Six Steps to Cleaning Closets: Doing the March Challenge!

We are a week into the March Challenge and I just want to say a few things about over-consumption of clothing. The truth is, we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. When I first read this, I tested it. I brought out my seasonal clothes, hung everything on white hangers (the infancy stages, mind you, of my infamous ‘white hanger theory’). When I wore an item, I hung it on a colored hanger. Then, at the end of the season, I took note of everything still left on white hangers. I realized I didn’t wear these clothes all season (and there was A LOT!)…so out they went. Now, I do a version of the white hanger theory twice a year. Here is an idea if you don’t have white hangers.

If you haven’t started the March challenge yet (and you know who you are!) here’s how you get started:

Determine what you have.  The first step in your process is to remove everything from your closet. Do this when you have more than just an hour of spare time. Make it the project for the day. It is time-consuming and emotional. I find that a nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with this activity. I also suggest bringing in your closest confident who will tell you, in all honesty, if you should keep an item. (My husband once said, “I hate that shirt. It makes you look like a hippie.” Well, even though I like to embrace my inner bohemian at times, the ‘hippie’ look isn’t quite what I was going for, so out went that shirt).

Decide what you really need. Like I’ve said, we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time, so use frequency of use as a benchmark for deciding what to keep. You know you love it. You know it’s your go-to sweatshirt on the weekend. You know you look hot in those jeans. Keep them. But some things are only worn on special occasions, and truthfully those items can be paired down. Some would even argue one simple black dress is really all one needs for ‘special occasions.’ (Guys, I don’t expect you to wear a little black dress. But, seriously, all you need is one really good suit.)

Admit the relationship is getting old. If you are still hanging on to an item you used to love, acknowledge that…and be prepared to chuck it. My mother has a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt with a thousand holes in it. I’m pretty sure she still has it because it represents a family vacation. I’m also pretty sure she has photos of that vacation and therefore, Mickey could be thrown out (Mother, I know you read this blog…yes…I’m talking to you). There’s nothing wrong with hanging on to things because it holds sentimental value, but if you’ve still got your prom dress from 1989, its time for your friend to intervene. Pour another glass of wine, remember dancing with that special person to some Richard Marx song…and get rid of it.

Be honest about how you look in it. Does this flatter you now that you’ve lost (um…gained…) 40 pounds? Try it on, get the friend to give it thumbs up or down…and move on. Here’s the only time I would recommend that you set some time to go pick up some classic and flattering pieces of clothing – but only if you really need them.

Consider your life now. Last weekend I realized that all my old work clothes were stuffy business suits from back in my ‘high paid consultant’ days. Now, I work from home and usually in my yoga pants. I kept the black dress, a pair of black slacks, a jacket that matches both, and out with the rest. While you are in your decision-making mode, consider what you do on a regular basis now. “Well, when my child goes to school, I might reenter the workforce.” Okay, great. That’s five years from now. If you wear THAT you’ll look like a dork because it’s 7 years old. Toss it.

Grab those things you love and put them back. Grab those white hangers (or do this instead….). I’ve done this for two weeks. It’s not looking too good for that old Eddie Bauer sweater with holes in it…poor baby. No matter what ‘organizational system’ you choose (white hanger, reverse hanger, Project 333, etc.) make it easy. Avoid a system that is too complicated. Simple is better.

What to do with what is left.

Donate it to charity. Honestly DONATE IT TO CHARITY. I think people who talk themselves into selling stuff on the internet (like on Craigslist or eBay) are just looking for a reason to hang on to something a bit longer. Ugh. Just get rid of it already.

Throw it out. If your item has stains, rips, or ‘just needs a little mending’ do not donate it. Thrift store shoppers do not want your crappy stuff any more than you do. Be considerate. (I made cleaning rags out of my hubby’s old stained t-shirts – thus reducing my need to waste so many paper towels – so you can even repurpose it if you can’t bring yourself to throw it away. Here’s another great idea I’m gonna try!)

Give it away to a friend. Sometimes donating to charity isn’t as fun as giving it to someone who would really like it. I recently had a month-long Give A Way project that was a blast! My silver cocktail dress is going to my step-daughter this week. I’ve worn it one time. It will make a nice graduation dress or ‘fancy dinner’ outfit for her. My son was in the NICU for 8 days when he was born, so when he outgrew his NB clothes I gave them to the NICU in honor of those awesome nurses. Snow suits were recently shipped to my girlfriend in Massachusetts – (hahaha…you are up to your eyeballs in SNOW!!!). Same with several wool hats and scarves.

Last but not least, be gentle with yourself. You can do this. I know you can. It is not easy. It can be hard. Keep going.

Let me know how you are doing…I’d love to hear about it. Comments are awesome!

This Week’s Challenge:

Set a time to do this project now! Write it in your calendar. Call your ‘buddy’ and ask them to meet you for the day to start this project. Gather your supplies (boxes, trash bags, white hangers, um…wine…etc.). Get excited – you are about to take the first step in your life of ‘freedom’.

Announcement:

For the rest of the month, I will be taking time to get some posts ready so that my poor editor isn’t subjected to my lack of planning. Do not fret, dear readers…I will still post but will highlight some great guest bloggers. That way you will still get some really awesome info and be introduced to some wonderful like-minded people in the process. So excited!!

5 Lessons I Learned By Making Orange Juice

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”Thich Nhat Hanh

The baby is sleeping a little later these days which translates into a few hours in the early morning to use as I deem fit. Mostly, I walk around the house looking for things to do because, as we all know, I don’t relax well. But occasionally, I take some of those peaceful moments to be more mindful.

This morning I removed my grandmother’s citrus juicer from its sacred place, grabbed a basket of beautiful organic oranges (a gift from a neighbor) and proceeded to make myself a wonderful glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. This is important to share because I have a perfectly good, very expensive, electric juicer sitting just a few inches from where I spent my time in mindful meditation this morning.

orangejuice

“How silly,” you might think. “You could have had that orange juice in half the time if you would have used that overpriced kitchen gadget.” Yes, you are correct. But I also would have disturbed the quiet of the morning (the overpriced gadget is very LOUD), created a mess with five moving parts I find completely annoying to clean, and…I wouldn’t have looked up from my task to find two bunnies playing in the yard. There is something miraculous that happens when one decides to take the simpler route.

At first, deciding to be mindful can be challenging. But I’ve found in my personal journey to seek simplicity in all things that true mindfulness can be really cathartic. When our attention is diffused we might be aware of something, but not really focused on it. Like me, with the bunnies. I know bunnies play in the morning. I just didn’t know these bunnies played in my yard in the morning. Get it?

Another thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to become proficient. Sure, some take it to the extreme and build a hut in the middle of New Mexico to sit for days in formal meditation. Others…well…we make orange juice. I’m just saying that mindfulness can take place informally with everyday activities. Here are some ways I have learned to be mindful – and I hope you’ll learn from these too:

1. Focus on one thing at a time. Corporate America would have us believe that multi-tasking is a skill we need to move up the ladder. In reality, the multi-tasking as it relates to productivity is a complete myth. Resist the urge to do several things at once. In other words: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” (Zen proverb)

2. Don’t rush. Remember the tortoise and the hare? Slow and steady wins the race. The same can be applied to making orange juice by hand or with an expensive juicer. Take your time. Be present. Move slowly. Relax and focus. It is hard at first. Keep trying.

3. Forget your to-do list. The less you do, the better you are. My ‘to do list’ became a ‘project list’ after the baby was born. I only attempt one project a day. This way I focus on one thing at a time. Yes, it takes me longer. That’s the point. I also do a better job. (Today’s project: Vacuum. That is quite an accomplishment when living with an infant.)

4. Be present when you eat. This advice comes directly to you from a woman who sits with an infant in her lap trying to cut her food and eat with one hand 90% of the time. Look, I never said I was a Zen-Master, so we all have things at which we can become better. I’ll work on it if you will. One last thought on this: research indicates that mindful eating helps one to actually eat less.

5. Savor your chores. When you become mindful in the daily tasks you really start to learn to notice things you have never cared about before (shall I mention the bunnies again?). I have started folding laundry in the quiet laundry room instead of sitting in front of the television. (Didn’t realize I had so many socks with holes in the toes. Also, my ‘unmentionables’ are looking a bit ratty these days which may explain…um…never mind). Mindfulness while preparing dinner helped me realize my kitchen design was completely wrong for cooking. I ended up moving my refrigerator, microwave, and all my cooking pans to different locations.

For all of you, I encourage you to just keep at it. Mindfulness takes time. Be gentle with yourself. Decide to be completely present for one task today. Just one. Your mindful task will eventually turn into a mindful day and from that…a mindful week. Finally, you’ll realize a mindful life. But you have to
start with something. Maybe with a glass of orange juice?

This week’s challenge:

Spend five minutes each day doing nothing. Be aware of your breath. Be aware of the tension in your body. Be aware of your thoughts…your feelings…your desires. Did you emerge from your five minutes with more insight? More relaxed? More aware of the aches and pains? Take a moment to let me know.

Announcing the March challenge:

We are invoking my infamous ‘white hanger theory’ this month at our home. We wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. This means that, literally, 80% of the clothes in our closets are unnecessary. The white hanger theory works like this: Each time you wear something this month from your closet, rehang it on a white hanger. Do this for three months. In 90 days, you’ll see most of your clothes are not on white hangers. Decide with what you can part. Don’t have white hangers? Then try this instead.

Need more encouragement? See how others have taking the plunge and cleaned up their closet:

Tips for Simplifying Closets and Clothes
5 Steps To Decluttering Your Closet
Decluttering Tips From An Aspiring Hoader
How I Decluttered My Closet

PS…I would be remiss to not mention my new editor who has enriched my life in more ways than one.  Please consider buying her book, The Farmer’s Story.

PSS…I started to use ‘amiss’ instead of ‘remiss’ but I knew my editor would shake her finger at me if I chose incorrectly.  So I Googled it.  See how her presence improves me?  We all have someone who makes us better, right?