Do you find yourself going into your completely packed closet, decide you have nothing to wear and then grab the same thing you wore last week or maybe a few days ago. Maybe you pick something to wear and it just doesn’t feel right and so you change your outfit two or three more times?
Is this you?
That was me a couple of weeks ago before I completely decluttered my wardrobe. It’s not to say that I haven’t gone through it from time to time to get rid of things I know don’t fit or have too many holes. But this time was different.
Why am I, a health coach, talking about this? One of my pillars of holistic detox is the environment. Your environment is like a stage for your life and can support you or harm you. Clutter is one of those aspects of your environment that can have a negative impact on your health. Clutter increases anxiety, depression, and makes it more difficult for you to sustain healthy habits. It also costs you time and valuable decision making energy.
But where to begin with decluttering? How about your wardrobe? This is such an emotionally charged space because your identity is tied to what you wear. You might experience feelings of guilt for spending money on something you don’t wear, desire of wanting to lose the pounds to fit into those pants again or not wanting to let go of an identity that doesn’t suit you anymore.
But how to tackle this decluttering project?
The framework I used for this was Courtney Carver’s Project 333 Challenge which is now a book. The challenge is to wear only 33 pieces for 3 months basically creating a capsule wardrobe. I chose this because sometimes doing something extreme is less painful than doing a little at a time. Here are the basic rules of the project.
- The 33 items include accessories, shoes (one pair counts as one), clothing and jewelry.
- It does not include exercise clothes (that you actually exercise in), loungewear like pj’s that you only wear at home, undergarments, socks and clothes you save for painting or other messy house work.
- This challenge isn’t about getting rid of everything else, you can keep anything you want to if you’d like including out of season clothes and then store those away.
I read the book in about three days (after my daughter went to bed), got my husband on board and then went for it. Here’s what happened.
This is like ripping a bandaid off really fast. I took absolutely everything out of the closet. Everything! My closet has drawers as well and holds my jewelry so this was very thorough. If you have a chest of drawers then include those in this purge session. I piled it all on our bed and the floor around our bed. This is important to note because we couldn’t go to sleep that night unless we finished our project. As you might imagine, the back of the closet hasn’t seen a vacuum cleaner or duster for years so I wiped and vacuumed everything! It felt so good to clear out the cobwebs!
I won’t lie to you, seeing the huge pile of stuff on my bed and the surrounding floor was overwhelming. For a moment I was a bit paralyzed in fact and doubting my own ability to finish this. I had to walk away for an hour or so before tackling this next part.
That’s when I started to sort. Courtney makes some recommendations for the sorting in her book but here’s what I ended up doing.
- I went through each piece of clothing and pair of shoes, I quickly made a decision if it was trash (or recyclable – Courtney provides recycling resources in her book), donation or to sell. As a bag was filled up I moved it to the garage to get it out of the way.
- I started determining what clothes are for workouts, house work and sleep and I put those in the closet.
- I sorted through undergarments and socks and put those in the closet as well.
- I set aside things that I wanted to keep for winter and summer since those were out of season for the Pacific Northwest. These went into storage containers.
- With what was left, I did my best to create my 33 piece capsule wardrobe – trying to remember as well what I had in the laundry. Everything I couldn’t quite decide on went into a storage container.
I admit, the last part was probably the most difficult. Maybe it’s because I already used so much of my daily allotment of decision making ability on what to keep, sell and donate! Thankfully, there are many people on instagram who have done the #project333 challenge so it’s easy to do a search for inspiration. But be careful not to go down the rabbit hold of “what if I just start over with new clothes?”. I bet you have everything you need already.
Everything I wanted to keep for the next three months went back into the closet, organized by use and color.
Here’s where I deviated from the rules a bit. I sorted through my jewelry, got rid of the things I didn’t enjoy wearing and then kept the rest. I didn’t want to put those in a box in the garage so I kept them in the jewelry box in my closet with one designated spot for the couple pieces I would wear for the next 3 months.
As you might imagine, my once “small” closet felt huge! It’s so light and airy now and easy to walk into and get exactly what I need. Everything in there is something I know I can fit into, love to wear and feel comfortable in.
What I’ve Discovered
There are some surprising things I’ve noticed over the past couple weeks since I began the challenge.
- I dress better now! Nicer jeans and shirts that I had stuffed underneath unused clothes started to get some use.
- I don’t dread putting away the laundry now because it’s so easy to find a home for them.
- I’m getting more clarity around, and able to make decisions about, what clothes I actually love to wear. I’ve already made a couple swaps and have added to the donation pile. I feel a bit more settled into what I selected as my 3 month wardrobe.
- Releasing the stuff that I didn’t enjoy anymore has been like a small weight being lifted. Letting go of some of my old corporate work wardrobe is making space for me to step fully into my new career. This part may be the biggest part. I still have a twinge of sadness when I think about how good I felt in my corporate wonder woman outfits but really, spiky high heels and structured jackets aren’t me anymore.
I’m looking forward to the coming seasons and my wardrobe challenge. Decluttering my wardrobe and having intention about what I want to wear is giving me some clarity on my personal style. I feel more confident making decisions about my stuff in general and I’m starting to see other areas of my home that I can still declutter.
Another benefit to this wardrobe decluttering project is that I’m not afraid to tackle another large space because I know I can do it. I can make hard decisions quickly and that feels empowering.