Declutter clothes

There’s a whole category of useful resolutions that I would loosely term “life laundry”. You know the kind of thing: go through all the stuff that builds up in one area of your life, get rid of what you no longer need, and organize the rest. For this week’s mini-resolution I picked the most literal form of life laundry, and an area I’m particularly bad at keeping organized: clothes.

I struggle with two competing instincts. The first is to be hyper-organized and minimalist; the second is to hoard. It’s a lovely combination that keeps me in a state of perpetual mild irritation with myself. I’m probably on some kind of spectrum, though thankfully on the very mild side.

I think the hoarding instinct comes, indirectly, from my mother, who grew up as part of a generation who were significantly less spoiled than my own, needing to be thrifty and resourceful with what they had. “Make do and mend”. That doesn’t make you a hoarder, but it does mean you don’t throw things away if there’s a chance they might be useful in future. Apparently I’m imaginative when it comes to future use, because I find it very hard to discard anything. Containers, in particular, might be very useful for storing something. For example they would be ideal for storing all these other, smaller, containers.

When it comes to clothes, I don’t like to get rid of something if I can still wear it. That leads me to deliberately wear my oldest, least favourite items of clothing in an attempt to wear them out such that I can get rid of them without feeling guilty. The clothes I actually like take a back seat while I wear that t-shirt that doesn’t really suit me, the shirt with the slightly fraying cuffs, the ripped jeans that aren’t supposed to be ripped quite as ripped as they are but it’s fine as long as you don’t stand up or sit in certain positions, and so on.

And so out they go. This week’s resolution is to go through every wardrobe, closet, cabinet and sock drawer and pull out anything that I shouldn’t be hanging onto. Stuff I like that doesn’t fit, novelty clothes, t-shirts from fun-runs, odd bloody socks I’ve hung onto for years just in case the other one shows up. Those old clothes I pointlessly hold on to for decorating or paintball (I don’t play paintball, and I decorate exclusively in the nude).

I’ve had an idea for a system that I’ve wanted to try for a while now (see probably on some kind of spectrum, above). You find a distinctive hanger, or fold some colored card over one, to make a divider, then put it at one end of your closet. Then, whenever you wear something, you return it to the other side of the divider. After a month, you throw out anything that didn’t make it to the worn side. It’s a way of forcing yourself to face up to the clothes you kid yourself you need, but really don’t wear. It’s like being a captain picking sides at secondary school: once you’re down to the last few days, you’re going to need to make some tough decisions about what to save, and that kid who wets himself when he gets excited is not going to make the team.

Who am I kidding, I was never the captain, and I’m not sure what item of clothing the wets-self kid represents. It’s a weak analogy. Anyway, formal or occasional wear like suits or sports jerseys are exempt. I put my wetsuit to one side because, while I’m for sure a gnarly surfer in the summer months, it’s a bit chilly at this time of year, along with my studden football boots because I will play on real grass again one day dammit. Even so, attempting to arbitrarily cram this process into only a week left me cheating wildly and, one the last day, wearing as many outfits as Eva Longoria presenting an award ceremony for people who wear a lot of outfits.

I am often compared to Eva Longoria. Like her, I didn’t really blossom until my mid teens. I’m just throwing this paragraph in so it’ll be displayed when people share the article on social media. Try it why don’t you.

A week later, and my bedroom floor is host to a big pile of clothes. It includes an unpleasant pale yellow shirt I don’t remember buying (and through which you can clearly see my nipples), a really nice and expensive dress shirt that I optimistically bought in Extra Slim, and an old university rugby top from more than a decade ago that still annoyingly fits me and refuses to fade.

The total haul:

  • 9 t-shirts.
  • 1 corporate branded sports coat
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 1 belt
  • 2 pairs socks
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 3 bloody odd socks
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 2 work shirts
  • 1 rugby top
  • 2 ties
All the Instagram filters in the world couldn't make this picture interesting
All the Instagram filters in the world couldn’t make this picture interesting

I listed the really nice work shirt I’ve never worn on the share-cycle-app-thing Yerdle, everything else that is sale-able goes to the local Salvation Army charity shop, and the rest goes in a plastic bag into our recycle bin because apparently they can do something with the fabric.

My drawers, closet and co are a bit more relaxed, as am I. Sincerely, I actually feel a little bit less stressed. I can find things, and I never have to wear that nippley yellow shirt again. That’s something we can all get behind.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Worthwhiliness: High
Ah no, that is actually a bit more interesting
Ah no, that is actually a bit more interesting

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