The first of the five proposed decluttering projects for Project Simplify is (please insert appropriate drum rattles and trumpet fanfares as required)… to declutter my wardrobe.
I fully realise that a sizeable proportion of my potential blog audience are probably not all that excited by 'How I Got Rid Of A Bunch Of Clothes' stories and don't want to scroll through masses of photos to get to the bits of the blog they do read, so I'm going to have a shot at splitting this entry for the benefit of those who are reading from this blog's home page and really don't want to look at photos of my underwear drawer. This shouldn't affect people who are following the link from Tsh's blog, who will get the whole post in one go. If you are reading from the home page and do have any interest in my decluttering endeavours, just click on the 'Continue Reading' link at the bottom here.
Clearing out the wardrobe was a pretty decent-sized starting project for me - I knew my wardrobe would have enough ditchable stuff in to give me a nice sense of accomplishment when I cleared it out, but not enough to be overwhelming. Of course, it did sound a tad more daunting when I found out that 'wardrobe' was meant in the metaphorical and not literal sense and I was in fact expected to declutter all my clothes – apart from anything else, there was the logistical difficulty of getting all my clothes clean and dry simultaneously, which I do have to point out is rather harder than Tsh makes it sound. I mean, I do a pretty fair job of keeping up with the laundry (admittedly not so the ironing, which I have had to put in a fair bit of extra work to catch up on once I heard about this project), but surely it's in the nature of laundry to be a Forth Bridge type job? By the time one lot of clothes is through the laundry and has hung up to dry for a couple of days, more are going to be dirty (well, I could run the stuff I normally hang up through the dryer, but that seems like something of a waste of electricity). Still, although I've had to do some fairly rapid catching up on the ironing and the project was not exactly a walk in the park, it wasn't a nightmare either.
I did, however, have one practical problem, which was that some of my clothes are actually inaccessible right now. Specifically, the 'Occasional Special Event' category. When we moved into this house, I decided to keep those in the cupboard in our spare bedroom so that my main wardrobe would feel less cluttered. Sensible move, but did not take account of the possibility that I would be called upon to do a total wardrobe declutter the week after my husband finally saved up enough for the super-duper new television he'd been coveting for years and we thus ended up putting the old one – a large, heavy flatscreen – in the spare room until he could arrange to sell it to a person at work. It is now in front of my Occasional Special Event clothes cupboard, and shifting it single-handedly is not an option for me (and nor is asking my husband to start trying to move things around in that admittedly far-too-cluttered room just so that I could accord fully with the requirements of an Internet project), so I'm afraid that particular cupboard has had to be excluded from the otherwise-full overhaul. So, if you notice that my final selection does not appear to contain any outfits appropriate for a wedding, dance-the-night-away party, or black tie event, then the reason is not solely down to our dismal social life.
The rest, I decluttered over two sessions – Wednesday afternoon for the actual wardrobe, Thursday morning for the stuff in drawers. Enough talking – time for the photos.
Part 1 – The Wardrobe
Sorry about the cot being in front, but hopefully you get the idea.
Also, these couple of extra items that were heaped on the laundry baskets:
Members of my wardrobe that were unable to make it for the photocall were one shirt (hanging up to dry at the time after having been through the wash), two nightgowns (ditto), and one sweatshirt (AWOL, later discovered buried under some sofa cushions). So mentally picture those added to the above clutter. (They were all items I ended up keeping, by the way.)
Next step – going through the lot. I will not inflict a discussion of every item on you, but here are a couple of examples of why I was keeping particular things:
That is a sweater I knitted. Unfortunately, the collar always lay a little crooked for some reason, so I never wear it. In fact, the reason you see the scissors in the background there is because I had to snip off all the trailing ends from where I sewed the seams up, because I have worn it so little in the – goodness, let me think – in the twelve years since I knitted it that I hadn't even got round to doing that. However, despite the fact that I never wear it, I couldn't get rid of it because it was one I'd knitted myself. Right?
Wrong. Once I got past the "I can't get rid of something I knitted" rule in my mind and thought about how I actually felt, I realised I was perfectly happy to get rid of it. I have other sweaters I knitted and I like the idea of this one going to someone who will actually appreciate it much better than I like the idea of it continuing to take up space on my cupboard shelf. Bye-bye, sweater.
I adore this sweater, but the sleeves are frayed and the elbows holed far past the point at which I could ever wear it anywhere. However, I did not want to throw it out, so I kept it on the basis that everybody ought to have one old outfit that they don't mind getting absolutely filthy/ruined, in case they have to paint the house.
The only problem with this logic is that my husband is the DIY person around here, and if the house needed painting, he would be the one who did it. Either that, or we would pay someone else to paint the house, who would presumably arrange his or her own sweaters. The chances of me ever ending up painting the house or equivalent projects are miniscule, and, if it ever does happen, I'm sure I can pick up a sweater at the charity shop for a few quid rather than keeping this one around. So, it's gone. Along with the other equally gorgeous but equally frayed sweater that I'd managed to keep on the same excuse.
(By the way, I have to give a huge thank you to the people who pointed out on Tsh's blog that clothes too worn out for the charity shop can go into recycling. This was the help I needed in getting rid of what I am now thinking of as my Curate's Egg clothes – the ones where parts of them are excellent, so how can I possibly toss out the whole item with all its excellent parts just because one part of it has a huge hole in? Knowing they were going somewhere where they could be of some use, rather than in the bin, made that possible for me at last.)
So, on it went. The beautiful sweater which I never actually wore because it wasn't my style, the half-dozen pairs of pyjamas which I bought to keep me warm when I was sitting up for night feeds and have never needed since, the multiple pairs of Curate's Egg (see above) jeans and trousers with holes in the knees that I kept in hopes that the holes would magically mend themselves… all those and more were ditched with minimal pangs. The wearable items can go and make somebody else happy at what a nice piece of clothing they got, not to mention making some money for the Red Cross, who need it far more than I need all those clothes. The unwearable items can go into cloth recycling. I no longer need to give any of them house room.
Then I waited to take a photo until the next day, by which time the drying clothes had dried and the missing sweatshirt had re-emerged. So, with the exception of a top that emerged crumpled and filthy from under a pile of clothes but may well make the cut once it's been washed and ironed, every item that's going to live in my wardrobe from now on is visible in this picture.
The final total, because it gives me great pleasure to have a final total so manageable I can actually list it: Six sweaters, three sweatshirts, one smart suit, ten tops (possibly eleven, if I do decide to keep the one I just mentioned), six pairs of trousers, one smart suit, one pair of jeans, two pairs of shorts, two pairs of pyjamas, two nightgowns, one handbag, one shoulder purse for the sort of do where women wear dresses so smart they don't have pockets, one pair of fancy shoes ditto, one hat, one money belt, one of those bags of scented wooden marbles to make the cupboard smell nice, and one lint roller. Apart from the hat, which I suppose would need a hat box, I am fairly sure I could fit the entire contents of that wardrobe into a suitcase. I was so tickled by this idea I almost tried it just to prove to myself I could do it, although it would of course have meant I'd have to declutter the damn suitcase first.
One of the sweatshirts is on probation – I think I can actually get by with two, but having a third might be useful if the two end up in the wash at the same time and so I am going to hang onto that one through another winter to see whether it's actually required or whether its position is now redundant. The jeans have the same trial period, though in that case to see whether I can actually lose the few pounds needed in order for me to fit into them. One of the tops was hand-knitted for me by my mother-in-law and I thus feel obliged to hang onto it despite it not being a style I will ever wear, but she hasn't asked after it in several years and so I plan to ask my husband if he thinks I can get away with giving it an alternative home. All the rest are staying. I realise many people are probably thinking that that still sounds like a lot of items, but they really are all things that I like and will wear, and, while I could get by with fewer on a day-to-day basis, I hate clothes shopping and find it well worth giving these things the extra house room in the knowledge that it will be that much longer before they all wear out and I have to go shopping again. I love my new slimmed-down wardrobe, and I am very happy indeed with this day's work. Thank you.
Part 2 – The Drawers
Starting with my underwear drawer. This should be simple, right? After all, I can still close the drawer – what more do I need?
Hang on a minute – didn't I stash a bunch of bras in a drawer in the spare room when I had Katie and went up two sizes? Is it possible that they're still lurking there? Yes, it turns out it is.
So, here is my total underwear collection (minus the inevitable couple of items in the wash), before:
Much more manageable.
(Good lord, I just posted pictures of my underwear drawer on the Internet. Sorry about that. I promise this isn't usually that kind of blog.)
Then, it gets a bit more difficult. You see, I collect funky-looking socks:
And I am actually very pleased with that picture. That is, in fact, the result of a major sock reorganisation several months ago. Prior to that, all of those socks and a really ridiculous number of further pairs over and above that were all crammed willy-nilly into the two drawers you see in the front there. Then I went through them all, ditched a load, organised the others by colour, and brought my nightstand drawers (the three smaller ones at the back) into service so that I could get at the pairs I wanted easily. I now have a load of socks I like, sorted in a way that makes it easy for me to find them. And, yes, I actually do wear most of those on a regular basis. I gave the drawers a stir to get some of the lurking pairs to the front, and I did find nine and a half pairs I could ditch, but the 'after' picture doesn't look that much different:
And I'm happy with it. I like that sock collection, I don't feel cluttered by it, and I'm keeping it.
So – what did you think of my sock collection? Awed at the size of it? Totally unimpressed and muttering "Hah! Call that a collection? Amateur."? Hold onto your hats – you're about to see what results you can get from twenty years of work on a collection.
My T-shirt collection.
Most of it, anyway. That should also have included nine that were hanging up to dry at the time after going through the wash (sounds like a lot, I know, but they were white-background T-shirts and I save those up until I have enough to put a load through and had only just got to that stage), one that was in the wash from the previous day (all this was a two-day project), one that I was wearing, twelve that I'd forgotten I needed to get out of the drawer in the spare room, one that had fallen down the back of a drawer while I was getting them out, and one that was in the drawer with the baby towels for some reason. I didn't discover those last three categories until I had already started putting away the ones I was keeping (with that number, it wasn't exactly practical to sort into a 'keep' pile and a 'give away' pile – the ones I was keeping went straight back in the drawers), and, as much as I would have liked to get a shot of all my T-shirts at once, I was on a deadline of picking up my daughter from nursery and just didn't have time to take them all out again to do a reshoot. I think you get the general idea, anyway. I love T-shirts, I have always loved T-shirts, and these are not clutter to me – they are a beloved and useful collection that, yes, I actually do wear. Well, apart from some sentimental items, and I'm keeping those as well.
I found twenty to get rid of, which was better than I'd anticipated. Since that is slightly fewer than the number that got left out of that picture for one reason or another, you can take it that the 'after' photo would look about like that one if I had actually had time to take it, which I did not. And, no, I did not try on every single one before deciding to keep them. Sue me.
After clearing out all these clothes, as well as the baby towels that I realised in the course of this were still living in one of my under-the-bed drawers almost three years after I stopped using them (hooray! The T-shirts I exiled to the spare room dresser to make room for them can be returned to their rightful place within my room), I not only had several bags' worth for the charity shop but a huge trash bag full of clothes in too poor a condition for anything except the recycling bin. I wish I'd taken a photo of that as well, because it is quite thought-provoking to remind myself that that's the amount of stuff in unwearable or near-unwearable condition that I had cluttering up my cupboard and drawers all this time. However, no more – I have a wardrobe that is a joy to behold and I await the next project with eager anticipation.
By the way, if you want to check out other people's results, here they are.