When I decided to eliminate as much stress from my life as possible in 2006, I had no idea that the clothes in my closet were stressful. I knew there was stress in my diet, in the way I managed money (not well) and that stress was in my schedule and in my job, but my wardrobe? I actually thought my clothes and more specifically, my shopping for clothes was a stress reducer.
I rarely shopped because I needed new clothes, but instead shopped to feel better, to relieve the pain of boredom and working a job I didn’t enjoy, and because I honestly believed that new shoes would make me happier.
When I challenged myself to dress with less in 2010 by creating minimalist fashion challenge Project 333, I realized that all the shopping was creating more stress in the form of spending time, money and energy that I didn’t really have. And, even more surprising, I noticed I had all kinds of stress and emotion wrapped up in the clothing hanging in my closet. I’ll tell you more about that later but first, let’s talk closet detoxing.
It may take years to declutter your home, choose a new career or dig your way out of debt, but if you want to reduce stress, feel lighter, and create more space, time, and money for yourself within a few hours or a few days, consider this closet detox.
Pre-tox (a few days before your detox)
- Block off a whole day or a few hours 2 days in a row.
- Stock up on snacks.
- Make a playlist of your favorite upbeat music.
Closet Detox: 10 Steps to End Closet Chaos (+ what you must give up to be free)
1. Take a picture or two of your closet.
This is your “before” pic, your “let’s never go back here” reminder. If you are feeling brave, post on Instagram or another social platform with hashtag #project333.
2. Empty your closet … yep the whole thing.
Get all that stuff out of there. For extra motivation to complete the project, toss all of your clothing and closet goodies on your bed.
3. Find your other wardrobe related items.
If (like me) you have clothes, accessories or shoes in other closets, drawers, boxes or secret hiding places. Drag that stuff out too and add it to your closet pile.
4. Take another picture.
This is your “OMG I had no idea I had so much stuff” picture. If you are feeling brave, post on Instagram or another social platform with hashtags #project333 or #bemorewithless.
Take a good luck at your pile of stuff and feel the weight and the shock. This is a really important step. Being offended by the investment of time, money and energy I’d made on a pile of things I barely used helped me let go. It will help you too.
5. Sort all the things.
Turn up the music and break for snacks as needed during this step.
- Pile 1: Love: I love these items. They fit me well and I wear them frequently.
- Pile 2: Maybe: I want to keep this but I don’t know why. This could include off-season items too.
- Pile 3: Donate: These items don’t fit my body or my life.
- Pile 4: Trash: These items are in poor condition. (repurpose if possible)
6. Remove all the things.
Before you add anything back into your closet, remove the things in the piles you aren’t keeping. Remove them from the closet, the room and your home. Don’t be tempted to revisit these items by delaying their farewell.
7. Store all the things.
If there are items you are unsure about, box them up. Don’t give them away and don’t keep them in your closet. Create some separation by hiding these items for at least 3 months. Revisit them after dressing with less for several months. By then you’ll have cut the emotional ties you have with those items and you’ll have more information about what you really want or need in your closet.
8. Choose your own adventure.
Now you are left with clothes you wear, clothes that fit your body and your lifestyle, and hopefully clothing that you enjoy wearing. Here’s where you get to choose your own adventure …
- Adventure #1: Put all of those items away and admire your lighter closet.
- Adventure #2: Try Project 333. Take things to the next level and narrow down to 33 items including clothes, jewelry, accessories and shoes for the next 3 months. See more detailed challenge rules here. Box up the rest and hide it.
9. Capture the light.
Take a few pictures of your detoxed closet. Inspire us and post on Instagram or another social platform with hashtags #project333 or #bemorewithless.
10. Let the guilt go too.
When you let go of anything in your closet, let the guilt go with it. The best way to let go of the guilt is to let joy replace the guilt. Let love replace the guilt. Remind yourself that you simply don’t have room in your life for guilt.
P.S. You can apply a version of these steps to any drawer, cabinet, closet or room in your home.
Closet Detox: What you must give up to be free
I share this list at the risk of sounding preachy, but it made such a big difference in my life to give these items up that I thought it might be helpful to share. I promise I’m not preaching. You know what’s best for you.
If you want to be free, give up clothes and other items …
- that don’t fit your body today. Hide all of the items that don’t fit. Too small? Too big? Either way, get it out. Even if you struggle with weight fluctuation, give yourself a break. Your too small clothes aren’t making you smaller and your too big clothes aren’t making you bigger. See what happens when you accept the person you are and the body you have today and dress for that. If that changes, change your clothes.
- someone gave you that you never wear. Accept the gift with the intention it was given and then move on. If it’s something you would never wear, pass it on.
- that don’t fit your lifestyle. Are you holding on to clothes you wore for a prior life, or for a life you aspire to have? Dress for the life you have right now and you will move through it with more ease and grace. The rest can go.
- you spent way too much money on. If you don’t let go now, you will pay again and again and again. You have paid enough.
- that make you feel sad or bad. If there are items in your closet that are dragging you down because they remind you of a sad occasion, or a bad time, or because they make you feel like you aren’t good enough in any way, know that you are allowing that to happen. Give the items up and you give up the negative emotions too.
If you want to hear more about how I let go of most of my clothing and the guilt that came with them, and why I continue to dress with 33 items or less every 3 months, join me for a free Q & A webinar. You don’t have to sign up or give me your email address. Just save the date – Wednesday, June 13th at 6:00 PM EST (NYC time) and use this link to join. If you can’t make it, I’ll share a recording too.