I have always loved clothes. I would try to take almost my entire wardrobe to college each year because I never knew when I might want to wear a certain item. I would pack my four extra-large blue plastic totes to the brim with my most cherished cotton and polyester belongings and my mother would roll her eyes and say, “Do you really need all of that?” Or, “I’m glad we only do this moving to-and-from college thing twice a year.”
I used to accept donated clothes whether they fit or not, and whether I really liked them or not, because they were free. I bought thrift store and Marshalls’ clearance items too often because I could get so many things for so little money, and it felt good.
I had no space for all these clothes. Have you seen the scene in the movie 27 Dresses where Katherine Heigl is pulling bridesmaid dresses out of her overstuffed hall closet to try on and then stuffing them back in? That’s what my closet looked like. In one apartment, I had so many dresses, coats, shirts, sweaters, and pants crammed onto my 4 ft. closet rod that it fell off the wall and my landlord had to put it back up. Did I take this as a sign to get rid of some clothes? Nope. I had the genius idea to use the side space in the closet and add an extra hanging rod that rested perpendicular to the original rod in two brackets attached to the wall. This provided me with an additional 2 feet or so of hanging space. Problem solved, right?
I wasn’t shopping every other day, or every weekend, but maybe buying 1-3 low-cost items a month. However, when I did the math, the accumulation of stuff made sense: buying just one item a month equals 60 items over five years and two items a month become 120 over the same period. This plus only giving a handful of items away here and there led to the closet catastrophe.
I luckily had a premonition/feeling that I had to start giving things away about 3-4 months before I would end up moving from this apartment. I decided if it didn’t fit, wasn’t “me,” or was rarely worn, it finally had to go.
I gave away about 10 paper grocery bags of clothes in one donation trip. I told myself I would never again have that many clothes. And one surprising thing helped me to do that:
I bought different hangers, and that made a huge difference. Plastic hangers are more dangerous than you think:
Having traditional thin plastic hangers and the wire & paper “dry cleaning” type in your closet allows you to pack in way more clothes than you realistically should, since they take up very little space. This can be a problem for people like me. So I saved up my Bed Bath & Beyond coupons and bought nice wooden hangers. 17 wooden hangers fit in the same section of closet as 35 plastic hangers, so they automatically limit the amount of clothes that can fit in my closet space. There’s no way to add “just one more hanger,” since there isn’t any room for extras. (Having a shoe organizer also helps. I only have as many shoes as can fit in the organizer. If I buy a new pair, it’s to replace ones that have become worn out or damaged).
I really don’t miss all the extra clothes. I find that having a few nice, well-fitting items is much better than having a ton of ill-fitting items. I am just fine with 4 pairs of jeans instead of 12. I don’t need 6 winter coats. While I don’t think I could limit myself to living with just 20 or 30 clothing items, I think I’ve come a long way. One question that really helped (besides the “KonMari” question of “does it spark joy”?) in deciding whether or not to keep something was, “Does this fit my life right now?” Not what my life used to be, or an unrealistic expectation of what I’d like it to be in the future, but right now.
If I had to be honest, I had held onto things that didn’t fit my life “right then,” either out of guilt or because I thought, “well maybe they’ll be right for me someday.” But pretty much everything I gave away never would have been “right” someday. The items weren’t worth altering since they didn’t fit my lifestyle to begin with, and most didn’t have the quality to last another 5-10 years after being altered.
So if you find that limiting the amount of clothing in your closet is an area of constant struggle, try swapping out your plastic hangers for wood hangers. It just might be the trick that helps you stay organized!
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27 Dresses image from kheigl.com