Three Steps to Get Dressed Every Morning

Is choosing an outfit in the morning easy for you? Even very smart, very accomplished people can have trouble with this thing that we all do every day. I often think about a woman I met during my early years of organizing. She was a school principal, but called a pro organizer because she often arrived late to school after trying on many outfits each morning. You’re not alone if you made it to adulthood and still have trouble with choosing outfits each day. Let me share three steps to get dressed every morning that can solve this common organizing problem.


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Three Steps Steps to Get Dressed Every Morning

I recently saw a post on Facebook with a cry for help. A photo showed a standard closet with about fifty t-shirts, nicely hung up and all facing the same way. The person who posted said, “Please help! How should I organize my shirts? I can’t find anything and getting ready takes me so long!”

I was puzzled, because I could see a portion of each shirt. Short and long sleeved options were visible. I saw the colors. It didn’t look like she had to climb over other things to get to the shirts. In reality, I don’t think this was an organizing problem at all. This was someone who needed a simple system, like three steps to get dressed every morning.

Getting dressed easily and without stress requires some combination of:

  • a rough mental inventory of what clothes you already own
  • confidence that most of your clothes flatter you (Click for Darla’s Wardrobe Laws)
  • a mindset that no outfit is perfect, but today’s outfit can be “good enough”
  • knowledge about your upcoming day

When to Plan Your Day with Three Steps to Get Dressed

That last point is key. Knowing how you’ll spend your day informs what you’ll enjoy wearing.

As an adult, I’ve grown into a routine that I used to do at night, and now I do first thing in the morning. That school principal I mentioned above? When I suggested that she pick out her outfits the night before to avoid a stressful morning, the look on her face was completely stricken! She said to me, nearly in tears, “But how? What if I don’t feel like wearing that in the morning???” To her, that felt like failure. In reality, she was already failing. A little planning was her way out of this cycle, but she couldn’t see it.

Figuring out your own morning readiness might take decades. In my twenties, I used to try to match up a top and bottom in the morning, failing miserably and ending up with a mound of clean clothes on the bed. What a mess. So many clothes and nothing to wear.

When I worked in corporate and used to leave the house before 7 am, I didn’t have extra morning time, so I did pull out an outfit each night and hang it on a hook in my closet. It was usually a suit, blouse, and heels. I was on autopilot once tet morning alarm sounded.

These days my morning routine doesn’t include a punishing commute, so I make my decisions how to get dressed in the morning with a kinder, gentler routine.

Three Steps to Get Dressed

A morning shower is non-negotiable in my world. It allows me a minute to think about my day before opening my closet. There are three things I check before pulling anything out of the closet:

  1. I check the weather app or listen for the radio weather report.
  2. I check my schedule on Outlook to see whether I’m in office, with clients, or running around town.
  3. I think about what my feet need. I often build an outfit from the ground up, striking the right balance between comfort, performance, and formality starting with shoes or boots. After the shoes, I then pick my bottoms, since I have fewer pants and skirts than tops.

Using these three steps to get dressed every morning, nine times out of ten, I now am generally happy with my outfit choice.

This approach works no matter whether you have a capsule wardrobe, a maximalist wardrobe or, like most of us, something in between.

Things I’ve learned by Getting Dressed Every Morning

There is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. I no longer live in a world where a skirt and nylons are required even in sub-zero weather. Be smart and dress for the weather.

As the comedian Paul Reiser says, always bring a jacket. Or a sweater. It costs you nothing, and makes life’s unpredictabilities more controllable.

Organized closets make seeing your clothes easier.

Hang clothes instead of folding, if you can.

Figuring out a way to get dressed every morning without littering your bed and floor with rejected outfits means you don’t have to spend part of the day hanging and folding…again.

The 80/20 rule is real. We wear about 20% of our clothes most of the time. The other 80% don’t get worn much at all. Everyone owns clothes they don’t wear much for one reason or another (seasonality, special occasion, memory clothing, weight and size issues, etc). Shifting the balance to wearing a higher percentage of your clothes more of the time comes with confidence in yourself over time, which can take years or decades to develop.

Having all of your clothes all in one closet can help you build or strengthen a mental inventory of your clothes, making planning so much easier. It might feel luxurious to have store clothes in every closet in the house, and even take over the guest room with racks, but more doesn’t mean better. Too much choice can make mornings maddening.

Accessories come last. Clothes tell the story and are the foundation for a good day. Jewelry bring the sparkle. It’s harder to build an outfit around an accessory than to choose a great outfit and add the perfect glitter and glam.

When dressing for bigger, more important events, plan a few days ahead. Just like you wouldn’t plan a dinner party with a new dish you’ve never served before, don’t wing it with a meeting or conference. Choose an outfit you love just as much as your everyday wear, so you can focus on your message.

Choosing outfits the night before doesn’t take the fun out of life. It just makes your morning less hectic.

Darla DeMorrow, Organizing and Productivity Presentations


Fifty T-Shirts and Nothing to Wear

I don’t know what happened to the gal with fifty t-shirts, all neatly hung but “completely disorganized” in her mind. I hope that she separated them by short and long sleeves. I hope that she found my book, SORT and Succeed, and organized them in about fifteen minutes. I hope that she considered loading clean laundry from one end of the closet instead of pushing it randomly into the middle.

I hope that if this sounds familiar, you try something new, and don’t stay stuck in a morning routine that isn’t working for you.