With many clients, we start by decluttering clothing. There are so many reasons why decluttering and organising clothing makes such a massive difference, and in today’s blog I’m going to explore those reasons and explain just how transformative a decluttered and organised wardrobe can be.
Unless you live in a nudist colony, you wear clothes every day. So therefore they impact on us either positively or negatively every day. They’re needed to keep us warm, keep us cool, set us apart or help us blend in and are a unique way of displaying who we are to the world. There’s a school of thought that our brain only has the capacity to make so many decisions in a day. I agree with this as I know by the end of a declutter session clients are emotionally and physically worn out from their brain having to make so many decisions; it really does make a difference. When I want to start the day really well, I have already chosen my outfit the night before, and even silly things like having my mug ready on the side with a teabag already in it make the morning feel like things are going effortlessly. By preselecting clothes, and setting things up ready for the morning, there’s less decisions to make, I feel energised, in control, and less stressed. Even silly things like not having to decide which mug to use is one less decision in a morning, even though it’s not particularly a stressful or hard decision to make, it’s still a decision on a subconscious level. This is a big difference to how my mornings used to start, trying to find a clean cup, decide on which drink to have, and trying to find a suitable outfit from those scattered around my floor, the stress of finding something and then having to iron it, find something to go with it, and then even more stress piling on when I realised just how late I was. Not the best of starts to a day. I much prefer my calm and organised mornings now. Even if I have to choose something to wear its different. My clothes are in order, accessible, I know they all fit, I love them all, and I know what they work well with. They also rarely need ironing as they’ve been in my wardrobe rather than heaped on a chair or stood upon because they’ve been living all over my floor.
Have you seen the quote ‘loads of clothes but nothing to wear’? This was me. I had so many clothes, but if you asked my friends what I was like getting ready before a big night out, they’d probably use the words ‘frustrated’ and ‘tears’. Every time we were having a girls night out you’d guarantee that although the atmosphere was lovely and fun, finding something to wear most definitely was not! There were clothes flying everywhere and lots of complaints of ‘this doesn’t fit’, or ‘this doesn’t look right, and me ending up in a bad mood, ruining my mascara with the tears of utter frustration that my bedroom looked like an explosion in a clothes factory but I couldn’t find anything to wear, despite always going for the old faithful of ‘jeans and a nice top’. I’d settle for something that didn’t feel right just so we could eventually leave, and then when I came home have to throw all the clothes off my bed just so I could get to sleep – and on the floor they would stay until I did a mass tidying binge where they’d be thrown into the bottom of my wardrobe or under the bed! Since I decluttered I’ve not had the same reaction at all. I know I have a few outfits I can wear that feel comfortable and I feel I look nice in. I know where they are and how easy it is to know get ready. The only thing I have to concentrate on is hoping my hair and make up go OK! I leave with a calm, happy head, and come back to a tidy bedroom, and unmessy bed!
By knowing exactly what I have, and loving every item in my wardrobe, I take much better care over my clothes. I know when things start to look a bit worn, and need replacing. So at the moment I’m wearing a waterproof coat which when not in use goes back in my wardrobe (its not been away for quite a while!). As I’m taking care of it, washing it frequently and then using a waterproofer on it, I’ve noticed that the cuffs are getting damaged. I still love the coat but know it won’t last another spring. This means when I’m out and about I can be looking for the perfect replacement. I won’t have to suddenly dash to the shops to buy something that’s OK but not quite right (or 3 options none of which are perfect, but they were a bargain!).
The other thing that I find a bit weird even now, is that I send things for dry cleaning (I still wash some things on cool in a pillowcase, but some items really do need specialist cleaning). Before decluttering they would’ve languished at the bottom of my laundry basket – often for year (or two) before being finally donated to charity as I’d got fed up of seeing them when I got to the bottom of the basket – a rare occurrence in those days. Paying for them to be dry cleaned then just wasn’t a priority. Now as I really do love the items I send them away as soon as they need it, I care about them enough to do it, plus they’re missed as I don’t have a million other items to replace them!
I used to have decluttering binges frequently before I did it properly. I’d keep in the cycle of buying and binging. I didn’t really realise I was doing it. When I decluttered properly if I had shown myself just how many bin bags of clothes I eventually had taken to charity I never would have believed it (I know it was many more than 10). I don’t miss another of them at all, and I still feel like I have ample clothes. I could never be a true minimalist when it comes to clothes, as I like them a lot, and like to have different outfits for all eventualities (no, I have no idea when I will next wear my diamante studded ballgown, but I don’t care, I adore it!) I do however mix and match my clothes, items can be dressed up or dressed down by simply adding jewellery or a blazer, or by wearing a different item with it. I don’t have ‘items for best’ and items for ‘every day’ like I used to, all my clothes are available for any occasion! I also don’t buy into the winter/summer separation thing either. For those of you that have followed me a while, you’ll have heard me talking about this on the radio. If you have to have a separate summer and winter wardrobe, you’ve simply got too much stuff! We live in a country where one minute it can be 18 degrees, and the next day it’s snowing! We layer up so much, so logistically it really doesn’t make sense to have things hidden away for half of the year. If you’re wanting some wardrobe inspiration, head over to the Untangled by Tingle Facebook community as I will be doing lots on clothing over the next few weeks. Another thing you could do is look at Project 333, where Courtney Carver documents her system where she wears just 33 items for 3 months! It’s extreme but shows just what is possible, and is a great example of being able to mix and match clothes for any occasion.
The other thing that has changed and made such a difference is that all my clothes are now in once place. Sounds weird that they weren’t before doesn’t it? Let me tell you where I retrieved them from as I decluttered: I had them in the loft, in 2 wardrobes in my bedroom, in two chest of drawers (one of which was in the spare bedroom), some in my daughters room, clean clothes were stored on the floor (which my mum could never get her head around) and on a chair, and a mountain of them under the bed. I also found some in the outhouse (gardening stuff) and a few bits in my under stairs cupboard. Now I have one wardrobe and one small laundry basket for things that need washing. That’s it. With more than enough room for everything I own, plus space for accessories and jewellery too. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a big wardrobe that I designed it myself post declutter and I love it, but it takes up so much less room than what everything else used to. I designed it using the IKEA Pax system, and will be doing so again for my daughter’s bedroom redesign too. I’ve sent lots of furniture to charity once I had bought it, so my rooms have much more space too. Every day I look at my wardrobe it makes me smile. Seriously! I can see everything I have in one place and therefore putting items away is easier too – there’s no thinking about it, or trying to make items fit in somehow. No squishing things down and hoping that drawers will open again!
My clothes no longer make me feel sad. Not only the stress of the laundry cycle (less clothes = less laundry, a weird concept but it’s true), but also the individual items themselves. Clothes have a way of being sentimental, remembering when you last wore something, or the occasion it was bought for. For me, deciding to give away my maternity clothes was a big shedding moment. Whenever I would look at them instead of feeling happiness for the memory of being pregnant with my daughter it actually triggered two negative responses. The first was how awful I felt physically when I was pregnant, (although I did love my maternity jeans for how comfortable they were), but I hated almost every minute of being pregnant. I was extremely ill in my pregnancy and found labour to be a relief! The other negative emotion I felt when looking at them was being reminded of the fact that it was more than likely I wouldn’t have another child. This is very sad for me, as I adore being a mum and once I had my daughter I wished I had more children. Sadly that hasn’t been the case, so seeing those clothes just was a sad constant reminder of negative emotions every time I looked at them. As they weren’t I felt weight being lifted. When decluttering clothes many clients worry in case they’d need those items again. For me, I knew that just by removing the items it wasn’t jinxing me to never having any more children, it was just dealing with the here and now. If I ever got pregnant again, fashions have changed and I’d delight in treating myself to a whole new set of maternity clothes with glee! For some clients it may be that their weight isn’t stable, and so will worry about decluttering clothes that don’t fit them at the moment. The logic is simple. If you love the individual item, keep it regardless of its size. If it makes you feel bad, then let it go. Keeping hold of something that makes you feel bad is not a motivator that will work, it’ll simply keep on making you feel bad.
Once you’ve decluttered your clothes, you need to remove all the barriers to wearing them. It may sound crackers but remove tags once you know they fit ok. Something happens in your brain when choosing an outfit and items that are brand new with tags will be less likely to be picked simply because they have a tag on them. Maybe it’s the concept of saving things for best? Either way, you’re much more likely to wear them if they’re ready to be worn straight away. The other barrier to remove is to be able to see all you have. So in my wardrobe I have tops and T Shirts in one drawer, and Jumpers in another, that way I can go straight to the place I need. They’re also folded KonMari style so I can see each one to make a decision really quickly and pick the item out without disturbing anything else.
By cutting down on my wardrobe, being mindful of what I have, I’ve saved money too. Spending sprees are really rare now. When I used to have a day off I would choose to ‘go shopping’ as a hobby, now I can’t think of anything worse! Don’t get me wrong, impulse buys still happen, but I know I’m not buying something identical to what I already have, I’m not doing it to feel better, or to stop myself being bored like using it as a hobby, and I know exactly what it will go with! A positive side effect of this is that I’m helping the environment too, less spending sprees and being more mindful of my purchases means I’m putting less strain on the earth’s resources and I also now shop with sustainability a little bit in mind.
You’d think through all this that my bedroom never gets messy! Wrong. Of course it does! I may be a professional organiser and declutter coach, but I’m also naturally messy – that’s why I understand how my client’s brains work – because mine is the same! The difference now is, that yes, occasionally piles of clothes appear however they get put away quickly and I know it’s not a massive job. It literally takes less than 5 minutes, everything has a place, and I know where it is and what I have. My bedroom is calmer, and cleaner, I have better health as there’s less dust and I sleep better knowing my bedroom is tidy – plus much less a trip hazard now too! My mornings start off positively (unless my dog wakes me up before the alarm) and I never have to panic or stress about having something suitable to wear. So make that change, declutter your clothes. Start simple, maybe look at all your tights, or socks, or go through your T Shirts. It takes less time than you think, but will bring so much time back into your life.