I was so excited when my daughter had finally grown enough to start sharing clothes with me. Although she’s still quite a bit smaller and most of my stuff looks waaaaay cuter on her, it was still an exciting prospect to be able to effectively start doubling my wardrobe. That excitement quickly started to fade with the realization that the only one ‘sharing’ is me and my wardrobe has in fact, been continually dwindling. The two sweatshirts I bought for us to share last fall I’ve never worn and haven’t seen since, except when they magically make an appearance on my daughter. My winter coat has somehow now become ‘her’ winter coat. My socks have been disappearing out of my drawers at an alarming rate and all of my fleece has literally gone AWOL. The only items that seem to be safe right now are my underwear and pants and that’s only because my ass is twice the size of hers. If my weight loss journey ever aligns with her growth spurts, those items will move into the ‘at risk’ column as well. Part of the problem is, my daughter’s a slob. She’s got a large closet and a full-sized dresser, plus several sets of cubbies with drawers and yet somehow, her crap is still in piles all over the place. It’s no wonder it takes her forever to get ready in the morning! Clothes fresh from the laundry sit on piles at the end of her bed until eventually they get knocked off onto the floor and mixed in with the continually growing array of dirty clothes that are strewn about. Clearly she just walks around her room removing clothing as part of her bedtime routine. And when it’s time to ‘clean’ she typically just sweeps up all the clothes and tosses them into her hamper. I’m fairly certain there’s a large quantity of clothing in that room that never gets worn, just washed over and over and over again as it moves through the cycle of laundry–>bed–>floor–>hamper. Sadly, I’m pretty sure she comes by this sloppiness naturally – I swear it’s a genetic defect that just keeps getting passed down through the generations. My own mother will defend her cleanliness to the death, but every visit to her house confirms she has just as many hoarding tendencies as my daughter and I do. Although I will say she does seem to do a slightly better job of organizing the piles of ‘stuff’. I’m not convinced though that this isn’t a factor of her having half as many people in a house that’s twice the size.
Hoarding tendencies and clutter-collecting habits are difficult to break, especially when they’ve been allowed to go unchecked for many years. Having all of that junk around does a number on your psychological health though and it really makes prepping to go anywhere or do anything more of a chore than it should be. Getting dressed in the morning, for example, would be a breeze if it didn’t involve having to hunt for missing socks or a tank to match that cute sweater you want to wear. Things out of place, in the way and taking up space is a drain on your energy, sapping your creativity and causing extra stress in your life. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got enough stress in my life, I don’t need my closet adding more. The trouble is, that closet is a hot mess right now and the thought of embarking upon some giant organizational effort has me literally breaking out into hives. So, I decided to do some research to see if I can find some methods that’ll help me ease that space into at least – a more reasonable level of chaos.
I have a hard time throwing anything away. Some of this comes from self-induced trauma involving me ‘giving up’ on a few favorite items of clothing, donating them in a fit of ‘organizing’ and then spending several years trying to replace those beloved items that I didn’t think I needed but miss dearly. Case in point – the leather pants I bought on a trip I took to Italy. I loved those pants. They fit me like a glove and were the softest, most comfortable and best made pair of pants I have ever owned. And like a dumbass, I DONATED THEM TO GOODWILL. Why? Because at the time, I’d just popped out a kid and was still roughly the size of a whale and we were moving to Florida. I’m pretty sure my thoughts at the time were something along the lines of: well, I’m a fat-ass now and we’re moving to Florida and no sane person in Florida wears leather pants. Dumb. I’m going to give myself a teeny bit of a break here and blame this mistake on my post-pregnancy brain, stress from the move and lack of sleep but dammit, it’s been 12 years now and I STILL regret giving away those damn pants!
In order to avoid another ‘leather pants’ incident, I’m going to do my best to try to make space in my closet mindfully, with a little help from Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the internet. Because I don’t have the time or mental fortitude right now to attend to the clutter sitch in one fell swoop, I’m going to attempt to institute some small changes to help me declutter in smaller chunks and hopefully establish a sustainable routine of clearing and cleansing my space. Here are the most doable tricks I’ve found out on the inter webs and what I plan to implement, starting today:
1 – Get a daily donation bin
Love this advice from Elizabeth Larkin on The Spruce. I’m just going to repurpose a laundry hamper for this and as I encounter items of clothing that don’t fit right, are completely out of style or have a layer of dust on them because they haven’t been worn since 1995 – I’m going to drop them into the bin instead of hanging them back up or shoving them into a drawer for “maybe someday”. If it hasn’t been someday in more than 5 years, it’s pretty fair to say it’s probably never going to happen. Let it go.
2 – Only keep things that “you need or that spark joy”
This one is straight out of Kondo’s book and it makes a lot of sense. If I haven’t worn something in 5 years, it’s probably a fair assessment that I don’t need that item. And yes, I’ve got clothes that have been in my closet – that I’ve packed and moved through 3 different states and 5 different residences. Why would I do something so stupid, you ask? Well, they’re clothes that I used to love, that I used to feel good in, that used to fit me and looked great on me. And I guess I haven’t given up hope that one day those awesome J. Crew pants will fit me again. The trouble is – they’re taking up precious space, they don’t fit and they piss me off every time I look at them. Not to mention, it’s not 2003 anymore and they’re not exactly in style. They also send me into this horrible body-shaming tizzy because no matter how much I work out or how cleanly I eat, my thighs just won’t get any smaller. And that’s frustrating enough in its own right; I don’t need my clothes making me feel worse about it. So I think it’s fair to say they’re not bringing me any joy – time to let them go.
3 – Pick a date and schedule a regularly-occurring ‘Donation Day’
Gathering up items for donation is awesome, but then if you let it sit around your house in piles for months and months, that’s not any better than leaving the crap in your closet. And I have a tendency to do this. In fact, I’ve got 15 bags of kids clothes taking up space in our gym right now because I’m waiting for this big ‘yard sale’ that I’m having um, never, because who the hell has time for a freaking yard sale? Even worse, I’ve been known to remove stuff that’s been sitting in donation bags and decide I “need” to have them – again – and then they go back to taking up space in my closet. Stop. The. Madness. Get rid of it. Pick a date, put it on your calendar and anything you’ve got piled up on that date goes out of the house.
4 – Pick a number
I really like this idea from Joshua Becker on his blog, Becoming Minimalist. Joshua recommends picking a number and then pulling that many items out of your closet to start. That’s totally doable, I think. A great way to break a completely daunting task into smaller, more manageable chunks and goes along great with the daily donation bin. Pick a number – even if it’s just ONE – and every day find that one thing you can do without and dump it into the bin. Easy peasy.
5 – Decide up front where your things will go
Another great idea from Elizabeth Larkin on The Spruce. Part of my hang up with getting rid of stuff is that I know how much I paid for it and since money is always tight, I cling to those things as if they were cold hard cash. Trouble is – they’re not cash. They can, however, be traded in for cash, but it’s easy to overvalue these items and get hung up on how much they cost you versus how much they’re actually worth in terms of resale value. Make a point to divide up your things into two piles – donate and consign. Anything that’s consignment-worthy – items in great condition, like the pair of shorts your daughter ‘absolutely had to have’ but are now in the donate pile with the FREAKING TAGS STILL ON – take that shit to the consignment store and get some of your money back. If you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, you can try to post some of the higher-value items on Ebay, Craigslist or the Facebook marketplace, but you will literally make yourself crazy and end up hanging on to the clutter for an extended period of time if you don’t make your peace with the fact that you will never get back what you paid for these things. Let them go, it’s not worth the damage to your mental health to cling to these material things. Everything not in the consignment/sale pile gets donated. Pick a solid charity to donate to – one that will use the items to support efforts that are meaningful to you personally – it’ll make it easier to part with these items and you’ll feel good knowing your stuff went to help out people, animals or a particular cause that needs it more than you do.
And don’t forget your precious daughter in all of this donating action – if you find something that would look better on her, that you haven’t worn in awhile, that she might wear (a lot of that 90’s fashion is back in style and supposedly ‘vintage’ is in – holy crap this makes me feel old) – donate it to her cause. Maybe she’ll keep her hands off the stuff that you actually do wear.