Kick off the start of the year with a tidy, clutter-free closet
2023 is the year of no resolutions. But it helps to begin with good intentions. An easy way to cultivate new beginnings is to start with something doable and within your control, like clearing out your wardrobe.
As an avid shopper turned certified KonMari® Consultant, which is practically a 180-degree shift in my consumption behavior, I can guarantee that key to life-changing magic begins with our closet. It is what led me to my path towards mindfulness and sustainability, a way of life that has positively impacted every facet of my life and continues to serve me well to this day—from my family, relationships, and career to how I set boundaries and care for my well-being.
Why start with your closet you ask? The KonMari® method, a tidying philosophy developed by Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo, asks us to connect to feeling instead of function when it comes to decluttering our stuff. The method strongly recommends that we start tidying our clothes before anything else in our home. This is because we wear our clothes close to our heart, and a telling way to identify if something sparks joy, is how we feel. We feel joy in our heart, not in our head. The premise is, when we start choosing what to discard or keep, the closer it is to our heart, the easier it is to choose. There is that familiarity and closeness that sparks an instant recognition in our heart. Decluttering then becomes intuitive, because we make decisions to keep, donate, sell or discard from a place of inner knowing. If this method of decluttering sounds too woo woo, well it is and this is precisely why it works.
There is also ancient wisdom behind decluttering. Cluttered closets and storage spaces is consider “sha chi”—stale or stagnant energy in feng shui. If we want the energy in our space to flow, we need to make room for good chi to meander with ease, bringing us harmony, abundance and joy. Now who doesn’t want 2023 to be all about that.
For most though, tidying doesn’t sound like a joyful task, so how do we get ourselves to do it? Here are my tried and tested tips that will get your closet properly tidied up in no time.
80% of success is showing up
Commit to tidying by setting a date and just 3 hours of your time, ideally in the morning to tidy. I have helped tidy enough wardrobes to know that it is possible to finish tidying your clothes in 3 hours, even less. You don’t need an entire weekend to declutter your closet. Yes, even if you can fill an entire room of clothes, because I have seen it happen again and again. A huge pile of clothes accumulated over a decade, on the bed, the couch, the rug with some more left over in the closet—decluttered and organized within 3 hours. Then you have the rest of the day and freed up weekends for the rest of the year to spend as you please. It’s magic.
Visualization and imagination are key
Think of your motivation and reason for tidying. Do you want more closet space? Do you want it to look Pinterest pretty? Or do you just want to find your things easily? Make it a point to imagine how you want your closet to look like. Refer to a Pinterest board or bookmark photos of organized closets you’d like to take inspiration from. More importantly, visualize how will it feel like. Feel the feels as you walk into that freshly decluttered space? Neurological research and elite athletes like Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps have proven that mental exercise and visualizing oneself going through an entire process and achieving the desired result can impact real-life execution and performance.
Draw up a tidying plan
Clothes comprise one big category of stuff to declutter, but if you want to ease that feeling of overwhelm, break things down into smaller sub-categories. Start with tops, bottoms, dresses, then your outerwear, socks and tights, and underwear. Work your way to seasonal wear, i.e. beach and winter clothes, accessories such as bags and purses, hats and belts, scarves, jewelry, shoes. Smaller categories such as activewear, sleepwear, and loungewear, swimwear and most especially sentimental pieces, are last.
You’ve set the schedule and you’ve got your game plan. Now put that phone on silent mode and make a promise to yourself not to check your emails. Turn off the TV and tone down the music. Inform everyone in your household of your blocked out schedule. Hang a do not disturb sign on your door if you have to. This is all about you connecting to who you truly are through the medium of your belongings. It’s almost like meditation so, let’s respect the process. Three hours of quiet, you’ve got this.
Have boxes or big sturdy shopping bags ready
These are for your repair, donate, discard and sell piles. Remember to thank everything you will let go for the joy they brought you then and send them away with gratitude. This will take away the guilt, I promise.
Pull out your clothes out and make a pile
Whether you’ve decided to go big and pull everything out from your closet, or you’d like to tackle your clothing by sub-category, gather them all into one pile and get started. There’s a reason why that pile is essential. It becomes a visual representation of all that you’ve accumulated. A client, shocked by the huge pile of clothes that filled her room told me, “Now I see all these used to be my money, time and effort spent shopping.” This insight made her more intentional about the items she shopped for and brought home from that day on.
Know that this mess is temporary
Seeing a huge pile of what used to be your hard-earned money, mementos of the past and records of the body you used to live in can be difficult but know that this feeling is temporary. Let the emotions flow through you. When you see an item and feel guilt (“I have never worn this skirt, but my friend gave this to me 10 years ago”) or fear (“My Tita might find out I gave away her unused pasalubong”), that is a sign to release. Know that this mess of stuff and uncomfortable sentiments are fleeting. A gift is an expression of care. This objective is achieved once you receive it graciously. You are not obligated to keep them. Know that you are also not working with a black hole; you have a finite number of clothes. You’ll get to the last piece eventually. Within 3 hours, I am sure.
The goal is to keep only what sparks joy
Still stumped? Pick your top 3 favorites! That’s joy right there. Look for that same feeling when going through your clothes. Go through each piece. If it’s “meh” you feel, let it go. There is no such thing as “I might wear this one day.” These may all sound ruthless, but this is all part of self-care. Anything that no longer serves you 100% has to go. Fabric that is beyond repair, shoes that have peeled, anything that is broken is bad feng shui. The ideal is for your closet to feel like a sanctuary, where each piece that earns its place is something you love, cherish and care for.
Let go with gratitude and care
Knowing that an item has served its purpose, even if it’s an impulse buy that gave you that needed dopamine hit when you were feeling low, recognize how that helped you in that brief moment and then let it go. Re-homing your decluttered items with thought and care also makes it easy to let go without guilt. Identifying a worthy recipient is key. Make sure your friend or an organization will value what you give to them. Is it something they would have bought anyway? Is it something they need and use regularly? For instance you can donate old towels to PAWS (The Philippine Animal Welfare Society) and clothes to Segunda Mana or Goodwill. If you’d like everything off your hands immediately without having to leave your home, you may post it on Buy Nothing PH or Buhay Zero Waste Pre-loved, community groups on Facebook where members may post or ask for donations. Your chosen member can arrange pickup in your home, on their dime.
The fun part, storing and organizing
Once you’ve sent everything you’ve decluttered away, it’s time to create a home for the things you love. There are four principles in KonMari® storage: fold it, stand it upright, store in one spot, and divide storage space into square compartments. Soft items like socks and lingerie should be folded to save on space and maximize storage. Anything that can stand on its edge like shirts, shorts and jeans should be stored upright in a drawer and folded to take full advantage of the height of its storage space. Store things of similar nature together—such as winter clothes and beach clothes, this helps you find everything you need when it’s time to pack. Best to store these in square or rectangular boxes or zip-up storage bags. Round hat boxes are pretty, but they don’t really make full use of the space. Everything else, that can’t be folded or are prone to creasing such as linen dresses, silk tops, poplin button downs, and trousers should be hung. If you have limited space for accessories, use the bag-in-bag method for your bags. Store smaller bags inside a bigger one. Canvas totes can be stored folded up.
Now here’s where that life-changing magic comes in. You might not have realized it, but as you spent all that time deciding on what to do with each and every piece in your pile of belongings, you are actually honing your connection to joy and repeatedly refining your decision-making skills. These micro-decisions have more impact than you think. You get to know yourself in the process, this expands your faith and trust in yourself, which will help you make the big decisions that can change the course of your life – what you eat, the people you surround yourself with, who to date, to stay single or get married, to have kids, where to live, where to travel, the career that brings you fulfillment and the hobbies that bring you joy.
I’ll put it this way. By picking up that shirt from your pile of clothes and deciding what to do with it, you are taking that first step to creating the life you have always dreamed of. Let’s get started.
- Sustainable Fashion