Coming clean: Taming your closet
Until a couple of weeks ago, my closet looked like a jumble sale. I had jeans in nearly every size, designer labels next to thrift-store gag gifts, and sweaters I’d clung to since high school. I felt an oppressive weight on my shoulders every morning as I waded through my over-stuffed rack, trying to find something that fit, felt good, and flattered.
One grey morning I found myself alone with my unruly closet and nothing in my appointment book. I decided that it was time to come clean with myself, and with my closet. So I rolled up my sleeves and started pruning. Four little rules helped me cut through the emotional baggage attached to so many of my clothes.
Here’s the lowdown. Ask yourself these four questions of every single piece of clothing in your closet. If you answer, “no,” to any one question, the item is history.
1. Have I worn this in the last year?
If you haven’t worn an outfit in over a year, what are the chances you’ll wear it this year? Slim to none. I am as guilty as the next girl of buying clothes because I like the color of the fabric, a particular detail or a crazy low sale price. But once I get home, a lot of these clothes simply don’t work with my body type. Sadly, a teeny-tiny pair of barely-worn pre-baby Hudson jeans was in this category. It hurt, but it was time to say goodbye.
If you’re unsure of what you’ve worn, hang the item backward on your closet rod. After you wear it, turn the hanger around the right way. If it stays backward after a few weeks or months, toss it. I had lots of backward hangers in my closet, so to these clothes, I said, “See ya later!”
2. Does it make me feel good about myself?
Clothes — for women especially — have strong emotional influences. There were several really weird things in my closet that just didn’t make me feel pretty or special, and it seemed as if I always wore those things. A long-sleeved t-shirt that read “Glendale Shakespeare Club,” a green wool sweater I bought in college, a pair of maternity jeans with threadbare thighs. These clothes were ugly and dumpy and made me feel ugly and dumpy, too. So, to them, I said, “You’re outta here!”
3. If I didn’t feel guilty for some reason, would I still own it?
Guilt clothes. Ahh, the hardest pile of all. My mother, bless her heart, loves to buy me things. Actually, she really loves to buy us things. She’ll find a 90 percent off rack at Dillard’s and if she lands on a particularly darling sweater, she’ll buy one in her size and one in mine. Here’s the thing, though: These clothes are precious on her. Her style is whimsical and ruffled, and mine is more tailored and practical. About a fifth of my closet was comprised of really nice clothes that I kept hanging on to because my sweet mama brought them to me with an excited smile. And I hate to let my mama down. But I decided that if I gave that stack to charity, they could live on in someone else’s wardrobe. And so, to my guilt wardrobe, I bid a fond, “Adieu.”
4. Is it comfortable and flattering?
Finally, the comfort test. Sure, the plunging necklines, cinched waists, and short skirts are great for a night out, so I made exceptions for special occasion clothes. But, the vast majority of comfort offenders were in my daily rotation. In fact, most of them weren’t even cute enough to compensate for the restrictive bust, awkward length, or other anger-inducing shortcomings. So I tossed them into the charity pile without a friendly goodbye.
Once the purging was complete, I replaced all my old, ugly hangers with flocked slimline hangers that prevent clothes from ending up in rumpled heaps on the floor. And once the clutter was cleared, the hangers replaced, and all that remained was the good stuff, I took an inventory. To my surprise, I hardly needed to do any shopping to replace the clothes I’d tossed. A few staples did the trick.
In the end, I donated 12 bags of clothes to charity and kept track of my tax deductions. I was afraid that I’d miss all those bags of clothes, but not only have I already forgotten most of the things I gave away, I’m decidedly happier in the mornings knowing that whatever I reach for will fit, flatter, and feel fabulous. And that, my friends, is what coming clean is all about.
The specter of heredity has lurked in the darker corners of Cheryl Perkins’ mind for as long as she can remember.
Her mother died of colon cancer four years ago, and nearly all of the women on her mother’s side of the family had hysterectomies between age 45 and 50 because of cancer diagnoses.
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