The easiest part of my day.

5b93756ae748d58a585fb6158075f31eThe easiest part of my day is picking out what to wear in the morning, and I don’t just mean on the two days of the week when I work from the living room in my dayjamas. I mean [almost] every day.

This was not always the case.

If I had to estimate, I would say that it took me over half an hour to decide what to wear, at least twice a week, all last fall/ most of my life. You know the feeling: you drag things out of the closet, try on ten half outfits, nothing looks right, so you fall back on the one thing you like. Again. Then off to work late, rushing through the rest of the morning. Please tell me that isn’t just me.

And if I had to bet, I would probably wager that your difficulty in dressing in the morning was due to the same woes that plagued me: too many options, and all of them are terrible.

I would like to blame it on not having enough clothes, but that is simply not true. My clothes are Legion. They were so numerous in fact, that they stressed me out, drowning out the clothes I liked in things that just never seemed to work. A partial culprit in this is the 20+ pounds I gained since getting married (yep, typed and deleted that sentence three times, but I’m leaving it in case any other newlywed nineteeners needed some solidarity). I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of things that had once fit, even if they were routinely reducing me to tears and dire proclamations to eat only cabbage. Another partial culprit was my penchant for bargains, sales so good that I really believed they made up for me not actually being thrilled with the garment.

And so, every morning was a battle of fashion angst and indecision with a side of general self loathing.

In January, as I embarked on my year of discipline, I started by purging the closet. Y’all, it felt so good. But unlike other purges (which we shall also call Legion, as I LOVE throwing stuff out), I joined this one with a resolve to hold off buying stuff and a ferocious set of rules. I purged deeper and made myself take stock of not just my closet, but the rest of our home and life.The result? The result is that almost three months later I reach in my closet every morning and still find clothes I like. Clothes that fit and match each other. Clothes that make getting ready easy, which in turn makes my day flow smoothly. I then went on to purge James’ closet and my (new!) sister-in-law’s closet, and all of us have felt similarly: when you have less, you actually have more. I gave away five garbage bags of clothes, yet I feel like I have more wearable clothes than ever before.

Should you be interested in a similarly freeing closet purge, here are the rules that I used to ruthlessly slash through my belongings. A “no” on ANY one of them meant permanent exile from my closet. I recommend recruiting a friend for this process, as everyone needs someone to remind you that no, you won’t someday make a quilt of your beloved sorority t-shirts and no, you don’t go to enough decade themed parties to justify holding onto that many out-of-style outfits.

  • Does it fit? Not, “does it fit when I have a non-bloaty day where I ran ten miles the day before?” or “does it fit when I reach my target goal of losing ____ pounds?” Does it fit now. Because if not, you are more likely to feel judged by a piece of fabric on a regular basis than you are to fit back in it. This was hard for me, especially as our purge predated Whole30 and a subsequently sizable weight loss. But I’m so glad I did it, so glad that I feel free to strive for health, rather than striving to squeez back into holdovers from younger days before donuts and brunch were a way of life. (The obvious exception to this rule is if you are pregnant, when you do drastically change your size for a period of time.)
  • Does it match the rest of my wardrobe? That sweater that you constantly put on, fuss with, then take off again because it just doesn’t “work”? It never will. That skirt that you keep taking shopping, hoping you will find a shirt to match? You won’t. With the rare exception (cough… sequin mini-dress that rolls out once a year for my annual night out… cough), I am opposed to clothing that can only be worn one way and in one context.
  • Is it appropriate for my age/ profession /  lifestyle? I once had a dreamy femme fatale black miniskirt that I bought – and wore – all over Paris. It was real heavy on the mini and light on the skirt. In Europe, totally fine. Stateside? As a teacher or later a graduate student? I carted it through three moves before admitting that it had served its wonderful leggy purpose and should probably hit retirement.
  • Have I worn it in the past year? No mercy on this one. If you haven’t, toss it. The only exception would be for the occasional sentimental or costume item. But even then, limit it to whatever you can fit in a small box and stow it apart from your daily wardrobe.

Please know, I’m not pushing the tempting blog goddess of simplicity, aka the Minimalist Pixie Dream Girl over here: your clothes can be as wild as you want so long as you wear them. I’m just saying what made my life so much simpler and happier. To prevent the need for as many future purges, I also ask myself these four questions every time I buy something, as well as throwing in the, “Is this actually good quality?” The result…very few purchases actually make it home. Should you still be on the fence about closet purging, check out some of my favorite posts about cutting back and the freedom it brings. I loved what Mary said about how living in a tiny German apartment freed her style, and what Mary Beth said about downsizing your whole life to have more freedom.  I once wrote about purging random clutter around the house here and you can read great closet cleaning tips in regards to capsule wardrobe formation here.

Anyone else have to resort to closet purging to stop the daily clothing crisis? What helped you cut back?

Image via this tumblr.

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30 Responses to The easiest part of my day.

  1. Kate Zickel says:

    Thanks, Hannah! Until today, I honestly thought I was the only who had gained serious weight after my wedding. Even though Brian and I just started a for reals spring workout/ healthy eating routine, I really need to do a closet purge as well.

  2. abby hummel says:

    Dude, being pregnant last year taught me a major lesson about clothes. Nothing like being the size of a beached whale (the desired stick body with basketball belly thing is not always a reality) to figure out what works for you… having (no joke!) ONE pair of pants, two pairs of capris, three skirts and five or six shirts along with whatever jackets/cardigans you can keep using REALLY makes the useful wardrobe thing hit home. Everything worked for my body. Everything worked together. Everything worked for my life. (No mini skirts here either, for example.) If I was on top of the laundry, I could grab whatever was closest in my closet and BOOM, I was prepared for the day. Dressing yourself post-partum is it’s own beast, but it’s not forever.

    • Hannah says:

      Bliss is only loving what you have/ having what you love. And yeah, darn you Kate Middleton for making us all think that will be our pregnant lot someday!

  3. Becky says:

    Oh, I also gained 20+ lbs as a newlywed! And, I’ve also had a hard time making myself get rid of all the clothes that I bought and wore the two years I taught after Hillsdale but before marriage and weight gain. I’d think, they’re really nice and I spent money on them and what if I ever get back to that weight? So I moved them from AL to IL. After my pregnancy and gaining even more weight (another 20+ lbs), I had to realize that those clothes weren’t doing any good sitting in my closet, not getting worn. So most of them got donated to friends or some of the local thrift stores here. It feels good to whittle my closet down! 🙂

  4. Rebekah Rae says:

    I must see some pictures of you in this femme fatale miniskirt!
    I went through a closet purge a few months ago, and it’s already time to do it again- I got rid of a lot, but apparently not enough. Those 4 guidelines will be a great resource!

  5. PetraV says:

    I clean out my closet about twice a year. And on the first spring break weekend, I completely decluttered my whole room. Zen factor +20.
    I first realized how liberating throwing out clothes you don’t wear (especially those “I will give that a try next season” pieces), or anything really that you don’t feel strongly about, when I moved out of my parents’ place for the first time.

    On a similar note. Before 2015 came around, I made a “How I can make our planet happy” list to make up for eating meat, fish, and eggs again. Making fewer spontaneous shopping tours and frequenting the thrift store not just to dump off my old stuff is very high up on that list.
    Also, in that regard, one of the best purchases I made during the last few months is getting an electric lint remover. When I’m throwing out one of my older cardigans, for example, I usually do so because of all those unsightly, tiny knots or knobs or whatever you call’em that come with the usual tear and wear. I’ve already extended the shelf life of several cardigans by giving them a lint remover treatment. And “shaving” your clothes is surprisingly relaxing…

  6. Hallie says:

    It’s a big deal when you finally let go of that sailor dress you could wear in college. It is like saying goodbye to your youth, but it feels good.

  7. Marilyne says:

    I really need to do that! I never know what to wear and i know i have too many options … But end up wearing the same things most of the time… And i have so many bargains in there that i never wore… Je vais le faire!!!!! 😉

  8. Maria says:

    Great post! Purging is the word of the day for me,,,,,thanks for the motivation! Just what I needed….and yes, I too am running around in the morning with nothing to wear!

  9. Jason Ellis says:

    Surely you have time, me I can’t even clean my closet.

  10. Rebekah says:

    I just did this to my closet. Now I have two (smaller and happier) sections in my wardrobe: “this fits me today” and “this will fit me in 6 months… after I lose the baby belly and don’t have enormous nursing boobs.”

    I know you aren’t supposed to keep things that don’t fit now, but in this case, I know they WILL. I just need a little time to recover from the almost-10-pound baby… ha.

    • Hannah says:

      Yeah, pregnancy and infancy is a totally legitimate reason to hold on to clothes that don’t fit!

    • streckerme says:

      i have a very minimalist closet but two under-the-bed storage bins of clothes that will fit me at some point amidst the pregnant-not-pregnant roller coaster. i kind of don’t like that it’s there, but it’s definitely necessary!

  11. Jess says:

    I so need to declutter my closet. I did it in the fall, but I think I held on to certain pieces in hopes that they would fit or that I’d love the way I looked in them eventually. You’re right though, those pieces of fabric are just hanging there, judging me. Can you just come to Boise and clean my closet for me pretty please?

  12. streckerme says:

    i’m so late here, but i’ve had this post book marked, trying to find time to read it! i relate SO MUCH to this!!! i went about closet purging the wimpy way (meaning it was forced upon me) when we moved to germany. now all 4 of us have very minimal wardrobes and it is amazing. we now are more likely to have the money to periodically buy the type of clothes we like, now, because i’m not throwing away $10 here and $30 there on stuff that doesn’t last and that doesn’t really look that good and makes me feel gross wearing it (even if it’s technically my size). I just purchased a pair of madewell shorts, hoping they would be my summer version of my loved and very threadbare jeans, and they totally are. i don’t think i’ll be taking them off all summer. who needs a million of something when you can have just one perfect something?? yay yay yay. it makes me so happy when i hear of friends realizing the freedom of a small, carefully curated wardrobe! i feel like i still have some work to do, but wow, who knew such a simple thing could provide so much freedom as you start your day?! and girl, you look beautiful as always.

    • Hannah says:

      So true! Though I do want to add that I found my “ideal” wardrobe doesn’t necessarily have to mean tiny. I think sometimes we over praise minimalism. Because I wear one style of clothes to work and another for home, I still have lots of clothes. So much of the minimal capsule wardrobe fad was frustrating to me when I first read it because I was thinking, “You are a blogger who can work in the clothes you wear all the time.” But I found my own happy place where any number of clothes can stay, as long as I actually like and wear all of them.

  13. Joy says:

    Did a similar thing lately…cleaning out the closet. So freeing!! Sometimes i can’t justify getting rid of a blouse though, because maybe–just maybe–someday I will want it and regret that I got rid of it. So, sometimes I will cheat and put the shirt in a storage closet for the time being and get rid of it eventually after I realize the I really didn’t need it. 🙂

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