Yet as much as I hate packing and cleaning and the dust, ridding myself of things I don’t really need or want is liberating. I’m literally lightning my physical load, but I’m finding I’m also lightening my mental load. By no means am I an ultra-minimalist, like a woman I once interviewed. She had given away all her furniture save a futon and a table. Definitely no clutter, but no warmth, either.
But it raises the question: why is it so easy to accrue stuff? This is particularly true of my closet. For someone who hardly ever shops retail, my closet is a lot fuller than I’d like it to be. Perhaps it’s the curse of thrifting: everything’s so cheap. Yet each time I move (this’ll be the third time in the past year), I’ve given away at least one to two trash bags of clothes, shoes, purses, etc. And I haven’t missed them.
This year—and this blog—is all about reimagining my wardrobe, determining what I really like (rather than what’s simply familiar), what looks good on me, and (to quote the Serenity Prayer) the wisdom to know the difference. Having lots of clothes has helped me be playful in this regard. Now, shorts, dresses and skirts are part of my regular rotation. But now that I’m learning to make better choices, purging my wardrobe is as essential as adding a few quality things to it. Moving makes this a necessity.
One of my thrift store finds was the Carole Jackson’s Color Me Beautiful. There is critique of this book—it’s dated, incompatible for women of color, etc. etc.—but it honestly made all the difference in weeding out my closet. Jackson advises women on the colors that look best on them given their complexion, broken into seasons. I am a winter who looks best in vibrant colors. I would have never thought I could wear white. I owned a lot of beige and pastels and wondered why I hardly wore them, especially since I thought they were versatile and played nicely with everything else. (I looked sort of dead in them is why.)
Jackson even has a chapter on uncluttering your closet. She says the most common wardrobe problems is an accumulation of clothes either bought by a woman who buys as events pop up and so the closet is a “mix but not a match” or who buys compulsively. She writes:
It is of no advantage to either your closet or your peace of mind to have an overwhelming number of clothes. I always suggest to the woman with too much that she create a skeleton wardrobe out of her favorite clothes, then add some extras and take a good, hard look an everything else.
So here’s been my “good, hard look” plan, thanks to Jackson:
1. Take out anything that makes you look sallow. You won’t really wear it. Yes, you can get creative with scarves and things to lessen the color, but isn’t it better just to have colors that flatter you?
2. Create a massive pile: All the things you haven’t worn in a year, the things that don’t really fit (be honest!), and any obvious duplicates (how many black shirts do you really need?).
Jackson would say this is the donation pile since you should be “dressing the body you have now” but as sewists, this is harder because at least I believe I can “re-imagine” these items and plus it’ll save me moolah on fabric. So, take a good hard look at this pile. If you can foresee a definite plan to refashion or alter it, or the fabric is incredibly precious and in your color, keep it. Tuck these clothes away so you won’t be tempted to wear them until you’ve worked your sewing magic on them.
3. Everything else is up for donation. I go to friends first, then a consignment shop, and the rest are donated to a thrift store. I’ve been into consignment lately, partly because I get a few, choice items in trade for some things I wasn’t wearing anyway. It’s a win-win.
That’s it. How do you declutter closet? And do you feel the need to?
On a related note, there’s been great discussion on how people are dealing with the constraints posed by the Me-Made-May challenge. Many sewists have chimed in that the restraints have been fun. We are learning about the gaps in our wardrobes, quality, pairing, color, and print. And having to look at photos of ourselves is forcing us to face the reality of fit and cut on our unique bodies. Who knew that we could learn so much by working with less?