When my sister graduated college, she had one weekend to move out of her Richmond, VA apartment, sending a limited amount of boxes home with my parents and taking just a suitcase or two to her six-month internship in Paris. Before I even got off the plane in Richmond, I heard she was waiting for me to get there in order to save her from her packing nightmare – how to decide what to get rid off and what to keep. Why was she waiting for me? Because in my family, I am known as the boss of teasing out emotional attachment from items that no longer are doing their job for us. I happen to be quite decisive too.
This could be shocking in the context of this blog. How could I advocate for getting rid of things that mean something to us or tell a part of our story?
And to that I will say: if something is in your closet and it only has a story but no longer a practical use, because you don’t feel good wearing it, it is beyond repair, or you feel too guilty about it to send it off to a new life, then it is time to let it go (responsibly, of course). A story without an accompanying good feeling is just stuff taking up precious space in your closet and your mind.
Whether your resolutions this year involved updating your personal style or just making room for new opportunities, now is the perfect time to take stock of what you have and make sure that what is hanging in your closet matches your values/dreams/goals, without the guilt of holding on to things that are just taking up emotional and physical space. There are items we love to wear everyday that have a story, and then there are items we never wear that have their own story. Today, let’s appreciate the former but take care of the latter.
A closet can be a scary place for some of us, so start by putting on some jams and get ready to shine a light on your stuff:
1. Get organized. I recommend designating three piles to sort your items into:
– Keep – For the no-brainer items that are staying in your closet
– Share – For the items no longer are working for you, whether they don’t fit, don’t work in your current lifestyle, or are beyond repair
– Rescue – For the items that need a little love from a tailor, dry cleaner, or a little DIY help.
2. Start trying things on. I recommend making time to try on everything…literally. It’s a new year and you’re a different person. Try on old things you’ve already written off as well as the pieces you wear everyday. This will give you new ideas for styling recent purchases or gifts with old pieces, ensure each piece ends up in the right pile, and help you catch those sneaky pieces that you secretly hate but that somehow never get cleared out. (This goes for that blouse with the annoying buttons on the sleeve, the itchy sweater, and the pants that stretch out after just one wear).
3. When you get stuck on an item, give it your attention. You’ve gone through half of your closet, you feel great, and then you get to a certain piece that you have no idea what to do with. Instead of plunging into despair, start asking questions: When did you buy or receive the piece? When did you last wear it? How does it make you feel when you wear it? What does it make you think of? Any good or bad memories? And the clincher for most people, how much did you pay for it? Perhaps you paid a lot for the item, so it’s supposed to be perfect, right? Wrong. If you don’t feel good in it, let it go and give it a chance to make someone else happy. Perhaps you received it as a gift and you never liked it, but you are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. Let it go. If that person ever asks (which he or she probably won’t), focus on gratitude for the gift rather than lying about its use. Perhaps you’re holding onto something because it has sentimental value. That’s ok, but make sure it’s still serving you and not owning you. If you aren’t wearing it anymore, consider repurposing it with a little DIY or tailoring work. Not the answer for you? Think about why you are keeping the item and then decide if you’ll still have that memory even if the item is gone. If the answer is yes, set it free.
4. Invest in making the clothes and accessories you keep last. Now that you’ve whittled down your wardrobe, make sure the things you keep are taken care of. Add some cedar balls to your sweater drawer or try making homemade sachets to ward off pests. Invest in shoe trees or make your own boot stuffers to help your shoes and boots retain their shape. Take care of clothes and accessories in your “Rescue” pile by taking them to the pros or by repairing and cleaning them on your own with YouTube mending tutorials and laundry tips from The Laundress.
If you’ve generated items in your “Share” pile that you are ready to let go of, click through for tips of what to do with unwanted clothes to make sure your discards are put to good use. In coming weeks, I’ll also give you the details on how to host a swap party to help you share your unwanted closet finds with friends and maybe even take home a few new things for yourself.
And finally, as you return the items from your “Keep” pile to your closet and drawers, enjoy the moment. Our wardrobes change over the years as we change as individuals. The stories our clothes tell of us now are unique to this time. A good closet cleaning ensures that the stories we unconsciously are sharing are true to who we are.
Did you find anything amazing during your closet clean-up? Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear to share your stories of your closet lost-and-found moments.