Do you hate to clean out your closet? Do you hang on to clothes far too long and then struggle to find anything to wear? Do you find that your clothes are wrinkled from being crammed into a space that is too small? Worse yet, do your clothes fall off the hangers and land in piles on the floor?
Maybe you are you one of the super organized and your closet beautifully showcases your minimalist or capsule wardrobe. Your clothes are wrinkle free, sorted by style and color and everything not only fits to perfection but also matches everything else. You own three pairs of perfect shoes.
I’m jealous. I think it might be nice to be the kind of person who has a clean, organized minimal wardrobe, but I’m not even close. However, I have come to grips with the notion that it just isn’t my style.
I saw a picture of Oprah’s closet once; I wanted to live in there. It was the size of my entire bedroom, filled with beautiful custom cabinetry. Shoes and handbags were showcased on shelves making it easy to find a match. Sweaters were folded by fabric and color. Dresses were hung together, as were shirts and skirts. It looked like a linen and cashmere rainbow.
My closet doesn’t look like Oprah’s, but I just spent an entire day cleaning, sorting and organizing. I managed to get rid of several large bags of clothes. I wrestled with what to keep and what to let go. My life has changed: I no longer go to an office every day, and I’ve lost weight. I feel like a different person, and I find myself questioning who this new person is and how she dresses. I know I am not alone in wanting my closet to reflect who I am and how I live now.
Clothes organizing is big business. Plenty of companies sell organizing systems. Professional organizers make a living by going into people’s homes and helping them purge. Marie Kondo created a closet organizing fever with her book The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Type closet organization into Pinterest and you will get thousands of pictures of organized closets to inspire you, along with plenty of closet cleaning advice.
There is plenty of help available. I already have a closet organizing system. I have lovely, thin, velvet covered hangers. I know the rules- get rid of it if you haven’t worn it in a year, if it doesn’t fit or if it is not in good condition. Every item in your closet should be able to be styled in at least three ways. Keep only what you love. Get rid of multiples of the same item.
I am not very good at following these rules.
It is very trendy right now to purge with abandon and when in doubt, get rid of it. I reject that. I generally buy quality clothing, and I have clothes that I have had for years. Making wise decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of is both frugal and sensible. My clothes may not be Vogue worthy, but I am reasonably well dressed and in style. Of course, there is room for improvement.
In light of this, I made some new rules:
1. You can keep classics such as cashmere sweaters, basic tees, the perfect twin set. What the style magazines don’t tell you is that even classics come and go from fashion. Colors, especially have their moment. Red is hot one year, and missing the next. I might not wear something for a season or two, but I will come back to my favorite classics.
2. It is okay to keep some aspirational pieces. These might be expensive designer things that don’t go with anything else, or something you love but that doesn’t fit at the moment. This works as long as the item makes you feel good. If your too small pants make you feel bad- out they go. If they inspire you to eat fewer chips, you can keep them. If you love something and it doesn’t go with anything, buy something to go with it.
3. It is okay to keep a few sentimental pieces. Just don’t keep them with the things you wear. Don’t confuse “keepsake” with “wardrobe.”
4. It is okay to keep multiples of something that you really wear. I have many black sweaters- long, short, cashmere, cotton, cardigan, fly-away, dressy, casual…and I wear them. Who says one black sweater is enough? The reason we generally buy more than one of something is that we have found it works for us. So I am allowed my five blue, printed sleeveless shirts.
5. Get rid of the easy rejects- cheaply made clothes, clothes you hate, trendy clothes when their time is past, and especially, clothes that are uncomfortable. Life is too short to wear uncomfortable clothes.
6. Get rid of things, even if they otherwise follow the rules, if they are not you. You will always feel like a fraud in these things, they are perfect and right for someone else, just not you. I once bought a red dress that both my friend and the sales clerk thought looked amazing on me. I got a lot of compliments on that dress, and It probably did look good on me, but I felt far too conspicuous every time I wore it. Out.
7. Get rid of things that are sad or that make you feel sad. This includes faded, dull or dreary things. For me, this includes faded black pants and a perfectly lovely gray sweater than made me feel old. Shapeless shirts and lots of undergarments fall into this category. You won’t miss this stuff. Who wants to be sad?
8. Get rid of things that belong to another life- your childless self, your thin self, your former job. If it is sentimental- put it in the keepsake box. I kept the Harvard jersey my husband and I bought on our first vacation. If you lose weight- will you really want your old clothes, or will you enjoy buying new things? Dress for the job you have or the job you want, not the job you used to have. For me, suit jackets and skirts could go.
That is my system. It may not lead to minimalism, but it does lead to a closet full of wearable things that I like and that are useful in my life.
What about you? What are your rules? Do you purge with abandon? Keep everything? I’d love to hear your thought on closet cleaning!