My Closet, My Gastroenterologist (apologies to Mark Leyner)

Small closet spaces (and few dresser drawers) require style discipline in order to maintain some openness and order.  Closets that are overly crowded can be one of those small emotional drains—you know, the ones that, the seemingly minute, lead to a breakdown when summed over time.  Also, if you can’t see it, you won’t wear it, perhaps even not remembering that you even own it (and, three weeks later, buy “it” again).  Or if you do remember and can’t find it, you curse for a while before grabbing something without much thought.  To prevent this, I do the occasional closet cleanout, removing what no longer fits or what I am no longer interested in wearing (too dated, too faded, too “not me”.)

I’ve always been pretty good about periodic clothing purges, even when I had more space.  So I didn’t have those crammed-full closets.  But in the past year, I’ve moved things up a level.  And the bottom line is that now I have a closet full of clothes that make me feel wonderful when I wear them.  I know that many decluttering books and experts will tell you to adopt a three-pile system:  Keep, Donate/Sell, Toss.  Or they instruct you to keep only things you’ve actually worn in the past year.  Or they tell you to hold “maybe” items for six months and if you haven’t worn it, then get rid of it.  I’m sure these work for many people, but my “system” is a bit more minimalist.  Two sentences, two words each.

BE RUTHLESS.

DECIDE QUICKLY.

Be ruthless:  ditch the “maybes” and have only two choices, keep or toss.*  Don’t overthink.

Decide quickly:  go with your gut, your intuition.  If it tells you that you won’t wear something again, toss it.  Don’t waste time conjuring up scenarios in which you would wear it again (“I’ll lose ten pounds and it will fit again”; “Maybe if I got a blue cardigan I’d wear it”; “But what if I get invited to a pool party and need a long dress?”**)  Stop that thinking.

These acts of ruthless decision-making help you hone your personal style, whether you are a fashionista or a utilitarianist.

*Toss can mean sell, donate, or throw away

**Be honest—how many pool parties are you typically invited to

William Morris’ Philosophy and the (Clothes) Closet—Part 1

It’s no secret that many people live with closets overflowing with The Okays and The Some Days, those clothes that are “okay” or that we will wear again “some day”.  The denizens of OkayLand include the shirt that is just not quite the right shade (“but the price was so good”) or the sweater that is serviceable and nothing more (“but I spent money on it and hate to get rid of it”).  Over in Some Day City we find the dress in which we looked drop dead fabulous—in 1983.  We spot the pants that made us feel great fifteen pounds ago.  In other words, these are the clothes that are in good condition but no longer inspire us or invite us to feel good.  We wear these Okays and feel frumpish or nondescript, yet wear them we do.  And while we no longer wear the Some Days, we pray for one of two outcomes—a weight loss (“now these fit again!”) or a fashion boomerang (“now these are in style again!”).  We are crowding valuable closet real estate with…what, exactly?

 

Now, suppose that every time you open your closet, you see clothes that you love.  Not “like”, not even “like a lot”, but LOVE.  A selection of sartorial choices that fills you with confidence, with radiance, with joy.  THIS is my closet philosophy (and more on this in one of my next posts).

Dress on Door

Okay, maybe I have an advantage—I have very little closet and dresser space.  Yes, I did say that was an advantage!  I’ve thought about this for some time (quite a long time, actually), namely that too-large closets are obstacles to the development of a personal style.  After all, when you have room for everything, then you don’t do the work of deciding.  Deciding is not easy.  But deciding allows you the practice you need for discernment, that refinement of your personal aesthetic.  And without developing that discernment muscle (“does this color work with me?”; “do these shoes express me or a fashion magazine”), one never moves up to the major leagues of A Personal Style, instead remaining in the Double-A or possibly Triple-A minors of mere fashion.

 

So, I ask you, what if, when you opened your closet, you saw only things you know to be beautiful?  Beautiful on you and beautiful for you.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful?