I make a lot of to-do lists.  Sometimes I put things I’ve already done on my lists just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing them off.  If I don’t finish an item, I will either keep the mostly crossed off list around until that item is done, or I move the incomplete item to the top of a new list.  If it’s something I really, really, don’t want to do, instead of its presence on my list making me feel pressured enough to do it, I find it just becomes part of the landscape – and soon all my lists automatically include the items “iron clothes” and “Work on taxes”.

For months, I’ve had “clean closet” at the top of my daily to do list.  EVERY DAY.  I was absolutely dreading the process for a few reasons:

  1.  Dealing with my wardrobe always makes me feel overwhelmed, and when I’m overwhelmed I become incapable of making decisions.  Which makes trying to get rid of stuff a real chore.
  2. In order to clean my closet, I have to make sure all the laundry is clean, folded, and put away, so I can see what I’m dealing with.  I hate doing laundry.
  3. Because I can’t afford to buy anything new, I knew I would be particularly clingy in terms of getting rid of things
  4. As much as I love to try on clothes when I shop, trying on the clothes in my own closet to make sure they still fit and I still like them always seems like a drag.  Why is that?
  5. Part of the process always seems to include creating a pile of mending.  I hate mending.

So I had no real good excuse not to do it – just a lot of ennui and whining around the whole thing.  So I decided to break the process into bite sized chunks and see if that got me through it.

There are three areas in our bedroom where I keep clothing:

  1. An armoire, where I have one shelf full of t-shirts and tank tops,  a drawer for underwear, a drawer for pajamas, and a small drawer each for socks and hosiery (If you are feeling at all judgmental upon reading this, keep this in mind:  the armoire where I now have one shelf of t-shirts used to have FOUR shelves completely full of my clothes and my clothes alone, along with the aforementioned drawers .  At this point in time, it holds two shelves of linens, and Ron has a shelf of clothes plus half of one of the drawers for pajamas.  So I may be a mess, but I used to be a bigger mess.)
  2. Two closet spaces where I have hanging items
  3. Four shelf spaces  where I put sweaters, jeans/pants, and workout clothes.

All three areas are a nightmare of clothing that comes tumbling out every time you open one of the doors.  There are more clothes in each space than the space can comfortably hold, so when all my clothes are clean, I have to cram things in, or sometimes even leave items in laundry baskets until enough garments are in the hamper to make room to hang the clean stuff.  I have semi-organized stacks of clothing in the front of the shelves, but it is not unusual to find items that have fallen into piles behind those stacks and become forgotten.

I simply had to pare it all down.  And I had to start somewhere.  So I decided to start my closet purge with the armoire.  Here is what my t-shirt shelf looked like:



Just to clarify, mine is the shelf with a variety of colors just below the shelf with towels, and Ron’s is monochromatic shelf on the bottom (Note to Ron: Colors. They are good. Do not fear them).

I only wear a few of my t-shirts with any regularity, but for some reason I have trouble getting rid of the ones I don’t wear.  And because there is so much stuff in one small space, even if I put things away folded, they either end up smashed under other items, or they fall out and I shove them back in when I’m in a hurry (which is pretty much always).  I vowed to be ruthless on this purge, and I picked a day to do it when I was in a crappy, unreckoning mood, which tends to make me less wishy-washy.

There was no magic process for deciding which shirts to keep or toss – I used the same set of criteria  you’d read about in every woman’s magazine that runs an article on closet cleaning:

  1. Do I love it?  Not like it, but LOVE it?
  2. Have I worn it in the last two months?  Does it suit my current lifestyle?
  3. Does it still fit and flatter me?
  4. If I’m not wearing it, does it need mending, and am I willing to do that mending myself or pay someone else to do it?
  5. Do I have too many other items just like it?
  6. Am I keeping this just because it was a gift or I paid a lot of money for it?

I pared the pile down, folded everything I wanted to keep, and then attempted to fit everything back in the space.  It was still too much.  So I pared it down some more, getting rid of a few items that were really in the “like” category as opposed to the “love” category, and tried again.  Now everything fits:


From L-R: Black shirts/tanks, white shirts/tanks, hoodies, two stacks of colored shirts/tanks.  

In all honesty, I think I still have too much.  But it’s a vast improvement.  I’m going to keep an eye on it over the next few months and see what I REALLY wear of what I’ve kept, especially as summer transitions into fall.  I hope to get rid of about 40% more as lesser used items continue to be revealed.  Right now, it is a relief to open the doors and see a clearer and smaller number of options when I’m getting dressed – not to mention it’s MUCH easier to put clean laundry away.

Next up:  the sweater shelf.