Yesterday, as I enthusiastically pulled every piece of clothing from my closet onto my bed as Kon Mari suggests to do, I was enthralled with the thought that I would finally, finally have a perfectly de-cluttered home.
My boyfriend watched with amusement, “Remember a few years ago when you dumped bags of clothing at your friend’s house?”
No. I didn’t remember. In fact I completely forgot until he brought it up.
“I just think it’s funny how you’re always ‘de-cluttering’ your closet.” He remarked as he exited the room.
Even though it was just a statement said in passing, I was shocked when I realized just how many times I had tried to declutter previously.
In 2012, a year after graduating from university, I decided to completely revamp my wardrobe and get rid of my ‘college student’ clothes. I ended up giving several HUGE garbage bags full of clothing to my friend Sam.
After that point, I marked my triumph to adulthood with buying my first four-figure designer bag and vowed to keep a curated, tidy, and ‘big-girl’ wardrobe. Now that I was out of university and working 5 days a week, I had no need for loungewear or casual clothing. I would just need a few business casual outfits to rotate at work.
At the beginning, my closet was relatively sparse. I read up on the principles of capsule wardrobes. I dutifully adhered to Project 333 and only kept 33 pieces hanging in my closet. It was easy to get dressed every morning.
Then as the seasons changed, I decided my clothing needed to be less business casual, and more business formal in order to be respected by clients. I convinced myself that I would stop buying fast fashion and support more ethically produced items. I avoided “made in China” tags. Since my closet at that point was full of cheaper items. I justified going on a 6 month long shopping spree of purchasing more expensive items to replace my existing wardrobe. “This is an investment.” I told myself. “You need to dress for the promotion you want.” I purchased cotton blend dresses, silk crepe blazers, shoes made of real suede and leather, and linen camisoles.
In order to prove that I wasn’t shopping for fun but for utility. I bought things in multiples when they fit so I could save time. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise then, Reader, that after a year, I had so much clothing I had to declutter all over again.
In 2015, after dumping 6 more garbage bags full of clothes at the salvation army and lamenting over the thousands of dollars I wasted on clothes, I told myself, “Now I only have what I love. My closet is full of expensive, well-constructed clothing that will last many seasons. I will never go back to clutter again!”
That was early last year. When I pulled all my clothing from my closet yesterday and glanced around at my surroundings. I realize just how far from my goal I still was.
According to Kon Marie, the correct way to de-clutter is to not decide what to toss out, but to decide what to keep. She asks us to pick up each item and to ask ourselves if it sparks joy in our hearts.
I was able to pick out my loved pieces right away.
- The forest green sheath dress that looks great for work and for nice occasions. It’s my favorite article of clothing.
- My black scalloped hem crepe blazer that I wear at least 3 times a week. Once I thought I had lost it and was in deep despair because it’s a discontinued item, I even combed through ebay hoping to buy a used version of the blazer.
- The long flowy peacock maxi that reminds me of cool summer nights and makes me feel like a princess.
- A new pinky blush dress which I will wear on an upcoming trip to Vegas.
- A slinky grey midi dress that looks great in all seasons and is my go-to when I can’t decide what to wear.
And then I stopped. Those are my ‘loved‘ pieces. I had only 5 things hung up in my closet and a massive pile of stuff I felt “meh” about on my bed. I was shocked and disappointed.
How can this be? How can only 5 pieces spark joy to me? How can I feel so ambivalent towards all the rest of my clothes?
I frantically picked up items and tried to reason why I should love it.
6. Larger version of #2 crepe blazer which looks good over short dresses, and which I bought when I thought I had lost #2.
7. Light grey sleeveless dress which looks great but is just a bit too sheer, so I must be careful selecting undergarments with said dress.
8. A maxi dress which fits and feels great, but is just a little too busy for my taste.
9. My expensive beautiful white crocheted dress, which fits like a glove but scares me to death every time I wear it because I’m afraid of staining it.
10. A blush and pistachio colored cream blazer that I love wearing but only do so once in a while because I don’t want to get it dirty.
Now I had 10 items in my closet. I still had a massive pile on my bed. I didn’t feel like I loved any of the pieces remaining.
Should I throw out everything and buy new things? I asked myself.
Well. That didn’t seem to be the point of de-cluttering. Binging and purging also seemed to be a dead-end path that I had already traveled.
11 & 12. The same dress as #5 except in burgundy and black. Theoretically I should love these just as much, but burgundy is not a joyful color to me, and the black looks boring when worn under my black blazers.
13 & 14. My new gaucho pants in black and grey. Oooh I do love these, so comfy and like wearing pajamas to work. I almost forgot I owned them.
15. My new pink linen top. It’s a little too bright for my taste, but the first day I wore it I got so many compliments from my co-workers, so it must be a good piece.
16. Cream lace t-shirt that is flattering to my skintone and looks good in photos. It’s a little bit worn-looking and some of the stitching is sticking out. Hmm. Should I keep it?
At this point I felt absolutely forlorn. I had abandoned the ‘spark joy’ method and was instead trying to reason why I should keep each piece.
It seems that I keep doing the same thing over and over, and it leads nowhere. After four years, my closet is still cluttered. I still have too many clothes. And (figuratively) still nothing to wear. Looking around at the mess on the bed, I finally understood why. When I only love 5-10 of the pieces, choosing anything else seems like a disappoint.
At this point, I’m completely torn between following the Kon Mari method faithfully and intuitively, and holding on to pieces that I don’t ‘love’ but do wear often.
*The photo above is me wearing my favorite dress in my closet (#1) along with a cream blazer. (#10)