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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Too much of a good thing

By Bridgette Raes

I have seen every type of closet you can possibly imagine, from the “neat as a pin” organized to the “chaotic disaster zone” and everything in-between. Each client’s closet has its own share of challenges and positive aspects. Believe it or not, one of the more challenging closets to clean out is the closet that has an overwhelming number of clothes, all of which are pretty good.

It may seem surprising that a closet overloaded with decent things is a challenge, but too much of a good thing can be just as detrimental as a closet that doesn’t have enough. I often use the analogy of a menu. Imagine going to a restaurant where a menu is placed in front of you containing a few appetizers, a few entrees and a few desserts to choose from. It’s easy to narrow down the selection and make a decision. Now imagine a diner menu hat is filled with pages and pages of choices. With all these choices, making a decision can become overwhelming. The same is true in an overloaded closet full of choices, and it is why too many options can sometimes be a challenge.

~If you aren’t sure if your closet has gotten out of control with an overwhelming amount, take a look at the following and see if any of these sound like you:

~If you have pulled out things from your closet and said, “Wow, I forgot I had this piece” too often, you have gone overboard.

~If you have a ton of the same thing (like ten white T-shirts or five pairs of black pants) you have gone overboard,

~If you have a decent sized closet space but have found that you have begun storing your clothes in other spaces of your home (like the kitchen pantry, your children’s closet, under the bed and in any other available space in your home) you have gone overboard. Note that this means current season clothing that you are wearing. Storing off-season clothing in other areas of your home is fine, but if you if you are running around your home searching all over the place just to put one outfit together, then yes, you have gone overboard.

~If you open your closet and find yourself seriously digging and rummaging to find something, then you have gone overboard. Nobody should feel like they have to dig for a shirt as if they are searching for buried treasure.

~If you can estimate that you wear 20% of what you currently own, then you have gone overboard.

~If opening your closet overwhelms you, then you have gone overboard.

Solutions for paring down

When your closet is full of decent things that you love but the sheer number of them is clearly overwhelming you, how do you edit? After all, it is much easier to part with things when you know that something doesn’t work. If it is all good, then how can you decide what makes the cut and what doesn’t?

The first thing that you need to do is get honest with yourself. Is it all really working? When was the last time you even checked? No matter how nice a client’s wardrobe is, there are always pieces that are so old or dated that even if they were decent at one time, they have been in the closet way past their expiration date. In addition, clients may love to look at some of the pieces in their closets because the fabric is nice, the print is pretty or it has a nice detail. What is most important, however, is that the clothing that you own isn’t just pretty to look at, but fits you well and is a viable piece that fits your lifestyle. Case in point, the classic article I wrote last year about my mother’s shoes (click here to read the article.).

If you have your “go to” then move on

The next thing that I suggest is looking for duplication. If you have several pieces in your closet that fit the same category, then try editing down. For example, if you own one or two pair of shoes in your closet that you always find yourself slipping on to run quick errands or wear to run around town, you don’t really need any more. If you have more than you need and your “go to” pieces are covered in a category then you are done. Don’t continue to load up in areas where you already consider yourself covered. Be honest with yourself! Many times we continue to add because we find something in the store that we think we must have because we like it. If you find a piece like this and you can identify that you are already covered in this area, but you simply must buy it then promise yourself that you will get rid of one of the currently existing “go to” pieces in your wardrobe. Another suggestion - if you find yourself loading up on the same types of basics, store some of the new pieces away until the ones you are currently using wear out. (This works better for basics than it does novelty items.)

Look at your life realistically

Take some time to really look at your life and figure out the percentage that you spend living each part. I recently met up with a new client who laid out her life for me clearly and succinctly. She separated her life into categories: the mom part of her life, the social part that included kids or going out with girlfriends or her husband, her part time job and the more social side of her life, which included dressing up. She figured out the percentage of time that she spent doing each. It was wonderful to work with her because zeroing in on the areas of your life and identifying the percentage that you spend doing each part can really help you create a balanced wardrobe.

If you are someone who spends most of your week in a work environment that doesn’t allow you to wear jeans and you only you wear jeans on the weekend, do you really need five pairs? It would be my guess that no more than three would be sufficient, each pair filling a specific and different need. Perhaps one pair for ultra casual that you don’t mind getting soiled, a nicer casual pair and maybe a dressier, going out pair that isn’t as worn.

If you are someone with an overloaded closet, before you edit it down take some time to really look at the areas of your life and the percentage that you spend doing each. Now look at your wardrobe, and honestly ask yourself if the percentage of clothing that you have for each category reflects your actual life.

I don’t even know where to begin

Working with clients whose closets are completely overloaded can be a long, tiring and overwhelming experience. The longest closet edit I ever did was eight hours and that was only one closet. She still had another one which we did at a later date and the second closet took just as much time. Sixteen hours to clean two closets of clothing!

After these types of sessions, I am tired and my client is tired; however, we are both equally satisfied with the end result. Finally my client has space between the pieces on the hangers; she feels lighter and more in control when she opens the space. Clearly, the positives outweigh the negatives of the task itself but getting up the energy and finding the time to actually do it can be tough. If every time you open your closet and you are overwhelmed, the last thing you want to do is actually go in there and really clear it out.

Many of the clients who have an overloaded closet space hire me to simply stay on task and also ensure that if they are going to rid themselves of something, they are making the right decision.

The advice I give to most of my clients before a major closet overhaul is that the time we spend in the closet be time that they can really devote to the project, that they keep their plans for the evening on the lighter side, and that they also be prepared to be not only physically drained, but possibly emotionally drained as well.

If utilizing my services for your closet edit isn’t a possibility, here are some questions you can ask yourself during your next big closet purge.

Take each piece and ask yourself the following:

• Why do I keep this piece in my wardrobe?

• Do I wear it or do I keep it simply because I think it looks pretty and/or because it has sentimental value?

• When was the last time I wore it?

• If you haven’t worn it, ask yourself if you already have a “go to” piece in your closet that does the job that this seldom-worn item does. If you are already covered with a “go to” piece then ask yourself if this piece can be stored until the current “go to” piece wears out, or decide if this seldom-worn item can now replace or update your current “go to” piece.

• Try the piece on and really look at yourself in it. Many women with overloaded wardrobes haven’t cleaned their closets in years, which is how they got into the predicament in the first place; and because it has been a while, many of the pieces are dated. You have enough stuff in your wardrobe, if you really don’t like the way you look in something, let it go.

How to stop this from happening again

So, now you have cleaned out the closet and you feel great; how do you stop this from happening in the future? Cleaning out is one thing, but changing your ways is another. Here are a few suggestions:

• Implement the input output rule which means that for every item you buy in one category (like sneakers, jeans, shoes, t-shirts) you must get rid of an item in your wardrobe that you already own in that same category.

• Avoid duplication. When contemplating the purchase of something new, honestly ask yourself if you are covered in this area. Start by asking yourself where you see yourself wearing the piece you are considering buying, and then ask yourself if you already own enough clothing to cover this area of your life

• Avoid buying things just because they are pretty. You must be able to come up with places you will wear the piece you want to buy, what you will wear this new piece with and if it really, really fits your lifestyle. If you life revolves around being on your feet all day then how many pairs of heels do you really need? Yes, almost every woman is a sucker for a sexy heel, but if heels don’t work in your life you don’t need a ton of them.

Parting is SUCH sweet sorrow

Getting rid of ugly, worn clothes is easy. But getting rid of nice clothing to which you have some sort of an emotional attachment is harder, especially if these pieces still have the tags attached. To feel better, make wise choices about where you donate these items

I usually separate my clothing donations into categories. My worn casual clothing goes to a local church. My more professional clothing that is still good goes to Bottomless Closet which donates clothing to underprivileged women looking to get back on their feet. My third donation pile is the consignment or eBay pile, which are items of value that may bring me a profit. My last pile is family or friends who may benefit from some of my donations, like my sister who just had her second child and is in the process of losing weight. I send her all the beautiful items that are too big for me as she whittles her body back to her desired size.

Knowing that the clothes that I get rid of aren’t going to waste makes me feel better about parting with them.

It surprises many women who have overwhelming closets to hear me say that you should be able to mentally recall just about every piece that you own in our wardrobe. I can do this, as can many of my clients who keep their wardrobe pared down. Start being honest with yourself, and yourself if there might be a deeper meaning to why your closet got overwhelmed in the first place. Can it be that you never know what is right, so you keep buying until you do? Is it that shopping and buying gives you a rush and your wardrobe has become compromised as a result? Is shopping replacing something else that is missing in your life? Is buying clothing filling another void? There are tons of reasons why we shop, buy and create chaos in our own lives. It is just as beneficial to find out the root cause of why we do what we do, as it to just get your butt in there and clean it out.

(c) 2005 Bridgette Raes Style Group

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