This post was originally published in May, 2011.
Our new house is 100 years old and spacious closets are not among its assets, so I decided to edit our clothing.
With kids’ clothing, of course, it’s easy: it either fits or it doesn’t. With adults, there is so much psychological baggage weighing us down:
- Oh, that was from my thin days, but I’ll get there again.
- My grandmother gave me that.
- I spent too much money on that.
- That reminds me of when I was young and carefree.
- I’ve only worn that once.
- One day I’m going to get the job I’ve always wanted and I’ll need that.
It’s complicated. But only if you let it be.
I feel fantastic after having dropped off seven bags of my husband’s and my clothing and shoes to the Salvation Army. Getting rid of the stuff was easier than I thought, and I am still reaping the good feeling after-effects.
Yet I still dread getting rid of things sometimes, so I thought I would write down some of the reasons why I was glad I did.
So here is what you’ll get when you give:
1. Money: no more buying stuff you already have
Even though it’s great practice to check our closets before we go shopping, sometimes we don’t plan to buy clothes. (Hello, Target!) That’s why it pays to regularly go through our things.
My husband discovered in a storage room four pairs of good shoes he had completely forgotten about. In the meantime, he complained about not having any shoes and we even bought some more. When you have too many things, you can’t keep track of them and they get lost or forgotten. So what’s the use of having them?
In the old days, people wore one pair of shoes until the soles got worn out. Then they went to the cobbler, had the soles replaced, and wore the same pair of shoes until the soles got worn out. I think many of us would do well to replace shoe racks and self-consciousness with a dose of old-fashioned frugality.
2. Space: your house will feel bigger
Overstuffed closets and basements make us feel cramped and closed in. Some people get so overwhelmed that they feel they need a bigger house. My aunt built an addition on her house so she could create a walk-in closet. Some people just love clothes. That’s their thing.
But paring down your belongings can mean:
- Life is simpler
- You have more breathing space
- You spend less time organizing and cleaning
- You can easily fit into a smaller, less expensive house if you want or need to move
Just the visual of having space around our things can give us a big sigh of relief.
3. Peace of mind: the risks are relatively low
Even if you don’t shop at thrift stores, rummage sales, or discounters like Marshall’s, clothing these days is relatively inexpensive.
Let’s say you realize later that you really needed something that you tossed. Chances are you can go get another without too much damage. (But I suspect this won’t happen, if you check out the guidelines in how to clear out your closet.)
If you buy more expensive clothes, then you’ll save money by investing in classic rather than trendy pieces. And since no one needs a closetful of white blouses, you’ll save space too. (Even though I love whimsical colorful clothes, I think it’s time for me to move in the Frenchwoman direction.)
4. Ease: stop wrangling clothes and storage bins
If you’ve got teetering piles of turtlenecks like I used to have, then you know that some inevitably end up smushed and forgotten at the back of the closet. Sometimes my hanging clothes have been so tight that pulling them apart to see what I had equalled an upper body workout.
If you have to spill out to another closet in the house, getting what you need is even more onerous. So you end up wearing the same stuff over and over and feeling yucky or sorry for yourself. Which brings me to my last point.
5. A feel-good rush: without the aerobic exercise
In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin says that if you need to self-medicate, clean out a closet. I agree. After filling the trunk with bags of clothes that I was hanging on to for dubious reasons, I felt so free and light. I kept only the things that fit me or made me feel good.
We change more quickly than we think we do — our shapes, our tastes, our outlooks. Clothes can be a powerful vehicle for self-expression, but what if they no longer reflect who we are?
I love looking across the room at my new closet, with slivers of air between the hangers and three short piles of folded clothing on the shelf. I even organized the hanging clothing according to color. Silly? Maybe. Fun? Yes.
Do you feel good when you get rid of clothes? Do you think it saves you money?
p.s. The next step: How to Clear Out Your Closet