The Epic Closet Clean-Out Action Plan

As part of my 2016 commitment to “mindful shopping,” I decided to embark on an epic closet cleanse. (I suppose the parlance du jour would be “closet detox.”) It’s been…interesting.

Now, I’m a person who believes in the life-changing magic of cleaning out a closet. I last embarked on a crazy-big closet purge between film school semesters about (eek!) five years ago. And it really changed my life. No joke! A rigorous slash-and-burning of my sartorial belongings gave me a new angle on who I was, helped me make peace with the loose ends of my life, more fully empowered me in my present and clarified what my future would be. I’m hoping for the same kind of existential benefit this time around.

(By the way, I did my last clean-out well before decluttering guru Marie Kondo hit the scene. But clearly the idea of decluttering changing a life — and having a deep emotional effect on us — resonates with a lot of people, judging from the crazy success of her book!)

But of course, I’m different, and life is waaaaay different now. And no two closet clean-outs are the same. I don’t have a set of free afternoons over a few weeks to myself anymore, what with a very active, curious, mobile baby to wrangle, a few jobs to juggle and limited free time.

(I quibble with people who advise doing a closet clean-out in just one afternoon or 3-4 hour block — which is what most closet clean-out articles advise. I say: if you love fashion and dream of your self through the language of clothes, you need more time, if only because going through all your clothes is a more emotionally charged process for you, even on a subconscious level.)

Still, I’m using what I learned before, when I hit upon my own little criteria from my first epic clean-out that I still use now.

  • First, I wrangle everything from the various boxes, storage drawers and hidy-holes where I squirrel things away.
  • I then try on everything. (And maybe even take a few pictures, just so I can’t fool myself into thinking these dang culottes make me appear dégagé instead of stumpish.)

But the most important bit is my personal criteria/mental standard operating procedure, asking these questions of each item:

  • Does it fit?
  • Am I going to wear it in the future, just as I am right now? (Because, you know, self-acceptance of the here and now. And no “But I can wear it once I lose 10 pounds/return to my pre-nursing body”!)
  • Does it make me feel good in some way? (This is my variation of Kondo’s dictum to “spark joy.”) Or will it at least be regularly useful? (I’m more a fan of that William Morris saying, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”)
  • What does my body do or feel when I actually wear it? (If I stand up straight and feel at ease, it’s a keeper. But if I find myself standing like a fashion blogger — you know, contorting myself to make the clothes fit better — then it must go. Because you can’t walk around in real life pigeon-toed and slightly bow-legged to make a pair of jeans “work”!)
  • Does it go with other things in my wardrobe? (If not, it gets set aside for personal analysis later.)

What’s different is that I’m actually taking a few tips from Marie Kondo and doing just one category at a time. I’ve started with the smaller, easier categories in my wardrobe: bottoms, which I’ve now edited down to three pairs of jeans, three pairs of pants, three skirts and two pairs of shorts. I did dresses as well — and got rid of half of them, which made me feel all kinds of feels. But I’m shuddering in advance to deal with my tops, sleepwear, bags and underwear, all of which pose their own unique challenges.

I’m sure it’ll take me a solid month to slowly make my way through my wardrobe. But hopefully the result will be solid. I don’t expect life-changing magic, really — but a renewed feeling of confidence and calm when I open my closet would be nice!

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