Lessons in Spring Cleaning April 17 2013

A couple of weekends ago, I decided to finally clean out my closet. This was, not at all, how I wanted to spend my weekend. Weekends are for relaxing and doing things you actually want to do. I suppose as you get older, some of that free time gets claimed by grown-up chores, like laundry and spring cleaning. 


Organizing my closet is something I always dread and put off for month and months. Why? Because it takes hours and I typically have a hard time letting go of things. Clothing can be a reminder of memories. My grey leather jacket always came through when I needed to make an old outfit look new. And there's that black pencil-skirt that gave me a world of confidence going into my first job interviews. My dad would always say, "How much clothes do you need?" But clothes are important, especially during the teen years when every little boost of confidence counts. My first-day-of-school outfit was always planned weeks in advance. I changed at least three times before going out with friends on friday nights. What we wear often determines how we feel – perhaps that's why I've held onto my old favorite outfits – because those clothes played a part in my favorite memories. 


With age, comes a lesson in letting go of things and making space for new keepsakes and memories. By cleaning out my closet, I learned a few things about organization, and also learned a few things about myself:


-The clothes make the man: most of us are familiar with this saying. Our clothes are how we make a statement about ourselves. With lifestyle changes, our clothes change too. You should feel comfortable in what you're wearing. As cool as I looked in some of my high-school outfits, I can't get away with wearing those same things today. 


-Looking at your closet in the morning shouldn't be overwhelming: You start each day by getting dressed and something so mundane shouldn't be stressful because of all the clutter you have to dig through just to get to what you're looking for. Once you clear out some space, you'll see what you're working with more clearly. 


-The one year rule: If you haven't worn something in over a year, get rid of it. Plain and simple. It's easy to say "oh, I'll totally wearing this again!" If you forgot you had it in the first place, you probably won't miss it if you get rid of it. If you're really hesitant to get rid of something, set aside a chunk of your closet to revisit in a month. (Just make sure it's hanging in your closet so you see it. If you make a separate 'maybe' pile, that pile will sit for another month and you'll forget all about it.)


-Organize your old belongings into two bags: stuff to throw away and stuff to donate. If you're spending the time to get organized, might as well do your part to give-back and donate the things that someone else might need. 


-Stop buying things with the assumption that you'll find the perfect occasion to put them to use. If you don't need it, then don't add it to the clutter. 


-How to stay clutter-free: each time you get something new, see if there's one or two things you can get rid of.


-De-cluttering takes time: You won't get rid of everything right away. It might take two or three times before you feel fully organized, and that's okay. It's not an endless process but it's something that should be done regularly (at least twice a year) to avoid a mountain of junk you don't need. 


Clutter can be overwhelming – it's healthy to get rid of things you don't need anymore. If you un-clutter one part of your life, you might feel inspired to un-clutter the rest. There's a sense of relief that comes with creating space for new things in your life, whether that's making more room in your closet, freeing up time for family and friends, or maintaining your living space. Getting rid of old things to make room for the new isn't easy, but that just means you're growing up.