Shopping My Closet

When things aren’t going well in my life, or feel out of control, I find that one of my ‘quirks’ is that I clean out a closet. The short form of that is cleaning out the refrigerator, I start checking expiration dates, notice a bunch of things no one wants to eat (all those weird jams and jellies people give you at Christmas, the hot sauce that looks like it would kill you if you ever ate it), and the next thing I know, I am surrounded by a million jars and bottles, tossing them into the garbage. And presto magic, two hours later, my refrigerator is nearly empty, scrubbed and immaculate.

The long form of that is cleaning out a closet. No expiration dates, but a stack of clothes you no longer want to wear.

I go for long spells of keeping everything, ‘just in case’ a dress I wore twenty years ago and think I might wear again (but never do), a funny looking coat that might just come back into style (which my kids tell me was never in style in the first place), things that my kids gave me. I hold onto all of it, convinced I will wear it again, but somehow I don’t. Clothes I had a good time in, or a bad time and want to redeem them. And a whole bunch of things in the wrong sizes, that if I just lose three pounds will fit better, or gain five pounds and then they’ll fit again and I might need them. (As small/short as I am, 3 to 5 pounds makes a noticeable difference). And then there are the fashion mistakes that I don’t want to own up to, so I hang onto them for dear life. Maybe some of this sounds familiar to you too.

I have discovered some things about myself in cleaning out my closets. Shopping relaxes me, and sometimes when I am sad or very stressed, I’ll go shopping. I do it particularly on a Sunday, when I’m lonely, bored, not working, or have nothing to do. I’ll go shopping with one of my daughters or alone, and I buy something, but it’s not really me, but I convince myself that it looks cute at the time (and in fact, it doesn’t), so there is a whole bunch of my Sunday shopping stuffed into my closet.

The other thing I do is buy something that looks good—but not on me. It just isn’t my style, or the kind of thing I wear. In that case, I ask the person I’m with (usually a daughter) “do you think I’ll wear this?” Their answer is almost always emphatically no! (Or ‘I hope not!’, particularly if it’s a weird color, shiny, or has sparkles on it. I get a little weird on Sundays). But I’m stubborn, so I convince myself that the item in question really is cute and I’ll wear it. And the truth is I never do. In a recent closet purge, every one of those ‘Do you think I’ll wear this?’ items came out of my closet unworn. I’ve learned a real lesson from it. If I have to ask the question ‘Do you think I’ll wear this?’, I never will, and I shouldn’t buy it in the first place. I’m going to try not to buy those items in future.

So, feeling down after the recent death of my beloved stepmother, not wanting to go out and see people, I was hanging around at home, and decide to put the time to good use—and I attacked my closets. It turned into a massive project, and after a while, I turned zealous about it. The trouble with keeping a bunch of stuff you don’t wear, don’t like, and that no longer looks good on you, is that you can’t find the stuff that does look good on you when you look for something to wear. My closets were a mess, so I started pulling out the uglies, the things that looked great on me 20 years ago and no longer do, the things I shouldn’t have bought in the first place (an orange plastic jacket that was really scary, a lot of stuff with sequins that I would never have the guts to wear, a turtleneck sweater that nearly strangled me when I put it on. If it looks ugly, makes you feel bad, or it no longer fits and never will again, maybe you should consider parting with it). And out it all came in a heap on the floor. And along with the stuff I was embarrassed to have bought, were a bunch of things I had forgotten that I owned, some really pretty stuff that was hidden behind the rest, a white jacket I bought ten years ago that was really chic and I forgot I owned, a beautiful brown handbag I can’t wait to wear, two really good looking green plastic bangle bracelets that will be fun for the summer, and some very good looking black blouses. Suddenly, I had a whole wardrobe I could wear. I found a ten year old black and white checked wool suit that was almost identical to one I just saw in W magazine this week and was drooling over. By getting rid of the junk and the mistakes, and the things I had seriously outgrown, I actually discovered the best items in my wardrobe, and it was fun and exciting to find them, to have easy access to them because the rest is gone. I can suddenly reach into my closet and find something I want to wear, instead of ten things I don’t because I feel ugly in them. My criteria was ‘do I want to wear this?’ If the answer was no, it went in the ‘goodbye’ pile.

It was both easier and harder because I had an audience while I did it. One of my daughters was home, and watched me tear apart my closets. With 3 daughters who work in fashion, I have a tough advisory board here, and sometimes I get a resounding “No, Mom!” over something I love and want to keep. I also have to use some of my own judgment, no matter how chic they are. Their judgment is a lot younger, they are more tuned in to the current fashion trends, and some of that just doesn’t look right on me. It’s a little tough to have them go technical on me and tell me they don’t like ‘the silhouette’—-never mind ‘the silhouette’, does my behind look big in this? But sometimes it’s a good thing to have a second opinion. Remember the scene in the movie ‘Sex and the City’ where Carrie’s 3 friends line up, as she models everything in her closet, and they brutally tell her what to keep and what to get rid of. Well, it was like that when I recently purged my closets. There were a lot of ‘No, Mom!’’s, but there was a lot of great stuff too, that I loved, had forgotten, and am excited to wear again. It’s like having a whole new wardrobe. And I’m digging it all out of my own closet and didn’t have to spend a penny.

There is money in this too. I used to donate my clothes to thrift shops, and my fashionable daughters convinced me several years ago to sell the good stuff at resale shops. And to be honest, it’s nice getting some money back for the mistakes. Why not?

The big lesson I learned is that when I need to ask someone on my Sunday shopping ventures ‘Do you think I’ll wear this?’—it is ALWAYS a mistake. Always. I’m going to stop buying those from now on.

I actually had a ball cleaning out my closets. Some of what I found there was embarrassing, and some was really great, and I found some old favorites that I’ve missed and lost track of.

I highly recommend cleaning out your closet as a fun activity. And you’ll be amazed what you learn about yourself. And you’ll probably find some good surprises in there too. And right now, while we’re all trying to be restrained and reasonable, shopping your closet is fun and really works!

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15 Comments so far
  1. Avanti Scriven July 30, 2009 2:59 pm

    This is something I definetly need to do. I just moved to Tampa, Florida and when we were loading the U-haul I noticed I had nearly 15 suitcases with all of my clothes is them. I had gone through them before and said that I was gonna wear some of the clothes, I donated my homecoming dress 4 months ago and still have my prom dress. I said to myself my daughter will be able to wear this dress to her prom, but by that time if will be out of fashion and they will have MILLIONS of other dresses to choose from that will look so much better than mine. Some of the things that I really want to hold onto I have to let go one by one, bit by bit. I’m really glad you wrote this because I’ve been putting it off for quite some time.
    Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. jude July 30, 2009 4:21 pm

    There is something so satisfying about cleaning out a fridge or closet or cabinet or even the junk drawer. It’s a defined task, it brings order to chaos, and it happens in a relatively short time period.

    Unlike the back porch aka Storage Area of Doom.

  3. Patricia Kennedy July 31, 2009 1:27 am

    I have at least four major closets that I need to clean out. I know I have outdated clothing,clothing with stains, and things that are my husband’s or my parent’s.I have no clue what I will find. I love reading your books and your blog. I am an aspiring writer and I love your books. Thank you!

  4. Preeti Pandey July 31, 2009 3:06 am

    Yeah I think it’ll work for me too some day coz I have outgrown all my dresses. My wardrobe too shows its impact as all size s has changed to XL.

    But despite of throwing them away I have kept them safe , so that some day when I’ll resume my normal size s (maybe after 10 years) I’ll find the treasured wardrobe waiting.

  5. P.J. Mayer July 31, 2009 7:54 am

    As a child, my father always used to tell me to give away all the things I wasn’t wearing any more. I would do this and then say, “Daddy come here and look at my closet, this is all I have left to wear.” Then, after lookng at a half empty closet, he’d take me to a store called Joseph Magnin’s and buy me more dresses for school. This game kept up twice a year until I was 17 years old and graduated from high school.
    Later, when I pulled this exercise on my husband, it didn’t have the same effect, but I still clean out my closets twice a year.

  6. M Smith July 31, 2009 10:55 am

    Since I tend to buy clothes I do like, when season changes, I push the wardrobe on the rack to the far back for the new season. This year I’ve noticed my wardrobe is thicker than usual. Not as easy to spot and grab. I’m not sure whether to 🙂 or 🙁
    Maybe I’ll let it grow thicker until I’ve had it. Then what to toss will be more obvious. Now I’m smiling. I guess that’s the plan.

  7. Katalin Eck July 31, 2009 9:50 pm

    I love you!

    Te egy csodalatos ember vagy aki sokaknak az eletet konnyebbe teszi konyveid altal!!

    Sok szeretettel,egy rakos beteg ,Katalin

  8. kathryn magendie August 2, 2009 9:36 am

    I just cleaned out my closets recently – made me feel so much better! Also made me cringe or laugh at some of the things I’d purchased….oops! teeehee 🙂

  9. Kimberly Bonano Alvarez August 3, 2009 10:56 am

    Yes, it does feel great to get rid of all the un-used stuff… It’s very Feng Shui to remove unnecessary clutter from our life! I’ve been doing that myself as of late… 🙂

  10. Joann August 4, 2009 5:35 pm

    I definitely have to clean out my closet and dresser drawers…I lost 16 pounds and everything is big on me now. I just might start Sunday shopping with my daughters now especially since I need new clothes. Oh and Danielle I want to see those new bracelets on you in the next photo of your newest book. We have something in common. “BRACELETS” I love em. Your daughters sound like mine, when I buy a new bracelet. “No Mom!” Aren’t kids great?

  11. kimmi August 5, 2009 7:26 pm

    Love to purge the closets and drawers, it does make one feel better and makes one less likely prone to objects falling out. Great post and thanks for sharing. : )

  12. Tina August 12, 2009 1:19 am

    Hi! This is my first time to browse your blog and I must say it is sensational! I had a ball reading them.

    I cleaned out my closet last night and sold a few clothes at a resale shop today and also had fun going around downtown with my daughters.

    True what you said about clothes with sequins. I wanted to buy those a while ago because they are in vogue but then I know that I will never wear them because I strongly dislike sequins period.

    Thanks for sharing your stories.

  13. sandra407 September 9, 2009 8:34 am

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  14. Nicole September 12, 2009 3:22 pm

    I will be looking at virtually everything I own as I am getting ready to make a very exciting move to Reading, England. Thanks to reading this, I think I’ll enjoy it.

  15. Slowerlq July 10, 2010 7:42 am

    Благодарность автору, интересная новость.
    P.S. Кто подскажет, где мне найти торрент трекер без регистрации?