My beloved, @thetallphotographer, has been reading a book over the last few weeks and has suggested that I have a look at it too. It’s called the Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo.
He has been clearing stuff out with gusto – only his own stuff mind you. You can’t tidy for someone else! Your rubbish may not be the same as theirs and concentrating on your own crap certainly avoids any “possible areas of conflict” arising.
So I started reading it and have taken on board the initial concept that we shouldn’t keep the things we do not need or that don’t “give us joy” any more. We can feel gratitude for what each item has provided for us – whether it filled a need, but has now broken or needs repairing; whether it was a new item and we’ve kind of changed our minds about it once we got it home, but it satisfied a need to ‘buy’ something at the time; or if we have been given something we don’t really like/want but it was a gift so we have to hold on to it.
Now I had previously gone through my main wardrobe sorting out what I wear and don’t wear and had put a few things in a bag for the charity shop. These were genuinely unloved items, but there was still a whole tonne of stuff that needed sorting through.
The book describes taking a category of ‘stuff’ to tidy rather than approaching a room or particular space. And sorting clothes is at the easy end of stuff to clear and throw out. Yes there is a hierarchy! It also tells you to hunt down all and I mean ALL items of clothing, shoes and accessories from all over the house, garage and shed. Which I duly did and deposited it all on the floor in my bedroom.
Now I’m not going to show you any pictures, as it is a mountain of clothing shame! Let me tell you it was almost as tall as me!!!
So filled with a zen-like sense of gratitude for all of my items of apparel I started wading through my textile mountain. Bras that were several sizes too small – banished. Knickers that were pretty but not really comfy went the same way. ‘Work’ clothes from a previous life as a fashion lecturer that just didn’t fit my lifestyle now – be gone! Evening and ‘special outfits’, some from over 20 years ago were similarly relegated to the charity pile.
I. WAS. RUTHLESS.
It took all day, in between bouts of painkillers for a dental abscess and emergency treatment (but that’s another story). By the end of this marathon chuck-out I had 3 bags of rubbish and 5 bags for the charity shop.
I had culled my clothes by three quarters! But what was left had to be put back again and Marie Kondo is a folding ninja! Her method of folding is genius.
I followed her advice and stroked and folded what was left of my clothes and lovingly and gratefully placed them back into the drawers and wardrobe. It really shocked me to see how sparse it all looked. This was what I actually wore, these were the clothes I used on a daily basis. I was in an internal conflict. The space and simplicity of what was left was physically lightening, but I was emotionally drained and nearly in tears. So I went and had a gin, (I know not generally a good idea on top of ibuprofen), to consider why I was so upset.
Afterall I hadn’t actually worn anything I had thrown out for ages, and the vast majority of it didn’t even fit me anymore. Looking at and holding these items of clothing had brought back so many memories. There were the T shirts I had worn to various festivals with my best friend, although they were all way too small to fit me now. There was the gorgeous Oasis dress that I had bought to wear to a friends wedding, I just adored the fabric and had made a silk jacket to go with it. But that was over 20 years ago and my friends weren’t even together now. There were several beautiful evening dresses I had worn to some family black tie events, again they didn’t fit but could I really part with them?
It was bit like like having to give up my memories. These times in my life were gone and past, I’m not 25 or a size 12 any more and never will be, but the clothes allowed me to hold on to those memories – like an old photo. Although they didn’t fit and I wouldn’t wear them again I still loved them for what they meant to me.
Was I really ready to give that up? Are clothes comfort or clutter?
A week on and I haven’t actually taken my discards to the charity shop – just yet. But I do love the space and clarity I have in my wardrobe now. I can open my drawers and actually see what’s in there. I can’t promise it will all stay beautifully folded, but one lives in hope. It has also given me the mental headspace to start planning new additions to my wardrobe without the guilt associated with adding to “all the stuff I have already”.
Have you tried this method of tidying and how did it make you feel? Is there something you really couldn’t give up?
7 thoughts on “Are Clothes Comfort or Clutter?”
Oh fabrics, clothes and memories….it’s a difficult one. And very personal. My mother has kept some of her handmade, and bought clothes, clothes from the fifties and I am so glad she has hasn’t thrown them away and I was very prepared to give them a home and I have worn them and I will keep them. I love the old pictures of her wearing them. I also have some of the handmade dresses and left over fabrics from the 70s which I can remember her wearing when I was a child. ( more polyester than the silk and linen of the fifties – it’s a great real life example of how things changed ). I made my daughter retro 70s clothes from the left over 70s fabric ( when she was about 7 and would still wear things I made her, but that’s a whole other story. )
I then made ‘ memory’ patchwork cushions from all the left over fabrics that I used to make both my children’s clothes. My son’s were predominantly red and blue so I made it up in the shape of a Union Jack. My daughter had one square of a different fabric made into a patchwork dog. They really did seem to appreciate them and say things like ‘ oh I remember my nightie in that fabric’ etc.
As you can tell I am quite sentimental about fabrics and memories ( I must have inherited that as my mother clearly never threw much away either ! ) and even when the actual piece of clothing is no longer fit for purpose, just having a scrap of the fabric helps keep the memory alive.
As I said, it’s very personal. De-cluttering is immensely cathartic, but memories are special too.
I really enjoyed reading your post. I try to do this type of culling work seasonally. We live in an apartment (and have most of my life) so we don’t have the space to hold onto things past their usefulness. I always say I’m not going to move just to pay for more space to house my “stuff” 🙂 But lately (since my return to sewing 2 years ago) I’ve noticed I’m taking up more and more space! I have some serious culling to do now of my sewing stuff (notions I don’t use – imagine that?! – fabric I thought I would like when I started out and don’t actually favour much now I’m well into it – eek I’m afraid to write much more!). For some reason this culling feels harder than any of the others. Years ago I was much much better – if I brought something into my home something had to leave. It really helped with curbing impulse buys I’m telling you! I think I’m going to have to adopt that now to sewing supplies. I read recently that one sewer forces herself to use 3 fabrics in her stash before she’s allowed to buy one. That might be something I’ll have to start very soon 🙂 !
Yes, I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s book even though I have not made it through my whole house yet. I did do my clothing ( a year ago last winter) and it has been so freeing. I folded up my clothing and it has stayed that way = and it is so much easier to see in the drawers!! Before I was always thinking I needed “more” -socks, athletic wear, tee shirts, etc. – when in reality I have more than “enough”. It also has made my seasonal clothing change out so easy! It used to take me a couple of days to change out my closet from fall/winter to spring/summer because of all the clothing I had that really wasn’t worn. Now it takes me a couple of hours and everything in my closet is a favorite item. It is hard to let go = maybe you can take a picture to keep if it is that sentimental? Otherwise, just do it! I promise you, you will not regret it at all.
I can just imagine the wrench the”clear-out” must have been. Emotional stuff!
What about taking a photo of the pieces that meant so much before saying goodbye? You don’t have to lose those good memories. After all they were building blocks for who you are now. You could have a little album ( yes, I do mean a real album with proper printed photos!) to look at if or when you want. Just a thought.
I too loved reading your post , I have tried to do the de clutter but I really need to buy the book , Amazon here I come! You have really inspired me .
I share your feelings about the memories some items hold for us. Still have paintings from when now adult children were small. They have been thinned over the years, like the book shelves but a core remains. Have been donating bag at a time to charity shop .. but think there’s a balance somewhere! Have to confess Maria Kondo book went to charity shop.
My husband bought me that book a couple of years ago and it truly changed my life. I got rid of something like 400 articles of clothing (I blogged about it – the exact number is out there somewhere).
One of the other major benefits for me was that it brought me back to sewing after 20+ years away. I really took the ‘does it spark joy’ thing to heart and shopping became depressing and a real chore. I couldn’t find clothes that brought me any joy. So I started finding fabric that made my heart sing, and I worked to develop skills so I could make stuff that made me feel good every day. Along the way, I discovered that I LOVE to sew.
Her methods aren’t for everyone, but we all have so much stuff now that it seems like most people benefit from just stopping and surveying what they have.