Well, I did it. After 10 solid years of accumulating, I tackled my closet.
First, let me just get this out of the way: I have fallen prey to all the challenges we've talked about on the show. I've stashed stuff in the back of my closet for future Pete to deal with. I've held on to clothes long after they've passed their prime. I have horrible hangers.
My office, the rest of my bedroom, my other personal spaces are under control. And yet, the closet has had me stymied. I think the biggest challenge for me has been my uniform. Back in 2007, I was still working the corporate job. I wore suits and ties every day. I had a regular dry-cleaning bill. I had, on a weekly basis, the opportunity to explore more of the range of clothes in my closet. When I quit to freelance and work out of my home office, the vast majority of my work moved from face-to-face meetings and stand-up presentations to Skype and FaceTime conferences. Most days I really could get away without wearing pants. Of course, I'm also married, so there really is a standard to keep — even if it is a relatively low one.
Anyone see this movie? The Purge? The premise is that once a year, there are no laws. So for one night, you can do whatever you want to one another. It's horrible, truly. I bring it up because that feeling of horror I experienced when seeing that movie is exactly the same sense of horror I faced when looking at my closet. I knew that the purge would be the hardest part — I'm naturally pretty good about building new systems. But getting rid of old clothes? I'd normally rather put my head firmly back into the sand.
First things first, I took my closet doors off the hinges. I have dual sliders, so at any given time, I can only see 50% of my closet. I knew that being able to make sense of the space would mean that I'd actually have to see all the space.
Then, the fashion show. I took out and tried on every pair of pants, every shirt, every belt, and every jacket in the closet. It took a few hours, mostly because some of my old suits were so classy, I had to parade around in them for a while. I found a white leisure suit I'd bought for a halloween party some years ago. Yeah, I got rid of it. But people, some of these decisions were hard.
For me, the decisions were pretty clear-cut.
- Is it in style? This is a completely subjective standard — some of these things aren't in style by general cultural trends. But some of them are no longer in my style. If they were out of style, they got dumped.
- Does it fit? If it was too tight, I dumped it. I'm through holding on to clothes in the hope that one day I'll be able to wear them again. That's a brain damage roller coaster and it's not worth the hassle. As we've said on the show repeatedly, when I reach a new milestone like weight, I'll want to celebrate by buying new clothes!
I got rid of a lot. It was hard, but worth it. So worth it, in fact, that my wife jumped in on the game — between us, we ended up with some left-over hangers.
Now, I had to see what kind of space I had to work with. After the purge, needless to say, I ended up with a fair amount of real estate. I took a step back and walked through my morning and evening routines. When do I use my closet? Which clothes do I use most often? I knew I'd hit the organizing supplies at some point, but I wanted to make sure I had a clear audit before I went shopping.
Disappointingly, I already had just about everything I needed. The freed-up space left me with room to revamp my laundry workflow, shift sides of the closet and put all my hanging clothes on one side. On the other, a plastic hanging frame hold sweats and sweatshirts at half-height, with my back-up filing cabinet below it. That hanging crate used to be on the opposite side of the closet, taking up double the space.
I went over to Target right down the street from me and found Nikki's recommended hanger — Huggable Hangers — and bought the lot of them. I never thought I'd get myself worked up over a hanger, but people, unified hangers are fantastic. First, the look great. When these things look great, I'm more motivated to keep my clothes in order. They're thicker than typical wire hangers, so no more shoulder creases in my dress shirts. Plus, they're velvety, so things don't slide off. I bought the same set for my wife, and all her strappy dresses hang snuggly — no more dresses piled at the back of the closet.
I've been living with the new digs for just about a week now, and only one full laundry cycle. I need new clothes. When I go on vacation, I'm going to be packing just about my entire wardrobe and should have some breathing room left over at this point. However, I've noticed so far that both my wife and I are more engaged in the *homes* of our clothes. Things go back where they should more frequently, now that we have the physical ability to take in all the space we have dedicated to clothes. It's faster for me to put all our laundry away after each load, which decreases overall laundry time. That takes a load off our evenings and weekends, and gives us more freedom to play.
I probably spent a total of four hours in this process, including my leisure suit parade, and trip to Target and GoodWill. Four hours that end up bringing back a little more sanity to a key home process, and more time with my kids.