Clutter can be debilitating. We have been somewhat thankful in that both Kristin and I have moved a fair amount in the past five years. Each time we move, we go through our stuff and pare down what we don’t really need anymore. Having to cram all of your personal possessions into a Hyundai Sonata – twice – really make you think about what things you want to keep and what things you don’t.
Clothes, though, always seemed to be a little bit elusive during these moves. Thankfully, we’ve employed the same trick every year to help us keep our wardrobes relatively lean. This helps us free up closet space. Having less clutter in your house has positive psychological effects, too.
No Emotions: Just Facts
The biggest issue with decluttering in general is that it can be an emotional process. When you look at all the clothes you have, you remember when you got them and how it makes you feel. That’s all great and grand, but holding onto things that provide no utility can lead to a ton of useless clutter.
So, when we embark on our decluttering journey we agree: we won’t assess anything by any emotional tie we have to it. Instead, we’ll just deal with cold, boring facts.
We’ll only keep things that actually have utility in our lives – that is, things we actually use.
So Many Shirts
Back in 2005 I went to an event called the Electronics Entertainment Expo, or E3. If you’re a gaming nerd, you’ve heard of it. It’s one of the largest gaming/electronics expos in the world, and it’s a place for developers and producers show off new games, new gaming systems, and other electronics.
I won’t get into that story exactly, but my dad came along with me and my friend when we went. His goal for the visit? Find all the free swag he could while my friend and I got down to business (we were tasked with a specific responsibility by the folks who sent us there).
At the end of the expo, I think I had something like two-dozen t-shirts. Those shirts were great. I loved them, and they had some awesome memories tied to them. Unfortunately, I didn’t really wear them all that often – not even my Starcraft: Ghost t-shirt.
The Hanger Trick
So how do you get rid of something you love? The trick is simple – if you only care about if you wear something, just figure out what you wear. One of the easiest way to do this is to switch around all of your hangers on your clothes. Instead of forward-facing hangers (with the open part toward the back), you have backward-facing hangers where the open part is facing you.
Whenever you wear something, put it on a hanger the ‘normal’ way. After three months, assess your wardrobe again. What have you worn? What have you not worn?
Everything that you haven’t worn? That’s all on the list of things to donate/sell/throw away if it’s in bad shape.
Seasonality and Other Exceptions
One of the biggest issues with this approach is that seasonality still comes into play. If you have a variety of clothes, chances are that part of your wardrobe won’t be worn for a period of several months. It wouldn’t really make sense to get rid of winter clothes that are good and you wear in the winter if you’re doing this in July.
The easiest way to take care of that is to just do the hanger trick again in the winter months.
Likewise, some clothes are pretty situational. I only wear dressier clothes on special occasions, like weddings or if I’m interviewing for a job. I’m not going to get rid of my ties just because I didn’t wear them in three months.
Just because something doesn’t make the cut doesn’t automatically mean it exits my wardrobe; just that it’s a very viable contender. If the only tie to it is emotional, though, it gets donated.
The Hanger Trick works out great for a wardrobe, but you can extend the concept to other areas of your life and belongings as well. If you haven’t used those fancy dishes you got in a year, do you really need to keep them?
Finding ways to reduce your stuff has some great benefits. In addition to potentially being able to sell some things, having less stuff helps you focus on the things that matter more to you. It also means that if you move or want to downsize, it’s much easier to do so.
In the end, stuff that’s not providing value to your life in some meaningful way is just clutter, and I don’t know anybody who’s excited about clutter.
What tricks do you use to declutter your life?