Entries in donating clothes (2)


Out of Control Clothes, Part 2

One of the things I run into most frequently are overstuffed closets, dressers, armoirs, with clothes busting out at the edges and spilling over into the room or even the entire house. My clients often show me a photo (from an organizing magazine) of what they'd like their closets to look like.

I'll share a secret -- there's no secret magic to that. For those photo shoots, they simply remove about one-half of the clothes, get nice hangers and put remaining one-half of the clothes back neatly. It's not actually a secret; it's just common sense. There is a finite amount of space in a closet. If you put too much into it, things are going to be so tight it becomes hard to get to anything. The key to an organized, tidy closet is that there is room to move the hangers from side to side, so that you can see what you have and get out what you have, without a serious tug of war battle.

For most people, the problem is the stuff. They want to keep it all. 

But we know that we wear 20% of our clothes, 80% of the time. Everybody has that go-to pair of jeans, casual summer dress, favorite shirt and so on. We wear them over and over. Meanwhile, other articles languish in the back of the closet or drawer or in a pile of dirty laundry which has been gathering dust for months. If an article of clothing has adopted the shape of a hanger and is literally dusty, you don't need it any longer. Wish it a fond farewell and donate it to somebody who will wear it, rather than banish it to the back of the closet. You'll feel better for doing so. 

I know that it can be hard to let go of things, but clothes, like most things in life, are replaceable. The things that are irreplaceable cannot be purchased at the Gap or Marshall's or Macy's. Time spent with loved ones. Taking the dogs for a walk. Reading a good book. Doing work that is satisfying. Cooking a meal. Those things are irreplaceable. A pair of jeans? Not so much. 

If you want to get organized but are having a hard time culling through things or letting go, stop focusing on the stuff and instead focus on the space and the state of mind it creates. Ask yourself what you want. Do you want a room that gives you peace of mind? Do you want a closet that doesn't make you feel bad when you open it? Do you want your home to have harmony in it? Focus on those things and forget about the shirt, the jeans which still have the tag on them, the shoes that pinch your feet. 

When you stumble or get stuck, try to re-shape your thinking about it. Spend less time thinking about the stuff you are donating and more time thinking about how good a tidy, organized closet will make you feel. Harmony. Balance. Clean spaces. Those are the important things and sometimes to get there, you have to think about the problem differently. A sense of well-being is more valuable than anything you could ever buy.


Out of Control Clothes

I frequently walk into homes with tons of clothes only to have a client tell me that “well, I just need to get these organized.” It is true enough that an organizational system is needed, but we’re all living with finite space limitations. Most of the time, the answer isn’t a bigger space or a clever system of boxes or shelves, tempting as those may be. The answer is the hardest one -- sorting and prioritizing.

It may be time to take a hard look at your closet. 

True story. I was working with a single mom one day. It was early in the winter, so it was starting to be serious coat weather. As there was no coat closet near the entry, there was a large wardrobe in the living room which functioned as the coat closet, holding the coats, hats, gloves, sports equipment, etc. for this family of three. After we reconfigured much of that living space, I suggested we tackle the contents of the wardrobe.

“Oh, we don’t have to do that,” she said.

I persisted. “Let’s just take a quick look in there.” 

She was game. We quickly discovered that it was so jammed full (coats, hats, boots, scarves, athletic equipment, sneakers, too many hangers) that nobody could get anything in there. Thus, the coats and jackets in current rotation were tossed on furniture (or the floor) in the living room and dining room. Athletic equipment was likewise strewn throughout the living room, dining room and kitchen.

We ended up getting rid of about two-thirds of the contents of that wardrobe. Some went to a consignment shop and some things were donated. A few things were in such a bad state that we tossed them. There were multiple coats and pairs of shoes that her kids had long outgrown. There were coats in there which she no longer liked and didn’t even remember having. The upside was that we also unearthed a few favorite pieces she had forgotten -- it was almost like getting new stuff!

When we were done, there was room in the wardrobe. We had designated a shelf for things like yoga mats, athletic gear, and so on. Every member of the family had a nook for their hats and gloves. No more coats hanging on chairs and no more gloves lost because they were absent-mindedly tossed on the kitchen table.

I learned two things from that experience. The first was that just one closet (in this case a wardrobe) can create an entire room's worth of mess. It's fair to say that at least one-half of the mess in the living room was caused by the over-stuffed wardrobe. When we fixed that it became much easier for her and her kids to put things away. Thus, the living room looked fairly tidy, pretty much all the time.

The second thing I learned was that I have to just go with my client sometimes. In this case, I had a client who was game to give it a go when I suggested it. And she was able and willing to let go of things she no longer needed, wanted or used.

With the living room tidy and manageable, she was thrilled and her kids were happy. If you have a problem with clothes in your home, your closets (or dressers or wardrobes) may be the source of the problem. Don't be afraid to get in there and tackle them.