Monday, September 3, 2012

Simplify: Your Wardrobe, Part 1

Going to Extremes

The website of California Closets opens with a photo of a closet that is roughly the size of my living room. I have no idea how much it would cost to have a closet like that installed, but I would imagine that the cost to fill it with clothes would be more than I live on in a year. I don't get it. Why would anyone need that many clothes?

I was thinking about what to write in this post when I ran across an article about Mildred Lisette Norman, also known as Peace Pilgrim. During the 1940s, Mildred decided that making money and spending it foolishly was a waste, so she began to simplify the clutter in her life and didn't stop until she was down to only two dresses and living on $10 a week.

In my opinion, she just might have taken things a little too far, but life in the 1940s was a lot different. No one had much of anything, but they got through it.

This topic has a two parts. The first part is about cutting down on the amount of clothing packed into your drawers and closet. My next post will be about spending less on clothes so you can save more money for retirement.

How Many Clothes Do You Need?

This is a photo of my closet, nice and organized, just like California Closets, but in a tiny fraction of the space. Actually, I have another like this with a few dresses and jackets, but these are the clothes that I wear regularly.

And this is plenty. This is enough to wear a different outfit every day for two weeks with plenty of variety - long pants, capris, skirts, casual and dressy blouses. And my flip-flop collection. (I'd hate to live in a place where I couldn't wear flip-flops most days.)

I makes a difference that I'm retired, but these clothes would work fine for many jobs in the places where I lived before retirement.

It wasn't easy to cut my wardrobe down to this level. I had lots more clothes that I almost never wore, but I just couldn't seem to convince myself to get rid of them. Plus, I kept finding more clothes that were such a bargain that I couldn't pass them up.

I had a box of clothes that were too large - just in case I put on weight - and another box of clothes that were too small, in case I lost a few pounds, of course. I finally realized that since I've stayed pretty close to the same weight for the  past six years, it really isn't likely to change a whole lot.

Eliminating the Excess

OK, so this part wasn't easy, but I've haven't experienced a moment of regret since I finally got it done. I started early one morning and removed everything from the closets and drawers and boxes and piled it all on the bed. Believe me, it was a huge mound. 

Then I stripped down to my underwear, stood in front of the full-length mirror, and tried on every single item. There were three places each item could go: 1) back into a drawer or closet if it fit well and I still liked it a lot and I could put it together with other items to make a complete outfit; 2) into a box marked "sell" if it didn't fit or I didn't honestly think I would wear it enough to allot it the space and it was something I thought I could sell at a yard sale; or 3) another box marked "donate" if I didn't want it and didn't think it was worth the trouble of trying to sell it.

This process took pretty much all day with a few breaks. It really surprised me to realize how tiring it can be to try on so many clothes. Of course, it wasn't just the trying on - I also had to commit to a decision and either re-hang them or fold them neatly before putting them away or into their assigned box.


One thing that really helped me let go of some of them was that I had already decided where they would go. I have a Mexican lady who helps me clean the house. She has been with me for over seven years and we have become very good friends. You might say that I have adopted her family. They take care of me, I take care of them.

Any time I need anything done, I can either hire someone in her family or she can tell me who will do a good job for a fair price. And I know that someone in her family can probably use just about anything I give them. Or she can give it to her aunt who lives in a rather primitive adobe house across the lake. If not, I'm happy to let her sell whatever it might be.

If you haven't got an adopted needy family, I'm sure you can come up with a charity whose work you value.

What Are You Waiting For?

So, if your closet and drawers are bulging with stuff you can't even fit into or haven't worn for years, why not clear things out? It is so nice to open those doors and drawers to neatly folded or hanging clothes with room to spare.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read what I write.

1 comment:

  1. Kathy,
    Isn't it wonderful to "free" yourself of needless clutter? My husband and I just went through this same process as we ready our home for sale. He followed the same guidelines that you just outlined, but I wasn't quite ready to empty the closet and start fresh so I just edited some of my things.

    Being retired, I truly don't need that much - play clothes and going out clothes plus my sports outfits for golf and tennis. That's it. It should be easy to manage, but I too fall victim to sale items. Maybe one day I will manage to narrow it down to two-three weeks worth of outfits, but not just yet.

    Great tutorial for closet organization. You should post it on Pinterest!