Friday, September 4, 2009
You might think, after I wrote the book on closet cleaning – oh, okay, it was an article, but it took SO much research it felt like a book to me – I’d be done with that problem forever. But not so fast. This summer I noticed my closet had become a classic. The bad kind: closet full of clothes, nothing to wear. I couldn’t find two pieces, a top and a bottom, that could be worn together, that were clean and fit. Just possibly they were in there, but I couldn’t find them. Something had to give.
I’d read Tim Gunn’s list of ten essential items. And I’d been knocked off my hanger by this bit of information from Free author Chris Anderson: at the beginning of the twentieth century “the average American consumer had just eight outfits.” And I had an idea!
I certainly do not intend to limit my wardrobe to ten items nor to eight outfits. But a closet full of clothes with nothing I want to wear – that’s no way to dress, either.
I decided to try counting my clothes. Yep, counting.
I counted the number of hangers in my closet – well, actually, in three closets, as my clothes had been migrating in response to the overcrowding.
One-hundred and fifty hangers held blouses, sweaters, t-shirts and knit tops, jackets and blazers, pants ranging from jeans to capris to shorts to tailored trousers, and dresses and skirts. 150!!
Decided to eliminate one third. Yes, I set a numeric goal: I would give away (or throw away if it came to that) fifty items of clothing. Period.
Arbitrary? Yes. But, effective!
First, I called the Cancer Federation to schedule a pick-up a week hence. Have you noticed how a public promise is more motivating than a private one?
Then I started reviewing, item by item by item. I hoped to find about one in every three that could go into the CF box. (By the way, it is my understanding they have a use even for rag cloth, so I don’t worry about the quality of my ‘purgees.’) Here I am looking for just exactly what we all look for when we clean out closets: items that are wearing out, are stained or no longer fit, things we are not wearing anymore and, perhaps most importantly, things we keep throwing on knowing they do not flatter us anymore. (That last group is worth some reflection, but let’s stick with the process here.)
Sometimes I would slide five or six items along the pole without finding anything I could readily part with – but then the process would reverse and I’d find several in a row that could easily go.
And, by the time I had reviewed all 150 items, believe it or not, I had 50 garments neatly folded into a big box – and a closet in which I could actually see my clothes.
(Stage two was less arbitrary, more thoughtful and stragetic. If you are interested, check back.)