Recently we’ve all been hit by the tidiest freight train in history… the colossal success of the new Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. In the show, Marie, with the aid of her trusty interpretor Marie Iieda, are welcomed into the homes of people who would like to learn how to keep a more organized (and for that perhaps a happier) home. During the series we watch in awe as homeowners and even their children sort through mountains of clothing, books, decorations, kitchenware and other household possessions. We relate to their struggles in letting go of clothing they love but never wear, books they never got around to reading, and even sentimental items of a loved one who has passed. We see ourselves in these people, and their frustrations and pains mirror those of our own. By the end of the show we see a complete makeover, not only of the home, but of the people who inhabit it. As we see the stress melt off their faces, we wish the same for ourselves.
I dare anyone to watch even one episode of Tidying Up… and not jump out of your seat during the end credits and start Kon Mari folding the clothes in your dresser! It’s nearly impossible. The “Marie Kondo effect” has become such a craze that thrift stores across the country have seen a massive influx of donations since the start of the show.
Let me first say what a wonderful thing it is that the culture is shifting and people are now wanting to learn how to live with less. It’s truly wonderful that the news is reporting increases of thrift store donations instead of increases of piles going to the landfill. Whether due to the show or not, it’s a great thing to want to de-clutter your home (and your life) and also a wonderful thing to donate to those less fortunate.
However, let's dig into this a bit. Let’s say you’ve spent all weekend going through your clothes, and you end up with several bags to donate. You drop them off at the Goodwill and come home feeling like you’ve done some good (because you have!). Then you take a look at your closet and it looks pretty empty now. You think to yourself, “Did I give away too much? I kinda liked that black top, though I haven’t worn it in years. I bet if I went on Whole30 I could have fit into those pants again”. You start to doubt yourself and feel some “donator’s remorse”. You’re not sure what to do with your newly organized closet and all its room, and you’re unsure how you’ll survive with fewer outfit options. Here are some tips to get you through the withdrawals.
Don’t feel like you need to fill the empty space
Once you see your closet with fewer things in it, you might find that all you can focus on is the empty space. Your closet hasn’t been this empty in who knows how long, and it actually makes you just the tiniest bit uncomfortable to see it with so much less stuff in it. You start to think about the Nordstrom Anniversary sale coming up, that coat at Macy’s you’ve been eyeing (which you could now wear because it’s freaking freezing out ), and those cute tops you saw on sale at Target. You have room for them now, and hey, you’d even be able to find them easily in your sparkly new closet! Here’s where you need to stop yourself.
Give yourself time to adjust to the empty space. Try to go at least a month without buying any new clothes. You may actually find it more relaxing and much less stressful to have fewer things in your closet to distract your eye. As humans, we sometimes find ourselves uncomfortable with empty space, and tend to have a compulsion to fill it. Don’t let yourself do this. Set a calendar reminder on your phone or mark in your daily planner that you are not allowed to purchase any clothing of any kind until a specified date. Then stick to it!
Organize your clothing for your lifestyle
Now that you’ve gotten all the clutter out of the way, take a look at the items that ‘made the cut’. Really look at them and think about when and where you’ll wear them. Organize your closet in a way that’s meaningful to you, and that makes sense for your lifestyle. If you have a work uniform, put all of the components together so they’re easy to grab. If you exercise a lot, consider creating a workout drawer in your dresser. Are you a social butterfly? Why not designate an area of your closet “going out” clothes? Arrange your closet in whatever way you feel will make it easier for you to get ready in the morning.
Put away what you don’t need right now
Just because you’ve created more space in your closet, doesn’t mean you still have to look at every piece of clothing you own every single day when trying to pick out something to wear. Take items that are out of season (i.e. tank tops, shorts, etc. in the winter) off the rack and store them in a bin until it’s time to wear them. Same thing with special occasion items. Sure you may want to keep that LBD you wore to your company Christmas party last year, but does it really need to be in the way while you’re searching for something to wear to the dentist? Anything you won’t be needing for at least the next two months can be put away for now. Worried about your nice suit getting wrinkled while it’s being stored? Pull it out a day or two before you need it and hang it up. If the wrinkles don’t come out by simply hanging the piece, a few minutes with an iron or steamer will do the trick. Depending on the fabric, you can even hang it up in the bathroom while you’re taking a shower and let the steam take the wrinkles away for you! Think of your closet as the VIP section of a club, and only certain members are allowed in. Be picky about what you allow into your closet, and don’t be afraid to change things up every now and again.
Remember how many hours it took you to go through all your clothing, and how exhausted you were afterward? Don’t make yourself go through that again! If you make a small effort each week to keep your wardrobe tidy, you’ll never have to deal with a clothing avalanche again. Set aside time to fold your clothes (the Kon Mari way, of course) and put them away neatly in your drawer. Maybe do it while watching a show, listening to a podcast or even just relaxing to some good music. Make a game out of it with your kids and give a prize, not to the person who finishes first, but to the one whose closet looks the neatest. Invest in some decent hangers and hang your pieces up neatly. Be committed to keeping your closet organized.
Now that you can look in your closet for clothes without feeling overwhelmed, get creative when picking out outfits. Try new combinations you’ve never thought of before. If you feel good in it, rock it! If you don’t, ask yourself what’s making you uncomfortable. If it’s just that it’s new for you, try it out and see how you feel by the end of the day. If there’s some other issue (fit, color coordination, etc.) that’s bothering you, make some tweaks to the look until you’re happy with it. When you find a combo that you really like, take a picture of it. Either snap a pic of you wearing it, or if you’d rather, just take a picture of the pieces laid out on your bed. That way if you ever need to get ready in a hurry and can’t think of what to wear, you can quickly pull these up as a go-to.
Be smart about your purchases
The last tip is going to be the hardest for many of you, but it’s the most important. When you find yourself tempted to buy a new piece, take a moment to consider these things:
1. Am I buying it just because it’s a good price? If the answer is yes, put it back. You know what’s better than saving 30% on a pair of shoes? Saving 100% by not buying them! Unless you really think you’ll wear it a lot, and it goes with a lot of the things you already have, please please please don’t buy clothes just because their cheap. Most of the time they end up shoved to the back of the closet or buried in your dresser, and you won’t get your money’s worth out of them. (You’re thinking about a specific item you got burned from right now, aren’t you?)
2. How many times will I wear this? Livia Firth, co-founder of Ecoage (and my personal hero) is the creator of the 30 Wears Challenge. She asks that before you purchase something, take a good look at it and ask yourself if you’ll wear it at least 30 times. If the answer is yes, then by all means, buy it. If the answer is no, put it back. Again, be choosy about who’s invited to your new VIP closet.
3. Wait it out. If you see something you really like and feel you’ve gotta have, put it back for now and tell yourself that if you’re still thinking about it in a few days (3 or more), then you give yourself permission to come back and get it. We’re constantly bombarded by ads and sales that give us serious FOMO, so you’ve gotta cut through all that to determine if a piece is actually something you really want in your wardrobe. Give yourself that time to step out of the chaos of the mall or the boutique or wherever you are, look back in your closet to see what you’d pair the piece with, and then if you’re still daydreaming about it, just go back and buy the damn thing!
The last thing I’ll say is cleaning up is no easy feat, so you should be proud of yourself. It’s difficult to stay organized, and it takes work, but you’re strong and you can do it. Don’t let yourself slip back into your old ways. You’ll be kicking yourself when Season 2 of Tidying Up.. is released and you have another mess on your hands. As Joan Crawford once said “Care for your clothes like the good friends they are”. You got this!