by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - February: Decluttering as Self-Care
Have you ever used the promise of a reward as an incentive to do something? Rewards can be tricky. If you tell yourself that your reward for cleaning out your closet is to go clothes shopping, then you’re defeating the purpose of cleaning your closet. But, after doing a big, involved task such as cleaning your closet, shouldn’t you get something for your efforts?
Sometimes, the reward for doing an activity is that now the activity is done. Consider that your reward for cleaning your closet is a cleaner closet where it’s easier to see the clothing options you have and where you’ll be able to spend less time trying to find or decide what to wear each day. The reward for cleaning your closet is that you now have a clean closet. The reward for cleaning your garage is that you can now park your car in the garage.
The Reward for the Action Is the Action
In her book on habits, Better than Before, Gretchen Rubin list three reasons for avoiding rewards (particularly if you are trying to reward yourself into developing a habit).
One, the need to reward yourself implies that you wouldn’t do the activity otherwise; so, you’re acting only for the sake of the reward. If the activity requires maintenance (you cleaned your desk but now you need to keep it clean), will you do that without a reward waiting for you?
Two, rewards require a decision. If you got a reward for cleaning off your desk, do you get one every time you clean off your desk? And how messy does your desk have to be to deserve a reward? You end up wasting time and energy making a decision that doesn’t need to be made.
And, three, while a reward might be a great incentive for a one-time goal with a finish line, that finish line marks a stopping point. However, if your activity doesn’t really have a stopping point (you should clean up your desk at the end of every day), then it doesn’t make sense to create an artificial finish line.
But You Can Give Yourself Treats ‘Just Because’
Rubin points out that while a reward must be “earned or justified,” a treat is a small indulgence “just because we want it.” No justification required. Giving yourself a treat is a form of self-care.
When you hear ‘treat’ and ‘self-care’ in the same sentence, you may think of things like getting a manicure or a massage or going to a movie, show, or museum exhibit. However, anything can be a treat if it gives us a boost of good feelings and energy.
A treat doesn’t have to be time consuming or pricey. (And, Rubin warns against treats connected to food, shopping, and screen time as they can leave us feeling worse in the long run.)
Treats can be scheduled or spontaneous – or, both.
Create a List of Treats
Remember, treats are intended “just because.” The goal of giving yourself (frequent) treats is to make you feel happier and more energetic. They aren’t intended as a bribe to force yourself into doing more. Giving yourself regular treats can keep you more positive about working through your day-to-day activities.
Life coach and author Martha Beck, in her book The Joy Diet, suggests creating a list of things that you consider treats so you don’t become used to giving yourself the same treat time and again (making it seem less special). To get you started, list
Keep your list of treats handy. Dole out your treats throughout the day instead of saving them for the end of the day. Acknowledge your treats. For example, “It will be so fun to turn the page of my planner and encounter one of those cute llama stickers I scattered through the pages.” “Listening to the sound of the rain pattering against the window is so relaxing.” “I’m glad I lit this blood orange candle; it smells wonderful.”
Treat yourself. Just because.
Books mentioned in this article:
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
I once used to show kids how to use a drop spindle, a very simple tool for spinning sheep’s wool into yarn. It is basically a dowel, a small hook, and a weighted base. Kids would watch me do it (and I have only the most basic skills) and then give it a try. Within fifteen seconds, multiple kids would start wailing that their spindle didn’t work.
I laughed, pointed out that the drop spindle was basically a stick and therefore did nothing. To experience using a drop spindle, they’d have to try using it, even if they weren’t getting the results that they thought they should.
Then, one day at home, I pulled from my closet some simple fitness equipment that I never used. I was thinking how frustrated I was that the equipment hadn’t worked for me when I froze in my thought. Of course, it hadn’t done anything for me, it was an inanimate object, a simple tool.
Like the kids who thought the drop spindle would spin wool into yarn, I expected that kettlebell to get me into shape. Now, yes, I realized that I had to use this weightlifting tool to see results; which made me also realize that part of my expectation was that owning a kettlebell would make me someone who used a kettlebell for strength training.
You Can't Buy Motivation
I love this question from financial blogger Cait Flanders, “Who are you buying this for: the person you are, or the person you want to be?” While decluttering, I often realize that I bought a book or item because I envisioned myself as a person who kayaked, decorated cakes, followed the Whole30 diet, etc.
Now, setting goals is a good thing. Goals give us something to focus on and work toward beyond day-to-day tasks like laundry and running to the grocery store. However, setting a goal isn’t a reason to go shopping.
Imagine an individual who decides that they’ll run a 5K (so not me). They decide that they need a good pair of running shoes and, oh, a fitness tracker so they can post their progress on social media to, you know, keep them accountable. In their mind, they are working toward running a 5K – even though they spend their evenings on the couch while waiting for their new purchases to arrive.
In fact, this person doesn’t have a consistent workout routine. They figure that setting a goal (run a 5K) will motivate them. Instead of putting on their good-enough sneakers and getting in the habit taking a walk every day, they focus on the goal instead of the process. Instead of considering who they are (someone who spends their evenings on the couch), they buy stuff for the person they want to be – someone who has run a 5K.
Eventually, a lot of the items we buy for the person we want to be ends up in boxes – discovered only when we start to declutter.
So, what if you need specific items to do an activity, like skiing, snowshoeing, playing the ukulele, or getting into photography?
Rent the items. You may think that it will be cheaper to buy over renting, but consider renting, at least the first time. Shops that sell equipment may also rent, it’s just a matter of asking. Also, look at your local gym as a resource for “renting” exercise equipment while you use it at their location.
Borrow an item. My public library has a small collection of borrowable items, like an InstaPot and a ukulele. What does your library offer?
Consider asking, family, friends, and coworkers if someone has an item that you’d like to try. Maybe you’re interested in drinking fresh juice every morning. Your cousin might not be up to lending you his juicer, but you could ask if you could bring supplies over and give it a try at their house. If you’re borrowing an item, plan to return it in a week or two to keep your relationships smooth.
Think twice if someone tells you that you can have an item or buy it off them. Just because they didn’t use it doesn’t mean you won’t but consider this instance. Remember, part of your goal is to avoid collecting something that will become clutter in your home.
Skip the item. Be creative and work toward the goal without buying an item. Do you really need to buy a treadmill, or could you go for a walk outside? While a fitness tracker is a great way to capture how many steps you take during a day, couldn’t you up your level of activity by making a point to get up and move around throughout the day? Is your real goal to take 10,000 steps a day or to move around more?
Work on Your Goal without Buying Anything
Consider what the item is supposed to do for your goal. Now, imagine that you tried to purchase the item only to discover it will be on backorder for the next three months. However, you are so excited by your goal you still want to work toward it. But how? Come up with five ways you could work on your goal without buying that thing. Next, come up with another five ideas.
I know that it’s fun to buy new stuff, particularly when you think it will help you learn something new or help you reach a goal. You may consider your options and decide that, yes, you are committed to making the purchase; but, now, you are doing so more mindfully.
Releasing Aspirational Clutter
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering: February - Decluttering as Self-Care
If the edge of your bathtub or the counter around your bathroom sink is crammed with beauty and grooming products, it’s time to simplify. And, by “simplify,” I don’t mean that you need to get rid of everything but a bar of soap and a lip balm. However, by paying attention to how you use (or don’t use) these products, you can create a routine that saves time, money, and stress.
Yes, stress. It’s ironic that routines that are meant to help us unwind or take care of ourselves can leave us feeling overwhelmed. For example, do you have multiple body washes perched in a caddy hanging in the shower? One, you’re investing energy in decision-making every time you go to take a shower (What scent will it be today? Tropical? Romantic? Sporty?)
Two, you’re making it so much more difficult to clean, which might mean you skip the task until the layer of soap scum has you cringing.
Also, if you’re in the habit of starting a new product before you finish the one you were using, it becomes easier to lose track of how old a product is. Perfectly good products might end up hidden behind new purchases.
I’m not going to list must-have bath and beauty supplies because a must-have product for one person is a never-need-it product for someone else. So, how to simplify? Be your own guide by examining what you use and don’t use.
Gather Your Bath and Beauty Supplies
Gather in one place all the bath and beauty supplies that you have, both open and brand-new. This should also make you aware of where you store products. Do some products end up under the bathroom sink, while other items are tucked onto a shelf in your bedroom or linen closet? Do you buy products and keep them in their shopping bag until you need them (or remember them)?
Sort Your Supplies by Type
You’ll probably need more space to sort through your supplies than you have in your bathroom, so bring everything to a table or countertop in another room. This way, you can match similar types of products – so, put all your shower gels together, all the nail polishes in another group, hair styling products in a group (or subgroups if you have a variety).
Check the Condition of Products
Check all the products’ smell, color, and texture to make certain the product isn’t breaking down.
Ditch What You Disliked
If you remember disliking a product, why are you holding onto it? Are you really going to use again? You aren’t going to get your money’s worth by letting it sit on the bottom shelf of your linen closet for the next two years, so let it go.
Hint: Create a plan for what to do with current, and future, products you realize you won’t use, let alone finish. Will you ask a close friend or family member if they’d like to try it? Will you make yourself use it until it’s gone? Can you donate opened products to a local shelter? If you make the rule now, then you won’t have to decide what to do each time you find yourself with a product you aren’t happy with.
The rule I give myself – I can’t buy a new product until I’ve used up an old one that has a similar use. So, I’ll buy that new shampoo only after I’ve finished the one that I’ve been using.
If you have multiples of similar products, line them up from least to most full and determine to work your way through each product. (When you put these items away, make sure you keep them in this order, so you use up those partial bottles of body wash, shampoo, etc.)
Store Everything Together
Determine a space where you’ll store the products you have and plan to bring new purchases to this location. Unless you’re going to put something into immediate use, keep new and not-in-use products in one place so you don’t forget that you already have three new sticks of antiperspirant at home when that sales display catches your eye.
Eliminate Future Impulse Purchases
If you notice products that you don’t (and won’t) use, remind yourself that it’s unlikely you’ll use similar products in the future. Yes, it can be difficult to throw away a nearly full product (even if it’s been shoved to the back of a shelf in your home for the past seven months) but holding onto it won’t recoup the money spent on it.
Consider that you spent the money learning that you won’t paint your toenails blue or green or that you can’t stand the feel of styling gel in your hair. To get your money’s worth, pay attention to what you learned. Yes, you love the look of bright, fun color polishes on other women’s toes, but you’ve learned that they aren’t for you, so stop looking at that display of the new spring colors.
Remove Rarely Used Items
Next, consider if it is worth holding onto rarely used products. Do you really need the mascara or lipstick you only wear on special occasions? Why are you saving that perfume? Products degrade over time. If you only wear mascara twice a year, why bother?
The same goes for masks, hair treatments, and other spa-like products that you rarely use. Treat yourself in a way more meaningful to you than a cuticle cream you’ll never think to use.
Simplify Your Routines
Simplifying your bath and beauty routine ultimately comes down to noticing what products and routines you enjoy and which ones you never make the time for. This isn’t saying that you can’t try new products; however, if you know that you purchase but rarely use face masks, then use that knowledge when you find yourself gazing at the display of new face masks on the market. Or, buy a one-use mask to try that night.
Could You Handle a Shopping Ban on Beauty and Grooming Supplies?
Why Self-Care Is Important When Tackling Clutter
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering: February - Self-Care
Your to do list can be a source of stress if you don't use it effectively. I don't think I'm alone in working through a series of simple tasks just so I can cross off a number of items on my list. And, yes, sometimes I'll do a task, add it to my to do list, and immediately cross it off.
Not very effective or productive and at the end of the day I wondered what I'd accomplished. It's also stressful to realize that priorities kept getting pushed to the side. Frustrated that nothing seemed to be getting done, I mishmashed together a bunch of different techniques to make my list more doable.
Create a Master to Do List
List all the stuff you want to do on a master list. You can use pen and paper, type the list into a word processing document, or list one item on each sheet of those 1 ½” x 2” Post-It Notes. You’ll be breaking some of these list items into smaller tasks, so if you use pen and paper, you may end up rewriting an item to give yourself the space to break it into steps.
(If you are attracted to color and visual details, you may want to color code your list by highlighting the task. If you best process information you hear, talk out loud as you make your list. And, if you like handling things and moving around, consider using Post-It Notes.)
Task: Make a list of the things you want to accomplish this year, quarter, or month. Start with the upcoming 4-to-6-weeks so you can work through this process without getting bogged down.
Is It a Project or a Task?
Next, you’ll be looking at your list and considering what steps you have to take before you can check that item off your list.
Do you have something written on your to do list that you’ve been thinking of doing for a while but when you look at the item on your list you think, “I don’t have time for that?” I forever found myself writing things on my to-do list that could take 20 or 30 hours to complete – and yet it’s a mere three words on my list!
Really, that list item is a project – if I look at it more closely, I’d realize that I can break it down into smaller steps, or tasks. I may be a little loose with my definition of a project, particularly when talking about something on your personal to do list.
If I see, “read & take notes on Book,” on my to-do list, I’ll probably put off doing it. Or, I’ll start but after an hour set it to the side. The next time I look at my to do list, I’ll brush past that item because I know that it will take a while to work through. However, if I was a bit more specific and wrote, “read & take notes on chapter 1 of Book,” (listing each chapter as a separate task), I’d have a better chance of completing this project.
Some tasks may take a mere five or ten minutes (say, make a phone call or send an email), but it’s doing that task that opens you to the next step toward the project (meeting with someone over coffee to talk about a job).
If something is going to take you more than an hour, consider how you could break it down into briefer tasks.
Task #1: List the steps you need to take so to get an item off your to do list. These steps are tasks. You’re adding bullet points to your master list or adding more Post-It Notes and creating little stacks of tasks.
Task #2: Next to each step, jot down the amount of time it will take to complete a task.
Note: Things that you do regularly aren’t the types of task items I’m talking about. Although taking a morning walk may help you burn calories and reach your goal of losing weight, this is part of a routine of actions. You don’t take one walk and check it off your master list. Routines can take up a lot of time and you never really complete a routine (you might for the day but then it’s at the top of your list the next day.)
Is It a Low- or High-Energy Task?
When I teach a group, work one-on-one, or even get together with a friend, it can take a lot of energy and I feel drained afterwards. For far too many years, I’d get home after teaching or having an in-depth conversation and try to jump into a task that required thinking and decision-making.
I’d push, feel frustrated that I wasn’t accomplishing what I thought I should be, and keep pushing. What I finally appreciated was that my interaction required high-energy and I needed to follow it with a low-energy activity.
If I’d been coaching someone through the decluttering process, I’d be better off following the interaction with reading a chapter in a book and typing up my notes than trying to write an article. For you, the idea of sitting quietly, reading and taking notes may require a lot of energy so you can focus on the task.
This step requires some self-knowledge into what types of things make you feel energized and which things drain you. Depending on the situation, after 3-or-4-hours, I need a quiet break. If I push myself beyond that, I can end up cranky. This self-knowledge may make you realize that you’d rather read that work-related document in a bustling coffee shop than in a quiet room at home.
Task #3: Go through the list of tasks you wrote and label each task as a high-or-low-energy task (for you). (You could also add a medium-energy or neutral category.) You don’t have to rewrite your list, just add an “L” or “H” next to the item or in the corner of the Post-It Note.
When Do You Need This Done?
If you are a logical sort of person, you may it useful to prioritize your list into A, B, and C-level priorities. You’d then further break down each list, so you’d know which task for which project to do next. However, not every project (or task) comes with a built-in deadline.
Although this freedom from a deadline seems like it should be a good thing, you may realize that these are the tasks that don’t get worked on because they can always be done later. Give yourself a time limit and a reason why you want the task done by that hour or date.
Task #4: Note a deadline for your projects. Use that date to figure out when each task needs to get done.
What Should I Do Today?
At night or first thing in the morning, look through your list and select the one task, that when done, will give you a sense of accomplishment. Unless you have a health issue that affects your energy level, this will likely be a task requiring high energy.
Next, select a second high-energy task and one low-energy task or two low-energy tasks. Your goal for the day is to definitely do the top task and then work your way to a second or third task if you have the time. If you can do more tasks, fantastic! Remember, this list doesn't include the day-to-day things that you need to do (laundry, errands, cooking).
The goal here isn't just to do more but to accomplish more. You'll likely experience less stress while being kinder to yourself as you notice that you're doing the things that are important to you.
Make a Better to Do List
If you’re busy all day, crossing things off your to do list, but feel as if you’re accomplishing nothing, then follow this plan to create a list of doable, specific tasks with attached deadlines. And, don’t forget to label tasks as high- or low-energy so you do the best tasks at the best time of day for you.
How Self-Discovery Can Help You Become More Productive
What's Your Why for Clearing the Clutter
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - February: Decluttering as Self-Care
At the end of this article, you’ll find links to items on Amazon. I have them here to help clarify the types of items I’m describing. However, if you do buy any of these items, please note that as an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Remember, before you start organizing your closet and drawers, you want to sort through what you have and eliminate the things you don’t, won’t, or can’t wear. Avoid buying organizing tools or systems before seeing what clothing you are keeping. In fact, I’d even suggest living with your newly decluttered closet for at least a few weeks so you have a better sense of what’s working for you and what could work a bit better.
Simplifying what's in your closet and how you store those items saves time and stress getting dressed each morning, saves you money when you don't purchase items you already own, and even saves you time putting away items after you've done the laundry.
To Fold or To Hang Your Clothing?
Years ago, I was looking into renting an apartment attached to the side of the house (an in-law apartment). There was the kitchen, bedroom, and living room. In the living room were two doors. I thought it would be a bit awkward to have my closet in the living room, but I would deal with the minor inconvenience. Since there was someone living in the apartment when I walked through, I didn’t bother to open the closet doors.
Well, was I surprised when I moved in and went to hang some clothing only to realize that these weren’t really closets. Instead these were doors that once led into the main house, only they’d been blocked off. The space behind the doors, the “closet” was scarcely a foot deep. The only rod to hang items was in an open area set opposite the front door.
That was when I learned to fold nearly everything so I could store it in the dressers I owned.
So, the way I see it, folding or hanging clothing is a situational and personal choice.
What space do you have? If you have limited closet space, then it will make more sense to fold clothing into drawers or cubbies. If you don’t have space for a dresser, then hang items. Have a closet and a dresser? Store items in a way that you will consistently store them. (So, it you hate folding tee shirts, hang them.)
If you do decide to fold clothing, I highly recommend that you look at a few videos on YouTube to see the best way to fold different items. Folding clothing the proper way takes up less space. Store folded clothing vertically so you can see everything at a glance as opposed to stacking folded items horizontally in drawers.
If you store folded items in cubbies or other open shelves, where you have to stack the items, don’t stack the items too high just because you have the space. Think about displays in stores where a customer pulls an item from the bottom of the pile and the entire display starts to look horrible fairly fast. You don’t want your closet or drawers to look rummaged through just because you were trying to get dressed.
Sort by Item or Color
Your goal in organizing your clothing is to make it easier to get dressed. If you create a system that doesn’t work, you’ll know because you won’t put anything away. It might be annoying to rearrange things, but after decluttering your closet, it won’t take that long.
Keep similar items together so you can compare your options. Keep button-down shirts together, jeans together, etc. If you have, say, casual skirts, work skirts, and dressy skirts, you can keep all your skirts together and group them into subcategories.
If your casual wardrobe is very different from your work wardrobe, you might want to store these distinct wardrobes in separate areas of your closet and then group items by piece within their area. The same goes for dressy items that get worn a few times a year – you can group those pieces together instead of mixing the components in with similar items.
Again, what makes sense for you?
Do you need to group clothing by colors? There is a trend that seems to have started with Marie Kondo, a professional organizer from Japan, to hang clothing from dark to light, left to right. The visual appeal of clothing hung this way is quite attractive. However, I’d rather have items like short-sleeved tops or cardigans grouped together so I can decide which one I want to wear as opposed to looking for items by color.
You’ll often see the suggestions to buy matching hangers. I’d suggest that you look through what you have and try to use one type of hanger. Why? It’s not just aesthetics. I think using similar hangers slide more easily along the clothes rod. Also, if you store an item on a thin hanger between items on thicker hangers, you might overlook what’s on the thinner hanger.
Velvet hangers are good for slippery items but can make it difficult for kids or older individuals to hang clothing. If you have clothing that slides off its hangers, look for hangers with notches at the shoulder, which I think are easier to use than velvet hangers.
You might also want to use space saver hangers that allow you to store items in tiers or multiple layers. In some cases, you need to open these organizing tools so you can hang the items, and then you collapse the hanger. This might be difficult to use it you don’t have the space to properly expand the item so you can fit clothes onto the hangers. I have mixed thoughts about these types of hangers. They seem like a great way to fit more items into a closet, but if you don’t have the space to get the items on or off these hangers, they won’t work for you.
If You Use Your Closet for Home Storage
If you live someplace with limited storage, then you might have to use your closet to store sheets and towels, paper files, sentimental items, and so on. Most articles on closet organization will tell you to keep items not related to clothing out of your clothes closet. However, that can't always be helped. If this is the case (it is with me), try to designate one area of the closet for clothing and shoes and another area for home storage as opposed to interspersing items.
With the exception of coats and jackets that you want to grab on your way out the door and bins of seasonal clothes that get packed away, try to avoid storing your clothing in multiple locations throughout your home. Don’t look at your child’s or spouse’s closet as the perfect space for your overflow wardrobe. Keep what you own together so you know what you have. This can save you from buying duplicates of items that you already own.
Clothing storage should be based on what will work for you. The best system is the one that you can maintain.
Check out my Pinterest board on Simplifying Your Wardrobe for ideas on creating a capsule wardrobe and organizing, your closet.
Decluttering Clothing that You've Never Worn
How to Declutter Clothing While Being Gentle on Yourself
As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - February: Decluttering as Self-Care
Marie Kondo’s books and Netflix show has a lot of people convinced that the only way they can declutter their clothing is to gather every stitch of their clothing and sort through it all at once. This isn’t a new technique. Pretty much ever article or video you’ll find on decluttering your closet suggests that you need to go through the process at one time. And, yes, it’s easier to see what you have and compare items when you bring everything together.
However, depending on how much clothing you own, it’s a downright intimidating prospect to face every stitch of clothing sitting in a big pile in the middle of your room. I’ll discuss how to sort through your wardrobe in a day as well as how to sort through your clothing category-by-category over multiple days.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods.
Before You Start
Don’t buy any organizing tools or closet systems before you declutter. You don’t know what you’ll have after sorting through what you really wear. You want to keep the clothing that you enjoy wearing as opposed to keeping items just because they fit in your closet.
When to Sort Off-Season Clothing
If you pack away off-season clothing, you don’t have to don’t have to sort through those items now, unless you want. Use the change of season as your opportunity to sort through these items.
Before you pack away these items, consider if you wore everything and if the items are still in good condition. Then, when you pull out the items to integrate into your closet and drawers for the appropriate season, check through the items again to confirm that you are looking forward to wearing the items in the upcoming months.
Option 1: Sort Your Clothing All at Once
If you have a day (or at lease a good chunk of a day) to devote to your closet and drawers, fill your water bottle, grab some snacks, put on some upbeat music, and turn on all the lights in the room and open the drapes to let in the sun. Then, take a deep breath and dive in. Every half hour or so, take a drink of water, go to the bathroom, walk out of the room for five minutes. Have something to eat every couple of hours.
What’s up with all the breaks and snacks? You’ll be making a lot of decisions and there are some theories that suggest lowered glucose (blood sugar) levels can make it harder to make decisions … and making numerous decisions lowers your willpower (fueled by glucose). Think about it. Even if you touch two items a minute, in an hour you’ve handled and made decisions on 120 items!
Chances are, just pulling everything out of your closet and drawers … and checking to make sure you didn’t have stuff stored in another closet or room, made you feel a bit overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff you own. Unless you regularly declutter your closet, you’ll have a lot of stuff.
Sorting your entire wardrobe in a day allows you to make comparisons, notice duplicates, and see what your style is. A weird perk is identifying all the places in your home where you store clothing. Except for off-season clothing, you want everything in a single place. If you keep clothing in numerous rooms, maybe using a part of your spouse’s or kid’s closet, then you’ve been trying to hide from yourself how much clothing you really own.
Option 2: Sort through Your Clothing Category-by-Category
If you dread the idea of pulling out every stitch of clothing and spending the day sorting it all, you can also work category-by-category. This may take a little more time, but the advantage is that you can squeeze in 10-to-20-minutes every evening for a week or two and be done with the process without feeling quite as overwhelmed.
Also, if you have health issues that affect your energy level, this way is kinder to you.
The key to sorting and decluttering your clothing in this way is you still want to remove items from your closet or drawers. No rearranging items hanging in your closet. So, on tank top day, gather all your tank tops on your bed and sort through what you have. Work your way through tee shirts, blouses, cardigans, jackets, skirts, dresses, pants, jeans, shorts, undergarments, socks, footwear, group-by-group.
Don’t worry if you overlook an item and don’t discover it until you’re working on another category of items. Check the condition of the item and put it in your donation bag or store it with its group.
Piles of clothing are heavy, so don't toss your donations in the largest bags that you can buy. If you want to sell some items or give a few pieces to people you know, don't put those garments back in your closet.
Attach a note to the items, specifying what you want to do with them and by when. Give yourself that deadline so you don't hold onto the items for another six months!
However, if you aren’t actively losing weight, consider if you really need multiple sizes of items that don’t fit. A little tight or a little loose may work on different days. Keeping items two or more sizes tighter or looser only makes it more difficult to get dressed, not to mention demoralizing when you pull on something that doesn’t fit.
Ultimately you want a wardrobe filled with clothing that you enjoy wearing and that suits your activities.
Organizing Your Closet
Remember, you need to sort through all the items in your closet before trying to organize them … which is the topic for the next article.
by Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - February: Decluttering as Self-Care
Although you’ve seen the suggestion that you should remove any clothing from your closet that still has the price tag attached, that tip annoys you. You spent money on those items. You thought you’d wear them. At the time you bought the item, you were excited that you grabbed the item at a fantastic clearance price, but now you’d rather not think that you spent money on something that you’ve never worn.
You know you won’t wear the garments and you should clear them out of your closet; but, part of you still resists. The clothing items aren’t really the issue; instead, it’s your thoughts that need the decluttering.
The Item Is Uncomfortable
You wore the item once (or for part of a day). Maybe the fabric was itchy or for some reason the item rides up when you move. You might find yourself focusing on an embellishment or detail that gets in your way every time you move your head. You weren’t bothered by these details during the sixty seconds you wore the item in the dressing room, but once you got the item home you realized you were distracted by that annoying detail.
Acknowledge that the item will never become more comfortable. If you have time (and the receipt) to return the item, you can decide to take that option. If it’s a high-end item, you could try to sell it online or at a local consignment shop. Or, donate it so someone else can enjoy it. You won’t get more value by holding onto the item.
The Tags Are on the Item
If you bought the item to wear in an upcoming season, take off the tags and make the item yours. Keep these new items with the others for that season so you don’t forget clothing that you’ve left in a shopping bag.
What if you bought the item more than a year ago and you realize you aren’t going to wear it? Sell it online or bring it to a consignment shop if you have the time to try and recoup some of what you spent. Otherwise, donate the item.
Acknowledge that it was shopping for the item (not wearing it) that served a purpose – such as showing you what colors you don’t like or what styles you don’t feel comfortable wearing. I know, it’s frustrating to think of the money you spent on something you’ve never worn, so consider what you learned from the experience.
If you find that you regularly buy stuff that is marked to clearance prices, then the thrill of finding the deal was what you paid for. You could think of it like spending money on a movie ticket or to attend an event. You were buying an experience.
If you don’t like the sound of that, you can choose to avoid shopping for fun, when bored, or to have something to do. However, if you still enjoy the experience of shopping (and you can afford to do so), consider “adopting” a local charity so you are focusing your purchases on the needs of the men or women who need business attire or teen girls who can’t afford to buy a prom dress.
The Items Are Unrealistic for Your Current Lifestyle
Do you buy clothing that is a size or two too small, so it will be an incentive to lose weight? Do you buy dressy party clothes because you think you’d be happier if you went to more clubs or events that call for sequins? But, do you really spend your weekends gardening and reading books? Do you buy tailored classics because they seem so practical while you’d rather wear peasant tops and flowing print skirts?
Again, use your past purchases as lessons as to what you truly find comfortable to wear. An outfit shoved into your closet probably won’t be an incentive to change your life. If you find that you do make the same types of purchases for the life you aspire to (as opposed to how you currently live), consider if you really want to make these changes.
It’s natural to fear change. You can consider if you are comfortable with your life (but outside pressure makes you feel that you should want to change); or, if you need to steel yourself and take a step toward being the person who would wear this dream clothing.
Take the First Step to Decluttering Your Closet
Without pulling everything out of your closet, look for items that you won’t or can’t wear and take them out of the closet. Remember, you aren’t wearing these items and so you aren’t losing anything by eliminating them. (If the item has sentimental value, move it to a memory box as opposed to keeping it with the clothing you wear all the time.)
If there are items that you want to sell online or bring to a consignment shop, give yourself a deadline for when you’ll do this – and note that date in your planner or on your calendar. Fill bags with your donations, pop them into your car and take them to your local donation center … or, go online to schedule a pick up at your home.
Simplifying your wardrobe saves you time getting dressed in the morning, streamlines your laundry routine, and makes it easier to see what you like wearing (so you can save yourself future errant purchases). Next week, I’ll focus on decluttering your closet when you don’t have the time or energy to pull everything out all at once. For now, visit the Pinterest board I’ve set up on Simplifying Your Wardrobe.
By Susan Caplan McCarthy
A Year of Decluttering - February: Decluttering as Self-Care
The February theme for A Year of Decluttering is decluttering as an act of self-care. A lot of people feel stressed when at home, faced with cleaning and organizing belongings, tackling the seeming endless reams of paper that end up in piles in too many rooms, losing and misplacing items (occasionally followed by repurchasing items), staring at a closet filled with too many garments that never get worn, and wondering what to do with the purchases that were supposed to inspire them or make life easier.
Decluttering simplifies your lives by eliminating things that aren’t important to you. To eliminate those things, you need to envision what you want your life to look like. I’m not talking about a fantasy of sitting on the beach, drinking a mai tai, and reading a romance novel – that might be fun for an afternoon but hardly worthy of a lifetime.
Simplifying makes space for questions such as: How can I work in a way that challenges me intellectually and creatively? What do I give and get from my close relationships? How do I stretch myself mentally and physically?
This month focuses on ways to simplify the things you use all the time, thereby streamlining routines and eliminating decision overload.
Declutter Your Stuff First
When you decide to declutter your home, you can really start anywhere you want. Some people go for a few easy wins (refrigerator, bathroom, junk drawer) to feel a sense of accomplishment. Others grab the family and get everyone involved (willing or not) in a space that effects everyone, such as the family room.
Unless you have an immediate priority (you need to clear out a room and make it ready for a family member who’ll be visiting or moving in), I’m going to suggest that you consider starting with your stuff. This isn’t a new idea, but I’m going to ask that you consider this as an act of self-care.
You Learn What’s Important to You
When you simplify your life by decluttering, one of the things that you’ll notice is that with less stuff you make fewer decisions. When you’ve pared down your wardrobe, you’ll find it easier to get dressed by streamlining this willpower-destroying decision-making process.
Decluttering helps you learn what is important to you. As you weed through books, you discover the topics that most interest you. When you narrow your wardrobe, you learn what styles you best like to wear. As you sort through hobby supplies, you discover what you best like to create and why you enjoy the pastime.
Also, when you declutter your stuff, you don’t have to worry about anyone else’s opinions, feelings, or participation.
Sometimes, you can clarify what is important to you and use that as your motivation to declutter. Or, for you, it may be easier to start decluttering and learn what is important to you as you make decisions about your stuff.
You’ll notice how you spend your money. Do you buy a lot of inexpensive items on a whim and never use them? Do you lean toward buying aspirational items for things you hope to do or for the person you hope to become?
You can address items with an emotional pull at your own pace without facing someone who pulls an item off a shelf and asks why you want to keep it. As you learn to be kind to yourself and decide which possessions best tell the story of your life, you develop a skill that you can use with other members of your family.
You Become an Example of the Benefits of Decluttering
Remember, it’s unfair to ask others to do what you haven’t done (even if you’re convinced the problem is them). By decluttering your stuff, you lead by example. When you talk about what you are doing, you may encourage others to declutter without requesting that they join you in the task.
You’ll learn to schedule time to declutter your stuff and come up with a plan for donating the items. You’ll learn to make confident decisions and how to deal with the disappointment of wondering if you should have kept something. You’ll learn to curate the best, most loved, pieces of your collections. Basically, you learn to declutter by decluttering. When you move on to common areas and, perhaps, help other family members declutter, you’ll feel more comfortable and confident with the process.
Also, by focusing on your personal items, you may also choose to donate to smaller charities that perhaps only take business clothing for women or evening dresses for girls who want to go to prom. Instead of facing boxes and bags of items belonging to different ages and genders and various rooms in the house, if you want, you can focus on finding a good home for the items you are releasing as opposed to donating to the charity that will take everything you’ve decluttered.
By focusing on decluttering and organizing personal items, you give yourself the space and energy to move onto other projects (and I don’t just mean more decluttering).
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Do you have a decluttering topic you'd like me to discuss? Leave your suggestion in the comments below.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm a professional organizer-coach with 26 years' experience as a teacher. I believe that an organized home isn't your destination but a step on the path toward the life you want to create. I teach decluttering and organizing skills through articles; books; and speaking engagements; as well as virtual coaching sessions.