Hangers rattled as I grabbed them eight at a time, heaving clothes onto the bed.
If you have read The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, watched the subsequent show on Netflix, or tuned in at all to the viral sensation of Americans facing their consumerism with tears and stubborn denial, you may recognize the first step of the KonMari method.
My closet looked like a tree in winter as I dumped all the leaves unceremoniously onto my bed. If I hadn’t been worried about stabbing myself with the twisted mess of hangers, I might have tried jumping into the pile. Instead, I emptied out the chest of drawers, grouped my shoes in a jumble, and pulled my coats out of the hall closet, watching every inch of the duvet disappear.
The Two Motivations
I am cleaning out my closet for two reasons:
- We are moving in a couple of months. I want to make sure I’m not loading up boxes full of stuff that will never be used.
- I just finished the book The Year of Less, in which the author, Cait, describes her transformational year of living by a shopping ban. As I am thinking of doing something similar, I need to take stock of what I already own.
Ultimately, I want to find my ‘enough,’ and by looking at the heap of clothes on the bed, it is clear that I have more than enough.
I know I’m not alone with my mountainous pile of clothing. In 1930, the average American woman owned nine outfits. Today, the average is thirty outfits, a total of $1,000 to $2,500 dollars worth of clothing dangling in our closets. Looking at that pile, I regretfully have more than thirty.
The Cull Begins
Just as Marie Kondo advises, I hold each item to my chest and wait to see if it sparks joy. My joy-o-meter seems broken. I throw everything into the donate pile.
Mr. Mechanic walks in and starts pulling clothing out. “But you wore this dress to Matt’s wedding!” he waves it in front of me, and then notices a sleeve peeking out, “You wear this sweater all the time!”
I hesitate. Those items didn’t bring me any joy, and besides, I already put a dress and a sweater in the ‘keep’ pile. Isn’t that enough?
A Reasonable Wardrobe
I decide to change tactics. Rather than focus on my emotional barometer, I decide to rely on numbers for this problem.
I already know my threshold for having ‘enough’ is low after living out of a suitcase for 6 months. While abroad, I rotated just a few items of clothing every day. Yet I also know that I keep scrambling to wear the ‘right’ outfit when we go to nice events with family, and in those moments it doesn’t feel like enough.
The clothes themselves don’t bring me any joy, but having one simple outfit for each occasion without having to stress, worry, or worse– try on multiple outfits in a state of panic– brings me lots of joy.
This method helped. I added a tally of every item I kept, and if I reached the limit in a category, the rest were moved to the ‘donate’ pile. By the end, I had a small stack of clothes to keep and a massive heap to donate.
Where Did All These Clothes Come From?
I’m not much of a ‘going shopping for fun’ type. I have never bought an outfit online or dashed out for a sale. Squinting at my clothes I wondered, how did this happen? I posted the pile on my bed on Instagram, and my friend Luxe from The Luxe Strategist commented:
I had to think about it, passing my fingers along each garment.
I rescued this sweater from a donation bag my friend let me root through. That dress was a Christmas gift. A generous retiree found out I was her size and gave me multiple professional suits. I could trace back each t-shirt to a tech conference in the last few years. I realized that nearly my entire wardrobe was free-to-me, donated or gifted by friends and family (or found in a parking lot like my lacrosse hoodie, still going strong seven years later).
When I counted through the pieces I actually bought in the last five years, it turned out that I only paid for a tiny fraction of my entire wardrobe.
The numbers of clothes I bought roughly matched the numbers from my “Reasonable Wardrobe” count. Yet I had accumulated so much more than what I really considered ‘enough’.
It Is Hard To Let Go
It is so easy to take more into our lives. We embrace the ‘just-in-case,’ conjuring up scenarios where that fifth jacket will be critical for when it’s drizzling and precisely 55°F outside.
I admit that I kept more than my personal reasonable limit of 2 suits. I have about six more suit jackets than is necessary for a software engineer who is about to transition to working from home. (That number is likely zero.)
I know I am keeping them because of the ‘what if’ of going to a professional event or being asked to do a Ted Talk, even though one outfit would probably cover it in that case.
Give Your Clothes a Job or Fire Them
Despite my personal failure to donate every last thing I don’t need, I have recommendations for anyone about to do their spring cleaning. Before even looking at what you already own, start making a ‘reasonable wardrobe’ list of your own.
1. Make a job for your clothes.
Each occasion is a different job. Similar to how a budget assigns a ‘job’ for your money, make a list of the occasions for which you will need an outfit.
2. Figure out which piece of clothing will do the best job.
If you have an outfit for each occasion, you can fill in the ‘what-ifs’ and let everything else go. I had multiple sweatpants, but at home, I tended to wear the same pair. The job was full. I kept the single pair and donated the rest.
3. If the role is already filled, thank it KonMari-style for interviewing. Let it know gently that you hired a more qualified candidate.
If something about the clothes doesn’t work for you– the style, the fit, the material– then it is time for a reduction-in-force.
Clothing Buying Ban… Commence!
It’s time to start my ban on buying clothing. I have shoes for the beach, for running, for work, and for hiking. I have shirts for lounging, for the office, and for presentations. I have jackets for every shade of the sun.
I have my ‘enough,’ so I don’t need to keep adding to it.
Starting today, the clothing ban begins!
What about you?
What was your experience decluttering? Did you use the KonMari method or adapt it? Have you done a shopping or clothes-buying ban?
Let me know in the comments below!