Thursday, February 28, 2008

Spring closet clean out



It’s the end of February – well, almost, and I can’t think of a single person who’s happy to have an extra day in February This winter.

I’ve talked to many of you who haven’t even looked at the fall fashion shows and what they’re producing. It’s just too much right now, to look at fashions for Next fall when everyone is hungry for warm weather. (except those of you down under, sorry)


Since I don’t have any progress to show you on any projects, and a week from now my sister D is going to be here, and we’ll be wild women fitting in the workroom, I thought I’d devote some space to (what should be) that annual ritual, the closet clean up.

This is really just a work-around way to prompt my sister into getting into Hers this weekend and creating some room – which I know is lacking.

Doing a thorough closet cleanout is, or at least can be, traumatic. But in the end, it’s ultimately satisfying. The first time I did this extreme version of the closet clean-up was a season after I moved here, and moved in with my husband for the first time in our 3 years of marriage. He got into the act, and I can attest to the fact that by the time I (we) were done, there were some hurt feelings. “this is dated – out it goes” was said a few too many times regarding pieces I loved. In the end, he was right, but still. If you can manage it without intervention from a loved one, do so.

Tim Gunn and Trinny & Susannah (What not to Wear, Brit version) both advocate a really extreme but thorough process.

Instructions (unless you’re Miss D, go ahead and skim down to the bottom…if your name is Denise…keep reading. J )

Set aside a day (or alternately, a week night) and clean off the bed. Then take the piles of stuff (reading material, laundry, etc) from the floors and go dump it in the living room, the guest room or the kids room. Then get out a box of big black trash bags. And a smaller box of white trash bags, or dry cleaner bags.

You’ll need all that room you just cleaned out, to make your 3 piles.

Begin at one side of the closet and work your way across. To make this easier, I think it’s best to do it in several faster cursory waves across the closet, otherwise it’s too easy to get bogged down and quit. In the end though, Every single garment needs to be assessed.

First wave – anything you haven’t worn in the last year comes out.

It has to go into one of the 3 piles –

· does it still fit? Is it still in good repair? Is it something you like? It goes on the bed.

· Does it still fit? Does it just need a small fix – a button, hem, or other repair, or does it need to go to the cleaners? It goes into a white bag

· Does it not fit? Is it ugly? Is it something you once liked but can’t wear anymore, and are holding onto for sentimental reasons? It goes into a black bag.

This is the brutal part. The first time I did this with dh I ended up with over 100 garments in the black bags. And a virtually empty closet.

If your first wave through the closet is just items you haven’t worn in a year – most will end up in the black bags. What’s left will most likely be formalwear or specialty type garments – otherwise, if they fit and are in good repair, you’d probably be wearing them.

Next, go through the closet again fast and pull out everything that doesn’t fit. If it doesn’t fit, let it go! Into the black bags.

Case study – I had a pair of Calvin Klein jeans from the late 80’s that I really liked. That I looked Hot in. I saved them. Because I knew that someday I would be able to fit into them again, and they’d look good. Then I lost 40 lbs and did fit into them. Then I tried them on…and looked silly – not hot, but rather dated and pathetic. Only then was I able to let them go. Some teen wanting a denim skirt made from jeans or a purse made from old jeans or a theater costume dept wanting period jeans may have picked them up from the Goodwill where I donated them, but I didn’t have to store them anymore.


At this point, the closet is probably ½ empty. Now you can choose whatever you want to look at. Arrange by garment type and go through each type with a critical eye. Add to the white bag anything that needs attention. Add everything that is unwearable (Miss D, that includes a certain rose colored dress I just sent down and a floral top that matches a skirt you have) to the black bag.

Ideally, you'll continue this process until the closet is completely empty. Then you'll hang up the stuff left on the bed back in the closet. The stuff in white bags will get cleaned, fixed etc and go back into the closet, and EVERYTHING in the black bags will go to goodwill. If you cant' stomach taking it all to goodwill, then box up the black bags and put on a shelf in the garage. In a year you'll be able to take that box to Goodwill without a qualm, knowing you didn't miss a single item in there.

Realistically, you'll have to stage this - unless you can get kids and family to take care of themselves for a whole day - not likely.

I tend to think my closet is pretty clean. After all, I haven’t replaced very much that got purged a couple of years ago. And at the end of each season I’ve been pretty good about getting rid of the stuff that for whatever reason I’d gotten sick of or decided I didn’t want to carry into the next year.

TIP: it’s much easier at the end of the winter to get rid of the old black pants that aren’t quite flattering or are getting shiny from too many pressings, knowing that you have a whole season to replace them, than it is to get rid of it in the fall when you realize you need clothes.

Miss D: This is hard, I know. But do it anyway. I promise that when you leave here next week, you'll be taking home some new clothes, and...by the first week in April you'll have another 22+ garments to add to the closet - that fit! That go together. Promise.

So, want to see what I’ve just purged in my closet clean-out? Take a look at the pic above too. Who knew there was still so much left to go?

A coat that I made in the late 80’s. Classic styling, beautiful double faced wool – but, it doesn’t fit me and hasn’t in years and It’s time to pass it on to someone who might be able to get some use from it. Along with much of this grouping, it’s going to the Dress For Success program.

Also included:

  • two jackets – the Ann Taylor cream with the silk charmeuse print lining I wore to death two years ago, then the fabric started pilling and I just quit wearing it.
  • The black is one I bought at Banana Republic, then never wore. It’s ok, but I don’t love it.
  • 4 silk blouses that I just don’t wear.
  • Some Harve Bernard silk suits. I don’t work in corporate America anymore, and even if I did, there is no way they’d fit me anymore.
  • A black/white tweed suit I made from a VeryEasyVogue suit pattern a couple of years ago. I’ve never been a fan of those VEV jacket patterns and this was no exception. Once I got it made the poor pattern draft and shortcut construction bothered me to the point that I never ever wore it.
  • Some formalwear. I’m finally letting go of some of the black tuxedo dresses and beaded chiffon dresses. I have a boat-load, and very rarely need any of them anymore. And when I do need formalwear, I’m likely to want to make something new, so I’m letting go of these. Along with 4 or 5 old prom dresses hanging on a rack in the basement. These are all going to Plato’s closet – a resale shop.
  • A stack (6 pair) of jeans that don’t fit me. If my weight didn’t yo-yo around so much I might have gotten more wear from these, but as with the Calvin Klein jeans, if these ever do fit me again, they’ll be outdated in the extreme. These go to goodwill.

My closet is again empty enough to see where my biggest holes are. And they are in the basics.

I need a plan to sew some BASICS for myself. Soon.

15 comments:

Vicki said...

Great post. I often purge my closet but have been avoiding dealing with my suits made in Hong Kong. Even though they were made to fit me the styles seem to swamp me, so of course I do not wear them. I like things fitted and these are not. I keep thinking maybe I could adjust them.......mmmm

As to the extra day - well it is the 29th here down under but it is a bit depressing. It is the official last day of summer but it is cold - I have the heater on. It always is a bit depressing when summer comes to an end :(

cidell said...

Marji... reading this post gave me the shakes. I always laugh at those people on the makeover shows who can't let go of clothes. But, I have a closet full of stuff that I never wear. Or, if I wear it, it's under duress and for lack of anything else. But, I cna't bring myself to do it.

Even today, pilling green sweater and tight black pants. But, I don't have anything else to wear!

Sigh. I'm going to go find a cookie.

Nancy K said...

Thanks Marji. This is great. I think that I am pretty good about getting rid of stuff, I threw everything out after I lost 71 pounds, but I realize that while I am not attached to most of my clothing, I have just been lazy about
getting rid of stuff. Time to clean my closet out!
The other benefit is learning what just doesn't fit my lifestyle.

Nancy (nanflan) said...

Oh yeah, I can relate. 4 bags of clothes were left on the curb this morning for ARC to pick up and use for their charitable fundraising.

There was a lovely wool overcoat in the last round that went to Goodwill after I realised that the big linebacker shoulders would never look right again even though it was otherwise gorgeous and warm.

And I'm still not done...

Donni said...

Well done Marji.

Elizabeth said...

You're an inspiration.

When Owen was about 3 I finally got realistic about how soon I might look like my pre-pregnant self and gave my mom a whole bunch of clothes. She still wears some of them! I'm no closer to being that size now than I was 10 years ago.

Dana said...

Thanks Marji! I think this may motivate me to purge again, especially my non-work clothes. I just had to trash, yes trash, a favorite suit that I made and I think it traumatized me.

I like the guidelines they've listed to help you determine what stays/goes. I've never been able to quite justify the "if you haven't worn it in a year" policy. Their instructions are a little more precise.

Spring break is a few weeks away, I'll let you know if the urge to purge is successful!

Nanci said...

All the other Nancys [sic] are commenting, so I will too ;-)

Thanks for posting these guidelines - I might actually be able to follow them! Though I will say, I am insanely jealous of your sister - what I wouldn't give for a sister who could set me up with great new clothes. (Oh, the trials of an only child...)

Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

You are merciless but I understand. I am just this merciless also...much doesn't stay around if I don't wear it, if it's out of date or out of style, 'cause I need space for the new things I'm making!!!

Laura said...

Great post. I've been doing the same this week, since we're in the midst of swapping rooms for our bedroom and office, and getting new bedroom furniture besides. I usually go through and get rid of stuff at least twice a year, in spring and fall, when I swap out the summer clothes for winter. But this time I've been going in much more depth than usual. Makes me realize that I need many less clothes than I have, at least in some categories like knit tops. Another thing I do is keep a bag available on my closet floor where I can put donation-bound items as the mood takes me. That way if I'm doing laundry or deciding what to wear and something sticks out and seems wrong/old/ill-fitting/whatever, I can just pitch it right away. (And the bag doesn't go out of the house right away, so in the rare case I change my mind, I can get something back.

Alexandra said...

Great post, Marji! My sister cleaned out my closet a couple of years ago and I liked the result, though not the process. She was ruthless, absolutely ruthless. I think it's time to do it again. Thank you for the inspiration.

Lorraine said...

Marji- I have been really inspired by Trinny & Susannah, and now I can shop with confidence, only buying what will flatter my pear shaped figure.

Think of all the people your purge will benefit.

Brigitte said...

That's some purge! I need to do the same thing...

Mardel said...

Great post Marji. I am about to do the same thing although spring seems a ways away here. I did a major purge in the fall, although there are still a few hangers-on. I think the first ruthless purge is really the hardest, afterwards you realize how little you actually missed the garments after the initial trauma. I keep a bag in the laundry room and routinely purge things that aren't working as they go through the "system".

MarilynB said...

Thanks for the inspiration, Marji. I did a clean-out last fall, but still need to ask myself why am I still holding on to some items. I had forgot about the Calvins sitting in the bottom drawer of my dresser. I think I'll start there.