Clothes From My Other Life

On Monday I mentioned my fondness for books about decluttering, and how they’re only helpful if you take action after you read. Many of the books I read were decent enough, but I’d put them on the shelf and forget about them. I suppose shelving a book and not tossing it on a pile is a small victory for the clutter-prone, but it doesn’t lead to real progress.

Books were taking over my house, so I try to use the library instead.  But I decided to make an exception to my no-purchase rule after I stumbled across The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. The reviews were positive and the book seemed to feature a unique approach, so I added it to my Christmas list.

A book worth keeping.

Kondo lays out a very clear approach to decluttering. She advises her readers to start with clothing because most of our clothes hold little sentimental value. Even though clothing’s not my biggest challenge, I decided to adhere strictly to her method.  Plus, I knew I was keeping things I hadn’t worn in a long time. My clothing needs changed significantly when I left my job in 2012, and I’d been keeping a lot of my dressier clothes for no good reason.

The first step required gathering all clothes in one place.

And so I crawled into the attic and dragged out two large totes full of clothes.

Then I emptied my closet.

And the dresser drawers.

Finally, I greeted the little crew of dust bunnies living under my bed, and pulled out two large under-bed boxes.


Piles and piles and piles of clothes

The next part of Kondo’s approach required sorting clothes by type and focusing on one category at a time. This meant I had to touch every single piece of clothing while sorting. I’d never done this before. In the past I’d rifle through my closet and drawers, passing by lots of clothes without thinking about giving them away. But handling each item made me really think about whether or not I needed it. I surprised myself by giving away a lot of things I still liked, but no longer worked for me. Once I was holding something in my hand, it was easier to be realistic, to own up to the fact that something was taking up space in my closet but not doing anything for my life.

Beginning the sorting process.

Beginning the sorting process.

At the moment, basic jeans are my clothing staple. Some of the tops I wore to school are still appropriate, so I kept them. I enjoy clothes and still try to look nice but there’s been a definite shift towards comfort above all else. Scarves are my weakness. I have a lot but I wear one almost daily, and was able to make space for them.

When I finished sorting, I’d emptied two totes and one under-bed box and had four large bags to donate. All my clothes now fit in my dresser and closet, with my off-season things in the remaining under-bed box. I was pretty ruthless, keeping only things I felt I needed. The only unresolved items are three pairs of Dockers, which I kept even though I haven’t worn them lately. I based my decision to keep them because of my career-related uncertainty. At the moment my work-at-home arrangement is good for us. But I also find myself feeling antsy from time to time, wanting to be out in the world again and wearing a nice denim-free outfit. If I do find myself in need of business-casual clothing, I’ve saved myself a little money. I also saved a couple interview-appropriate dresses and cardigans.

I invested the better part of a day, but it was worth it. Though realizing I needed to fold and put away the clothes I was keeping felt a little daunting. Fortunately my trusty little book came to my rescue. On Friday I’ll share some nifty folding magic and some ‘after’ photos.

13 Responses to Clothes From My Other Life

  1. Wow – my favorite book! With a little trepidation I took my tees and tank tops off their hangers and folded them upright in my drawer. Easier access – love it! Now my nicer clothes have more room to breathe in the closet. I am rereading Marie Kondo’s book and highlighting this time. She focuses on keeping what brings joy. Great job Tracy!

    • Thank you Pat! I read the book cover to cover but will go back as I work on each area. I too have a lot more things in drawers as opposed to my closet which is working well for me. I will have lots of photos on Friday.

  2. Have you heard of Courtney Carver’s Project 333? Thirty-three items for three months. This really helped me with my clothing clutter (I have a thing for button-down blouses, only I don’t actually like to wear them in real life. I’d never have learned that if not for P333). I thought 33 was impossible when I first started and didn’t count any of my shoes, scarves or accessories. Now, after about two years of this, I count everything and I’m at like 28. I don’t know that I could go back to a full closet now. It’s too overwhelming.

    Anyway, you obviously have a system going with this book and don’t need another one. Just wanted to toss that out there for later. 🙂

    • I have not- but thanks for sharing! I feel like there’s never been one person whose approach met all my needs so I like to pull from lots of places. I’m going to check out Project 333- it sounds interesting! I used to have a thing for button-downs too.

  3. I couldn’t agree more about the book. I’m currently reading it for the second time. Folding my clothes and putting them in the drawer means I can see all of them at once. It’s really encouraged me to keep only those items that ‘spark joy’. It feels liberating!

    • Folding shirts upright is a brilliant idea and so simple! Now I see that many of my shirts are comfortable but do not spark joy. Watching “What Not to Wear” is inspiring me to shop. Yes “liberating” is a good word.

  4. can’t wait for the photos….as a working mom with two littles, I have started the decluttering process very slowly but wow is it difficult. It seems that anything related to those littles ends up in the basement which is now completely full! I have started sorting through their baby things donating many but keeping a more than I should. I will definitely need to go through them again in a few months and purge a bit more but each time I’ve done this I get the panicky “what if I need x”. It’s so uncomfortable to actually rid our house of those things but once its done, I’m so relieved and feel much better. Do you get this panicky feeling or is it just me? If you do get it, how do you handle those feelings?

    • I will be posting them tomorrow- we had a storage unit for a while with many baby things- letting go of them was tough. I got past the panic by reminding myself that, while it would not have been ideal, we could have re-purchased items if needed, new or secondhand. Once you realize that needing something again is not the end of the world it will get easier. Good luck!

  5. Such a great book, I just started reading it! in 2009 I transitioned from working in the jewelry industry in NYC to getting a post-bacc for speech-language pathology, and then worked in a waitressing job at a large independent/assisted living facility for a year, and then 2 years of graduate school, and finally I am 1.5 years into my career. During this time I also gained weight (most of it needed, and a healthy addition). Needless to say I clung to lots of old clothing during this time as I had many beautiful items and I wasn’t sure what the future would hold… the last semester of graduate school I let go of my “skinny” clothes. And as I finally settled into my new job/career I let go of others that didn’t apply. I’m still doing that. I think it’s a healthy thing when you are in transition and trying to find your feet. Even if that transition occurs over the course of a few years. The important thing is to be honest with yourself as you go through it… And reduce as much as you can as you go along.

  6. Pingback: April’s Book Club: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo | The Simple Year

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