Living with Less, Week 2: Clothes and Coat Closets

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Last Thursday I announced I was ready to undertake a project to pare down my belongings and live simpler in Living with Less, Week 1: Setting the Agenda. Once I realized the amount of work I had ahead of me, I sought advice from Mo + Mo Living: “Go through your entire space and pare it to what you find essential, valued, and beautiful. Donate the rest,” she said. And so I began with my clothes, coats and shoes.

I’ve never been afraid to donate goods. I purge clothing multiple times a year, but somehow there’s always more to reconsider. Last year my husband and I moved from a newly-built Brooklyn apartment to a 1920’s house in a quaint New Jersey suburb. While we love our home (absolutely adore it!), the most challenging aspect of living in an older dwelling is closet space. Ours are tiny, most no larger than a water heater, including the one in our mater bedroom. Hating the idea of spreading my clothing between three bedroom closets (I knew this wasn’t a sustainable solution), I did what I temporarily had to, spread out. Then with a busy schedule and all the extra space (out of sight, out of mind), I delayed.

So, here I sit, after four rounds of purging in a week, with all of my clothes successfully stored (not stuffed!) in our master bedroom closet and dresser. Now that my wardrobe exists in one place, it’s easier to get ready for the day: I have reduced my number of choices (not that I loved all the choices before!) and can view everything at once.

Items Kept

  • 12 skirts
  • 2 suits
  • 4 formal dresses (tea length wedding dress included)
  • 11 sweaters
  • 11 blouses (including oversized ones to wear with leggings)
  • 9 button-down blouses
  • 7 cardigan sweaters (they are a must-keep for summers spent in an office)
  • 14 casual dresses (all dresses not formal)
  • 7 pairs of chino pants
  • 10 pairs of jeans
  • 1 pair non-suit dress pants
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 1 drawer of pajamas and casual cotton shirts
  • 1 drawer of exercise clothing and beachwear

Seeing these quantities written out, I realize I have no reason to shop for many months. I’m also quite disgusted by the numbers, but I see value in keeping each of the items. I’ve worn every one of them in the past year. I have, I promise!

Lessons Learned

  • Deadline: Give yourself a deadline and stick to it.
  • Mindset: You’ll be most effective when you’re in a take no prisoners kind of mood.
  • Rules: Set rules at the beginning and live by them. For example, if you haven’t worn a particular article of clothing in a year, consider it something you can live without. This rule might not be suitable for all articles, though. For formal wear, think whether you recently chose or would choose to wear that item if attending an appropriate occasion. If not, consider living without it. Does that sit well with you? All of these questions are difficult. Have confidence that you know yourself and what you feel comfortable wearing. Donate the rest. Although setting rules and following them is difficult, it can be the most rewarding part of this project.
  • Take one, take two: Paring down your wardrobe will take several passes. In the first round, be brutal. Take no prisoners and then remove unwanted items from your closet. Ideally put them out of sight in a box that’s ready for donation. Wait two or three days, then repeat. And remember, be brutal, again. Giving yourself time to evaluate what’s left may make you realize you’ve held onto items you don’t really want.
  • Compare: Once you’ve pared down, take time to organize your belongings. By grouping similar items, you’ll realize whether you’ve held onto stuff worthy of purging.