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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Take Care of the Clothing in Your Closet Today!

The wonderful SPACE acronym applies again, everyone- sort, purge, assign a home, containerize & equalize. In this case, it'll mostly be sorting, purging & equalizing that I address here. Thank you, Julie Morgenstern! :)

Equalizing can be as simple as making your bed every day. It's the daily upkeep, or finishing touch on a room, most of the time. But, occasionally, equalizing goes a bit deeper than that. You start noticing that something is not quite right in your home, in some particular place. In this case, it's your closet. You know that you need to take care of those nagging little things sticking in your craw about this. It's what FlyLady is talking about tackling on "Anti-Procrastination Day", each Wednesday. Today, I ask you to specifically do that with your closet- stop procrastinating on making your wardrobe work for you. You'll need to take my title with a slight grain of salt, by the way. I would like you to start on this task BUT you do not have to tackle this all in one day, or even in a week. Just set a series of goals for yourself if this area is an issue for you. You're not in a race- you're doing this as a kindness for yourself. Organizing, simplifying, minimizing- none should be a contest or a competition, at least not in a negative way. If you're not doing this to make your life better & happier, and to help do the same for the people around you, something's wrong. I never want you to give up things you love & use, items that please you to the core.

If you haven't done it already, sort through your closet now. Don't be afraid. Don't beat yourself up about a thing. If you bought an item & never wear it, keeping it around won't lessen your guilt about the money spent on it. Just the opposite. Live & learn- we all do this from time to time. Anything that doesn't fit (and wouldn't even with altering, such as an item of clothing more than four sizes too big or small), is torn/ripped/hopelessly stained/holey items or is just an item you really dislike (maybe it was a gift, or looked better in the catalog than on your body)...out they go. Shoes, same thing. Jewelry, ditto. Donate, toss in the trash or sell, as appropriate.

Whatever's left, take a good, cold, hard look at. If it's good clothing, but out-of-season, store it. Clear, vacuum-sealable space bags with a scented dryer sheet stuck in them first are excellent means of safely storing these items. They take up a minimum of space both vertically & horizontally, can be tossed just about anywhere, and are (obviously) see-through. It's not a big deal if you need an item out of it- just pull it out, seal the bag back up, vacuum the air out & you're done. Fold the clothes neatly when you store them. I know that some of them will probably still get a little wrinkled anyway, but the wrinkles will lessen when the clothes are hung back up again, I promise. Get those shoes out. If they don't fit...well, you already know I'm the organized minimalist, so you're smart enough to know what I'll say next. If they are uncomfortable, out they go again. NO PAIR OF SHOES IS WORTH PAIN AND POSSIBLE INJURY. Yes, I meant to write that in all caps. I once fell directly on my right knee cap because I was not wearing safe shoes. My foot went under a loose piece of carpet, and boom- I hit the floor. It hurt like you-know-what to fall directly on my knee, let me tell you. Had I been wearing proper shoes, it's unlikely the accident would've happened. Please, please, please- wear only comfortable, safe, supportive shoes in the right size!

Write down what needs to get done if it'll be too much to remember- I recommend doing this closet blessing with paper & pen in hand, so that you can notate any problem areas. Tackle each of these categories one at a time. This may be a stopping point for you now. You may have a monstrous laundry issue to deal with first, before the closet(s) can be conquered. Well, laundry is usually related to the closet- so your know what I'm going to say. Try to wash, dry & put away every single item you own before you go through this task. Only then can you begin with a completely intact memory of all that you own. Look at what needs to be mended, hemmed, let out, tailored, dry-cleaned and/or ironed. Put "problem children" all together by category- such as jeans that need to have the hems ironed because they came out of the drying sticking up. Hang them over a chair. Get out your ironing board & a good iron (I recommend Rowenta irons- I own one, have had it for years, and it is THE BOMB. Stuff is straightened out in no time with that sucker!) Don't procrastinate. If you don't an ironing board & iron, but need them, buy them as soon as you can. Ironing boards can be the good old- fashioned kind that stands alone, a version can be tucked into a wall space or folds up or down from  a door, and they also come in tabletop models. Storage units exist for hanging the iron & board on the back of a door, if you need some extra space allotted. Iron the items needed, put the clothes back, put away the board & iron, then move on.

Leather pieces can be polished with Pledge furniture polish & dusting cloths for cleanup. Sounds kind of weird, I know, but it works. If that doesn't do the trick, they'll likely need to taken for cleaning at a dry-cleaners. Collect all that needs to be dry-cleaned together. Dry cleaners usually do excellent jobs with hemming and often some other sewing needs, as well. See what services they have available. Yes, in an ideal world, you would buy clothes & only keep what fits you like a glove, but let's get real here. Some of us just need tailoring to make our pants leg just the right length to work with your shoes, and the only pants you can find that fit you beautifully are a bit too long. I personally need a 30" inseam, but sometimes the pants which suit my body best are a 32" inseam. (Certain designers seem to think all big women are also very tall!) Not a big deal- getting things hemmed should be very inexpensive. When I've had it done, the dry-cleaning people did such a great job that it looked as if they were always 30" long- they were perfectly sewn & for four dollars total, I had hems stitched in that lasted longer than the fabric of the pants themselves!. The pants got worn all the time because they were cut just right, too. Another example- maybe you've lost a few pounds & need your favorite blazer taken in at the waist. You should feel superb in your clothes. If you try something on & notice it's too loose in some place, take note of it & get it altered. Clothing that fits you perfectly is going to get worn more. Clothes that need "work" will just stay hung up in your closet, relegated to Someday Land- that special place where you finally have the body to fit this piece just right. Chances are, your body isn't going to change to suit that clothing- make the clothing suit YOU instead. Even clothes that are too small can sometimes be let out. Your body isn't the problem, ever. Tailored clothing makes every woman look richer, thinner, classier & more put-together. This is true whether you weigh 100 lbs. or 300 lbs. Really. You deserve to look the way that you want to look, whatever goal you have in that regard.

I always recommend not buying anything that needs dry-cleaning, hand-washing or ironing in the first place. Clothes taken right out of the dryer & hung up or folded immediately shouldn't have wrinkle problems. But I do realize that business suits, winter coats, leather pieces, etc. (which may be unavoidable in buying), may need dry-cleaning. Men can definitely have it tougher in this regard, if they have to wear suits, collared shirts & other fine items to work all the time. Unless you have mesh, zippered bags to put delicates into, as well, they have to be hand-washed in the sink. If you use a clothesline & not an indoor dryer, I'm definitely aware that ironing is a necessity for many of the pieces that get dried on a line. As my uncle says all the time, "Get er done." I know it's a drag to iron- it's not so much that it's hard, but just kind of boring. Do it fifteen minutes at a time. Listen to great music or watch a favorite movie while doing it. Assign a time for it on your calendar & stick to it, though. Retrain your brain by saying you are going to get this done, and why you want to get this done, and say it repeatedly. The end goal is a serene closet full of wearable, great-looking clothing, with no chores hanging over your head. You CAN achieve this goal!

Every woman has different needs in terms of the basic clothing that they have to own. I've talked about a simplified wardrobe in the past, in one of my other blogs. But only you know what you need now, and what you don't, based on your climate, work & home life. If you've been retired for twenty years, but still have the dresses, pumps & suits packed up in a box or hanging that you haven't worn since you worked- please let them go. My grandmother did this, and she lives in piles of clutter to this day. These things haven't been worn since 1990 (at the latest), but they take up her entire closet & then some. You have to walk sideways in her entire house, there's no way to walk straight ahead, literally. The clothes she kept are probably long-since destroyed by the ravages of time- but she won't give them up. They are symbolic of her work success, and so she clings to them. My great-grandfather (her father) died in 1988, but she still has his hats & clothing taking up room in a second bedroom's closet, as she inherited the home fourteen years later, when my Granny passed away (my great-grandmother couldn't bear to part with Granddad's items, either). But now, ten years after she moved in, my grandmother (Granddad's daughter) still will not get rid of his clothing- to her, that's akin to throwing her memories of him away. Sadly, she is letting these items crowd her out of her own living space, which isn't that big to start with. My Granddad would never have wanted her to do this. He wouldn't be offended from beyond the grave that his clothes got donated. He was a man who knew acutely that "you can't take it with you" (temporal things, that is). All of this once-useful clothing has gone to ruin because of her inability to let them go- clothing doesn't last forever unless it's stored extremely carefully (which isn't the case here). The earlier that you give these things away, or sell them, the better a chance that someone else will get use out of them. If they're too old, likely dry rot, mold growth and/or moth-eating will have occurred- not to mention that the styles will probably be hopelessly out-of-date twenty years later! If what you own in your closet is a piece from your past, even if it has great memories associated it, but you won't ever wear it again- let it go. We should strive to keep only what we need in the present, plus some things which are used for seasonal/special occasions (like holiday or black-tie event clothing). Wedding dresses or items akin to that, if kept, do need to be preserved in an extremely careful way. I don't recommend keeping dresses like that purely in the hope that an heir will wear it, because it is very unlikely, even if you have a daughter, that she'll be able to wear the dress herself someday. Or that she'd want to wear it. Remember that everything you keep prevents another item from taking it's (storage) place. Of course, there are mementos that you can keep here & there- but don't let items from the past steal valuable real estate in your home. Don't let them saunter lazily into your kid's room, the linen closet, the guest bedroom closet, etc. Your home should be a reflection of who you are & what you do now- as should your wardrobe.


Once it's de-cluttered & your wardrobe is up to snuff, you may realize now that it's time to purchase some new hangers or other items to help organize what's left. Try to keep what you buy in the same color scheme- example, if you buy white plastic hangers, purchase a white over-the-door hanger for your shoes & a white closet container to hold folded sweaters. A monochromatic closet, or at least one that has a good color scheme, is more pleasing to the eye. You should look at your closet with pleasure when you are done. Refer to my previous blogs on setting up your wardrobe by rainbow, if you still feel like you're having trouble finding items. Remember what FlyLady says- "Do it now!" Also designate a specific space for every single item in your closet- shoes, purses, luggage, etc., all apply to this rule! A place for everything, and everything in it's place. You don't have to store the shoes in the closet. You could store them in a wooden shoe holder in the entryway, for example. Be creative, and look closely at the habits of those in your household to see if maybe you should put a coat rack by the door instead of forcing people to use a less-convenient coat closet down the hallway. Maybe an umbrella stand is needed right by the door. A tabletop valet or a cute caddy on top of a small table in a front hallway can make the difference between a simplified, calm morning & a struggling, anger-failed nightmare beginning to a day. Again, especially if you have small bedroom closets, look for other, sometimes dead-space storage places (like empty wall space or low, dark corners) to utilize for holding extra items.

Each day, once your closet is set up well, take a minute to make sure it stays neat. Make sure shoes & other items are put back neatly & in their designated place. Pairs of shoes should be kept together. If you start having too many pairs again for the room, it's time to sort & purge again- no amount of organization can go past certain space confinements, as any professional organizer will tell you. Closet & over-the-door organizers can work miracles, but they can't turn a 1920 bungalow's bedroom closet into a walk-in from a modern mansion, not without you actually knocking down a wall. Straighten your hangers if they're sticking up at an awkward angle. If any clothes have fallen on the floor, pick them up, brush them off & get them hung back up on a proper hanger. (If it's been awhile since it fell, just re-wash it.) Run a feather duster or dusting wand over any hard surfaces (like a shelf or a dresser top). Put a closet freshener somewhere (I like solid ones that do not let off perfume, but rather just absorb odors) if the closet seems to get a stale, musty smell. A closet with closed doors (like a typical coat closet) will have more problems with that musty smell that a closet without a door (or at least with it left open). If your closet door goes inward towards the closet when swung open (instead of outward, back into the room it's off of), consider switching the hinges- this alone will gain you back some inches in your closet. Sometimes taking off a closet door & hanging a curtain over the closet entryway instead can gain you space while still looking chic, and it still maintains privacy. I've seen closets with the doors removed, and a beautiful set of red, silky draperies hung over the entry to it, and it actually made the room look even better! If you keep the doors, though, UTILIZE THEM. Hang valets over them for tomorrow's outfit that you lay out today. Put up an over-the-door holder for shoes or purses. The sky's the limit, so don't be afraid to experiment. Make it work for you!

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,
Liz 

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