Do you know that we use 20% of our clothes 80% of the time? The rest just hangs up there, taking up our space and energy… So if you have a wardrobe over-spilling with clothes yet feel you have nothing to wear and waste time getting ready, it’s probably time for a little de-cluttering exercise. But I know from personal and professional experience that letting go can be difficult. So how to confidently and blissfully de-clutter your wardrobe so that you end up with clothes you’ll be wearing and effortlessly coordinate?
The first thing you need to do is to reflect on your lifestyle, your style preferences, the clothes that fit your body shape and the colours that complement your skin, hair and eye colours. If you have no clue, maybe keep a log for a month and analyse how you spend your time and what type of clothes you wear (work, casual, smart, leisure, exercise, special occasion etc.). Observe what type of clothes you gravitate towards, which clothes make you feel good etc.
Then gather all the clothes you own from all around your home in a single location. Don’t forget the clothes stored in a different room, the laundry basket and the ironing pile.
Then pick one item at a time and assign it to a category. The best way to build your categories is based on what would be the first thing that would come to your mind if you wanted to retrieve the item. Categories could be clothes type (T-shirts, pants, skirts, dresses etc.), occasion (office, casual, evening, winter etc.), colours etc.
To start with, keep your categories as broad as possible so that you don’t spend too much time assigning an item to a category and so that you can easily remember your categories. You can always break down a category into sub-categories e.g. blouses into black blouses, flowery blouses and the rest. Or pants into formal, casual, jeans etc.
As you sort, you’ll come across items that are not in good condition – out of shape, torn, faded, stained, etc. Honestly there is nothing you can do about them and they deserve to be tossed. That’s what I call the no-brainers.
Once you’ve sorted all your items, go through each category and get rid of the items that no longer fit you. I can hear you say “It doesn’t fit me right now, but I may lose weight and it’ll fit again.” Well the reality is that it doesn’t fit you today and that there is no guarantee that it’ll fit you tomorrow – you may lose less or more weight than what you’re targeting. You may not like the item tomorrow. Fashion trends change. Fabrics deteriorate. Colours fade. So keep only what fits now. Letting go of an item that doesn’t fit you is a good way to let go at the same time of the guilt that typically goes with not having lost the weight so far. And once you’ve lost the weight, go and buy new clothes, you’ll really have deserved it!
Now if you have a few items that you really love and have problems parting with, either get them altered or put them aside on a higher shelf or in a box. In both cases, give yourself a deadline – maybe 2 weeks to get the alteration done or 3 to 6 months to be able to fit in. If you haven’t got the alteration done or lost the weight by your deadline, get rid of the item.
At this stage you’ll be left with clothes that are in good condition and that fit you. It’s already a great achievement but trust me, you can do better! Just ask yourself “Is this comfortable wearing?” and “Does it make me feel good?”. If you answer no to any of these questions, make yourself a favour and let go of these items. You want your clothes to empower you, not weigh you down!
I guess the next thing to take into consideration is how many pieces of clothing you should have based on your storage space and lifestyle. And that’s when the lifestyle analysis you’ve done earlier and the sorting in categories are going to prove useful, because it’s only when you look at a category as a whole that you can appreciate how much you have and also decide how much you should have.
Let me give you an example to illustrate my point. One of my clients was sorting her clothes according to office pants, office dresses, office blouses, casual pants, evening dresses etc. At some point, we realised that 80% of her blouses were black so we decided to create a sub-category for them. When we finished the sorting, she was surprised to count 20 black office blouses that admittedly looked pretty similar. She quickly came to the conclusion that she didn’t need so many and managed to let go of more than half.
I am not giving this example as a benchmark, ultimately it’s up to you to decide how many you should have. But if you have more items than you need in a category, keep only your favourites and get rid of the others.
The last question to ask yourself before putting your clothes back in your closet is whether you can pair the item with any other items in your wardrobe. If the answer is no, either get rid of it or create a list of items you need to complete your outfits. But again, give yourself a deadline, and if you haven’t bought the item by then, I can assure you it will never happen.
Before I wrap up, I’d like to mention another common objection I hear “I don’t really like it or it doesn’t really fit me, but I’ll keep it because it was expensive.” Sure, but whether you realise it or not, keeping this item is costing you more than you think… Because it’s costing you valuable space that could be better used for the things you use or love. Because it’s costing you time and energy to retrieve the things you really use amongst all you have. Because it’s a nagging reminder that you spent a lot of money on something you don’t use. So… let it go! And keep in mind that if it was expensive, you should be able to sell it and get a good price out of it.
I think we all deserve to have a wardrobe that makes us feel empowered instead of overwhelmed, don’t you think? Ah and would it help if I were to give you a list of options to donate and sell your clothes? If so, I’d be happy to write a post on this topic. Just let me know in the comments section below. In the meantime, good luck with your de-cluttering!