Meet Annmarie O'Connor your new closet therapist

In her new book, fashion editor and reformed hoarder Annmarie O’Connor shares how she went from impulse buyer to decluttering doyenne and reveals how it transformed her life. 

My name is Annmarie O’Connor. I’m a fashion journalist, stylist and author of The Happy Closet — a self-help guide to balancing well-being and being well-dressed. 

I help people transform their wardrobes from the inside out by applying targeted mindfulness techniques to declutter the hang-ups and habits that shape our closet happiness.

If you’re scratching your head wondering why anyone needs to improve the mood of their closet, ask yourself the following: Have you ever opened your closet doors and thought “I have nothing to wear”? 

Have you ever gone to buy toothpaste and come home with a handbag? Have you ever felt compelled to justify said purchase to your partner, a family member, yourself? Have you ever stumbled across the same purchase a few weeks later only to question why you bought it? 

If you can answer “yes” to even one of these scenarios then I think I can be of service. Why? Because I was once in your shoes.

You see, I may be a fashion professional by trade; but I’m also a reformed hoarder by habit. For years, I lived with the irony (and attendant shame) of having a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. I was an official card-carrying Impulse Buyer — a need-it-now shopper hooked on the thrill of the moment with little regard for the bigger picture, until it greeted me in the form of a whopping credit card bill each month. 

Enter shame’s evil twin — regret. My closet heaved with notice-me textures and attention-grabbing silhouettes — an altar to the person I thought I should be instead of who I really was. It was clear there was a gap (nay, a whopping chasm) between my real and imagined self. I chose persona over purpose; appearance over authenticity and fell foul of the consequences. 

I was the personification of “fur coat; no knickers”, which made taking out the bins or going to the shops for a pint of milk rather interesting. Every time I opened my closet doors, I got a high-definition snapshot of personal insecurities from my need for external validation (those ‘ohs and ahs’ don’t come cheap, you know!) to my desire to feel unique.

My closet wasn’t happy. This was an irrefutable fact. Getting dressed had become a source of stress, mainly due to the emotional baggage I had collected and with every clear-out came the mockery of failed choices and the fiscal scar of negative wardrobe equity. 

It was time to clean up my act. I knew that if were to create long-term fashion flow, I had to understand the hang-ups, driving the habits that were shaping my closet (un)happiness. As on the outside; so on the inside.

This ‘aha’ moment did more than sort out my own wardrobe woes; it inspired me to help others by writing this book. So, what’s in it for you? 

Well, I thought you’d never ask! In this book you’ll find the tools to releasing the unconscious hoarding patterns behind my nine closet personalities: Impulse Buyer, Secret Shopper, Doomsday Prepper, Tired and Emotional, Black Widow, Split Personality, Irish Mammy, Sale Sniper and Perfect 9. 

You’ll learn how habits shape wardrobe choices and why the female psyche is especially prone to stockpiling with tips on reframing buying behaviours and fielding retail tripwire. You’ll master the art of fending off fads, tackling trends, and facing up to the fashion bogeyman. 

You’ll go from collecting to selecting with best practice tools on tackling procrastination, effective asset management and learning how to declutter like a pro. More

importantly, you’ll learn to dress the person you are — today. The result? What’s in your closet will add value, purpose, and flow to your current lifestyle. Not a bad deal if I do say so myself.

So where does mindfulness come into play, I hear you ask? Allow me to elaborate. Mindfulness isn’t as esoteric as it may seem. It’s simply a byword for “to pay closer attention”. 

When we are mindful, we tune into our internal radar and heed our own needs. In becoming more actively conscious, we no longer take the role of passive or emotional shoppers. We make considered choices based on our own terms rather than the agendas of others.

Think you’re in control of your wardrobe? Let’s play a game. Why not look and see if you can remember the reason why you bought what’s on most of those hangers. Tags still intact? Never worn once? No recollection whatsoever? See what I mean? 

The easiest way to manage choice and avoid the familiar pong of regret is in understanding what motivates you. It’s only in opening up those doors and sifting through the emotional baggage that real change can begin and a meaningful relationship can flourish. 

Speaking of which.... Whether we care to admit it or not, we all have a relationship with clothing. Some of us have serious monogamous bonds; others, fast fashion flings, one-night stands, and online swipes never to be worn again; then there are those who take less emotional, more practical approach to getting dressed. 

Meet Annmarie O'Connor your new closet therapist

Whatever you’ve got going on, how you connect with what’s on the outside, all boils down to what’s happening on the inside.

You see, your closet reflects more than your external appearance; it’s really a microcosm of your thoughts, feelings, and habits at a given moment in time. Only you can decide whether what’s behind those doors is hindering or helping your happiness. 

Are you getting what you need from what you wear or, have you been a bit slack in the effort department? If you really want to build a happy closet, then you’ll need to be clear on what you need (rather than just what you want) and, ultimately, how to let something go if it simply isn’t working. Trust me: the process is more cathartic than you’d imagine. 

Why have war in your wardrobe when you can have complete calm? Tempting, isn’t it? If you’ve ever wanted to have more with less, then get ready. It’s time to create a happy closet.

The Happy Closet is published by Gill & Macmillan, priced at €16.99. www.thehappycloset.me 

ANNMARIE’S TOP TIPS FOR CLOSET CALM

LIMIT CHOICE

You know the saying “less is more”? Think about it: the more we limit options, the less confusion we face. By selecting rather than collecting, we begin to understand the “why” behind our choices and, in turn, are better served to find more substance in our style.

ELIMINATE EXCUSES

A happy closet is an accountable closet. Total transparency starts with understanding an excuse from a reason. Excuses are self-serving (You can never have too many...); reasons on the other hand serve a purpose. Excuses cover up guilt with rational lies (This sequin boob tube is an investment buy!); reasons have no reason to feel guilty. Want to remove buyer’s remorse for good? Start tuning into your inner lie detector.

CREATE CORE CLOSET VALUES

What do you value in clothing? A good cut, comfort, sparkle? Make a list of what gives you pleasure and see how these align with your current lifestyle. You may love colourful kaftans but if your day-to-day demands wellies and a parka or desk-to-dinner dresses, you may need to shift focus. Acknowledge what adds value to your closet collateral and feel the liberating effects in terms of time and mental space.

FEEL THE LOVE

The words “that’ll do” never did anyone any good. Make a note of the items that bring you most satisfaction (a can’t kill ‘em pair of jeans or a pair of sparkly heels — your pick). Jot down the feelings and memories that come up for you. Replay these in your mind and notice how these feelings lift your mood. Repeat this exercise until the feelgood factor becomes automatic each time you think of it. This should be the GPS for how you feel about your clothes.

HARNESS THE 3 HS

There is little point in decluttering your closet unless you’ve first decluttered your mind. It’s the hang-ups driving your habits that shape long-term closet happiness. Come to terms with the unresolved emotional patterns behind your closet behaviour and you’ll be right on the road to wardrobe wellness. Ignore them and watch history repeat itself.

WHAT’S YOUR CLOSET TYPE?

Open the door on your closet type from nine closet personalities and find out who you are in all that clutter.

IMPULSE BUYER is an image-conscious and socially-driven creature for whom capsule dressing is a futuristic styling tablet; not a way of life. Shopping is hedonistic, spontaneous; never planned, and subject to frequent bouts of buyer’s remorse.

SECRET SHOPPER is fashion’s MI6 agent. Purchases are made with separate credit cards, online parcels are sent to a PO box, and all newly-acquired swag is stashed so carefully it risks never being found — not even by her.

DOOMSDAY PREPPER is the original stockpiler. Operating on a well-honed survivalist instinct, she believes in being prepared for all wardrobe emergencies. Large, stocked, walk-in closets are her signature; so is the odd clothing avalanche.

TIRED AND EMOTIONAL is the proud owner of a love-worn wardrobe. A closet nostalgic, she holds onto clothes well past their sell-by-date in the hopes that she can somehow make them work. She never does...

BLACK WIDOW’S wardrobe bears all the hallmarks of the Twilight costume department. She even needs a flashlight to get dressed. The idea of testing a bright colour or print scares her half to death. That’s why she’s fashion’s undead.

SPLIT PERSONALITY is the ultimate fashion player: Afraid to commit to one particular style in case she misses out. Determined to keep her options open, her closets multiply according to her many moods, resulting in ever-decreasing space and a chaotic personal style.

MARTYR MOM will pay top shekels to dress her progeny but will remain threadbare to the bitter end. She’d be stealing food from her children’s mouths and what kind of mother does that? Self-denial, after all, is its own reward.

SALE SNIPER is one highly-trained marksman. Skilled in the art of retail warfare, she uses field reconnaissance and combat force (elbows do nicely) to target any and every available discount. The thrill of the till means her real needs miss the mark.

PERFECT 9 is a rare breed. Self-aware and always prepared, she’s got her habits under stellar control. Her wardrobe is so organised, it makes IKEA look slapdash. Ironically, it’s that slap of dash that could make her a 10.


Lifestyle

A Courtmacsherry neighbour, Kathy Gannon tells me that when the tide is out, the vast acres of clean, grey mud of the bay reflect the sun in splendour in the clear, sharp air.Damien Enright: ‘How enchanting for humanity that we have birds’

It is hard to believe today but the former island of Ringarogy in West Cork was once home to around 800 people.Islands of Ireland: Ring a Ringarogy

Esther N McCarthy paints a pretty picture with her January picks, along with cool ideas for fridges and lunchboxesWishlist: Fridges and lunchboxes make our list of January picks

Maturity isn’t a good fit for every rapper (see: Kanye’s bedraggled coming-to-Jesus phase). But through 2018 it was working a treat for former bad boy — and Ariana Grande’s ex — Mac Miller. But then his story turned to tragedy as that September, the 26 year-old died of an accidental drug overdose.Review: Mac Miller - Circles

More From The Irish Examiner