Clothes, Clothes, and More Clothes

Clothes. What would we be without them?

Naked, I suppose. Which would not be a pretty sight for a good part of the population.

So we have clothes. We have spring outfits and summer togs, autumn attire and winter wardrobes. We have workout gear and lounge wear, casual duds and formal ensembles. We have night clothes and costumes and work uniforms.

And then there’s all the accessories. Shoes, boots, socks, ties, handbags, jewelry, scarves, belts, and hats. And all manner of underwear. It’s no wonder that the fashion industry is worth over $300 billion per year (that’s just in the U.S.). We contribute to that bottom line by buying and buying until our closets and drawers are filled to overflowing. And we continue to buy more every season.

But do we really need all those clothes?

For some people, the answer is yes. Nurses have scrubs, businessmen have suits, mechanics have overalls, and the military has their uniforms. And when those people aren’t working, they have their off-duty wardrobes.

For others who dress casual for the office or work/stay at home, they can wear some of the same clothes during business hours that they do in their off-hours, but their closets overflow nonetheless.

We all have our own clothing requirements, so there’s no one rule for how big or small our wardrobes should be. Personally, I dress casual for work—comfortable black slacks, casual blouse and black sneakers. In my off time, I may wear the same shirt with jeans and sneakers, and I have other shirts that I don’t consider work appropriate but will wear outside work. I also have workout gear and yard work gear.

So if what you have works, why bother minimizing your wardrobe?

Well, if everything you own gets worn on a regular basis, maybe you don’t. But be honest…don’t you have that one thing (or more than one thing) that you always find yourself bypassing for a different thing? You know the one I’m talking about. So why don’t you wear it? Does the color not suit? Is the fit “off” in some way? Do buttons gap or is it too long or too short—even if it’s only ¼” or so? Do you just not like wearing it? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then why is that thing still in your closet?

Sometimes we hate to admit, even to ourselves, that we made a bad buy when we made the purchase. So rather than take it back, we keep it, figuring we can make it work, or that the slightly-off fit can be tolerated, or maybe even altered. But why? Why put up with something that’s wrong for you?

Stores these days have very flexible return policies, so see if it can be returned. If it can’t, or you don’t want the potential hassle and it can’t be altered to suit, then get rid of it.

You heard me. Get rid of the thing. All of the things that just don’t work for you.

Yes, you’ll feel some guilt that you couldn’t make it work, that you’re wasting money, but ask yourself this: how much will holding on to that article of clothing cost your psyche to keep it? How much space are you wasting in your closet by keeping unwanted items in it?

Marie Kondo, author of the popular decluttering guide, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” has an effective method for deciding which clothes should stay and which clothes should go. For short, it’s called the KonMari method. She tells her readers (and clients, since she works one-on-one) to pull all of their clothes together into one pile and sort through all of them in one go. And by “all clothes,” she means every single stitch of clothing you own…all of them…everything…even the off-season stuff you’re storing in the attic and the stuff you hope to wear once you lose ten more pounds. All of it, all in one go. As you go through them, she advises you to hold each item individually and see if it “sparks joy” within you. You know the feeling. It’s the same one you felt when you tried on your favorite thing and knew you had to have it, no matter the cost. Yeah, that feeling. If you get that feeling when you handle the item, then keep it. Otherwise, it needs to go.

Does that ill-fitting, off-color, button-gaping, way-too-long sleeved thing spark joy? No?

Then you know what to do with it.

The process isn’t easy, and heaven knows, it can take quite some time, but trust me, it gets easier as you go. You may even find yourself going back into your “keep” pile to pull out a few things you tossed in there accidentally on purpose. And when you step back and look at your “keep” pile and compare it to your “donate” pile, you should feel a sense of accomplishment, that you’re finally getting rid of things that have held you down and you’re only keeping those clothes that you look good in, and more importantly, that feel good to wear.

Even if you can’t quite go KonMari on every single article of clothing you own all in one go, try it in stages. Do your closet one day, and your dresser another. Have clothes stashed in another location? Do them another day. And another, until you’ve gone through everything.

Your next step is to bag up those donated clothes and get them out of your bedroom—preferably out of your house and down to your donation center quick, fast, and in a hurry. Then go back into your bedroom and put your newly pared-down wardrobe away.

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Now, I will admit, when I lost a lot of weight about six years ago, I went on a shopping binge and bought lots of things simply because within a year and a half, I dropped seven sizes (yes, seven…from a women’s 28 to a regular 14/large). And, as inevitably happens, some of that weight crept back on over the last three years and those 14/large clothes no longer fit. I was more careful with what I bought as I replaced my wardrobe, and I got rid of a majority of those now too-small clothes.

I kept the jeans because they almost never go out of style, a few pairs of slacks and some blouses that I really loved, and got rid of the rest. So, yeah, I’m not perfect when it comes to getting rid of clothes, even those that don’t fit. I did make myself a promise, though. I’m losing weight again, and if those clothes don’t fit me by next summer, then they’ll be donated. Other minimalists may disagree with the bargain I made with myself. In fact, even the part of me that’s determined to minimize as much as possible disagrees with the bargain-making part of me. But I feel that giving myself a deadline is a compromise, and sometimes compromises need to be made along this journey of ours.

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Now, Mom’s clothes…oh, there was no compromising there! (Remember my story…along with my own items, I’m also having to sort, distribute, donate, and trash my mother’s belongings.)

My oldest sister is about the same size that Mom was, and she asked me to hold on to Mom’s clothes so she could decide what she wanted and what she didn’t. So one weekend, about three months ago now, she came out and we went through Mom’s clothes.

Before Teri came out, I had dismantled this spare closet  that Mom had in her room and packed the clothes into three laundry bins. But that wasn’t all…there was a regular closet, the large dresser, and two storage bins in the basement filled with clothes. I knew Mom had a lot of clothes, but going through each item as we did, I was staggered to realize just how much she had. I don’t even think Mom knew how much she had!

So we started to go through mom’s clothes, piece by piece. Though Teri wasn’t aware of it, we were following the KonMari method and keeping only those that sparked joy (not my joy, Teri’s).

The pants were easy—Teri didn’t want them. She’s more of a dresses and skirts type, with the occasional pair of jeans thrown in for a change. Ditto with sweaters and sweatshirts and the few formal outfits Mom had. The remaining blouses, t-shirts, and dresses were sorted item by item with Teri trying some on just to see if they’d suit her.

An hour later, I filled three garbage bags with the clothes Teri selected, plus five pair of shoes and a laundry basket. She also took Mom’s computer and a desk fan. More stuff gone! And all with the understanding that if she changes her mind about something she had chosen, she’ll get rid of it herself. Also, if I found any more clothes, they would be automatically donated.

A few days later, I bagged up the remaining clothes and put the rest of the shoes in a tall laundry basket. The clothes filled up—no joke here—seven standard kitchen trash bags. That’s 10 bags total! It was a haul, but I was glad to drop them off at one of our local thrift shops.

Even though these were Mom’s clothes and I had no desire to keep any of them for myself, I still felt a sense of accomplishment when they were gone. It was one more hurdle, one more obstacle I had to face and disburse on my minimalism journey. There are plenty more to deal with and as time goes on, I’ll deal with them.

For now, I’ll look at the empty space in my closet and dresser drawers, and feel good about the work I’ve done. Mom’s clothes are going to help raise money for a good cause, and my sister has expanded her wardrobe.

In my next post, I’ll discuss some clothing minimalizing challenges I’ve learned about from my Facebook friends.

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