I have always been a hoarder at heart, prone to messiness and clutter. Remember on “Arrested Development” when Lucille Bluth is watching that news story about the mother who drove into a lake and she raises her martini glass and says, “Good for her”? That’s how I watch “Hoarders.” Some guy has collected thousands of Victorian hair wreaths? Good for him! Some lady hasn’t thrown out a Chinese takeout container in 50 years? More power to her!
When I moved in with my boyfriend I was forced to deal with my hoarding ways because they were threatening my relationship. I remember one night in particular when we were cleaning up the living room and I refused to throw away a little piece of torn cardboard. My boyfriend was sitting there saying, “Why do you need it?” and I was saying, “You know, for crafts?” and pretty soon he got annoyed and moved on to something else. I was curled up alone in a corner with my precious piece of trash feeling sort of victorious when I realized, dude, this isn’t normal. So I went to counseling and learned how to throw things away.
But throughout many years of personal growth and many trips to the dumpster, my bulging closet remained off limits. I continued to buy new clothes and refused to get rid of anything. As my piles of sweaters began to resemble the peaks of Mordor, I justified it a number of ways, from the ever handy “I write about clothes for a living so I need a lot of them!” excuse to the earnest belief that a bigger wardrobe was always better.
Obviously this way of life was not sustainable. I was overwhelmed with endless laundry, piles of clothing that threatened to suffocate me in the night, and a boring rotation of outfits comprised of the few pieces that were easiest to grab. The turning point came a few weeks ago when I noticed a piece of black fabric balled up in the corner. It was my favorite studded cardigan that had been buried for so long that I’d forgotten it existed, and now it was saggy and torn and missing some of its gorgeous studs.
This was, for a lover of clothes, rock bottom. My beautiful pieces were being buried under a huge volume of garments I didn’t even care about. After that I bought a book about organizing and swore to myself I was going to get my closet under control. I knew that in order to treat my clothes well I needed to have less of them.
First I took out all the things that didn’t fit and put them in a bag for Goodwill. Simple. Next, anything that was stained, ripped, pilled, or hole-y went into the garbage. Easy, done. After that came the tough part: finding the strength to give away all the perfectly nice clothes I never wore. I found it helped me to know my clothes were going to good homes, so I put bags together for specific friends. I’d have my boyfriend hold up certain pieces and ask, “Do you love this?” and if I hesitated at all, into the giveaway pile it went.
I threw away broken hangers and bought pretty bins for my scarves and hats. By the time I was done my closet was half empty, but the experience had shifted my paradigm: for the first time I could see it as half full.
Here’s how halving my wardrobe changed my life: I am always caught up on laundry. It takes me about half as long to get dressed. My outfits are a million times more colorful and creative. Old pieces have become new favorites. I look into my closet and am inspired and excited, not overwhelmed. My beautiful clothing is displayed with the care and pride it deserves.
Being able to survey my entire wardrobe with one glance into my closet makes shopping much easier. I know exactly what I have; therefore I know exactly what I need. When I go to the store I’ve found myself drawn to more expensive, quality pieces. After all, for something to earn a coveted space in my new streamlined wardrobe, it has to really deserve it.
I will probably never be like one of those minimalist Danish people on Oprah, but I have realized that when it comes to my clothing collection, less is definitely more.