As soon as we arrived back in Greenville and started unpacking, we began to weed out our stuff and pare down our closets. And if you need further proof that intent breeds opportunities, our fellow statesmen in Columbia need a lot of help. In addition to a giant Costco-sized pack of bottled water, we dropped off a ton of both sample- and full-size toiletries, as well as clothes in good condition to be sent. If they build it, you will come. Or something like that.
But making the choice to part with stuff, especially clothes, isn't always easy. Here are some of our tips to make the process a little easier.
2 // If it doesn't fit, it ships. It's like the U.S. Postal service, but in reverse: if your clothes don't fit, get rid of them. Maybe you had a baby, and your pre-kid clothes are too small. Or you might have undertaken a weight loss program and had a lot of success (go you!), and now a lot of your clothes are too big. If you have clothes that you cannot wear in this moment, get rid of them.
It's important to note that I'm not talking about clothes you'll be able to fit into next week after you're off your period and you stop eating chips and salsa and retaining water (not that I know anything about that...). I'm talking about the clothes that you'll need an act of God and/or a life-threatening illness to fit into. You're not doing yourself any mental favors by keeping them, and you're junking up your closet. High school is over, thank the good Lord above for that. Let the jeans go.
3 // You don't go clubbing anymore. Believe it or not, you need different clothes for different life stages. The jeans and t-shirts I wore in college were pretty much useless once I became a working young professional. The slinky tank-tops I wore out to bars as a young, single girl are gathering dust now that I'm a happily married woman. Even if you love something, and even if it still fits and is in good repair, it may not serve you in this stage of life. Ergo, it needs to go.
Some people (cough, cough, me) like to be prepared for any contingency, so keep one, maybe two, items just in case. I still have a cute halter top in the event B and I actually decide to get out of our pajamas and leave the house on a Saturday night. But don't let items take up space if you don't need them anymore. Donate them to a charity or person of your choice. The items that you've "outgrown" might be exactly what someone else needs.
4 // It's not your style. I have a particularly bad habit of buying clothes based on who I feel like being on that particular day. For instance, I love the look of flowy, neutral and pale pink earthy outfits. They just look so pretty. But I am a dark haired, dark eyed petite woman who looks better in jewel tones, and whose body shape lends itself more to classic, structured styles. When I buy clothes based on who I feel like or want to be, I often wind up with stuff that I tire of very quickly.
Another layer to this is if you receive something as a gift that just isn't your style. Don't ever let anyone make you feel bad about getting rid of gifts that just aren't you**. Remember, your friendship (or family) is the most important thing - the gifts are just an expression of love and care. They may not always hit the mark, and that's fine. But you shouldn't have to suffer with a closet full of near misses.
If you find yourself never wearing something because it's just not your style but you're keeping it because you feel guilty about buying it or because it was a gift, don't. Give it to a friend, donate it to charity, or if it's new/like new, sell it on eBay.
**The exception is if you receive a family heirloom, etc., as a gift. If you truly don't want it, see if another relative does. Do not trash family items without express permission from your mother/other relative in charge.
5 // You're seeing double. Or triple. I picked up a habit in college from my best friend, Jess, and I carry it to this day: if I find an item I like, I buy several. Multiple pairs of jeans**, shirts in every color, dresses in every color...you name it.
Unfortunately, this has the unexpected effect of making me start to dismiss all the items. If you have one of something, it's special. If you have a red one, a blue one, and a green one, they're all kind of interchangeable and boring. I had bought a ruched, short-sleeved beige/cream v-neck shirt, and I liked it so much I went back and bought it in black and plum as well. But because I had so many, the beige one wasn't special anymore and I kind of stopped wearing all three. I eventually decided to donate the black and plum and stick with the cream, which is what I should have done in the first place.
**The only exception to this is if you have a difficult time finding something to fit. With my short legs, chubby thighs, round behind and narrow waist, finding pants that actually fit takes an act of Congress (and we all know how efficient they are). If I find a pair of jeans or dress pants that really fit me well, I'll buy two pairs, especially if they're cheap. But finding shirts to fit my body is easy - so I only buy one.
6 // You just don't wear it. Sometimes clothes are in good shape, they fit, they're useful for your life stage, and they're ostensibly your style, but you just never get around to wearing them. Here, it's helpful to institute some kind of timeline (ie, six months). If you haven't worn an item in whatever time frame you choose, then it needs to be donated.
This is a tricky one, and it may be an ongoing project. Set a reminder on your phone to go through your closet every few months and remove anything you haven't worn. If you can't bring yourself to get rid of them just yet, put them in a storage box under the bed or in the attic for a period of time. If you still haven't missed them by the next clean-out, they need to go.
Want to do it yourself?
Cleaning out your closet doesn't have to be stressful (who knew, right?). If you do a little critical thinking and strategic planning before you start yanking hangers, it's likely to go a lot better, I promise. Here's how to do it O.I.A. style:
Get Organized. Decide on why you're cleaning out your closet. Is it because it's so crammed full that a body could be hiding in there and you wouldn't know? Are you looking to streamline your morning routine? Are you specifically looking for things to donate to charity or sell online? That will help you make choices as you ask yourself the questions above. Always have a reason, and filter your decisions through that reason.
Don't be afraid to be ruthless. Unless, as noted above, you've received a family heirloom or other special/important item, or unless it's an item that you typically have trouble finding, don't be afraid to get rid of it. This will be hard at first. You'll be hesitant. But by doing regular cleanouts, you'll start to see patterns and see what you're wearing and not wearing. Every time you do it, you'll be more likely to make the right decision and trust yourself the next time.
Be Intentional. Going forward, live by the "get one, give one" rule. If you buy a new shirt, pick a shirt from your closet that's looking a little worn or that you don't wear much, and get rid of it. You'll keep your closet fresh and updated, and best of all, organized. As Americans, we so don't need the amount of crap we have, especially clothes. Yet, because clothing is such a personal expression of who we are, it's hard to stop acquiring them...and it's even harder to let go. Those aren't just jeans; those are our high school selves.
When you're out shopping, never buy an item that same day unless it's something you specifically need. Always take at least a day or two to think over it. If an item is still on your mind a few days later, you probably really want it and will wear it. If you've already forgotten about it by next morning's Wheaties, you didn't need it in the first place. And anytime you're considering buying an item of clothing, always try to think of items you can wear it with, and/or places you can wear it. As I've gotten older, I've gotten so much better at saying, "I really love that dress, but I have no clue where I would wear it."
While donation is wonderful and worthy, wouldn't it be better to save your money and only buy what you truly need or love in the first place? It eliminates clutter and stress in your home, and you'll have more expendable income to spend on other, more worthy things, such as savings, a new house or car, trips and vacations, or charity donations.
One last thing: cleaning out a closet is no different than cleaning our your refrigerator. You don't do it just once - God, imagine the science projects that would be lurking if we treated our fridges and pantries like our closets. I can't even. B and I typically do a cleanout/Goodwill run twice a year: once in the late spring/early summer, and once between Christmas and New Year's. You can go through your closet as frequently as you want, but at least once yearly is optimal.
Be Authentic. Be honest with yourself about what you truly will wear. If this is too difficult or you're having trouble narrowing things down, get a trusted friend or family member to help you. My mother and B are fantastic at this. If I pull out a dress and my mom bursts out laughing, or if I show B a shirt and he's never actually seen it on my body in the four and a half years we've been together, there's my sign.
I am so much happier now that my closet is a little less crowded. Ironically, having fewer clothes makes me like the ones I do have that much more. Picking out outfits isn't a chore anymore; instead, it's actually fun. That seems counterintuitive, but I won't get into the psychology of purchasing habits now (maybe later).
Just remember: it's your closet, your clothes, and your life. Whatever choices you do or don't make, ensure that you're making them for you. The important thing is to truly think through what you're doing instead of doing it mindlessly. And most of all, don't forget to have fun!
P.S. If you've got questions about organizing your closet, or if you need clarification or more suggestions, don't hesitate to contact me using a link in the top toolbar. I love making order out of chaos!