Cleaning out Your Clothes

By Janine Adams

Cleaning out the clothes closet is difficult for many people. Clothes can represent so much — like music, they can do a great job of capturing a feeling about an occasion or part of life. They also can represent hopes. You hope to wear that size again. Or you hope to have an occasion to wear that evening gown.

The trouble with hanging on to clothes that you don’t or can’t wear is that an overcrowded closet makes it so difficult to care for the clothes you do wear. It’s hard to put clothes away if they’re packed in too tight. They also get wrinkled. And it’s much harder to see what you have.

I was just perusing an issue of O Magazine, whose theme is “De-Clutter Your Life!” In one of the articles, Oprah Winfrey goes through her closet trying to decide what to keep and what to let go of, with the help of the magazine’s creative director, Adam Glassman. What struck me about the article was that even Oprah, who has an almost unimaginable about of money, had a difficult time letting go of stuff. At one point in her life she had a very limited wardrobe because of budget. “Even now, wasting money on clothes makes me crazy,” she admits in the article.

After insisting on saving some beautiful items (she calls a pair of boots she’s never worn “closet jewelry”), Oprah agrees to let go of trendy items she doesn’t wear. It appears that Adam’s suggestion that the discarded clothing be auctioned off on Ebay to raise funds for OWLA, Oprah’s leadership academy for South African girls, makes it easier for her to let go.

I see this in my clients; if they know the article of clothing will be loved by someone else, they’re more able to let it go. They’d like to give stuff to me, but my policy is not to accept items that my clients are letting go of. (It prevents the appearance of conflict of interest and helps keep my home clutter-free.)

So next time you’re trying to weed out your closet, remember that Oprah found it difficult. You can imagine how beautiful the clothes she was discarding were, but she did it.

As an aside, my friend, the organizer extraordinaire Geralin Thomas helped me weed and organize my closet on a visit in 2009. She convinced me to arrange my clothes by color, something I resisted. I felt it was hyper-organized and would be too complicated for me. Boy, was I wrong. I love having my clothes sorted by color. (I organize them by category first, then by color. All blouses are together, in color order, all jackets, pants, etc.) Not only is it beautiful, but it makes it very easy to find what I need and to put individual items away.

And the less densely populated the rods, the more I enjoy my color-coded closet.

Janine Adams is a certified professional organizer and owner of Peace of Mind Organizing. She specializes in working with chronically disorganized client, primarily in their homes, helping them create the order they crave. She blogs regularly at her website and offers concise, downloadable Organizing Guides for purchase. With life coach Shannon Wilkinson, she also offers a 28-day e-course called Declutter Happy Hour.


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