Clothing and someday

April 17, 2011

At a recent workshop, a woman asked about cleaning out closets and letting go of clothes. Specifically, items she had worn and was fond of from previous seasons. She wasn't wearing them currently because she had new favorite pieces. But she might want to wear them again 'someday,' although there's no clear understanding of when someday would occur.

As we talked, it became clear that it was more about sentimental attachment than practicality -- about her feelings about the clothes rather than a real sense she would ever actually wear them again. I suggested it was like keeping an old boyfriend around -- you don't love him anymore, but on a desperate Saturday night, if no one else is free, you might go out with him as a last resort. But probably not.

Several things about this situation are noteworthy.

The first is: Once you've gone through your closet and made your determination of what stays and what goes, and then fill in any missing pieces to create a comprehensive wardrobe for yourself, you should have enough clothes for any occasion. What that looks like will be different for each person, but reaching 'stuff equilibrium' and having enough of everything that you need and nothing that you don't, is the goal. Whether you have a 1000 SF walk-in closet, live in a studio apartment with one tiny closet, or rotate seasonal clothes in and out of your closet, enough is still enough in each of these cases.

So rather than buying things randomly that strike your fancy, which is perhaps how you have historically shopped, you should now be shopping with some deliberateness. Shopping becomes about filling out outfits, not creating wardrobe challenges for yourself, i.e., "I love this sweater, it doesn't go with anything I own, but I'll get it anyway and eventually I'll find the perfect ... whatever ... to go with it." That would be similar to buying a crepe pan if you never make crepes, but you figure, it's on sale (surprise!) and eventually you'll pick up all the ingredients and start making crepes.

When you're tired of a particular outfit and you've swapped out pieces from it with other outfits and you've played every card in your wardrobe hand and can't imagine putting on those tired old clothes one more time, that would be the time to head out to replace items. No one has surprise formal weddings and you're unlikely to receive a call that you're needed at a state dinner tonight. The point is you're not going to have a sudden clothing emergency where you wake up one morning with nothing appropriate to wear. I promise. You may have nothing clean to wear, but that's another situation that has a simple and easily identified solution: do the laundry.

We'll talk about the other noteworthy part of this question tomorrow.

Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!