Helping people clean out their closets is something I love to do. It helps me understand them by seeing what they have collected and what they hold on to. I find it satisfying to make order out of chaos. I sit on the bed as garments are brought out and displayed before me. The first few outfits I comment upon, declaring either, "Looks great, keep it." "Needs repair, is it worth it?" or "Get rid of it". After that, I find myself saying little else.
Once into the swing of thing, the closet owner begins decisively weeding out the
garments single-handedly. "I never liked this!" she cries. "Why have I been
hanging onto this?" she exclaims, tossing it aside. I lean against the headboard and
watch the discard pole grow. Earlier in the day, this vanquisher of closet clutter
was, no doubt, fearful about our appointment. Would I be abrasive? Would she be
embarrassed? Would she have to give away things she loved? What would she have
left to wear?
Fear might keep her from getting started, but with a little encouragement, she
throws herself into the task with gleeful abandon. One client commented: "When
we were going through my closet, I had two reactions - shock and relief. I realized
you have to tear down an old building before you can put a new building in its
place. It is called, 'constructive destruction.'
The reason I enjoy cleaning out closets so much is because it is such a positive
thing to do.
The state of your closet is more related to your attitude that it is to your general
untidiness. You need to consider everything in the present time, from the shape of
your body to the needs of your lifestyle. Your closet must be a reflection of your
commitment to the present. The only items hanging in it should be thing you like
and feel good in. Not only should your closet contain only current favorites, but
should be arranged in a way that you know what is available to you. Updating
and organizing your closet is important; don't skip it.
A stuffed closet is falsely comforting. If the clothes do not look good on you or do
not meet the needs of your lifestyle, then you will be faced with the daily frustration
of having nothing to wear and not understanding why. Even if the next time you go
shopping you are determined to buy something that expressed your spirit, adding a
few new outfits to the existing clutter is not a good practice. Buying something
wonderful will not make up for a closet filled with things you feel unhappy about.
If you think all the clothes hanging in your closet that you never wear are not
hurting anything, think again. Every time you see pants that do not fit or the dress
with the price tag still on it, you get a little electric shock of negative energy. The
'skeletons' in your closet undermine you; they tear down your confidence. The only
solution is to get rid of them.
Clothes in your closet that are too small are the most destructive skeletons of all.
You might push them to the back of the closet determined not to try them on until
one morning, convinced that feeling this good can only mean you are thin. You try
them on and your cheerful mood deflates like a balloon. Or, rushing to get ready to
go our, your become so totally frustrated at nothing looking right that you put them
on, anyway, and spend the evening feeling pinched and miserable. Even if you do
not wear your clothes that are too small, every time you see them hanging in your
closet you will be reminded that you are 'too fat". It is time to get them out
of your closet!
Take everything that does not fit you right now out of your closet today. What you
do with them once they are out of the closet is not as important as the act of freeing
yourself from dealing with them on a daily basis. Trying on or wearing tight clothes
will not motivate you to lose weight: it will only demean you and tear down your
self-esteem. If it is too painful for you to get rid of them, put them in a second
closet or in the garage. If you do lose weight, you can retrieve your clothes from
your hiding place.
The second kind of 'skeleton' in your closet is all the bad purchases you have never
worn. Just as wearing something too tight will not motivate you to lose weight, the
guilt you feel when you see a mistake hanging there will not prevent you from
making that mistake, again. Getting caught up in the excitement of purchasing
something, only to discover that you do not really wear it, happens to everyone.
There is no need to feel like a failure because eof it. When you are ready to face the
fact that it will never look right (or fit your lifestyle) clear it out of your closet and
make way for something better. Anything hanging in your closet that makes you
feel guilty when you look at it, has got to go.
Another, even more insidious form of sabotage is allowing your closet to stay in a
perpetual state of disorder and confusion. It guarantees that getting dressed will be
forever difficult and frustrating. Imagine trying to pain a masterpiece with a dirty
paintbrush, dried up tubes of paint, and a messy workspace. If your objective is to
look wonderful in the easiest and simplest way possible, then give yourself a break
by getting rid of the clutter and cleaning up the chaos.
When you are psychologically ready to tackle your closet, the only way to proceed is
to plunge right in. Set aside several hours and be sure to have a good, full-length
mirror in place. Your task is to take out every single item in your closet and return
only the ones that you truly like and enjoy wearing. This means you have to try
them all on. Be honest with yourself. Is the fit flattering? Does the color make you
feel healthy and alive? Have you worn it recently, and if so, did you feel good in it?
Go through everything and make a decision.
Whether you choose to have help or decide to got it alone, there will be certain
stumbling blocks that you should be aware of. Some items are going to me more
difficult to decide about than others. The types of clothing which are the toughest
to be objective about are sentimental favorites and clothes you once enjoyed that no
longer look as wonderful on you as they once did. Only the most sentimental items
are worth keeping. I will never part with an original crystal and mesh 1920's flapper
dress, as an example. If you feel terribly attached to something made or given to
you with love put it where you put your other memorabilia. Do not leave it hanging
in the closet. On the other hand, there is no reason to hang onto every outfit you
ever had fun in. You can retain the memories without keeping the clothes.
Clothes can only look good in the present time. Even something you enjoyed last
season may no longer suit your spirit, figure or lifestyle. Former favorites are often
more difficult to be objective about than mistakes you have always hated. I recall a
client clinging to several designer knit outfits, telling me how wonderfully they
traveled and how ideal they were on her last vacation. I pointed out that the color
and fit were no longer flattering and asked her to thing about the overall enjoyment
of her next holiday if she were dressed in them. If you love something about an
outfit but it no longer does your face or figure justice, mentally file away what you
liked about it and when you can, replace it.
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I am sorry to say that, after a certain period of time, nearly every outfit starts to look
dated. Take a long, hard look at some of your older classics, especially if they were
purchased more than five years ago. Without noticing, you might have replaced
then with something you like better.
Going through your closet is an excellent time for learning more about yourself. As
you try things on, consider the qualities of your favorite garments. What is it about
the style, cut and color that make them so beloved? In the clothes you enjoy the
most, notice which of these assets are evident. Pay attention to what is wrong with
the outfits you are discarding. I recently decided to let go of a jumpsuit that I never
liked because I always so massive in it. I assumed the oversize shoulder pads were
the culprits. When I looked at it more closely, I realized it was not only the shoulder
pads that made the garment look top heavy, but also the combination of epaulets,
breast pockets and lapels. Without guilt coloring our observations, we can learn
from our mistakes.
Clean out your closet as well as you can before your next shopping trip. After you
have returned from purchasing something new, do a little closet fine-tuning. It is
easier to get rid of anything you were undecided about when you have something
better to replace it. You also have the added incentive of making more room for
your pretty new things.
Keeping your closet in shape is an ongoing process. If you change wardrobes
seasonally, go though everything before you put it away. If you did not wear an
item all season long, it is likely you will enjoy it next year. When you take out
clothing that has been stored, try it on to be sure it still fits and you still like it.
When you are deciding upon which clothes to save or discard, do not concern your
self with the fate of a reject. Base the decision purely on your enjoyemnt the
garment. After you have set aside all the clothes you are ready to remove, then you
can choose what to do with them. There are many positive ways in which your old
outfit can be put to good use. If they were recently purchased and still stylish, you
can sell them at a used clothing store of consignment shop. Donating clothes to a
charitable organization helps others that are less fortunate and provides you with a
tax write-off. There are several women's organizations that sponsor 'slightly worn'
sales, with the proceeds going to charity.
A creative alternative is a clothes-swapping party. Invite a group of friends over and
ask them to bring only their best cast-offs. The only requirement is to be firm
about people taking only the items that look wonderful on them.
Whatever you decide to do, remember that what happens to your old clothes after
they are out of your closet is not really all that important. Try not to put too much
energy into finding them a new home. They are not stray orphans in need of
shelter. Beware of burdening your family members with items you feel would be
'just perfect' for them. They will thank you for this, believe me.
Now that you are free of all kinds of skeletons in your closet, it is easy to organize
what is left. Set up any type of system that works for you. Some people group their
clothes by color, but I prefer to arrange my clothes by category. Moving from left to
right, I hang my slacks, then my blouses and lightweight jackets, followed by my
skirts and, finally, my suits. I don't wear dresses or heavy coats because I wear
separates and live in a temperate year-round climate. But you may consider an
alternative if you have distinct seasons. My sweaters, exercise wear and lingerie
are all folded. If it helps you to keep complete outfits hanging together then,
by all means, arrange your closet that way. Any approach that makes sense and is
to you is fine with the exception of allotting one quarter of your closet for the things
you currently wear and three quarters of the space for the items you don't!
Your accessories should also be organized and easily accessible. I fold my scarves
and hang my belts over the scarves. Seeing my accessories hanging in plain sight
often inspires me to try something new. Accessories do not take up much room
and they need to be kept current like all the rest of your clothes.
I might sound like a fanatic about my closet but I have developed an appreciation
for the benefits of an organized and up-to-date-closet. Getting dressed is not
longer a chore now that I clearly see all my options hanging before me. I can feel
confident knowing I need only to choose an outfit based my mood, the occasion and
the weather. I never have to wonder or speculate about something fitting or looking
great that day.
Getting dressed in the morning sets the tone for the entire day and you owe it to
yourself to make it as streamlined and positive as possible. Getting dressed is your
time to look in the mirror and positively interact with yourself, confirming your
attractiveness and appreciating your beauty. It is a waste to spend those few
precious moments throwing garments over furniture, frantically trying to pull
In addition to the daily benefits of an organized closet, the act of cleaning it is itself
emotionally satisfying. A surge of energy takes hold when you free yourself from an
unhappy past and more towards a more promising future. Like any intimate
relationship, we create emotional bonds with our clothing. When you act decisively
you will discover a sense of relief akin to quitting a job you hated or ending a
relationship that is no longer working. It is a wonderful feeling to take control by
letting go of past failures and by making positive choices
in the present. Your closet is a great place to begin and a great place to return to
whenever you feel the need to do something good for yourself.
I have found the following three exercises to be the most successful approach to
tackling your closet-cleaning project. Exercise One offers tips for going through
your garments one at a time.
Exercise Two guides you through arranging your clothes in an orderly way. The
final exercise encourages you to evaluate what you have learned and not any
important observations you have made.
Step one - GET TO IT
There is no shortcut to trying our every single item, so get to it. Put on good
underwear, pantyhose if you wear them, your favorite music and start with your
favorite clothes. Be sure to wear all the appropriate accessories, including shoes
and jewelry. Admire how nice you look in them. Then take them off, hang them up
or put them somewhere out of the way until you complete the project.
Continuing to move from the best to the worst, try on everything else. Make
whatever you have on look as good as it possibly can. If you feel inspired and come
up with a new combination, terrific.
If you are not thrilled with the way something looks, put it in the discard pile. Do
not start a 'maybe' pile. Make a decision. Tell yourself if you change your mind you
can always retrieve it later. This act of decisiveness helps you break the emotional
bond with the garment in question. Once you see it in the reject pile you will
probably be relieved rather than sad. Let me make this very important point:
Making a 'yes' or 'no' decision is the key to successfully cleaning out your closet.
You are probably getting stuck on all the odd pieces you have been saving, hoping
to find the 'perfect' thing to go with them. Ask yourself if you really and truly love
them. Is it worth spending the necessary time, energy and money to find them
suitable partners? If you would rather spend the time and money on a totally new
outfit, then let them go.
Do not feel guilty about getting rid of something that is still 'good'! Box up all the
rejects and get them out of the house!
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Step two - ARRANGING YOUR CLOTHES
Put back all the clothes you have decided to keep. Before you do, make sure
everything is on a plastic or padded hanger. Nothing ruins the shape of a garment
faster than letting it hang on a metal hanger. If you do not own enough appropriate
hangers, take a break by going out and buying some.
Before you return any clothing items to the closet, however, make sure there are no
rips, tear or missing buttons that need to be repaired. If you can't repair these items
yourself, take them to a good seamstress or put them in the discard pile.
Once you have gone through all your clothes, organizing what is left is the fun part.
Enjoy the feeling of order you are creating. Arrange your clothes in whatever way
works for you. Be sure there is enough space between each hanger so your clothes
do not get crushed or wrinkled.
Your hangers should be able to move from side to side relatively freely. If your
clothes are still jammed together, making it impossible for you to see what you
have, then you did not get rid of enough. Take a second look.
You should be able to approach your closet each day knowing you like and feel
good in everything in it. Once you have done a major closet cleaning, it is easy to
keep your closet up to date and current.
And, speaking of your closet, you have gone to all the time and trouble to organize
your wardrobe and you want to be able to see the clothes you have returned to the
racks. If you don't have adequate lightening, you will unable to identify the color of
the garment. Without going to the expense of rewiring your closet you can
accomplish this by purchasing battery operated lights. Place them in strategic and
dimly lit places in your closet and you will be able to view your masterpiece with
Step three - OBSERVATIONS
When you are going through your closet you might want to start a notebook to keep
a record of what you are doing. Keep it and a pencil handy for jotting down any
observations you make. When you discover a style that looks good, make a note to
refer to before your next shopping trip. Also not the unflattering styles you want to
avoid. If you discover any new assets, add them to the list.