Past Adolescent Katie had many trademarks, but the pile of clothes on her bedroom floor was one of the most well known.
To her credit, most of the clothes weren’t dirty. They were thrown there because she was late for class/work/a dentist appointment and tried on 5 different things before finding something that suited her mood. (…A sweatshirt. It was usually a sweatshirt.)
I’ve lived with at least 1 roommate my entire life so by the time I hit college I realized that we all live in piles, and lots of other 14-23 year olds did this with their clothes too. However, Past Adolescent Katie was probably the only one known for collapsing into the pile, and using it like a make-shift bean bag; you know, like people do.
Present Katie, and all era’s of her father are beyond horrified by this. But it’s important that I paint a good ‘before’ picture so you understand this crucial detail–– I am not a natural minimalist. My natural inclination is to buy all the clothes, throw them on the ground until a bean bag sized mound forms, sit in it!, and then declare that I have nothing to wear.
So, no. I wasn’t born with a neat freak gene. I was born with a bean bag gene. And in the spirit of revealing skeletons, let’s open this closet door even further:
Yes. That heap showcases JUST the scarves I owned circa 2011.
Yes. Those 3 laundry baskets could each hide a large toddler and yet they are overflowing. Just 2 people live here, why do you ask?
This last one is my favorite because I thought I was a pro minimalist here. Except this was for a 5 day ski trip and I still brought four times the amount of outfits anyone would ever need. …Sorry Katie of 2015, apparently folding your clothes in neat little packages and laying it all out like that does not give you the street cred badge you were hoping for. Nice try though.
In the next few weeks I’ll fill you in on the juicy details surrounding our decision to become minimalists, but right now I’ll just skip over that and get to ‘how’.
We started this journey in 2015 because we knew we wanted to downsize drastically but we had no idea how to do it. We tried on our own but every article of clothing we took out to donate was instantly put back because, “I’ll wear it! I promise!”
The XXL t-shirt that we caught at that Griffins game 3 years ago.
The shirt with a stain that might come out if we brought it to the dry cleaners.
The clothes that don’t fit because we gained weight or lost weight but we might need them when we lose weight or gain weight again.
The shoes that hurt my feet but I can wear them in small doses.
“I might need it! Just in case! I wore that sweatshirt in Europe!”
We weren’t able to get rid of anything and we needed help.
So we bought “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and followed her advice to a T.
Clothes are the first thing she advises to sort through, and I journaled our process here in ‘step’ format, should you ever be interested in trying it out. Of course, her book is chock full of information, so if you’re truly interested in downsizing, that’s a great place to start. (Not an affiliate link. Not sponsored. Nothing fancy like that, it’s just a plain old link)
Unfortunately, I don’t own the book anymore so my only reference here is my real life experience, bare with me!
HOW TO DE-CLUTTER YOUR WARDROBE
Step 1: Set aside a full afternoon and gather ev-er-y article of clothing you own then put it all in one pile. Don’t forget coats, hats, socks, ties, and the tote full of out of season clothes that are hidden somewhere in the basement. Then triple check the dirty clothes pile, the laundry room, and behind dressers!
Step 2: Resist the urge to sit in it like a bean-bag.
Step 3: Turn off the music. Turn off the TV. Turn off the radio. Step back and stare in silence for a minute to give yourself time to digest it all. There is a lot to take in.
The weight of this breaks me, still. I don’t think anyone can stare this kind of excess in the face and not get a punch in the gut. This part of the process will likely evoke hard to swallow emotions, but it is so necessary. Guilt is not the goal, but it crept in as Clay and I shed a few tears in utter disbelief.
When we first moved into this house we vowed that we would make the modest closet in our master bedroom work for both of us. Neither of us wanted the other person to have to store their clothes in another room, and we succeeded in that. Unfortunately it gave us a false impression that we didn’t own many clothes; maybe compared to some we don’t. But comparison isn’t healthy, so let me just own up to it; Clay and I had a lot of clothes. I think we hid it well because we were experts at organizing it and storing it all away. But this process didn’t provide any hiding places for our little white lies and Container Store smugness.
Staring at all the excess made us feel irresponsible. We felt spoiled and ungrateful and wished we could take back all the times we complained that we had nothing to wear.
If you’re on this journey too, don’t beat yourself up when you get to this step. Appreciate the lesson, allow it to teach you and change you, then move forward.
Step 4: Nurse the tender cheek from the unavoidable slap in the face and scamper over the mess you’ve made to take a look at your empty closet. It’s a blank slate! And you’re only going to put the good stuff back into it, so things are looking up!
Step 5: Pick up the whatever article of clothing is closest. Hold it. Feel the fabric. Ask “do I love it? Does it spark joy? …Is it useful? Do I wear this now?”
Inspect it for stains, rips, tears, or holes. If any of those imperfections exist, my vote is…get rid of it unless you can commit to repair it within the next few weeks.
[Quick Side Note: I didn’t know what sparked joy right away, and I have learned that it takes a bit of practice. So if you’re at a loss, here are some of my own tips––
- Give yourself a little credit! My guess is you probably at least know what 100% does not spark joy, right? Like that ziplock tupperware that melted a little from the dishwasher, old newspapers, or whatever is in your recycling bin.
- Trust your subconscious. When you walk into someone else’s space you can kind of tell what items people love based on placement, and how their items are displayed. So walk around your house and pay attention to whatever is eye level on your bookshelves. Or what shirt is always in the laundry because you wear it so much.
- Don’t overthink it! Here are some every day things that spark joy for me: a kimono, polka dot socks, a pair of earrings, and brass geometric decoration that I found at a thrift store. All of these items make me go “Ohhh!” and give me a tiny jolt of excitement.
- Use the items you’ve identified that spark joy as your new barometer as you start sorting through your clothes. Every article of clothing should give you that same jolt that your favorite pair of earrings or skis does. ]
Step 6: Got joy? Great, keep it and set it aside in your happy pile. Don’t know? Set it aside in your maybe pile.
If it makes you feel the same way you feel when you hold that stack of junk mail, then discard it, but first, please…
Step 7: …Take 30 seconds to thank it for being a part of your life and put it in the discard pile. I can hear the weirdo alarm going off, but hear me out: thanking your clothes in this way is a prayer of appreciation. And if that word weirds you out, swap out the word prayer and replace it with ‘form’.
It’s important that you remain open minded and don’t skip this step. Appreciation is key to stable levels of happiness. Even if you’re holding a butt ugly sweater that you’ve never seen before, thank it. It taught you a very valuable lesson which is, what you don’t like (and this gives you all sorts of wisdom because next time you can spend your hard earned money on what you DO like)
See how this matters?!
Thanking things in a sincere way also eliminates guilt for those clothes you bought but never wore, “thanks for teaching me that I probably only bought this because it was on sale.” …If we’re thanking a lot of clothes for the same thing, like being on sale, it forces us to recognize a trend–– we have a weakness for sales. And again, it gives us wisdom to resist the impulse next time.
Giving something a proper send off also allows you to let go of sentimental and nostalgic things that tend to be harder to let go of.
A few tips if you’re like me and keep talking yourself out of discarding that old T-shirt:
- Don’t get caught up in who you once were or who you want to be. Be honest and vulnerable with yourself; focus on who you are right now!
- Fat pants/Skinny pants:
If you were 20 pounds lighter 2 years ago, don’t keep those ‘when I’m thinner’ clothes. They will only make you feel bad and you are subconsciously body shaming yourself by keeping them! Don’t do that! :) You are stunning as is. …If/when you lose the weight, those clothes might not be in style anyways. And when that day comes– you lost 20 pounds for goodness sakes buy yourself some new celebration clothes! whoop!
- Nostalgia/Sentimental value:
Clay and I had a hard time with this at first. He couldn’t part with a pair of shoes because they’d traveled around the world with him, or “I got this when I ran that race” & mine was “this is the first scarf Grandma helped me knit” or “college was so much fun, and I used to wear this all the time.”
But my grandma is so much bigger than that scratchy scarf we knit together 8 years ago. And Clay doesn’t need a ratty old sweatshirt to commemorate his study abroad trip in Europe (I know this because he still talks about it at least once a week).In order to work through the nostalgia hurdle, Clay and I ended up talking through each item with each other, which was a good start. “Keep that pair of shoes if you like, Clay. I know they’ve been around the world with you, but frankly they smell.”
- Fat pants/Skinny pants:
For the most part, the practical sides of our brains won and we ended up realizing that at the end of the day, it’s just a scratchy scarf. So thanks shoes, we appreciate all you did for Clay in Europe, but the time has come. …smell ya later!
- “This jacket is expensive and it still has tags on it.”
My argument is that if it truly sparked joy you would have worn it by now. Put it in your maybe pile to try on later, but don’t hoard it just because you paid a lot of money for it. Someone else would love to have that jacket. Don’t steal from them by keeping it in the back of your closet. Find a use for it (display it! wear it!) or thank it, give it away or consign it.
- “These shoes are comfortable as long as I don’t stand up or walk in them.” I’ve been there and have owned several shoes like that. But I give us all permission to let them go and find a new pair. Thank them for teaching you that vanity doesn’t look good on anyone, ditch ’em.
Step 8: Try on all the clothes in your maybe pile. Don’t ask how they make you look! Instead ask yourself how they make you feel and pay attention to your first impressions when you put those pants on.
Step 9: Put your clothes away and remain critical as you hang up those shirts. If anything feels out of place, re-evaluate it! PRO TIP: Your life will change immensely if you know the Marie Kondo way of folding your clothes. Here’s a basic how-to video. I highly recommend taking time to fold your clothes this way. But I’ll get into that later…
Step 10: Pat yourself on the back. That was a lot of work. Now go get some fresh air and consign and/or donate your discard pile as soon as possible.
I’ll ‘clothes’ with this,
Clay and I did the math, we’ve been minimalists for 4 years now and we haven’t looked back. My goal here isn’t to convert you all the minimalists (though of course I would love that). I simply want to invite you into our world a little bit more and show you what this looks like for us in IRL. If any of this resonates with you, or inspires you that’s great! Please share this with someone you think might benefit too!
Next week we’ll keep going and I’ll introduce you to Present Katie, and you can see how transformative the past few years have been.