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10 Ways to spring clean your closet

WE'VE all heard the well-worn statistic that women wear 20pc of their clothes 80pc of the time, and we can all agree that the study bears some relevance to our own wardrobes.

In the era of fast fashion, our rails groan under the pressure of too many clothes. Pieces that we have never worn are lined up beside pieces we will never wear again.

Another study says the average woman buys 14 items of clothing a year that go unworn -- almost €15,000 worth over a lifetime. A sobering statistic in a time of recession and high unemployment.

It's not just that we buy more clothes than we need -- we also hold on to more clothes than we wear. And we don't have the luxuries of space that the stars enjoy. Mariah Carey reportedly has a closet that is more than 12,000 sq ft.

Our collections contain pieces from different decades. Out of nostalgia, I own a dress I bought with my first pay cheque, despite it being more than 10 years old. The chances I'll wear it again are nil.

I also have a pair of jeans I've been planning to "slim into" for four years. The left side of my brain knows this is a pipe dream. The right side thinks it's perfectly reasonable, I'll drop two dress sizes in the not-so-distant future.

Many women fear whittling down their wardrobes. They think they won't have enough options to create outfits. In fact, the overwhelming choice in our closets is what makes getting dressed difficult.

Women have to "get ruthless", says image consultant Frances Jones. "They need to take each item out and ask themselves when was the last time it was worn? If they haven't worn it in six to 12 months, depending on their lifestyle, it has to go. If they are passionately addicted to something or it has great sentimental value, put it away, and if they haven't thought about it in six months, again, it has to go."

Stylist Lisa Fitzpatrick favours a different approach -- she stows away. "Some of the nicest things I own, I've had for 100 years. Everything comes back out again."

Lisa believes that the trick is in rotating summer and winter clothes, and work and going-out clothes. "Pick up vacuum-pack bags, and pack up your clothes and store them under the bed or over the wardrobe," she says.

Lisa recently tried the new trend for clothes swapping. However, she won't be doing it again. "I gave one of my jackets away. It looked amazing on my friend and I became so jealous I wanted it back." Here's some advice to sorting out your wardrobe.

1> Co-ordinate your clothes

Organise your clothes so you can easily see them when you open the wardrobe doors. Arrange by type or colour.

2> Be ruthless

The likelihood is you won't 'slim into' those jeans, and if you haven't worn something in six to 12 months, you probably won't.

3> Set aside pieces for mending or alteration

Visit the shoe-mender, the tailor or the dry- cleaners. Repairing a couple of buttons or turning up a pair of trousers could give you instant wardrobe options.

4> Get storage units

Howards Storage World offers a compendium of space-saving storage units. Or try boxes from DIY stores or Ikea.

5> Stop shopping as a hobby

Shop to fill gaps in your wardrobe, and not to fritter away your lunch hour. Make a list of what you need before you shop.

6> Become cost-per-wear aware

"Spend the most money on the clothes you wear the most," says Frances. "We tend to spend the big money on the outfits for the wedding or the graduation, but if you're wearing jeans or a suit every day, that's where you should be spending the money."

7> Hire occasionwear

Instead of buying an expensive dress for big social occasions, rent it instead. Find top labels at Secret Chic (secretchic.ie) and rent out vintage designs at A Store is Born in Clarendon Street, Dublin.

8> Sell on

EBay isn't the only place to sell unwanted clothes. Wear It Again (147 Lower Baggot Street) buys and sells medium- to high-end fashion. Handbags can also be sold at www.thehandbagexchange.ie.

9> Swap it

Organise a clothes swapping evening with your friends or sign up for the next Swap Till You Drop event (swaptillyoudrop.ie). Online swapping outlets include www. swapaholix.co.uk and bigwardrobe.com.

10> Hire some help

Consider hiring the services of a professional. Frances Jones, of Image Matters, will help you "weed out" your wardrobe.

Image Matters www.imagematters.ie