Being at home for the past eleven months, blessed to surrounded by a full home, has really given me some perspective on how much ‘stuff’ I’ve accumulated over the years and how much I actually, really, do need to keep. I’m definitely a contender for the ‘world’s worst hoarder’ much to the dismay of my husband, but what can I do? I’ve taken after my mother; I can’t bear to throw anything out, always thinking that I ‘might’ need it or want to wear it sometime in the future, however far away that potential future may be. Add to that the subconscious insecurities thrown up by this pandemic, and I’m in real trouble.
” think of it like pruning a tree “
So perhaps it’s this, having being ensconced with all my possessions or perhaps it’s the urge to spring clean the house, but being ‘surrounded’ has now begun to feel more like being ‘fenced-in’ by too much of everything, wherever I turn, wherever I look.
I know that for me, the old adage ‘a tidy home, a tidy mind’ works like wonders for my focus and productivity, so as part of my 28 SelfCare Challenge (which you can download free here), I’ve included a day of decluttering. Nothing too ambitious, I’ve suggested we should clear out a section of your wardrobe, but I know for some of you, you’ll be emptying all the cupboards, drawers and shelves!
So I thought I’d offer my top 3 tips for decluttering and refreshing your cupboards; I’m obviously writing this from a clothing, accessories and wardrobe point of view, but of course, you can apply these principles to any section of the house you need to work on.
If you only have a couple of hours to dedicate to the task, don’t fool yourself that you’ll be able to tackle the whole damn wardrobe. I speak from experience; when I’m in the mood to declutter, enthusiasm gets the better of me; I’ll empty out every drawer, shelf and hanging rack, only to lose momentum or run out of time before the task is complete’ leaving the dressing room looking like a total bomb site.
Depending on the size of your wardrobe and clothing collection, it might be better to pick a section of the wardrobe and go for it wholeheartedly: seeing it come together, cleared out and organised will give you the encouragement you need to come back another time and tackle another section. Know yourself, know your capabilities and know that it always gets worse before it gets better, (so don’t give up halfway, however big or small the section you’ve chosen).
If you’re anything like me, sentimentality is your worst enemy (closely followed by indecisiveness, but we’ll get to that later). To use Marie Kondo’s advice, if you hold something in your hand and it doesn’t spark joy, then let it go. It’ll spark joy for someone else for sure, so donate it to charity, give it to a friend or sell it. But whatever you do, don’t keep it. Putting it back in the cupboard will just drain your heart of joy, take up valuable space, and drain you further of joy every time you open up your wardrobe to pick out something to wear. And just because something was a gift, unless it holds positive sentimental value to you, that doesn’t automatically mean that you should keep it. Practice the same ruthlessness with gifts as with anything else.
The easiest way to get the best decluttering results is to set a system in place and be clear about how you’ll do it, otherwise, it’s all too easy to let every undecided piece back into your wardrobe and totally sabotage all your efforts.
” it’s literally only the historical expenditure that’s keeping it in your wardrobe “
For me, decluttering with someone else who can police and make me stick to the system is the most productive way to do it; my indecisiveness is counteracted by their desire to get the job done and move onto doing something else!
I find the easiest way to do is to have separate piles on the floor. This is how I categorise them and what I then do with them:
Definitely Keep & Wear: the pieces that bring immediate joy, that fit perfectly into my current style ethos or are in current rotation
Maybe: things that I still like but haven’t worn in a while, still in great condition, but I’m not 100% sure about. I’ll put them away in an airtight box, and if I haven’t thought about them by the time I next declutter, then they go straight to charity or get sold.
Donate/Sell: anything I’m no longer wearing, but is still in good condition, that still has enough life for a second home, goes straight into a big bag and to the charity shop or on to my depop and eBay.
Chuck Out: includes anything that’s torn, stained, piling, too worn or too dirty to be given away
I think where I’ve fallen down in past when going through this process is when I come across an expensive designer piece that I spent soooo much money on, that it feels criminal to let it go. I haven’t worn it for ages and if I’m honest, can’t see an occasion where I would ever wear it again. Admit it, we’ve all been there, right? These are the pieces for which my first tip is all-important – be ruthless! If it’s not a piece that holds any sentimental value (wedding clothes, gifts, etc) then it’s literally only the historical expenditure that’s keeping it in your wardrobe. Turn that financial reason around on its head and sell it – you’ll create space, joy and a little extra something in your pocket while you’re at it.
Try to think of this as a positive, life-affirming exercise. Don’t focus on what you’re getting rid of; that stuff is just bringing you down each and every time you open your cupboards, without you even realising that. Think of it like pruning a tree; in order for it to thrive and look good, you have to cut back the dead wood, stalks and leaves. Whatever is not serving you has to go so that you can grow and move forward.
Instead, focus on the good; that you’re helping others when donating to charity, that you’re freeing up space (and possibly funds if you’re selling items) in your wardrobe and that you’ll have a much easier time picking out your outfits and getting dressed when you only have pieces that you love.
Paradoxically, whenever I’ve done a clear out, I’ve felt like I have more clothes, not less. You’ll notice clothes that you forgot you had, that haven’t worn in ages and that ‘newness’ will inject a freshness to your outfits and looks without spending a penny.
Once you get going, the euphoria of being about to let go will spur you on, and the joy of clearing out, feeling your wardrobe can breathe again, not forgetting the feel-good of donating to charity will be the best reward you could hope to have… that and the ease and joy of getting dressed again!
I will do another post soon with more detail on exactly HOW I go through my clothes and what are the questions I ask myself before deciding to keep or not but in the meantime, I’d love to hear how you declutter – share your tips in the comments.