Every year around this time I start scowling into my closet wondering, why in the world do I have so many clothes. I inevitably zero in on a few obvious suspects that I neither wear nor like and I aggressively stuff them into bags for a trip to a charity thrift store, but then I’m stymied by purging paralysis.
It’s like the clothes have some secret force field around them that prevents me from removing them from the house. I pick up a few random sweaters or pants and try to talk myself into getting rid of them. I use all the usual common-sense principles: you haven’t worn this in a year (or maybe two), it doesn’t fit well (or worse, you can’t fit into it), it’s dated, and too often, I’m not even sure I like this.
But my inner clothes hoarder protests: Maybe you’ll wear it this year, maybe you’ll lose weight, maybe you’ll fix that hole in the sleeve, maybe this will come back in style, maybe you’ll find the perfect shoes and won’t you be sorry this isn’t around.
I quickly become exhausted arguing against my own irrationality and pretty much give up, happy to have excised a few belongings on the bottom rung of the clothing attachment hierarchy.
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If you’re even remotely in the same boat and you want to shed some closet weight, here are a few ideas.
Pack a bag. Pretend you’re going on a 10-day trip and pack accordingly. Yes, really pack. Toss in your favorites but be judicious. Head online for my story on how to pack 10 days of items in a carry-on with room to spare. Then once you’ve got everything in there, zip it up and toss it in the closet for the next 30 days.
Admit and repent. OK, don’t just cop to the problem, let’s take a giant step at resolving it. If you can go on a shopping fast, do it. But if you do shop, forget the one-in-one-out rule. Up the stakes. One in equals three out. No excuses.
Start backward. Most closet cleaning rituals involve wearing everything and then figuring out what you don’t wear. A classic tip is to turn all your hangers around so that the hook is facing forward, when you wear an item you can replace it in the closet with the hook facing backward. Then at the end of a specified time you vow to remove everything on a hanger that’s still reversed. I like this idea, but I’m also impatient. I lose momentum quickly if I don’t see results. When I’m in the mood to vanquish items, I want to hit the problem hard and then forget about it until the next annual purge. So, I challenge you to start with the more dubious items in your closet (hence the packing exercise).
Challenge! Can you wear (or get rid of) seven things this week that you can’t remember wearing in the last year?
Set a goal. This won’t work for everyone, but I like a finish line. I’m aiming to remove 30 items from my closet this month. That’s roughly a week’s worth of clothing and accessories. It’s totally arbitrary.
Wear it or lose it. If you accept the challenge, resolve to toss and don’t look back at anything you can’t wear the day you reach for it. “But this skirt is too nice for the office.” No such thing, you’ll just have to pretend it’s dress up Tuesday or cocktail Monday. Besides, there’s usually a way to dress something down for office wear by adding a cardigan and a belt, wearing flats or boots, or not wearing accessories. You probably won’t want to do this with truly formal attire or sequin dresses, but almost anything suitable for cocktails is suitable for everyday (in my opinion).
Love it or lose it. OK, so you can wear it, but does it bring you joy, to borrow from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by declutter master Marie Kondo. There are items that I wear that feel like me. I can’t explain it, but they just do. They make me feel confident, secure, comforted and attractive. With other items, I have an involuntary reaction. I like them just fine but I don’t love them. I sometimes begrudgingly wear them because they happen to be clean, but they do not make me happy. They do not feel like me. However, the only real reason to keep an item is that it brings me joy absent any other consideration. A handmade designer sweater comes to mind. It’s not trendy but practical and fits well. The sleeves, body and pockets are contrasting colors of brown, black and gray. It feels nice and it’s well made, but I do not love it. I feel an internal sigh whenever I reach for it, much the same sensation of reaching for celery on a party tray, “oh, all right, I guess I’ll have this instead of more cookies.” The results are equally as satisfying. So it’s gone, if it bothers me enough to conjure while writing this from my office desk then it surely deserves a new home.
But what about … If it almost fits, if it needs repair, if it has sentimental value, if it was really, really expensive. Unless it’s a wedding dress or something that’s going to be passed down to another generation, don’t keep it if you can’t wear it or don’t plan to display it. Don’t keep it; it’s clutter.
It’s cold and dark and you’ve got to clean up from the holidays anyway, so you might as well organize your closet while you’re at it. There will never be a good time, and at least now, you’ll already be in the right frame of mind.
▪ Put an empty bag for donations in the closet. Paper bags from grocery stores take up minimal floor space. As you shift through clothes daily, toss in anything that gives you pause.
▪ Make an appointment for alterations. Take all the items you aren’t wearing because of this or that and have them repaired.
▪ Mount a piece of paper and a pen to your closet wall. Just like you make a grocery list, start keeping a clothes shopping list. If you are getting dressed and notice that you wish you had a black collared shirt to go with it, write that down.
▪ Download an app to help catalog your clothes. Use a wardrobe app like Cloth to store your outfits, a photo-a-day app like Collect or just your phone’s camera feature. Put a reminder on your full-length mirror to snap a selfie and use that to figure out what your good and bad trends are. Snap away for a month or so without looking at the results, and you’ll get a better idea of what you’re not wearing or what you wear that’s not flattering.
▪ Merchandise your clothing. Your workout clothing shouldn’t be mixed in with your office wear or special occasion attire. Divide and conquer.
▪ Make your closet look nice. Now that you’ve merchandised, upgrade your hangers when you can, buy nice bins or apply shelving paper, install a light or two, make it inviting and spend less time searching in there every morning.
▪ Finally, read and compile the closet tool kit to maintain and repair your wardrobe items for under $50 from Deb’s Style File at stltoday.com/stylefile.