10 Tips for Battling Your Toxic Closet and Bureau

When you think of your “stuff” what is the first sensation you get in your gut? Is it dread or are you feeling good about your belongings?

My most recent de-clutter was for our latest move overseas, then shortly after that when I was working with my coach. As you know the cost of a cargo container is by weight, not just volume and I had a few months before our departure so I picked a bureau or a section of my closet and went through it.  I kept going through all my belonging until I went around the house, then I started over. I detoxed my clutter this way so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with the task of trying to do it all at once. If you leave the task to do all at once, you will swing one way or the other; get rid of virtually nothing or freak out and get rid of EVERYTHING. I have come very close to that point of meltdown and almost packed everything up for donation.  A little at a time made it bearable and made me feel like I wasn’t letting go of everything at once.  When bags were full, I inventoried them (for a possible tax deduction) and sent them to donation, the the Consignment Store, sold on eBay and Craigslist (or TradeMe in New Zealand) or used FreeCycle (which is all over the world).

Be prepared mentally, this may take a few hours in the beginning until you figure out your threshold for this type of release. Remember, one dresser or one area of your closet or home at a time. Use the same procedure to de-clutter your kitchen and your home office.

Here are some of the parameters I like to work with:

Five piles

1. Gorgeous - you rock it and it loves you. Keeper!

These are the clothes that make you feel like you are ROCKIN’ IT WITH CONFIDENCE AND STYLE. They immediately go back in the closet or drawers after they are empty.

2. Needs repair - but you want to keep (then actually get them tailored, hemmed or repaired or save money if you have the skills to do it yourself).

3. Donation - Free Cycle, Clothing Swap, Consignment or Yard Sale

This isn’t the place to dump your junky stuff. These are clothes or other items that are in good condition but you don’t wear. You love the item but it’s slightly dated. Can you tailor it, or does it need to be replaced?

4. Trash - down right trashy or worn out?

Now ladies this would include all those bras that you don’t want to get rid of even though they have seen better days. I know, I have the "bra" issue. It is just one of those items that I can't seem to part with. I need to work on this.

5. The “You absolutely can’t get rid of it yet” pile -

I say “yet” because its time has probably come. The trick here is that you only get one box to store the sentimental items and serious attention will be paid to that box the next time you de-clutter. This is the weakness box; the on-the-fence box. The box where you can’t decide if it really is valuable to you or to someone else but you think it is valuable to you.

There should be no items in your closet that you feel guilty about getting rid of. If there is guilt attached to the item that is your sign from the Universe that it needs to go.  Sweater your aunt knitted for you 20 years ago? The “holiday” sweater with teddy bears on it that you never wear? Ditch it!  If you must keep something that is sentimental, box it up (see #5) and then included that same box when you de-clutter again in 6 months. But please, limit your storage items to one box (and that’s not a refrigerator box).

A disclaimer; there is a fine line between having an organized closet that you like to visit and being completely anal retentive about that organization. Know your limits and set your own parameters.  These are just guidelines to get you started.

1. Take all the clothes out of your closet and/or dresser, yes every single piece.  Then try on everything; anything that is too small, too big, damaged, or ill-fitting place in a pile. Enlisting an honest friend/daughter/mother to help with this daunting first step is a good idea. Baby steps here, one area at a time. Clean the area. Dust it. Wipe it down. Vacuum or fumigate if needed.

This is where I had a problem. I had a box of clothes that I loved that were the next smaller size than I was currently wearing. They were clean, in style, well cared for and organized. I kept the box, toting it through three different countries and now I wear those clothes and most are even too big.  My feeling was that if I gave up that box, I would be giving up ever fitting into that size. I kept the box and used it as another motivation to shed the extra emotional weight that I was carrying around “to protect me”.

2. Go through the remaining items that do fit and ask yourself (and your trusty aide) when was the last time you wore this?  The rule of thumb is if you haven’t worn it in over a year, it may be time to send it to a new home.

3. Hang up or fold the garments that have made the cut.  Organize them by the item you will put on first when dressing.  A good way to start is sleeveless tops to long sleeve blouses, dresses to skirts/pants, followed by cardigans/sweaters, and finally jackets/blazers.  This will help you quickly and easily see nearly everything you have when selecting what to wear.

4. Finally invest in a few nice storage boxes to keep any loose accessories such as scarves, hats, belts, and shoes.  Having everything accessible will make dressing a breeze.

5. If you rotate your clothes by season, this is a natural time to take care of business. You can accomplish the tasks above as you rotate.

A word about the quantity of clothing in your closet

As an example, I wear yoga pants, Capris and running shoes all the time, (I know...total "mom" clothes). I personally see no reason to dress nice to be working out of my house or to go to the market. I do dress a bit differently say when I have my weekly lunch date with my husband or I am meeting a friend.  I actually counted how many pairs of yoga bottoms I had and the number was staggering. Its like the bra issue, many of them had seen better days so I had to suck it up and part with more than a couple of pairs. I even went into the donation pile and retrieved two pairs to wear when cleaning. It’s a disease.

If you have a very small closet and need to rotate your clothes and shoes by season, that’s fine, but the same rule applies; if you haven’t worn it in over a year, it may be time to send it to a new home.  I have a thing about coats and jackets, but when we moved it seemed almost ridiculous all the coats and jackets we brought with us. I think we each wore one or two different ones. Now we live in a climate where no one wears coats like we wore at our old location. Before the next cold season, I will be selling them on the online auction sites.

Now let’s go back to those unwanted pieces.  Donating the items that simply don’t fit, but still have life in them, is always good karma and you are helping a cause and providing an item at an affordable price to someone who may not be able to afford it new.  You could also consign them at your local consignment shop or hold a clothing swap with your best girlfriends/guyfriends and perhaps swap for something new to you! I have a friend who does this often especially with children’s clothing.

I have two favorite things that I like to do that always helps in the mental clutter department. I never store anything under the bed; it is just bad karma. The bed area is for bed area activities, and to me that is sex and sleep, that’s it. Why would you want to clutter up the area of your home where you spend your most intimate time?

The other one is another favorite; I keep an empty drawer in my bureau and an empty area or shelf in my closet. Knowing that I have space in my outer environment gives me space in my inner environment as well. It tells the Universe that I am ready to accept the abundance that is coming my way!

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