Recently a good friend introduced me to Hubbub, a new social enterprise that finds fun ways of helping people avoid waste and live more sustainably. They have organised clothes swapping events around London and are planning a fashion festival later in the year (watch this space for more on that). It is a great initiative because we could all be more discerning when it comes to impulse purchases that just take up precious wardrobe space. Wouldn’t we all love to have the perfectly-edited wardrobe with everything visible and easy to navigate?
Even if we can never attain perfection, there are practical steps one can take for a closet spring clean if inspired to do a bit of recycling or just feeling the joys of spring. Here are a few of mine that I’ve gathered from friends and experience over the years and that have served me (and my local charity shops) well.
- Get the timing right. You should be in motivated, if not even ruthless, mood. Some of the items you come across may inspire feelings of nostalgia and you will need to be objective about them – unless they really have strong emotional resonance, if they are not working for you any more, they should go. You also need to ensure you have set aside enough time. Depending on the scale of the task, you may need anything from 30 minutes for a quick seasonal refresh to a day (or more) for extensive collections or desperate cases. For longer jobs you should divide the work into manageable chunks to avoid becoming overwhelmed and consider getting a friend to help.
- Prepare yourself. Gather what you need in advance: a vacuum cleaner, duster, moth repellent, lavender oil/bags, step ladder, black bin bags.
- Gear up for decision-making. Prepare your essential criteria in advance, for example: Does it still fit? Does it suit me? When was the last time I wore it? Is it still in good condition? Would I still buy it today? How do I feel when I wear it?
- Take everything out of the wardrobe. EVERYTHING.
- Clean inside. Dust all surfaces, hoover the floor, spray moth repellent (do follow the safety guidance on the can). Take a moment of pride in how clean and fresh it now looks (this is more important than it sounds).
- Set your categories. Establish 3 distinct floor areas: one for clothes you might wish to sell on; a second for clothes you are going to give away to charity; and a third for clothes that need maintenance (cleaning, hemming etc.). Some people also find it helpful to have a fourth area for clothes they are not sure about. It can help to have a cool-off period but if you doubt your ability to be decisive I don’t recommend this.
- Start sorting. Try to keep up as fast a pace as you can. It can be tempting to start browsing or to get nostalgic about old things. Resist and keep things brisk and business-like; in cases of doubt keep coming back to your criteria. If you have a friend with you they can help keep you on track (or at least bring you tea).
- Maintain resolution. This is where your cleaning pride comes in. If you start to feel your resolve ebbing away, keep looking at the empty space in the wardrobe. Think how much an uncluttered and clean environment will improve both the hanging environment for your clothes and your own daily decision-making.
- Impose order. As you go, place all the keepers straight back into the wardrobe. It can be a good idea to group them in ways that will help you combine items more easily. Some people group by season, some by colour, some by items that they frequently wear in combination. You can use these groupings to weed out items that just don’t go with anything else, multiples of the same item (black trousers, anyone?), and to spot new combinations to try.
- Audit your hangers. Maximise your hanging space by removing anything that can be stored folded – jeans, t-shirts, jerseys. Check that hangers are the right size for the item and not too small (droopy shoulders) or too wide (poking out the sleeve). Use the right types of hangers for each item. Very light silk dresses or shirts may hang better on padded hangers. Jackets and suits will be better on wooden or rubber moulded hangers (Muji and Ocado both make good quality wooden ones).
When you are done, quickly bag up the clothes you are getting rid of to avoid the temptation to re-consider. Having said that, I do usually keep the bags for a day or so just in case of any second thoughts, inspired by the ideas for new combinations the clear-out might have generated. Then get them back into re-circulation and get out to enjoy some well-deserved spring sunshine in a newly-discovered sartorial combination.