The Art of Decluttering – My Latest Closet Clean Out

I’ve mentioned here and there how, while I’m not a minimalist, Benson has inched his way closer and closer to becoming one over the years.  Not only is he against clutter, but he is simply against storing things you don’t need regularly–even things you would need once in a while.  (He would rather just borrow or get it when you actually need it.)

Benson really lives by the phrase “a cluttered house is a cluttered mind.”  And while my tolerance for a little clutter is much higher than his, we still both feel emotional and mental weights when we are surrounded by stuff we don’t use.

Recently he’s been reading a book on the Japanese art of decluttering which compelled him to purge his closet, among other things.  Not like he even had that much to purge!  His closet was already minimal in my mind!  Of course he suggested I do it too.  I’ve done several closet clean outs since giving birth, so I was down to do another one…until I realized that I had to be a little more cutthroat this time around because we were playing by the book’s rules.  Plus, Benson was involved, which automatically meant more scrutiny over things I kept.  Yikes!

Today I’m sharing the process we used as well as describing how the mindset from this book was slightly different than what I normally did, but really helpful.

My Typical Closet Clean Outs
Typically my closet clean outs involved a lot of thinking.  Like, why do I not wear this?  Could I wear this if x, y, and z in the future?  What would help me wear this again?  And all sorts of other questions for analysis.  This time around was really simple, but actually more difficult to do: a) take everything out of your closet, b) only put back things you LOVE, and c) put in another pile things that need to be tailored (that you would LOVE once tailored).

Why was it harder to do?  Because before, when I let myself run through all the questions and analysis, I could talk myself into holding onto a lot more pieces that I honestly was not going to use.

My pile to tailor!

The New Rules
So, I played by new rules this time.  How it went, in more detail:

Take everything out of your closet.  This part is a MUST.  Usually I leave everything in my closet, graze my hand over them one by one, then take out items I’m ready to get rid of.  But, taking everything out of my closet and putting pieces back made it feel like each piece needed to earn its place in my wardrobe.

Put back into the closet things you LOVE.  Like, ones that you just love love love love LOVE wearing.  Put into another pile pieces that need to be tailored (that you would LOVE once tailored).  Like I said, this is simple in theory, but difficult in reality because of all those “what ifs.”  What if I might need this later?  What if I could figure out how to style it?  What if I’ll actually love this later?  Because I’ve been practicing remixing for several years now I feel like I can figure out multiple ways to use most pieces.  But the real question is do I love that piece and actually want to wear it?  That’s different than being able to figure out how to wear it.  I had plenty of pieces that I could have worn but didn’t want to wear.  There’s no room for the “what ifs.”  Only things you love–and currently love–get put back.  Not things that you once loved or could maybe possibly love in the future either!  (We’ll talk about those once-loved things in a minute.)

Since I’m great at talking myself into keeping things, I needed Benson’s help.  I ate a bowl of ice cream while Benson held up each piece and asked me if I loved it.  Unless I needed to tailor it, if I hesitated at all (or was less than a 7-8 out of 10 in loving it), Benson chucked it.  EEK!

To ease my pain we created a “closet purgatory.”  I already knew I wouldn’t miss these pieces, but since I’m inclined to keep things I don’t use it helped me remove them knowing I could “maybe” bring them out of purgatory.

How to Let Go of Pieces That Are Still Good

What do you do with pieces that are still good?  How about ones you paid for but hardly wore and that you’re still carrying remorse about?  And those items that you were once BFFs with that have a special place in your heart but that you haven’t worn in a year?  

This category was the biggest mental shift for me.  A long time ago I wrote about shopping mistakes I’ve made, and while I’ve made a lot less over the years, after giving birth I was kind of desperate for more nursing-friendly clothes ASAP and made some regretful purchases again.

I loved what this book said, which was that you should just thank the item for its service to you, then let it go.  Whereas I would hang onto it, holding out hope that I could redeem it somehow, this book encourages you to simply thank it for whatever it gave to you and then move on.  Whether it was a once beloved piece that you got a lot of use out of or a piece you hardly or never wore with a tag still on it, it gave you something.  The former is easier to see what it gave, but the latter?  Hopefully that thing you hardly wore at least taught you something.  Maybe it taught you that you didn’t actually like that style or that you instead prefer tops that are 1 inch longer.  Though it may have been a costly or regretful purchase, learn from it, call it a $30 (or $50!) lesson, and move on.  You don’t need that clutter in your closet, or in your mental space!

And, you can sell items on second-hand clothing sites now so the burn isn’t as bad! 😀

I still have a plenty of room to grow in getting rid of my clutter.  I’m pretty sure I talked Benson into letting me keep some things that I shouldn’t.  But ultimately I want to look in my closet and LOVE every single piece there.  I want them all to fit perfectly, work for any aspect of my lifestyle, and be things I cannot wait to wear again.  Benson’s philosophy is that it’s better to have a smaller wardrobe full of pieces you absolutely love than a large wardrobe with a bunch of pieces that don’t give you joy.  

It’s hard to face the truth, but the reality is that I kept reaching for the same pieces over and over, and when I passed by the other clothes a sense of dread or dead weight came over me rather than joy.  It’s true–a cluttered house is a cluttered mind.

We removed 50+ items from my closet, and this was after I’d already done several closet clean outs this year.  We were just more ruthless this time.  Yet, I still feel like I have a zillion items to wear!  And those pieces that were hard to get rid of?  I have not thought about them once.  And now I don’t have to feel their dead weight every time I look in my closet!

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