For years I wore a poop-brown sweater. Sorry for the terrible image, but that’s the most accurate way to describe the color. I often paired the sweater with brown pants and brown boots. I also should mention that the sweater was a turtleneck.
So, to recap, that’s brown hair, brown eyes, brown turtleneck, brown pants… One day I had the stark realization that this was not a good look for me (or anyone) and I put the sweater in the back of my closet, to be visited only by mothballs.
I have a small closet—thirty-seven inches wide—because I live in an apartment building built when people had a lot less stuff. (According to a Forbes article cited in Joshua Becker’s post, “The average American woman owns thirty outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine.”) The tight quarters were the source of all my fashion woes, I reasoned. I envy those of you who have walk-in closets that could host the Rockettes. If I only had more space, somehow I would be visited by the spirit of Coco Chanel, who would bestow me with a sense of style.
I often lamented that I had nothing to wear. But how could that be? My closet was overflowing. In fact everything was jammed in tighter than a toothpick between two molars. Things were piled on the floor. Dresses and pants were a wrinkled mess. Nearly every morning I was suffering from decision fatigue. From the New York Times: “There is a finite store of mental energy for exerting self-control.” This seemed to explain the brown sweater.
Buoyed by a recent article and a TedTalk about taking control of one’s closet, I decided to attack mine with nothing but sheer determination (and the self-promise of a slice of Steve’s Key lime pie). I was going to be ruthless and teach my closet who’s boss.
While I’m no expert, here are a few things I learned that might help you too.
- Start fresh. I took everything out of my closet. Everything. Anything that went back in had to pass muster.
- Allow time. Don’t try to squeeze this project between Real Housewives commercial breaks. I set aside an hour. Enough time to sort, but not too much time to get distracted.
- Dispense with Dynasty. In the interest of full disclosure, I found a jacket with shoulder pads too large even for Krystle Carrington. And, no, they aren’t going to come back in style.
- What was I thinking? A nicer way to say this would be: Would I buy this again? Sadly, most of my clothes fell into this category. Maybe it was the aforementioned decision fatigue, but I’m looking at you, brown sweater.
- The 12-month rule. If I hadn’t worn it in the past year, it got an automatic pass to the donation bin. Exception: special occasion wear.
- Memories. I was holding on to too many clothes because of memories. I wore this to the U2 concert back in 199-whatever. And that was the dress I wore on a date with so-and-so. Someone went to X and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. Out. All of it.
- One question. There was really only one question to ask: do I like the way I look in this? As I was sorting, I realized I didn’t like most of my clothes. Either it didn’t fit well, or the color wasn’t flattering, or I had nothing to pair it with. So I ended up wearing the same handful of items. Why not keep just those?
In the end, I’d reduced my clothes by about half. When I look in my closet I see only items that I love and want to wear. Now that I can see light between the hangers, the goal isn’t to refill that empty space; it’s to live within what I have.
Have you reorganized your closet/garage/cupboards? Share your tips in comments.
Have a great weekend, everyone!