Note: This is a guest post from Courtney Carver of Be More With Less.
Before I simplified my closet, it was a bigger source of stress than I knew.
It wasn’t just the sheer volume of clothing stuffed into a small space, but all the things the clothes represented. Bad purchase decisions stared me down every morning, reminding me of my debt and discontent. There were the clothes that didn’t fit me anymore (my body or my lifestyle) reminding me I didn’t really know who I was, or what I wanted.
Then there were the items I purchased to feel a certain way or to be perceived a different way. It took me awhile to realize it, and even longer to admit it, but I had countless negative emotions tied up in my closet. Facing them every morning wasn’t a positive way to start the day.
If you can relate to my stressful closet scenario, or you are overwhelmed with closet chaos for other reasons, consider this 3 step process to end closet chaos.
1. Discover the true cost.
Remove everything (and I mean all the things) from your closet. Put everything on your bed. Add all clothing, accessories, jewelry, and shoes from other locations of your home too. All of it.
If it’s on your bed, you’ll have incentive to end closet chaos by bedtime.
Next, take a look at what you’ve amassed over the past few years or decades. It helps to see it all in one place. If seeing all of your stuff like this is a complete shock, you’re welcome to move on to step number two.
But if you need more shock value, go a little deeper and try this …
Put a price on each item. Make a list of each item and the actual price you paid for it. If you can’t remember what you spent, estimate. Add up the cost of each item until you have a grand total. Next, estimate your hourly take home pay and divide the total cost of your closet collection with your hourly take home pay.
For example: If you have $2500 worth of items in your closet and you take home $10.00 an hour, divide 2500 by 10 and you’ll find out you worked 250 hours to buy the clothes and other items sitting on your bed. That’s a little more than six 40-hour work weeks. It took a month and a half to earn the items on your bed and that doesn’t count the hours and weekends lost at the mall or online shopping for everything.
Using the example above, ask yourself what you would do if someone handed you $2500 right now. Would you buy all the stuff back or make different decisions with your money? What if you could trade those 250 hours of time for something other than the stuff from your closet? Would you spend the next 6 weeks working to buy back all the stuff, or would you spend the time differently?
Those answers will help you understand the true cost of what you’ve purchased, and the lesson will stick with you when you consider future purchases. At least it did for me.
2. Put your favorite pieces back in the closet.
Choose the items you wear most frequently and fit you the best and put them back in your closet. Leave the clothes you don’t like and aren’t sure about on the bed. Take a picture of your simplified closet. Each morning when you open your closet, think about how it feels to see more space than stuff. Celebrate the idea that you get to wear your favorite things every day.
3. Box up the rest for a few months.
Take the left over items on your bed and box them up. Put them out of sight. Instead of giving them all away and worrying about not having enough, put a little space and time between you and the excess. See how it feels. Ask yourself if you miss anything. Do you feel lighter? Happier? Less stressed? After 60-90 days, if you haven’t missed anything you boxed up, give it away. Otherwise, revisit the stuff you packed away and make a decision. Let it go, bring it back, or take another 30 days to decide.
There isn’t a right or wrong decision here. The distance you put between you and your stuff will help you decide based on actual wants and needs instead of emotional connection.
For a deeper dive into understanding what enough means to you, consider minimalist fashion challenge Project 333. Dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. You can find the rules here.
Once you end closet chaos, your mornings open up, you spend less, and you will begin to find confidence in who you are instead of what you wear. You can apply this 3-step process to any room in your home, or collection of items you think may be excessive.
Instead of using this process to feel guilty, or upset about what you’ve spent, or how much time you’ve invested in working for things you might not even want now, smile. With these 3 steps, you’ve redefined your purchase process, eliminated stress, and reminded yourself you can choose to own less stuff, spend less money, and reclaim the time and energy you previously devoted to stuff.
Smile, because now you can start really living.