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Downsizing: Start Decluttering Your Closet

by Chip Collins

So that I don’t run the risk of playing the hypocrite as I speak of the process and benefits of Downsizing – and perhaps also in an effort to inspire by example – I wanted to share my recent pre-move experience.

The theme and mantra that Carrie and I have employed in our downsizing move is simple and direct:  If we don’t love it, it’s not coming with us.  

This is easy enough, but no one said defining love of things is easy.  As it turns out, there are different levels of love, making the de-selection process a challenging one when it comes down to that moment of keep-or-toss.

Therefore, it helps if there are some “universal” guidelines to help bolster one’s commitment to decluttering, and one of those guidelines applies to the closet:  If you haven’t worn it in a year, it’s time to let it go.

There are, of course, exceptions, such as special occasion items, memorabilia, your wedding dress, Halloween costumes, etc. But outside of that category, the one-year guide is actually pretty spot-on.

I picked an evening and a set time (8:00 pm), and employed the sharp (and honest) eyes and taste of my oldest daughter, MP, to be my guide and support as I ventured into the master closet with large, heavy-duty trash bags in tow.  It was the moment of truth, and I figured we could knock this out in maybe 20 minutes.

Right at 60 minutes (and countless sneezes from dislodged dust) later, we emerged victorious…and amazingly relieved.

It was quite the walk down memory lane as we unfolded shirts, shorts, pants, and the like to reveal items that marked certain occasions, previous “favorites,” and evidence of a slightly-slimmer me.  And, while sometimes hard to make the keep-toss call, it was actually kind of fun.  We laughed, cringed, and at one point wondered how it when I had decided that green was my “color,” which, as it turns out, it isn’t!

We started with the t-shirts and worked our way around the closet, ending with the shoes, and in the end, we had amassed an impressive (and hopefully useful) donation pile that included:

  • 49 button down shirts
  • 3 suits (30 years old, but still fit 🙂 )
  • 4 sport coats
  • 3 jackets
  • 9 pairs of dress pants
  • 8 pairs of casual pants/jeans
  • 10 polo shirts
  • 13 pairs of shorts
  • 5 belts
  • 8 sweaters
  • 5 pairs of shoes
  • 22 t-shirts (half of which are now rags)

When we were finished, and I proudly showed my wife Carrie what we had accomplished, I quickly realized one of the key challenges in decluttering: your family.  As it turns out, attachment to items (including your own clothes) is not singular – it’s collective.  Carrie looked at the pile and immediately started pulling out items, saying things like, “I love that green shirt!”   Oh boy… 🙂

In the end, I kept thinking about how great it will be for someone else to enjoy and use the clothes, and how glad the movers (and I) will be when they have that many fewer wardrobe boxes to move from point A to point B in the heat of Summer.

If you want to get started decluttering, pre-moving, downsizing, or whatever applies best as you contemplate living lighter or making a move, I suggest starting in the closet.  You may be amazed at how liberating it feels!

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