The Great Closet Clean-Out

A close look at my wardrobe became a lesson in how to let go—and when to hold on.

Posted in , Mar 10, 2017

How to clean out your closet

Not long ago, I was delighted to win a raffle for a 3-hour in-home consultation with a local personal stylist. One of her promises was to help me complete the closet clean-out of my dreams.

I was initially kind of neutral. After all, I had recently cleaned out my closet and donated a pile of items. I didn’t need another clean-out.

Or did I?

It turned out that the closet cleanse was a powerful—even profound—exercise in knowing when to let go and when to hold on.

During our session, we methodically removed hangers from my closet and stacks from my shelves, examining each item. We didn’t spend much time on any individual piece, just held it, decided in seconds if it was fun/comfortable/healthy/appropriate or not, and gently placed it in either “keep” or “donate” piles.

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The decisions were smooth and speedy, until the stylist paused, looked thoughtfully at a big pile, and declared that the dozen office-ready button-down blouses and slacks I’d been holding onto for years simply didn’t fit the wardrobe of a mother, friend, wife and freelance writer.

It was only weeks ago that I had actively decided to keep those exact pieces in my closet. The stylist’s comment, though, made me realize those were clothes for a different career, a different life, from what I had. Saying goodbye to them was surprisingly easy. It left me feeling lighter, freed of baggage I didn’t even know I’d been carrying.

Toward the end, we encountered two items I refused to part with. A Gap sweater and an LL Bean plaid flannel shirt from my college days in the early ‘90s were non-negotiable items, even if they were not go-to pieces for my current lifestyle. The sweater is what I wore the first time I introduced my boyfriend (now husband) to my parents. And the flannel accompanied me to so many parties and classes—it reminded me of that heady, growing time in my life.

“Your closet needs to be a place of joy and celebration of who are you now—not who you were,” said Stacy London, the TV makeover celebrity who co-hosted the TLC series “What Not to Wear.”

True. Except that in some cases, who I am can’t—shouldn’t—be separated from who I was. Opening my closet this morning, I found joy and pleasure in every single piece I saw—new, old, and in-between.

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