Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Are You Really Going to Wear That?

I recently spoke to one of my friends about decluttering our closets.

I do a pretty good job of asking myself if I've worn something in the last two years and giving it the heave-ho if not. I keep a bin in my closet and one in my mudroom of clothes to donate to a local charity. This keeps me from becoming a clutter-bug.

My friend had recently tried Marie Kondo's brand of de-cluttering, that takes it much further than that. Have you heard of her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up?

It is a #1 NYT Bestseller and has sold about a zillion more copies than mine has.

Although I haven't read it yet myself, I have heard about how it challenges you to think about the purpose of each item and also consider whether it brings you joy. It is ruthless and NO ITEM escapes judgment.

When I looked in my closet last week and saw a bunch of clothes that did not "spark joy," I decided to take action. This is what I found:

  • I have a lot of disjointed pieces that don't flatter my figure since I've gained a little weight. 
  • I have items that look great but do not feel great, such as fitted dress shirts that nip me in at the waist but leave me tugging them down a lot, and shoes that I've only worn once because-- ouch. 
  • I have many "bargains" from the thrift store that I bought because of their great prices more than for whether they were good colors or cuts for me. When I bought a shirt last week that was identical to one I'd recently donated, I had to ask myself whether my bargain shopping was really that effective. 
I gave myself a rubbermaid tub to store sentimental favorites and moved the rest of the discards to garbage bags in the guest room. It seems that JOY might be too strong a criterion, because if I only kept items that "spark joy" my closet would be empty except for the "P is for POOP" t-shirt that Margaret and Tim inexplicably bought for me our first Christmas without Jack and my well-loved pjs and bathrobes. 

I changed the criteria to clothes that don't annoy me or perhaps even spark mild contentment. This left me with a few items in each category. 

I remember two particular roommates I had, Katie and Beverly. Each had a very tidy closet with a few well-made pieces of clothing in it, while my other roommates and I had closets jammed with clothes for every occasion and eventuality. Floral dresses? Business suits? Workout Wear? Ripped Jeans? Costumes for parties? We had it all. I admired Katie and Beverly's restraint and noted they always looked put together. 

I would like to be more like that, even if it means wearing just a few items on repeat. Of course, it will also mean I have finally turned into my mother. She wore the same clothes a lot, but looked good doing it. Turns out she was pretty cutting edge because a lot of female professionals are now toying with the idea of adopting a uniform of sorts.

I'm not sure how my experiment will go. 

I felt wasteful taking out so many unworn items, but at least if I donate them, someone else can use them. In my closet they sat unworn. I want to learn from my mistakes and question why I buy clothes that don't look great or that I don't really like. Is it boredom? Is it a desire for something new? I also want to think more about what colors flatter me (burgundy, pink, blue, green) and try to  come up with a few good summer looks that can withstand the VA heat and humidity. 

I also want to continue to enjoy my local thrift shop, a place that does spark joy for me, without bringing home more duds. Especially ones that I've just donated.

What about you? Is your closet cluttered or stream-lined?


Anonymous said...

You seem to have a very good idea of what suits you and what doesn't based on your Stitch Fix posts. Maybe that is a good avenue for developing a discerning eye? Good luck with your decluttering. It's hard, but so worth the sense of lightness that results in being brutally honest about what sparks joy in our lives. Btw, I am a long time lurker on your wonderful blog. I must say, you rock in so many ways!

Stefanie said...

I just heard about this book at my book group -- haven't read it but spent part of my weekend pulling everything out of my closet and "culling the herd." Ended up with two big bags of clothes to donate, and my closet still looks full. That tells me I had/have too much clothing!

I envy those who can pare down to the essentials and the accessories to change them up. But living in the northeast, I need clothing for about eight different seasons, ha ha. I figure as long as I can contain it all in one closet, I'm doing ok. And it's not even a walk-in :) Keep culling, in the end it will set you free.

Suburban Correspondent said...

"Spark mild contentment" - I like that! I just went through my closet, too, and finally got rid of some shirts I loved when I bought them back in 2006 but haven't worn in 4 years. Hopefully someone else will get a chance to enjoy them now, too.

Anonymous said...

I read it. It's amazing. And I'm not someone who would ever likely admit to reading a book on being tidy. How silly! But no, in reality it's not silly at all (except when she anthropomorphizes objects which honestly, is kinda funny and adorable). You're not reading it for the prose style mind you. You're reading it for her ideas which are spot on and at times, surprisingly esoteric (even, at times, spiritual). I adopted about 90 percent of her suggestions and my house became reduced by one third (at least) and I know where everything is now. It's not just about clothes by any means. The only thing is .... it means going through some things that cause pain. Some emotional work is involved. The boxes and boxes of "this stuff just sits here but I can't face getting rid of it." But you know what. Let that stuff sit there for as many years/decades as you like. Just turn to everything else and even this way, you'll feel so much lighter at the end of the process.

A Speckled Trout said...

You're singing my song. I am good at getting rid of stuff but the plan is to not buy so much. I know most of my bad decisions are a response to boredom which I am working to become more aware of when I walk out the door. A closet full of stuff that doesn't bring me joy has become a burden that weighs me down in too many ways.

Anonymous said...

My closet is filled with all the clothes that I'm going to be able to wear again - just as soon as I lose 25lbs!

Anonymous said...

I'm delighted to see you support CHO. It's a wonderful, all-volunteer organization.

Anonymous said...

I can't get rid of everything in my closet I don't wear, because at the moment, that would leave me three pairs of jeans, a bunch of men's shirts, and a black skirt. Weight loss previously going well sidetracked by health issues. :-(

Anonymous said...

I always think to myself I have enough clothing for four women.
Everything fits me, nothing is in need of repair. I simply buy too much!
My mother taught me (because I despised clothes shopping) when I find a garment that fits well and that I love to buy it in all the colors. I enjoy shopping more now yet I still buy multiples of things I love.
It's easiest for me to cull my clothing as I'm switching out my closet at the change of seasons. I go through the clothing I've just been wearing (right now that's winter clothing) and cull, cull, cull. My winter wardrobe is fresh in my mind. I can easily see things I've avoided wearing this past season. Out it goes. I figure someone will discover my clothing at Goodwill and be thrilled with their find. It makes me feel less guilty about "dumping" clothes if I think of it this way.

Gigi said...

From what I've heard that book is hardcore! You might benefit more from Jennifer Scott's 10 item wardrobe (or whatever number you are comfortable with). If you haven't already, check out her website at

I haven't fully embraced the idea of the 10 item wardrobe...but she talks a lot about quality over quantity; and that is beginning to resonate with me; particularly when I look at all the clothes in my closet that I never wear.

She also has two books out. I haven't read the first but I did read the second. While some of the things she suggests aren't for me, others are and I enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

Eeek....this is a big reminder that I need to do this.

However, I could never pair down to just a few items. I work a professional job and I spend my down time in ripped shorts and t's. Neither of which is good for casual nights out with the girls or my husband. So I need at least 3 levels of wear.

That being's a little depressing how many pairs of trousers and skirts I need to donate. Waaaa!

Gilliay said...

You might like the 'wardrobe capsule' idea from!

Amanda said...

I read about the book and finally just purchased and read it. I went through clothing and books before I read the book but know I need to take a few days of vacation and REALLY go hard core. I am heavier since my dog died and /relationship ended two months ago and keep thinking I will lose it "soon". I will do the Konmari clean out and have already asked a neighbor who is the best at coordinating outfits to help me create a "capsule" wardrobe using the things I keep AND shopping for several nice quality items. Then we will photograph those combinations and I will know how to dress up and or down using the same pieces!