Thursday, February 23, 2017

Closet Cleaning 354

Do you remember your college days when you finally made it through all of the "weed 'em out classes" you had to take your freshman and sophomore years? You got accepted into your program and then started taking the serious classes. And those were the classes you really loved. By that point, the professors were done trying to weed you out and were really trying to teach you how to be a great teacher, engineer, or accountant, right? For me anyway, that is when college really became enjoyable and it's because whatever you choose for your major is usually a passion of yours...and you love learning and studying about it.

That's where Closet Cleaning 354 comes in. It's an upper-level class and intended for people with a major passion and interest in getting the MOST out of the items in their closet. It's not for everyone. It takes a lot of time and makes you really, truly delve into your stuff and deal with it. So make sure you are up for the challenge!

The idea for this advanced college course came from a conversation I had with my daughter Ashley. As a college senior, Ashley was starting a new internship in her field of Public Health and suddenly needed to be more conscientious of her wardrobe and what she wore each day. She felt like she had a lot of clothes in her closet but putting them together in cute, work appropriate outfits was a little daunting. She had a couple of favorites that she knew looked good but what she needed to be really successful in the "cute and appropriate outfits department" was a way to determine what her very best pieces were and the best way to combine the pieces to make the best outfits. Capiche?

A form of this idea had actually been on my mind already because I was wanting some help in my own closet with identifying the best of the best. It's definitely the definition of "First World Problem" but with the clothes in my closet I was noticing that there were a few specific outfits that I wore that I was very confident with--I knew they looked good. The rest, not so much. Ideally, I thought, I would have someone tell me every morning "That looks great!" or "That's really not that attractive of an outfit. Other things you have look so much better."  But that's not something my hubby or kids at home are that comfortable with or knowledgeable about so I'm kind of up a creek there.

On a recent trip to visit Ashley, she and I talked about the dilemma and wanted to try out an idea:
What if you took a few hours with a friend (or a mom :) and went through your closet and tried on different things?  What if that friend/mom was really honest with you and helped you by telling you things like "that doesn't compliment your body type as well as this does" or "you have other things that are much cuter than that to wear with those pants." Or "you should wear your black boots, not your black flats, with that."?

What if they went through your closet with you and gave you ideas you hadn't thought of before about what goes with what and what compliments your body and its specific features? And what if you tried on the outfits you put together to verify that it works and then took a picture so you could remember what to wear on a day that you couldn't think of anything?

In the end, with this method, you have a cleaned out closet AND pictures of your best outfits!

Here are just a few of Ashley so you can see what I mean.
(by the way, I want you all to know that I'm really not that bad of a photographer...Ashley wasn't feeling super beautiful on this particular day and didn't want her hair and face showing in the picture. I think she ALWAYS looks drop dead gorgeous but I'm her mom and biased apparently so....)

I loved the pictures idea for a few different reasons. One reason is because taking a picture gives you another perspective besides the mirror to help you see which clothes look really good and which ones don't.  It's one thing for your friend/mom to see your outfit and think it's cute but YOU need to think it looks cute too, right? (more on that one later :) Taking a picture helps you to see it, over and over again if you need to.  I even thought it might be helpful to print out the pictures you take and put them in a small photo album (look at the dollar store) for your closet...just for those days you need an idea for a cute outfit and nothing is coming to mind. (Don't tell me I'm the only one who has those days?)

Speaking of my journey, I practiced this exercise too in my own closet. After accomplishing so much with Ashley it was exciting for me to think about really cleaning out and then organizing my closet into totally cute and workable outfits.

Because my daughters were 700 miles away and couldn't really help me, I had to find someone else close by who
1) had a personal style I liked and was similar to mine and
2) I knew would be honest with me.

It was a big favor to ask but I asked my good friend Julie to come over.
Truth be told, Julie is a dream. Not only does she have a great sense of style and always looks like a million bucks but she has great ideas about what goes together and how to make an outfit look great. Also (this is extremely important) I knew she would be honest with me and really tell me "yay" or "nay" about things.

And our get-togethers were awesome! In fact, it all worked even better than I thought it would.

There are so many things I gained from doing this Closet Cleaning 354 project. It took quite a bit of time, and a few sessions with Julie, and then even more time on my own, but I ended up going from 141 clothing items (88 hanging blouses/jackets, 21 pairs of pants/jeans, 8 sweaters, 20 skirts, and 4 dresses) down to 83 (46 hanging blouses/jackets, 14 pairs of pants/jeans, 4 sweaters, 16 skirts and 3 dresses! (For the record, I don't count undershirts, workout clothes, pajamas, or my one set of work clothes [as in get 'em dirty painting/gardening clothes] in the count). That's 58 items GONE or a 41% reduction (almost HALF!) And, the brilliant thing is that despite getting rid of so much, I actually feel like I have MORE clothes to wear! How does that work?! The truth is I don't know how that works but it's real.  When I get dressed now, I am excited about all of my clothes and love them all. In fact, since doing this project, when I think about going shopping for a new blouse or pair of pants my immediate reaction is "I already have so many cute things. I really don't need to buy anything else."

AND, on top of all that, I now have this awesome photo album that holds pictures of 50 of my most favorite outfits

and just stays tucked away in my closet for when I need an IDEA BOOST!
You have no idea how excited I am about having at my fingertips 50 cute outfit ideas that I feel comfortable and confident in. I love it!

Besides having a cleaned out closet and lots of cute outfit ideas, there are 5 other specific things that working through the Closet Cleaning 354 curriculum taught or gave to me that I want to share with you.

In this project, I learned:

1. To try wearing something in a new way
See this shirt? I bought it a while ago and really love so many things about it. The fabric is divine. The colors are right up my alley. It contains several colors that go with different things I own. But there was something just a little off about it. I didn't ever feel like it looked as good on me as it did on the hanger and I couldn't figure out why. When I showed it to "Genius Julie," she looked at it, thought for a second and then said "why don't you try taking off the belt it came with?" You see, I am a long waist-ed individual and belts, especially pre-defined belts on shirts or dresses, often are up too high on my body and don't look good on me. I suppose I could make the belt on this shirt work if I wanted to but look how much better it looks without it. I would have never even thought to try it this way if it hadn't been for Julie.

2. You actually can get permission to KEEP things too
You might think that a closet cleaning buddy is going to convince you to get rid of more than what you want to get rid of. But do you know what my experience has been? Julie actually convinced me, or gave me permission even, to keep a few things that I might otherwise have said good-bye to.

Like these:
This is a brighter pink blouse that I typically wear just a couple of times a year to Breast Cancer Awareness events. My minimalist dejunking mind said "You don't wear that enough; therefore it's not worth keeping." Julie said "Not true! That's a cute blouse that is a perfect color for Breast Cancer Awareness and you should keep it just for that reason!" Yay! Thanks Julie!

Here is a kelly green jacket that actually fits really well but doesn't get worn that often. "It's perfect, though," she said "for St. Patrick's Day or for Jake Smith Day (the son of some good friends who passed away and whose favorite color was green) or for Christmas, when everyone else is wearing red!" Super reasons Julie. I'll keep it.

A star covered blouse that I really love but every time I try to wear it, it feels a little too "4th of July" for me.  It does look a lot like a certain part of the flag, right? But Julie was clear. "That is a cute cute that if you only wear it on Memorial Day, 4th of July and September 11th it's worth it." So, it stays.

3. Even if someone else thinks it looks good, if YOU don't like it don't keep it
Julie had me try on a few different things that she thought really looked great. Most of them I loved. But there were a few that I questioned when she put them together, or when I put it on and or when she snapped the picture and I saw it through the camera view finder. And when I blew them up big on my computer screen, it was a resounding NO. And Julie agreed with me....even if she thought it was cute; if I don't feel good with it on then it's a no. In a way, this is similar to Closet Cleaning 224 where you are saying, in a very personal way "Does this bring me JOY?" And this is one case where it's perfectly acceptable to act selfishly.
I am very conscientious of my large boobs and I saw this picture and felt like this blouse just screams BIG BOOBS AHEAD!  I really like it on the hanger but not on my body.

I actually like both the pants and the blouse in this outfit but just not together. So this wasn't an example of getting rid of an item but rather just making sure I don't pair them together. Remember my goal was to find the BEST of the best and for me this just didn't cut it.

I was really glad, actually to see this outfit put together but when I see it on the computer screen or in printed picture form I realized something really important. This blouse and this jacket are just not my favorite. I feel like the blouse accentuates my NON-chizzled abs and the neckline of the jacket (that I stole from my sister so it's probably karma) is not my favorite. So even though Julie thought it was cute, it was pretty easy for me to let both of those things go.

4) It's OK to copy!
One of the things I discovered in this upper-level college course was a big help in putting together outfits. I wanted to do it right but felt a little overwhelmed and needed ideas. That's where the beautiful and wonderful Pinterest came in( did we ever survive without it?) I started typing into the search area things like "mint green skinny jeans outfit" and then looked to see what popped up, focusing on my favorites that contained something I already owned and then tried them out. Bingo! It's like magic!

5) Dress to compliment YOUR body type
I can hardly post this picture because it's so embarrassing but it's too good of an example not to share. This is a picture of me on the exact same day, minutes apart even. And yet on the left I look like I weigh about 10 pounds more than in the picture on the right. This is yet another bonus of trying on things, taking a picture and then being able to evaluate it. It was beyond easy for me to get rid of the black checkered skirt and shirt. Wowsa....I almost couldn't run fast enough to the Goodwill bin. It might look good on someone several pounds skinnier than me but it won't be in my closet anymore.

SO, there you have it. Closet Cleaning 354 instruction is complete. Now it is up to you to make it work. It is not going to be easy but if you are passionate about your clothes and closet, I promise it is worth it. Here are the basic steps:

1) Find a friend who's style is similar to yours and who you trust to be completely honest with you.

2) Invite/beg/plead with them to come over and help you go through your closet and clean things out.

3) Schedule a time for your get togethers and eliminate any distractions that could arise.

4) Before your friend arrives, put together outfits you already like or would wear OR look on Pinterest for outfit ideas you like. Lay things out on the bed and/or hang them from door knobs and dresser drawer handles around your room. Now is not the time to be all neat and tidy! This is work!

5) Let your friend begin working their magic and helping you put things together. Start trying things on, (sometimes in new and different ways), and eliminate things that don't work at all.

6) Have a camera nearby and take lots of pictures--of the GOOD and the NOT SO GOOD outfits.

7) Go to your computer and download the pictures. Look and them and eliminate more things that you can see don't look good or at least don't look as good as other things you own.

If you want the optional outfits photo book,
8) Print out the pictures of outfits you like and arrange in an inexpensive photo album.

9) Enjoy a cleaned out closet, a book full of cute outfit ideas AND knowing you look good every day!

10) Take your awesome friend who spent so much time with you OUT TO LUNCH!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Closet Cleaning 224

If you are already a little skilled in closet cleaning and or would just like more of a challenge, welcome to the second level class. Another benefit is this class assignment will actually take a lot less time to get the job done (because 101 takes several months up to a year!) but will take more effort. Are you up for it?

One of my most favorite books on the subject of dejunking is "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. Have you read it?  (If not you can see it here).

I really enjoyed reading this book, even though I have a couple of small objections to it. As I read it I came to realize that Ms. Kondo has a very limited life perspective. She is a young single woman who has not been married or raised any children so she has not had to "tidy up" or deal with any other person's stuff other than her own. In my mind, we could all be as neat and tidy as she describes her life to be if the only person we had to deal with and worry about was ourselves. It just seems like a very limited perspective to me. Another objection I have with her book is the simplified approach she took to asking "Does it bring me joy" when deciding whether you keep something or not. Part of my objection with this simple question is because there are many, many things in my house that don't bring ME joy but they might bring someone else in my family joy. Or they might do the job that needs to be done and need to be kept but they don't bring me joy of any kind. I just think the question 'Does it bring me joy?" is too simplified for a big, full, noisy house like mine.

But I can appreciate the concept. Especially when it comes to cleaning out a clothes closet.

That's why I'm recommending it, in this way, for our Closet Cleaning 224 class.

Putting it simply, you will go into your closet on a day when you have a couple of hours (schedule it in and write it on your calendar just like I taught you here) and start at your left and work clockwise or to the right. Pick up one hanger with one item on it and ask yourself "Does this bring me joy?"

This question is so simple and yet, so profound.

And is so easy to answer....if you don't think about it too hard.

When you ask the question "Does this bring me joy?" if there is an immediate YES, it stays.  But if you answer no or if you hesitate and try to start justifying a purchase or the keeping of an item, then it goes. And if you're honest with yourself, you will FEEL it right away.

There are lots of different reasons an article of clothing can bring an answer of "no" or a hesitation. Let me show you a few examples from my closet.

When I came across these two shirts in my closet, JOY was not the first emotion I felt. At first it was... when I bought them. I bought the white shirt at Goodwill for $3.99 and when I tried it on in the dressing room I loved the way it fit. It was also a unique style which I liked but was modest and comfortable which are a must. A win-win, yes? And only $3.99. Triple Score! And I actually came home and wore it several times. About 3 months later I was shopping at the same Goodwill and could NOT believe my luck when I found the exact same shirt in reverse (the black with white). Oddly enough they have completely different labels but...come on. They're the same. And I was ecstatic.

Then this happened.
I wore one of the shirts to my Aunt Marilyn's funeral and pictures were taken (this is me with my 3 siblings--love them like crazy!). And later, when I saw those pictures I realized how unflattering that top was!

Look, I know we all have to come to grips with our bodies and thinking we are smaller and skinnier than we really are. But the truth of the matter is different clothes are more flattering on us than others. There is a certain science to dressing with your body type in mind and it makes a big difference. In Closet Cleaning 354 I will show you some great examples of this.

Anyway, so the above mentioned scenario might have happened to you too at some point. You think you look great and then you see pictures that tell you something different. And that is what happened here. I have given birth to six kids, have turned the ripe old age of 47 recently and I still want to eat like I'm 27... and my stomach area is not exactly my best feature. This picture helped me realize that my stomach is not my best feature and that I need to wear shirts that don't remind me and everyone else of this fact.

So, when I went through my closet and asked "Does this bring me joy?" this picture and the feelings associated with my body came to mind and NO was the resounding answer. Thus, adios amigos!

How about this black flowered shirt?
This shirt was bought at a yard sale in Boise while visiting my sister. It was a screaming deal and really cute, or so I thought. Being it came from a yard sale, I couldn't really try it on but it was only $.50 so I'll take my chances, right?  Not only was it cute but I could think of a red pencil skirt I had that would go perfectly with it. A few Sundays later I slipped on the red skirt and put the blouse on. It was then that I realized that the style of the blouse was that it was longer in front so as to have the bottom lapels be tied together in a knot. "Hmmm...that's a little different but OK" I thought.  I tied it up, thought it looked cute with the red skirt and headed off to church. AFTER church (bad timing really) my husband decides to tell me that that blouse with the knot right over my stomach area wasn't very flattering at all. [Gah! You waited until after church to tell me this honey? Seriously? I can't blame the guy--it's an awkward conversation to have and he was probably trying to get up his courage for the past few hours]. Any-hoo....the blouse looks cute on the hanger and in my closet but I can't ever wear it again. Even if I lose a few pounds, which I'm always hoping and planning on, I don't think it's going to suddenly be flattering on my aforementioned badly shaped stomach area. So it's gone too. Sometimes we find out these things from pictures and sometimes from other people. Either way believe them and only keep things in your closet that are truly flattering.

Here's another example.
When I went through my closet and pulled this shirt out to ask "Does this bring me joy?" my immediate reaction was no, not really. Then the discussion started inside my head. I like to at least ask the question "Why?" and do you know what the answer to this one was? It has a very wide neckline so every time I wear this shirt, my bra straps show on one side or the other. I'm always reaching up and adjusting the shirt and trying to hide the straps. Do you know what I mean? Ugh. it's aggravating, especially because it's a great shirt in a lot of other ways. But come on...that is annoying and I knew it the minute I asked the question...this one had to go.

 Need another? Let me tell you a story....

Once upon a time, a couple of years ago, I had a mustard yellow sweater from Target that I loved and wore all of the time.  That sweater wore out after a couple of seasons of so much use so last fall I started looking for another one. Bingo. Target had the same color. Problem was....I need at least a medium and sometimes a large and all they had at either of my two local stores were smalls and extra larges. I waited for them to get more and then eventually got "brave" and just tried on the small. Sure enough it was a bit too small but on that day in my local Target store I said the typical "I am going to be working on losing a few pounds anyway so this will work soon enough." And "Look at that. It fits pretty darn good! I'm close to a small?!" And thus lied to myself enough to buy the cardigan. Since then, I've tried to wear it a few times but especially after washing and without losing any of those pounds, I ended up feeling grumpy every time I tried to wear the sweater. It was a little tight on my arms and shoulders and didn't fit too well around my chest so it was constantly needing to be tugged at to make it come around and fit all the way. When I saw this cardigan, during my search for JOY, it was a pretty immediate NO. Bad decision to buy a small but it would be a worse one to keep it.

 Another item I had at one time and was trying to replace was a blouse in this beautiful sea foam green color. I had one that I loved and I seriously don't know what happened to it. I have a sister and a couple of daughters that I share clothes with so I thought for sure it was in one of their closets. However, all of them have assured me they don't have the blouse! I loved the blouse and even have a necklace that goes perfectly with it but it, the actual blouse, is GONE.  So when I saw this blouse that was the same color I got excited and bought it. The problem is that while it is the same exact color of my beloved lost blouse, it is not the same style. It has the funny opening at the neck and really doesn't work with the matching necklace I have or the couple of jackets I used to wear the old one with. In short, it was a nice try but doesn't cut it. Do you know what I mean? It doesn't work, thus it doesn't bring me joy. Good-bye!

Last but not least, that I will mention here anyway, is an example of something that you really do like and it fits fine originally but then shrinks in the wash. That is what happened here. I bought this at Ross Dress for Less for $8.99 but I am pretty sure I got what I paid for. It fit great in the dressing room and on its first wearing out of the bag. But it doesn't fit now. First lesson learned is I am gong to be more careful when I buy something at Ross because I really do think you "get what you pay for" all the time but also I'm going to be more careful about just putting any old thing in the dryer. In the end, lessons have been learned and life must go on. And this sweater must go on too--to someone else who is a bit smaller than I am.

In the end, I hope this little mini visit to my closet and my search for cleaning out helps you in your quest. Your homework assignment now is to do the following:

1- Look on your calendar and find a 3 hour block of time where you can go and eliminate the items in there that don't fill you with joy. Write it in as an appointment, and when the day comes, keep it!

2- At the appointed day and time, turn off your phone and lock your front door and go to your closet. Start over in the left corner or end of your closet and work to the right or clockwise. Pull out the first item and

3- Ask yourself "Does this bring me JOY?"

4- Listen to your FIRST and immediate answer. It's there on the tip of your tongue, even if you don't want to say it.

5- If i'ts a resounding "yes!" hang it back up or put it back away. If it's a "no" or if you hesitate and try to rationalize, give it a one way ticket out of there!

The goal is to keep ONLY the things that you really, really love and wear.  And when you do it, all of a sudden you will LOVE everything in your closet and I promise you will feel like you have twice the clothes to wear.

You can do it!

Next class:  Closet Cleaning 354

Friday, February 3, 2017

Closet Cleaning 101

The beginning of a new year is always a great time to reevaluate things and clean out....mentally and physically. I love the chance to make goals and plans for another year and to simply take an inventory of my life and my family's lives and see what can be changed for the better. This general "new year resolve" also makes it a natural time for people to want to clean out and make changes in their home as well. So I thought we would start off the new year with a basic closet cleaning "class."

Cleaning out your own personal bedroom/closet is actually pretty tough for most of us. Why? Because it's your OWN's a scientifically proven fact (I'm sure someone has done a study somewhere, right?) that it is at least 10 times harder to get rid of your own stuff than anything else. After all, you're more emotionally attached to your own personal things. Most of the time that includes clothes and shoes as well. We make purchases, we receive gifts, and we wear the clothes to appointments, parties or engagements and create feelings or memories while wearing them. Sometimes the clothes can even spark intense feelings--which are not always positive but fierce none-the-less. Suffice it to say, whether we realize it or not, there are sometimes deep emotions and feelings attached to our clothes and so it can be hard to get rid of some of the things we should get rid of in our closets.

Thus, I've created THREE "college courses" on the subject that I'm hoping will help.

The first is:

In college, remember how the first tier classes for basic freshmen were in the 100 category? The same holds true for these college courses. If I were teaching someone the basics, or the most simple and easy way to dejunk their clothes closet, I would give them this popular but effective trick:
During one of the first few weeks of the year, turn all of your hangers around backwards.

Every time you wear an article of clothing (and launder it?) put it back in your closet with the hanger hanging frontwards.

Like this:

One concept that needs to be talked about that is quite imperative to the cleaning out of  one's closet and that I think would make this exercise even easier is called "The Pareto Principle." You can read all about it here. It's fascinating really. It can be more complicated but basically The Pareto Principle, when talking about STUFF, says that we use 20% of our stuff 80% of the time. Translation in your closet? (and I probably don't need to tell you this) you wear the same 20% of your clothes 80% of the time.
True? Yes.
Surprised? You shouldn't be.
We all have our favorites, right?  If you're like me, you occasionally just strike it rich when clothes shopping and find a really cute piece of clothing. It fits perfectly on your body and looks great with things you have. Every time you wear it you get compliments and you feel like a million bucks. So naturally you are going to be more prone, even subconsciously, to pick that thing out of your closet to wear again and again and again.

And that's what Closet Cleaning 101 helps you see, with hardly any effort from yourself. Some people say to keep the hangers hung backwards for 6 months, some say do it for a 1 year. And then at the end of that time, the things that you haven't worn (as in their hanger is still backwards, even after all that time) are plucked out of your closet and discarded.  Personally I recommend giving it a year because some articles of clothing are worn more in different seasons and should be given enough time in the long year to "prove their worthiness." This  might be a little different for someone who lives in a more constant climate. Where I live can be 10 degrees in the winter to 110 in the summer, and that's not an exaggeration. Others who live in southern California maybe, could have a more constant temperature range and thus they should realistically be able to wear through their closet in 6 months. Either way is fine with me...just make sure you set a time span you are going to work with and then stick with it.

Another thing I really like about this method of cleaning out the closet is that it helps us constantly be aware of what we are choosing to wear and perhaps reminds us to give other lesser-worn pieces a chance. I'm really not all about "equality for clothes." What I like about it is that when we choose to wear something we don't normally wear, we sometimes see pretty clearly what it is that is wrong with that piece of clothing and why we don't choose to wear it subconsciously.  After just an hour or two of wearing something, you might find yourself starting to think:
"This sweater is so itchy!"
"I'm constantly having to pull this skirt down."
"Wow. When I walk by\the mirror I look so LARGE!"

OR we can find the opposite to be true too:

"This jacket is both warm and comfortable! I need to wear it more often."
"Four different people complimented me on this blouse today. It must look pretty good?"

And remember, you don't have to wait to decide to keep or get rid of something until the 6 month or 1 year mark is up. If you give something a real "college-try" and wear it and it ends up being a negative experience, for heavens sake come home and put it in the Goodwill bin immediately.

Up Next:  Closet Cleaning 224