. To alleviate the stress of unsightly storage containers I used my imagination to press old suitcases, Lilly Pulitzer for Target toiletry bags and chic purses into service. I wish I could take credit for coming up with this idea, but I can't. In 2005, while working as a Contributing Writer for Antique and Collectables Monthly Newsmagazine (ACNM) and Antique Journal, I read an article by Mary Beth Temple, called Storage Solutions. Published in the April issue for ACNM's Decorating With Antiques section she advised "using vintage hat boxes and suitcases" to house memorabilia and heirlooms. After reading this piece, I realized it didn't just provide me with excellent space saving techniques it also opened up another collecting opportunity. At a neighborhood yard sale I bought a black trunk and at Ticktocker Timeless Treasures a series of suitcases where I keep my extra clothing, scarves, hats and jewelry. The Federation of Vintage Fashion's Vintage Fashion Expo has also been a fruitful place to search. On one of my visits I found a red, green and yellow paisley print soft covered suitcase that currently contains my light-colored vintage skirts.

De-Clutter 101: A Professional Motivator:

When I first embarked on the journey to "un-jumble my mess" I was still dealing with the trauma from a serious illness. Diagnosed with Stage II A Breast Cancer in 2010, and lupus in 2008, I was a client at the Cancer Support Community-Benjamin Center. After talking to some of my friends there I was happy to discover I wasn't alone, in being overwhelmed with medical papers and other modern souvenirs. Colorfully bold against its surroundings the flyer for De-Clutter 101 on the facility bulletin board immediately caught my eye and seemed like the solution to my problem.Taught by Regina Lark, owner of A Clear Path ("an L.A.-based professional organizing business"), it was a very popular course that filled up immediately. Although I took the workshop three years ago, on October 19, 2013, I still remember and utilize the skills I acquired. The most helpful piece of advice I learned from Lark was "That you'll be more productive after organizing."

To set the class on the right road she required that we bring in a "junk drawer" to organize at the workshop. I didn't really have one so I collected and brought in an assortment of "junk" in a large zip loc bag. Crowded together in a cozy assemblage, were a heart-shaped lace potpourri sachet, several pencils, pens and chopsticks from Miyako, Sushi Cat, Mitsuwa Marketplace, a framed black and white photo of my first tap teacher, Mark Mendonca, and various Hello Kitty notepads.

Following her personal introduction, Lark then instructed us to arrange our "junk" on our assigned tables. Slowly, and with methodical precision, she walked by everyone's table, examined their collections, and interviewed each one of us about them. I'm happy to report that I passed the pre-test by neatly separating everything into its own category. My euphoria soon turned to frustration, however, when she looked at my chopsticks with intensity. Stewing under her unsettling gaze, she finally asked me, "Do you ever use these?" When I told her, "No, I just liked their packaging, and wanted to save them," she gathered them up in one hand and threw them in the trash can.

"Oh, so that's how it's done," I thought to myself. "You just toss everything you can't and don't use and organize the things you do. I think I can do that."

Stylishly Organized and Fashionable:

Once I learned a few tricks from De-Clutter 101 I was eager to use them in my life. Now that I've been working as a Special Ed Instructional Assistant Substitute for a year, I've learned how to use organization to adjust my wardrobe to fit the job and remain stylish. By incorporating the same tactics I use as a fashion/feature writer I'm able to project a consistently professional and approachable image. To alleviate the stress of coordinating an ensemble for the day I usually set aside a couple of hours on the weekend to brainstorm. For the second week, at a nearby elementary school, I channeled my inner fashion designer and created a concept board with photos, notes and descriptions to work from.

In the book My Fabulous Fashion Sketchbook by Wendy Ward and Robyn Neild they claim, "All design begins with an idea." Recently, after visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art I was drawn to a Chinese painting I'd photographed, by Zheng Chongbin called Turbulence, (2013). Executed in "ink and acrylic on Xuan paper" I loved the way the colors blended harmoniously together to create a dramatic abstract scene. Transforming the main palette from the painting to my wardrobe, I was inspired to put together five outfits combining black, white, beige, blue and gray.

For Monday I wore a pink, black and white floral jacket over a white 3/4-sleeved blouse and black skirt, that was also reminiscent of Prada. I wore another white button-down shirt on Tuesday, with a pair of gray corduroy pants and a beige corduroy blazer. Early in my coordination process, I'd paired a gray button-down blouse with a denim A-line skirt and off-white short-sleeved blazer, but when Wednesday morning arrived. I felt more girly and substituted the gray blouse for an off-white A-line lace sleeveless top and crocheted short-sleeved jacket. Audrey Hepburn, Paris and Jack Kerouac were on my mind too, so they influenced my Thursday look-a black and white striped long-sleeved shirt tucked into a pair of men's beige khaki's, accessorized with a black crocheted beret, Audrey Hepburn Breakfast At Tiffany's locket and black men's shoes. On a recent trip to Target I saw a series of displays, in the Women's Department, with mannequins wearing denim flares and boho tops. I loved this presentation so much I copied it for Friday's choice-a white ribbed cardigan over a black and white HAUTE PARIS tee and denim retro bell bottoms.

A strange thing happened while I was combining, trying on, photographing and documenting, I began to feel more calm, in control and less anxious. In the simple process of slowing down and arranging my clothes I was taking care of myself and bringing order to a potentially stressful situation.

"The clothing you put on your back is an incredibly accurate indicator of what you think of yourself and life," wrote Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner in You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal About You.

Hopefully mine radiate with the same positive energy, vitality and passion I live my life with.

Shopping and Coordinating in Orderly Fashion:

Bringing new clothes into my space after shopping in a store or online could add to my mental as well as physical clutter if I didn't plan beforehand. Preliminary research with high fashion magazines, through books and online usually allow me to see all of the season's trends and how they're worn. A blog I read once about the "proper way to wear leggings as a layering item" led me to put together an outfit that blended soft fabrics and a soothing palette in an unusual way.

Beginning with a Prada ad, as an example, I found a yellow mini and navy-blue leggings at Forever 21, then brought them back home, and paired them with a dressy soft pink tee from Ross and a green and white polka-dotted blazer, accessorized with a green tie belt and a silver chain link necklace and bracelet set a salesperson at Rainbow helped me select. Adhering to my new philosophy for order, I always list my new buys on a list in the same folder that contains my Fashion Coordination Daily Diary list on a New Items list.

Confusing and endlessly blatant, as our world becomes more digitized and trendy, I've come to rely on these lists to maintain my style equilibrium. Visually my path has expanded since its inception in 2013 to include my intellectual and creative sides too, making it a continual work in progress, that I hope will help me evolve while staying organized.

Lilly Pulitzer for Target toiletry bags and vintage suitcases.
Lilly Pulitzer for Target toiletry bags and vintage suitcases. | Source
Vintage suitcases and parasol
Vintage suitcases and parasol | Source
Vintage sweaters folded neatly on a closet shelf.
Vintage sweaters folded neatly on a closet shelf. | Source

What Do You Think Is Too Much Stuff?

What do you think is too much stuff:

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Breast Cancer Ribbons
Breast Cancer Ribbons | Source

© 2012 Victoria Jean Moore


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