Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Great Clothing Clean-out Project

Over the weekend, I went through every single piece of clothing I own. I emptied the dresser, the closet, and any boxes within my reach. I tried on pants, sweaters, shoes, shirts, and coats.

I filled SEVEN large shopping bags with items to give away. I am so proud of myself.

The process wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. There were a couple of items that gave me pause, though - two flannel shirts that I have had since high school. One my mom brought back for me from a work trip she took. The blue/green colors in it are my favorite and remind me of the ocean. I tried it on and it swamped me. It's too big. It's not in style anymore. I haven't worn it for at least two years. Into the bag it went.

The second flannel shirt belonged to my grandfather, who passed away just after Donald and I got married. I had his shirt much earlier than that, when my grandmother was cleaning out her closets when we were visiting. It has autumn colors - deep reds and oranges and yellows. It's wool and has a good weight and is a little scratchy. I tried it on and it actually looked ok. I could picture myself wearing it on a cool fall day walking dogs through the woods or chasing my kids in the backyard. I haven't worn it because it has been hidden from view. This one stays.

Most of the items were easy. Shirts that were too short or unflattering. So many items I have had since high school (I graduated in 1998). Sweaters that were too boxy or misshapen. Pants that were too short or too big. Most not worth tailoring or trying to salvage.

I followed the suggestions I have read about decluttering and my mental and emotional state were ready. I had already pictured several items that went right into the bags without even trying them on. The black velvet vest that I wore maybe once when I was in high school. The tiny t-shirts I told myself I would sleep in and never did. The full-length, elastic waisted black skirt with a slit up to mid-thigh that I wore to a play in the city when I was in college (don't ask).

Ugh, now I'm embarassed to have even owned these things. I kept them for so long because I thought I needed to. They were a part of me. They told me a story about myself.

I'm writing a new story now. I can remember the events without having the clutter pulling me backwards into the past. I'm letting it all go so I can move forward.

I actually discovered that I have some very flattering clothing. I rediscovered several items that I thought didn't fit and do. I have three pairs of pants that just need a little tailoring. I replaced a missing button on a coat and now it's like new.

I have a very detailed and specific list of what I think I need (and want) so that my upcoming birthday shopping trip will only contribute good and happy things to my wardrobe. I told Donald that I want to be excited about each and every thing I bring home. If I'm not excited, I won't buy it.

It feels so good to know that all of those things are out of my life now. It feels good to have a sense of who I am through the choices I made about what to keep and what to donate. I feel lighter, more flexible and fluid, ready to take on whatever comes next.

It's perfect timing, really. Donald has a final interview with this company today. We're hoping to (finally) have a real answer by the end of the week. I'm trying not to hold my breath.

**Updated: I have to add something more from Communicatrix's string of decluttering posts. Her last one included this passage, which has me trying not to let my tears fall all over the papers on my desk:
Here’s the thing: no one’s right. No one’s wrong. No one can tell me or you or Stan or my grandfather what to keep. (Especially my gramps, unless you’re one of them psychic types.) In the end, though, my grandfather died alone, in a hospital bed, of a broken heart. The most meaningful thing in his life was a person, my extraordinary grandmother, and she’d left the planet several weeks earlier. And her constant refrain, even as she’d hand over some cherished objectstill warm with her unbelievably beautiful energy? “Sell it!” she’d whisper, gleefully, conspiratorially.

Trade that thing for freedom is what I now realize she meant. Don’t get burdened by your choices; let them liberate you. Let each thing that touches your life enrich you in some way—with joy, with experience, with the understanding born of pain—and let it the fuck go. It is not that thing you want: it is the thing that thing makes you feel.

My emotions are running high today.


  1. Hooray for you and your remarkable bravery!

    And also your openness, in sharing it here. I think that this stuff has become some kind of secret shame, or maybe it's even an illness we don't know we have. It's very helpful to read about other people going through it.

    Finally, thank you for sharing that bit about my gram & gramps. They were both remarkable people, to the end. Just a little stuck in places, like all the rest of us hairless monkeys.

  2. Colleen - Thank you so much for commenting and for your support! I can't imagine not being open and honest here on my blog, especially when I know that it helps me to read other honest and open blogs, like yours. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.

  3. There is nothing that feels better than purging unnecessary things from your life. I've done that several times and am continually amazed at how quickly I fill the void with more junk. I am working on that though! I have no doubt that filling up my closet with "stuff" makes for an unhealthy existance! I applaud your efforts!! It's well worth it.

  4. Mindy - That is definitely a potential pitfall - filling the void with more things. I love organizing, yet decreasing the number of things to organize is also a helpful step. Your closet full of stuff is calling me. Want a hand cleaning it out and keeping it that way? :) Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. I have been meaning to do something like this. Right now all I have is grand visions of me dumping loads of clothes off at the nearest donation center and then going shopping. Congrats to you on completing the first step!

  6. Maureen - Welcome! Thanks for the congrats. Donating loads of clothing is a great first step. I would advise having a clear idea of what you want/need before shopping. That way you won't have to do it again in a few months. That could get expensive! Thanks so much for commenting!

  7. Brava Daphne!
    It takes courage to let go. Definitely an autumnal activity - just as nature lets go of what no longer serves, we can do the same thing. I've always been amazed at the new things - not material, but spiritual and emotional - that come flying into my life when I let go. Nature abhors a vacume! I look forward to hearing what nature brings you.

    All bright blessings,

  8. Hey Daphne, Nice work!! I felt lighter just reading your post! How exhilarating. You are so right to want to love everything in your closet and I love your new perspective, of creating a new story starting now. I held on to some work pants because they were still in really good shape. Five years later, I tried them on and couldn't believe how high waisted they felt! Times have changed!!! I'm with you, it's time to let the old stuff go and keep only the happy, flattering, stylish stuff now. Have a great week--and best of luck to you and Donald!

  9. Sandi - Thanks so much for your support! I look forward to seeing what nature brings as well. It's hard to be patient when we've been waiting for so long. I'll keep you posted.

    Jodi - I really appreciate your encouragement and good luck. I just hope I can hang on to this new perspective and stick to the changes I have made. Thank you!

  10. Cleaning out the clutter always makes me a wee bit high - I love no extras and because I just dislike dusting so very much - I do not have knick knacks...now I am wondering why I live with a fellow who holds on to nearly everything....
    When my Mother knew she was dying she boxed up a special box of pictures and treasures for each person and labelled them. They were not huge. Then she had a Granddaughter put her pictures on a CD and traded in her desktop for a laptop...she was 94...and kept her favorite comfortable clothing and gave everything else to a foundation that has a big sale every earn to help seniors with health care.
    She lived another year, and said she felt so free, reading books from the library, (she did keep her TV because it was an election year!) and feeling comfortable and looking at the slide show of her life in pictures. I mailed all the boxes the week after she died. What a role model.
    Nice post.Thank you

  11. patricia - I was definitely on a high after filling those bags, almost floating. What a wonderful way for your mother to live the last of her days. Thank you so much for sharing her story with me.

  12. Yay for YOU, Daphne! Letting go of needless clutter is always a great way to lighten up in many ways, as you said! It is so exhilarating to let go - like all that stuff (both physical and emotional stuff!) just weighs ya down.

    I was raised with Depression-mentality parenting - save everything because you just NEVER KNOW when you'll need it. That made moving a royal pain I'll tell ya! I had soooo much stuff! Over the years and studying Zen and simplicity - wow - what a difference! I will never be a clutter bug ever again! Millie helped with that too! (read July 23, 2009)

    Keep that exhilaration going - it's contagious! :)

  13. suZen - Thank you so much for your enthusiasm! I understand the "save everything just in case" mentality. My childhood home was similar, baskets of containers and craft supplies and toys that never got used and took up a LOT of space. I'm excited about this transition.

  14. I always bought to many clothes and a year ago I decided to begin to stop and wear my clothes out instead. I'm happy with my decision and have more room everywhere and more money in the bank as well!

  15. Tess - Kudos to you for taking a step towards simplifying your life AND improving your finances. That's the best of both worlds. I like what you said about wearing clothes out. It's not just about getting rid of the clothing you will never wear, it's also about making the most of what you keep. Thank you for writing!


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