Ah, spring. It’s the time of year when we organize our closets, move out the sweaters and sweatshirts, and move in the sundresses and short-sleeved shirts. As we’re playing closet Jenga it’s a good time to ask ourselves – why am I keeping this once beloved and now ignored sweater? How can I give myself more space to see the things I actually use and stay organized by having less?
This time of year always reminds me of a TV show from the early 2000’s called Ed. There was one episode in the series where Ed’s best friend was wearing all of these unattractive and ill-fitting clothes for the whole episode, because his wife had a rule that if he hadn’t worn something in a year, it had to be thrown out. So for that one day a year, he’d scoop up his tattered concert t-shirts and stained baseball caps and wear them in one hideous outfit, so that the items could be saved for another year.
Humans, even those outside the fictitious world of TV, have a way of holding onto possessions as if they were our only touchstones for memories. I know how it feels. I too used to hang onto items long after their prime for a variety of reasons, and it wasn’t until I was forced to pare way, way down in a cross country move a few years ago that I realized what it was costing me.
I prepared for the move by spending my weekend on the yard selling old belongings and then making trip after trip to drop things off at the thrift store. Then I walked back into an apartment that had felt cramped and lacking in storage space and discovered one thing that had always been missing – space. By getting rid of those items that I wasn’t using anyway, the place suddenly had breathing room. It was too late to appreciate that apartment in earnest, but I realized for the future how much easier it would be to stay organized if kept my belongings on the minimalist side – keeping only what I loved and/or felt useful or beautiful.
Before hanging up those uncomfortable jeans with the tags still on, consider these five things:
1. Guilt is not a good reason to keep something.
“But,” you may be saying…
“It was a gift…”
“I got it on sale…”
“It was expensive but I never wore it…”
Those are not good reasons to hang onto things. Your Aunt Mimi didn’t give you that lime jumper, so that you would have an extra burden in the closet. And hanging onto painful but expensive shoes that give you blisters (and therefore are never worn) doesn’t legitimize them. There is someone out there who will love that jumper. There is someone out there with narrower feet. Let them enjoy your torture shoes.
2. Ask yourself, “Does this match my style and lifestyle today?”
If it’s something that you loved five years ago but doesn’t feel like you now, it’s time to leave it in the past. The chance of returning to that same phase of your life is unlikely. If you used to love goth dresses but now spend your days in yoga pants, it may be time to say goodbye to those looks of yore. Why not appreciate those former pieces by way of old photographs instead?
3. Try on each piece of clothing and get thee to a mirror. Does it fit?
There’s no reason to hang onto clothes that are ill-fitting or unflattering in a way that just makes you feel bad when you wear them. If you can’t zip it or if you are swimming in it, put it in a pile for someone who can wear it now.
4. Examine each piece for stains, tears, and rips.
If they can be fixed, move them next to the sewing machine or into a bag for the tailor. That way the next time you’re working on a sewing project or heading to the tailor, they’ll be right there to remind you. If the items are unsalvageable, throw things like stained old t-shirts into a pile to be used as rags for summertime car washing or to wear when painting.
5. Relocate cherished items with overwhelming sentimental value.
If you know you’ll never wear an item but it holds so many memories you can’t stand to get rid of it, put it into a bin and out of your closet where space is more of a commodity. Or find a way of showcasing the item in a new way. (For example, you could save your Grandma’s old broach with your holiday decorations. Next year at Christmas, put it on the tree. Then you can be assured that once a year you will see it, think of her, and really appreciate its beauty.)
After you’ve cleared your closet of those items you no longer want, separate them into groups:
- Things to give to charity
- Things to sell at a garage sale or take to a consignment shop
- Things to swap with friends at a party
(Never been to a clothing swap party? Basically it’s when a group of friends get together and trade unwanted but still stylish clothing. Not only is it a fun social gathering with drinks and appetizers, it’s also a great way to say goodbye to that jacket you weren’t wearing anyway and score some new pieces that you really love.)
With hangers to spare and more room for the clothes you do like to be found quickly and easily, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to tell those old clothes adios. And I promise you’re never going to miss those blister-inducing shoes. Never.
Image Credit: Photo by Cadry Nelson