The never-ending battle with my closet ends now. Yes, I’ve likely said that before and even blogged about this. But, this time, it’s for real. I swear.
I am not really sure when my quest for simplicity began. I know it goes back to at least 2009 or so when I bought the book Complete Idiot’s Guide to Simple Living. I don’t exactly know what prompted me to buy the book, but I’m pretty confident it had something to do with my big, fat, messy, filled-with-cheap-clothes closet.
Fast forward to late 2011, early 2012, and I stumbled upon a blog in which the writer was talking about living with only 12 pieces of clothing for a month (or something insanely crazy like that.) I was wildly intrigued. For years I had struggled with having way too much clothing. Most of it ill-fitting, or pieces I generally wasn’t comfortable in. Being extremely overweight didn’t help my closet cause either. Neither did years of buying cheaply made, bargain basement clothing because somehow filling my closet with crap made me feel temporarily better about myself. (In retrospect, I was busy stuffing my face and trying to make myself feel better by stuffing my closet. Told you it runs deep.) Anyway, somewhere between the purchase of the Idiot’s Guide and 2012, I made a commitment to myself to try to only buy things that I love and to stay the hell away from the clearance racks. I was so far from perfect at this but at least I sort of had a plan.
Besides the crazy blog post about 12 items of clothing that got me thinking about genuinely making an effort to reduce the amount of garb in my closet, I also came upon Project 333. In a nutshell, you are challenged to pare your closet down to 33 items. That includes jewelry, clothing, outerwear, and shoes (what?) and excludes undergarments, lounge-wear, and workout wear. You pack up the rest and you wear the chosen items only for three months. Then you rotate. And on it goes. It made some sense to me and wasn’t nearly as crazy as only keeping 12 items of clothing. I set a goal to someday achieve just that. 33 items. No more. No less. Five years later, I have yet to achieve that goal but I am getting closer.
Like I said, around 2012 I was beginning to get serious about my wardrobe issues. I was so tired of the battle to get dressed in the morning–just really tired of an issue that really is completely pointless in the big picture of life. I was in the process of losing weight at the time so NOW would be the perfect opportunity to really get a handle on my closet. I tried to be a bit more mindful when buying clothes to fit my new body, knowing that the clothes I was buying likely wouldn’t fit in a few months. It was a good test of my ability to go minimal and be smart about my purchases. But then life came crashing down hard in August of that year when my mom, sister-in-law, and niece were killed by a drunk driver. Although my closet issues were obviously one of the last things on my mind, in the midst of my grief, they were actually about to become front and center.
For those of you that have survived a traumatic loss of any kind, you know that the weeks and months following the loss are often brutal, so difficult in ways that you never could have imagined. My soul was so weary–sadness permeated every waking moment– and my brain was in a deep, deep fog. After about a month, I slowly began to return to everyday life, which for me meant that I would have to get out of bed, get dressed, and go to work. Every day. I was scared shitless. (Thank God I worked with an amazing soul that gave me the space and the grace to get it together. Someday, I’ll be able to write about that time, not quite yet though.)
What I soon found out in my less than triumphant return to real life, is that the things that I struggled with prior to the crash would be multiplied times one million in post-crash life. (While I would later be grateful for the gift of the protective veil that fogs your brain early on, the fogginess made everyday decisions extremely difficult for me. I know some of you reading this totally get that.) Any sort of clutter drove me crazy and I had a huge need to get organized, maybe only because I wanted to be able to control one tiny thing in a life that had spun wildly out of control. Then, one morning, the most epic of closet meltdowns occurred and even in my foggiest of brain states, I knew something needed to change and it needed to change fast.
It seemed to happen out of the blue. I went to my closet to pick out something to wear and I could not get dressed. LITERALLY. I wandered in and out of my closet for two hours. TWO FLIPPING HOURS before I finally screamed “FUCK IT!” as loud as I could to nobody and everybody and then went back to bed. Sometime later, the same thing happened. I did make it to work that day, albeit two hours late. For real. The struggle was so real. Something that I had struggled with prior had now become debilitating at times. Something had to give. I knew that I had to if I wanted to keep my job and rebuild a life, I had to get my closet shit together sooner than later as I couldn’t keep going back to bed or going to work two hours late every time I couldn’t get dressed. Sometime in the weeks that followed, I did a closet purge. I bought a few things that I knew fit well and I wore the same exact jewelry with every outfit for months. It got better. I laugh about those moments of struggle now, but at the time it was tough. So tough.
Fast forward to the here and now. I have since developed a nasty pattern that I am VOWING to break in 2018. The cycle goes like this. I purge my closet. I rejoice in my awesomeness about downsizing. And then I get lazy about my closet again. My wardrobe magically expands. And then the cycle repeats itself. Ad nauseam. I’ve also discovered that when I am overly stressed, getting dressed in the morning becomes difficult, but only when my closet has expanded (and yes, I know ALL of the little tricks about setting your clothes out the night before etc. Those tricks are great fun but don’t always work for me.)
Yesterday, I purged my closet for the LAST damn time. I SWEAR! Five garbage bags of clothes and shoes are being donated, and another container full being given away as well. The only thing I have left to go through is my jewelry, which I will tackle soon. I have been through every sock, pair of underwear, running clothes, shirts, pants, sweatshirts, dress wear, shoes, purses.
ALL. THE. THINGS.
And it feels so good. I’ve reduced my everyday wardrobe to 23 items. (Its basically a Garanimals wardrobe. Almost everything goes with everything else.) I put about 10 dressy items away in another closet for the occasions that they are needed. I kept 10 pairs of shoes in my closet for the winter season, four pairs of which are running shoes, and I reduced my running clothes to comfortably fit into one small drawer. For the winter season, I have additional fleece wear and puffy vests for outdoor activities that will be packed away as soon as the weather gets warm. My summer clothes, which mainly consists of running shorts and tank tops, have been reduced to one container, and that includes all of the summer shoes that I kept. I’m rejoicing wildly! And vowing, vowing, vowing never ever, ever to return to my old ways.
My ultimate dream is to go smaller yet, but for now, I know that I need to get completely comfortable with what I have and where I have been on this weird journey that so obviously had much more to do with than just too much stuff. I’m going to add some motivational minimalist feel-good quotes to my closet as a constant reminder to be mindful, to be intentional, and to be more grateful, not just when it comes to my closet, but in and for life itself. Life is SO MUCH MORE than stuff. Here’s to stress-free dressing in the new year! Wish me luck.
P.S. While I could not find the original crazy article that I referenced above, here is a different one, equally as intriguing. 10 items for a year.