In my last post I shared the reasons, why I started my minimalist wardrobe. Now it is time, to share how I went about de-cluttering my closet. I think, this is where most of you struggle; that awful part of stripping down your closet to the bare minimum. So, I want to take the time to write about how a closet purge looks like in my house and how you can de-clutter your wardrobe in seven easy steps.
Before I start listing off my very simple instructions though, I want to explain why I am a big believer in a 3 pile system. A lot of books, or blogs will recommend, that if you can't decide on wether or not you should get rid of an item, you should put it in a box. After a few months have passed, that you have not revisited with the items, you have gained the clarity and courage to finally kiss it goodbye. So they say. However, while we go about minimizing our wardrobe, I think we might as well go about maximizing our time and our space. If you create that fourth pile of "indecisiveness" and "sentiments" you are also setting yourself up for another day of de-cluttering in the future, as well as storing things, you really don't need. So my advice is, that once you are serious about reducing your wardrobe, you should be very honest with yourself. I believe, that deep in your heart you already have the answer about every piece you were going to put on that fourth pile. You just need to admit it to yourself and not worry about hurting anyones feelings, the money you have spent on it, or some other reason. I am absolutely sure about this, as I have had that fourth pile and it was nothing but a detour to my goal of having the perfect small wardrobe.
With that being said, I understand that a few items really do hold sentiment. My wedding dress for example, is something I wasn't quite ready to part with. So I had it professionally preserved. It now takes up very minimal space and will actually last without decay (fingers crossed). I think it is ok to have one or two items of sentiment like that. I beg of you though, avoid keeping every cheap tee you picked up on a vacation as memorabilia.
De-cluttering my wardrobe, I developed this (sort of) leitmotif, that helped me think clearly, as I went through piece after piece of clothing: Keep the clothes you love. Be done with all the rest.
It has helped me tremendously in choosing which items to put back in my wardrobe and which ones to discard of. I hope you can take this mantra and make it your own.
So here is my step by step guide to de-cluttering your wardrobe:
1. Clear your schedule. You want to start this as soon as possible, but not while you are simultaneously tackling crying babies, deadlines, or tax forms. Make time, so that you can complete the de-cluttering process in one go.
2. Set the mood. Put on some music. Make it some happy or mellow tunes. Keep away from anything that will make you feel melancholy or too emotional. The music is supposed to help you stay motivated and support your positive attitude, not to make you cry over the pair of jeans that fit you before you had the twins.
Now go grab yourself a glass of wine. If you start in the morning you may want to stick with coffee instead. But you get where I'm going with this, right? Treat your closet purge like a date.
Strip down. Like, literally. If you are already in your underwear it will be easier to try different items on. When I de-cluttered it was quite chilly, so I put a robe on, that I could easily loose in order to try things on for fit. If you don't do this you may fall back on the old "I will try these on some other time", or "I think this will still fit" excuse.
3. Take everything out. I took every single item of clothing out of my wardrobe and also added some, that I had stored in the basement. This left an empty closet to my left (future wonderful minimalist wardrobe), a huge pile of clothing to my right and a corridor of empty space in the middle. This is were I put my 3 piles. I also moved my big mirror around, so I could easily see myself without having to walk to the mirror every time I tried something on.
4. Take it all in. Look around you and be amazed about all the stuff that is before you. Take a moment to feel thankful and appreciative, that you were in the comfortable position to acquire so many items. Then remember why you have decided to make a change. Take a deep breath and pick up the first item.
5. Ask yourself four basic questions, with every piece of clothing you go through. These for questions will determine wether or not, you should keep or toss an item. Four simple questions is all it takes. Most likely though, you will only make it question number four with a few pieces.
Is it in good condition?
Have I worn it lately?
Does it fit me well, right now?
Do I truly love it?
A note on the question "Have I worn it lately". Sometimes, we are very much attached to a piece of clothing because it represented a wonderful time in our lives. A favorite mini dress may remind us of fun nights of dancing with the girls, or a a blazer may remind us of a successful day at the old job. The thing is though, with the years, our lives change and so our clothes also have to change. I try to avoid excuses starting with "Maybe one day...", or "But if I...", because deep in my heart I know, I won't be at the bar with all the girls for a while, wearing that sparkly dress. And if we do all get to sneak away one night for drinks, I think I'll look just wonderful in what I will find in my closet.
The same goes for fit. A lot of items may have ended up in our wardrobe, simply because they became trendy. Popularity though, is not an indicator for wether or not it will flatter my body shape. Sometimes, I used to admire clothes on my best friends, but neglected the same ones, after I added them to my own wardrobe. Now I realize of course, that they only looked good on my friend's body type. Or do you remember that famous "Sex and the City" episode, when Miranda fit back into her "skinny jeans"? I had also hoped to fit back into old beloved pieces after birth, but even when I did, they still kind of looked different then before. So instead I have started to embrace a new thought: This doesn't fit me anymore. But that's ok. I"m beautiful the way I look now. I can let it go.
What I'm trying to say is - fit really matters. If something doesn't fit right, we won't feel comfortable in it. Ultimately, we won't be wearing it.
6. Put into pile. Items you love, that make you feel absolutely comfortable in your skin, add happiness to your daily routine, fit you well and are not stained, ripped or otherwise in bad condition you can put in the "keep" pile. Everything that is in terrible condition you can put in the "throw away" pile. The rest goes into the "donate" pile.
A successful closet purge should leave you with a very large "donation pile", and a fairly overseeable "keep pile".
Remember, there is no "maybe" pile.
Luckily, in step one you have made a nice gap in your daily planner to really see this through. So after you are done sorting, why not pack up the trash pile and the donation pile right away and get it out of the house. This is particularly important, if you have re-lapsed in the past.
You may be an excellent crafter, or a vigorous cleaner, or possibly even both. And you may say "I can cut some fabric out of this one and sew something great", or "I can still use this as a rag". True. You possibly could. However, please keep in mind, that moving everything out of your closet and into your craft space, or into your pantry is not in fact minimizing. So don't let these arguments get out of hand.
Others may feel, that making the "donate pile" a "for sale pile" would be a more lucrative solution. Keep in mind however, that selling requires a lot of time and effort and may leave you more frustrated and with less money than you anticipate. The way I see it is this: I am very fortunate, or else I wouldn't own all these things. They bring me no more joy. But maybe, hopefully even, someone a little less fortunate will in fact enjoy them.
7. Repeat. Until you feel absolutely satisfied with the what is left.
You may wonder if there is a magic number of items that should be left in your wardrobe. Well, there is not. I believe this varies greatly from person to person. My weeks are typically filled with the same activities and therefore don't require too many outfit changes. A woman that works out before going to her busy day job, but is also hitting the town at night with her single friends may have completely different needs. I'd say as a minimum you need to have enough pieces to get you through a few days, while being able to express your personality and make you feel calm within yourself.
More on that and how you can build your ideal minimalist wardrobe will follow next week. In the meantime, please leave me a comment and tell me about your experiences. I hope these 7 easy steps to de-clutter your wardrobe were helpful to you. If you liked this entry, please share with your friends on Facebook, Pinterest or tell them about it over coffee.