Monday, November 02, 2009

A Home for the Holidays: Day 2

(Please note, the assignments for Day 1 and Day 2 are especially ambitious. You are not intended to finish them in one day, but work for an hour or two toward the list. Then, when there is a daily assignment that you've recently done or one that doesn't apply to you, you can come back and work on these lists.)

Get a box and some trash bags (donate, out of season, too big/too small, needs washing, needs mending, etc.) and head into your bedroom. If you are going to be working hard getting your house into shape, you're going to need a haven to relax off to sleep in.

Before you open your closet or dresser, I want you to close your eyes for a few minutes and think through the following types of questions:

How many dresses do I need? Sweaters? Pairs of jeans? T-Shirts? Consider writing down a number for how many of each item you think would be good to have. For instance, 7 pairs of jeans would last you a week if you wore them every day and didn't wear any other kind of pants or skirt. Most people could make them last at least 2 weeks before laundry had to be done. Do you need more than 7 pairs of jeans?

Put everything that does not belong in your bedroom in the box. Put it in the hallway, or somewhere out of your way.

Now, if there is anything else out besides clothes, put it away. Your floor should be clear.

Dust anything that's easy to get to (i.e. if your dresser is covered with jewelry or perfume or something, leave that for later).

Vacuum the floor.

If you know you'll have some time to devote to this, take all of your clothes and shoes out of your dresser, closet, etc. and put it on the bed or on the floor. Be careful with your hangables so you don't wrinkle them. Sometimes I get an old shower rod and hang it in the hall when I'm doing this, but I have both a narrow hallway and a spare shower rod at hand. A chair can be used to drape across, but it is easy to just lay hangables nicely on your bed without wrinkling them.

If you aren't sure you'll have too much time, try your best to just weed through things as they stay in your drawers/closet. You can set a timer and just quit after an hour or two. We don't want to burn out by going too gung-ho on our first few days, but it does feel good to knuckle down and get some things done!

Do a quick wipedown of any shelves or drawers that might be dusty. Vacuum the bottom of your closet.

Now, think back to the quantities you pondered during the beginning of the list while you put your most favorite clothes back. Put in-season, well-fitting clothes back into your closet and dresser until they are half full. Now it's time to be ruthless. If your closet or dresser is more than 75% of maximum capacity, it's going to be really hard to find things and move things around. You might be liable to leave the drawers stuffed full and not touch them (yes I know this from experience). Be very selective about adding additional clothes to your clothes spaces.

Now, look at what is left. Is there anything you really don't have a hard time parting with? Put it in one bag designated for donation. If you still have clothes left over, here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide:

First, set a time limit for how old things can be and not get the axe (you can spare special clothing like heirlooms or wedding dresses, etc., but don't get too carried away with that dress you wore on a date with your ex.) Anything more than (for example) 5 years old gets automatically donated.

Am I saving this because I hope to fit into it one day? If so, will it still be in style? If I AM able to lose that weight, would I be able to afford to treat myself to a few NEW clothes? (remember, clothes retailers often mark things below thrift store prices!)

Am I afraid I might weigh more than I do now, so I am saving this item that is TOO BIG for me? Can I really emotionally afford to be this pessimistic?

Am I saving this because I paid good money for it and only wore it once or twice? If so, try to realize that the space left behind by that item is quite valuable and someone needy can benefit from your donation - nicer items are especially helpful; consider donating to Dress for Success for nice businesswear. Also image how much time you will have to spend treating stains, laundering, drying, and ironing the item if you do decide to keep it.

Am I saving it because it's a nice brand name and I think I could sell it secondhand? If so, give yourself a month to do so - there are consignment stores and also Craiglist/eBay Put these items in a bag and find them a temporary home NOT in your room.

Do you have room to store out of season items? Remember, you can only have as many as will fit nicely (no more than 75% full) in your drawers and closet. You can get bins and bed risers pretty inexpensively if you don't have a similar solution - this way you don't have to dig through your out-of-season clothes every time you are looking for an outfit.

This might take a little courage, but ask your significant other or a close friend if there is anything in the remaining pile that doesn't look good on you. Lots of clothes are cute on the hanger, or even cute before a couple of washes, but then they fade and stretch out and the cut is no longer flattering.

If you still have clothes beyond your capacity (some closets are REALLY small!), there are a few things you can do to help you decide or get the courage to get rid of them:

* Give the clothes to someone you know and like and think will enjoy them.
* Do the backwards-hanger trick in your closet (Turn every hanger around so the end of the hook is facing the door, then when you wear it, put it back regularly. At the end of the time period (3 months?), anything still backwards goes.
* Invite a friend over to help you decide. Offer to do the same for them.
* Put all the remaining clothes in a bag and put it away somewhere not in your room. If you one day decide you'd like to wear something in the bag, go get it, wear it, then put it away in your room. If you can't even remember what is in the bag after a month or so, chances are that you don't really love it.
* Consider starting a clothes-swapping group with similarly-sized friends. You have to give something good if you expect something good, so trade a bag of clothes for another. Since you got the bag basically free, it should be easy to pick the things you love out and pass the rest on. Easy come, easy go! (I always find it easiest to donate things given to me or things I bought inexpensively. I guess I still am battling the tenacity of hyper-thriftiness.)

Now that your clothes are all in order (hooray!), resolve to begin a static inventory system. Whenever you get one new item of clothing, one old item must go! If there is anything that was out in the laundry while you were organizing your clothes, you must get rid of it or swap something else out because your closet and dresser are already at maximum functional capacity! (75% full)

Consider using this same routine for your coats, scarves, hats, gloves, handbags, etc. if you keep them in a hall closet. How many coats can a person really wear in one winter?

Are your clothes beautifully organized? Are you already excited to wear a forgotten favorite you found tomorrow?

Remember the box? Put away everything that has a home. If it doesn't have a home, or you can't get to it's home because of clutter, try to find a staging spot in the room it belongs in (maybe a small cardboard box in each room for the duration of our organizing binge?)

If you still have time, change your bedsheets and do something to freshen the air in your bedroom (air spray, candle, potpourri, etc) and find a good book for your nightstand or pillow. Turn down the covers so when it's time for bed you can just pop in and relax.

(If you already were so on-top of your wardrobe, either work some more on the kitchen (we didn't get to cleaning out the microwave and oven yet), deal with family laundry, or do 3-6 20-minute rotations in different rooms of your house sprucing things up - it'll be easier to dive in deep when we get to other rooms in your house.)

I know you probably didn't finish the kitchen and the bedroom (I think these are the rooms that take the most time), but take a picture of your progress. I bet it already looks lots better than it did before!


Chris and Audrey said...

I picked up some clothes and organized my hanging clothes in the closet. I also cleaned out the fridge and organized the pantry. Yeah for getting stuff done!

Jessica Stier said...

I love the idea of putting the hangers in backwards to really gauge if you are wearing an item!