OUT OF THE CLOSET
A couple months ago I literally stumbled into my closet to find that I had (surprise, surprise) “nothing to wear”. As I rummaged through the ridiculous amount of shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, scarves, shoes, underwear etc, I realized that 50% of those items had not been used in over a year. I had shirts hanging in my closet that were never appropriate to wear in public at the age of 27 and somehow I managed to keep since high school. Was it the memories? Or my absurd need to be prepared because at any given moment I might be invited to a "2001 theme" club party for which this specific midriff/backless shirt would be absolutely necessary??
I wasn’t sure where to begin in the cleaning process, but I couldn’t come up with any decent excuses to avoid it. As my wise friend Alicia once said: “You need to grow up and dress like a grown up.”
So it began, on a Monday afternoon, I successfully packed 50% of my closet into 10 different bags which contents would likely become useful in someone else’s closet instead of mine. I had to be ruthless in the decision making because for some reason I was emotionally attached to shoes that I had worn once in 3 years, jeans that had too many holes, mini skirts that were too… mini and a bunch of other items that were in great shape but I hadn’t worn in a while nor were planning to wear any time soon.
I also went through my chest drawers, vanity and bathroom. I decided I had collected a ridiculous amount of lip gloss and eyeliner, which unfortunately are not exactly considered good for re-use but at least I got rid of what I didn’t need and made a promise to myself that I would not purchase any more until I had consumed my current stash. (two months and counting!)
It was in fact ridiculous that inside a walk in closet I could not fit every piece of clothing that I owned. I actually had to pack away my spring/summer wardrobes every winter because that closet was just not big enough for both wardrobes baby. Please forgive me if in any way I am insulting other women or men out there who are happy to go through the season pack and store routine. Or who have even larger and fuller walk in closets than me – in this world I suspect there are several. I’m simply offering my situation as an example of the positive effect that one person can have on the lives of many others who may not be as fortunate as us.
After the downsizing process was completed, I had to make a decision on where to take the 10 bags of clothing, shoes, jewelry and whatever else I managed to get out of my closet. I usually donate to the salvation army because they are easily accessible. This time however, because I was particularly attached to several of these items I wanted to make sure that they would go to a place where people would not have to pay for them. Nothing against the salvation army or other organizations of the like – but I really wanted to make sure that if I was giving my clothes away for free they would make it to another woman’s closet who truly needed them also for free.
So I asked around and found a wonderful organization in my local community that is dedicated to providing low income families with clothing and other household items at no cost. I know what you’re thinking, free clothes? Sweet! Not so fast my frugal friends, this organization screens people in order to determine whether or not they qualify for the help. You have to complete an application and go through a series of interviews. As well as present them with your pay stubs and proof of income as part of the process. This way, they know that the items are going to people who truly need them and appreciate them.
Carrie Bradshaw once said, “I like my money right where I can see it: hanging in my closet”. I admit I’ve had that outlook since I was 13. Undoubtedly I’ve managed to keep thousands of dollars within that 4ft x 8ft space, which makes me wonder about how much I’ve actually given away to charity, minus depreciation of course. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I could have probably bought my car in cash if I’d reduced my wardrobe to 50% ten years ago and kept it that way.
I must say that this closet cleansing has served as a personal buying habit cleansing as well. It has affected the way I look at shopping and has shifted my acquiring methods towards more of a “quality vs. quantity” approach. When I’m out and I see something I like, I ask myself three questions: Will I wear it within the next month? Will I wear it next season? And will it last through the seasons? Buying a dress that I like just because I might wear it some day is a slippery slope down to accumulation destination. Buying something that I will wear only one season (for whatever reason) is just not smart spending, unless it’s a very trendy/reasonably priced item, I do have some trend setter senses left after all! And buying something that might fall apart before the next season of Wipeout is just out of the question.