Monday, October 15, 2012

The Closet Project, Part 2: The Big Purge

In case you missed it, I'm cleaning out my closet! In an effort to only own clothes I wear regularly, I'm going to sell or donate my excess clothing and put together a wardrobe that works for me, here and now. I'm writing about my progressif you 'd like to follow along - just look for "The Closet Project" posts!

While going through your clothes and getting rid of what doesn't fit might seem like a strange thing to do 4 months after having a baby (or two babies!), I decided to do it anyway. At this point, I'm about 10 lbs from where I was pre-pregnancy. I'm pretty sure I can tell what fits, what will fit, and what is always going to look odd on this new body of mine. I'm not going to pretend that this isn't a bit hard on the ol' self esteem - I don't really avoid mirrors right now, but I don't linger in front of them, either - but I keep reminding myself that in order to always feel good about how I look, this needs to be done.

If you're in a similar place, I've gathered some tips that will help you get through this process quickly and efficiently, and leave you feeling good about the choices you've made. I did this (mostly) by myself, after Emily and Erin were in bed. It can be helpful to have someone there to talk you through what to keep and what to get rid of, but you need to choose your help wisely. I find that I can be more ruthless by myself when it comes to clothes - because I'm good at buying cute things, but I'm not good at buying cute things that go with other cute things. Thus, I spend a lot of time telling my helper "It is cute, but I never wear it!" to justify getting rid of something. This takes time, and causes second-guessing. Neither one of these is good when it comes to cleaning your closet. In addition, we moved a month ago, moved 6 months before that, and had moved 6 months before that. Every time we moved, I made an effort to get rid of some of my clothes.

Tip #1: Find a well-fitting top and pair of jeans (or a skirt, if that's what you wear most) for trying on items you're not sure about. If nothing in your closet fits well, start by buying something that does. (I had to go buy a top!) You want them to not just fit, but make you feel good when you look in the mirror. The last thing you want to do is stare at yourself in an outfit that doesn't fit on top or bottom - trust me on this one! In addition, it's hard to tell if your shirt fits if your jeans are too tight, and vice versa. Set these aside, where you can grab them quickly. Also, if you don't have a full-length mirror, find one (you can buy them pretty inexpensively at Target or similar stores) and hang it in your bedroom for the purposes of this project. I recommend leaving it there, either attached to the back of a door or a wall, if you've got wall space.

Tip #2: Wear shoes, whatever you wear most often. It will give you a better idea of how things really fit. If you're on the short side, like me, it will help you see if any of your pants need hemming to be wearable. I wore my Dansko clogs, which also made standing for two hours more comfortable. (Side note: if you've never heard of these shoes, I recommend giving them a try! They are great for your feet and back, and come in lots of styles. I wear mine almost all the time since I'm on my feet so much!)

Tip #3: If you're strongly sentimental about something (not everything!), keep it. Just don't go overboard. I kept an outfit I wore on our honeymoon, even though it doesn't fit perfectly right now, because I just can't bring myself to get rid of it. That's just one shirt, one tank top, a zip-up sweatshirt, and jeans (which were already being kept), though - not too much in the grand scheme of things. Don't go overboard here, and definitely don't keep everything for this reason, but cut yourself some slack when it comes to sentiment. You can always get rid of it later, but you won't be able to get it back.

I started last night by cleaning out my dresser, actually. Since we have a really tiny closet, I have a lot of my clothes in the dresser. I figured to really make this work, I'd have to clean both. I started with the messiest drawer and took everything out. As I pulled it out, I decided whether it was worth keeping or not, basing my decision on these five rules. I made two piles accordingly. If I found myself putting two similar items in the "keep" pile, I tried to pick the one that fit best and had the most wear left in it. If I wasn't sure how something fit, I tried it on, using my "control" shirt or jeans to gauge how I felt about it. If I still wasn't sure, I went and asked Dan what he thought. The process went surprisingly fast. I didn't bother folding and putting away clothes between drawers, since not everything was in the right drawer to start with. I also wanted to try to keep the two piles about even, so I needed to leave the keepers out next to the "get rid of" pile.

When I was done with the dresser, I moved on to the closet. I didn't try on any of my dresses, since I'm fairly sure they'll fit again once we wean, and because trying on dressy clothes can be time-consuming. I only have six dresses, of varying styles and materials, so they aren't a major component of my wardrobe either. I found several tops and a few pairs of jeans that weren't worth keeping, and sorted them accordingly. I didn't take everything out of the closet, because it was pretty well organized to start with (see #7) but if yours isn't, you should take your clothes out a few at a time. There are tons of resources on cleaning and organizing a closet, so I won't bore you with tips - just make sure your system makes sense to you (and your spouse, if he/she puts the laundry away!).

When I'd pared the contents of the closet down to my satisfaction, I started putting things away. I folded everything from the dresser and put it back in the appropriate drawers. For the first time since we bought it, everything fit and the drawers closed easily! I replaced a few things that actually belonged in the closet, and pulled empty hangers to the middle. (Side note: if you don't already, remove the empty hangers when you take something out of your closet - it makes putting clean clothes away much easier!) After I put away all the keepers, I folded and put away a load of laundry. I figured that would be the moment of truth, but everything fit, with a little room to spare!

I'm feeling pretty confident about the results of this first step. I still need to go through and create outfits, adding accessories as needed, and replace some pieces that are almost worn out. I have some clothes to sell, so I am planning on hitting up my favorite used clothing store to see if I can trade for some things I need. Most of all, I'm planning to make sure the "get rid of" pile finds its way out of the house quickly so it doesn't just become more clutter!

Has anybody else started cleaning out their closet? How did it go? Comment below and let me know!


  1. What do you think about keeping small clothes that you don't fit into now, but might later? I struggle with this a lot. It's depressing to see them and know they used to fit, but I also feel like it's wasteful to donate them if in a year or so they might fit again. They probably won't... but they might, and it would suck to have to buy all new stuff.

    1. That's a good one! I struggled with that too. I didn't keep most of mine because they were a size XS/S for juniors, which is way different than a size XS/S for women. I just learned this in the past week or so. So, styling aside, I probably won't fit back into them, even after I lose some more weight.
      Our priest's homily yesterday talked about giving, and I got to thinking about how excited I used to get when I'd find something cute and stylish at Goodwill or St. Vincent when I was a kid and we didn't have much money. So I tried to picture an excited girl finding this stuff when I was sorting. I did keep a few things that are too small but would be too expensive to replace, and I plan to keep them for a year. I don't own a ton of really expensive clothes, though.
      I would use two criteria: Do I like this enough to use it as motivation, and would I be able to replace it easily if I got rid of it? Also, what if you lost weight and then it was too big? A good way around getting rid of nicer stuff is to sell it, which I plan to do with some things, and use the money to buy stuff that does fit now. College towns tend to have consignment-type stores for "exchanging" clothes this way - ours is called Buffalo Exchange and I think it's a chain.
      Sorry for the novel-sized reply! I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this question (pun not intended, but it's pretty awesome!) I hope that helps a little!

  2. hi there! I saw your blog on GFC blog hop and I'm now following you! I hope you follow my blogs as well... cheers!

  3. Hey there!

    Stopping by from the GFC blog hop! :) New follower!

    Anni //

  4. Hi Sarah! I'm a new follower from the GFC blog hop!

    I really loved reading through this! Purging and getting rid of things you don't use or need is so freeing! It's so odd because when I do clean out my closet and get rid of stuff, I almost feel like I have new stuff because I realize that everything still in my closet is something I love!

    I used to have that sentimental attachment to clothes (and other things) that you mentioned, but the older I get, the less attached I find myself to stuff. It is MUCH easier to give things away now at 29 than it was at 19!

  5. good for you! I always hold on to old clothes hoping one day (just one day) I will be able to wear them again! Silly me!

    Also, I nominated you for a blogger award, check it out!

  6. Good luck purging your closet! I have to do that soon, too. :)
    Dropping by from the GFC blog hop. :)