How to Finally Tackle Your Closet’s Critical Mess | Pound Ridge Real Estate

Ever the organizer, I was extolling the virtues of closet purging to a friend. She was feeling a little overwhelmed. Her possessions had been slowly encroaching due to nothing more insidious than the steady march of time and life. Honestly, my friend is an organized person. Things have their place. But lately, there are fewer and fewer places for things. Yet she remained staunchly purge-resistant, especially when it came to her clothes. Sound familiar? Keep reading to learn more about how making a little room in your closet can be an exercise in self-discovery.

Reaching “critical mess.” “I don’t have a problem getting my closet organized,” my friend said. “My problem is keeping it organized.” And this brings us to the crux of a problem shared by the organized and maybe-not-so-organized alike.
“As long as I have room for it,” the thinking goes, “I might as well keep it.” And that’s all fine until you have to dislodge a carefully constructed pile to fish for that pair of shorts. Or you pull out a blouse and three other things slip off their hangers with it in a wrinkled, crumpled mess. That’s when all of your efforts at tidying up go out the window. You’ve reached “critical mess,” and there’s no room for even one more thing. And yet folks still insist on holding on.
Editing boldly. While people often toss a few token items, they rarely edit boldly. Cleaning out your closet is a very personal thing and can highlight some complexities in our psyche. Sound dramatic? Maybe, but it’s true. We identify our possessions with ourselves — our accomplishments, joys and sorrows. Being told to let go of old or even not-so-old clothing can feel like we’re being told to get rid of parts of ourselves. And, in fact, that would be correct.
What no one tells you (but I will). When your closet (or your house) is full of things from your past, things that only remind you of who you were, you very literally have no room for who you are now and who you are becoming.
Granted, lots of people simply will not go down the philosophical road with me here: “Seriously? My closet is a mirror for what I think about myself? Yeah, right.”
So look at it this way: What is the point of spending money on new clothes if you lose them in a sea of stuff you don’t even wear? At least think of it as making room for all the new things you’re going to buy this season.
Does your closet make you feel bad about yourself? Now let’s take a clear-eyed look at items in your closet that may have unpleasant feelings associated with them. For example, do you have professional clothing from a job where you felt unappreciated? Are you keeping your “skinny clothes” as inspiration to lose weight?
Be honest about whether seeing them each day inspires you or just makes you feel bad about yourself again and again. Put them away. Or better yet, get rid of them. Because when you do lose that 20 pounds (or get a new job), chances are you’ll want a whole new wardrobe to celebrate your new self!
Put it in perspective. Having a hard time deciding what to get rid of? Try this simple exercise I did with one of my clients. Her closet was packed wall to wall, floor to ceiling, with old clothes she couldn’t let go of. However, it was clear to me that the old, boring, outdated clothes definitely didn’t reflect the style and personality of the woman who stood before me and, most likely, no longer fit her properly.
So, I tore a page from her favorite clothing catalog of a kicky little jacket that she wanted to buy — something that definitely expressed the stylish and confident person she is today. I taped it to the door. Then I pulled each item out of her closet, held it up to the picture and asked, “If you had to make room for one of these things, which would it be?” The juxtaposition was illuminating! Given the choice between a paisley corduroy pinafore dress (not kidding) and this little gem of a jacket, she finally saw what she’d been doing to herself. In the end, she donated about a quarter of her closet.
Feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of dredging through your past — I mean, your closet? Start with these baby steps.
Look at each item. Do you wear it? If not, ask yourself why you’re keeping it and listen to your answer.
Try things on. Have a trusted friend with you and honestly (honestly being the operative word) see if it fits and suits you — your body, personality, style and lifestyle. If it doesn’t, put it in a bag.
Do one drawer, one shelf, one row at a time, once a week. Put what you remove into a bag. Then find a charity, like a women’s shelter or a veterans’ job training program where you know those clothes will be appreciated, or the nondescript thrift store you pass on the way to work, and drop those bags off. You will feel good and get a tax deduction to boot.
Store the keepakes. Finally, if you really want to keep something you don’t currently wear, like your favorite boyfriend jeans from college, it doesn’t mean you have to keep it in your closet competing for space with stuff you wear frequently. Pack it up and store it elsewhere.
Do this and you’ll gain yourself a little breathing room. Your wardrobe will have plenty of room to grow, and maybe sprout a kicky little jacket or two.
More: Your Total Home Organizing and Decluttering Guide

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