Last month we had an interesting clothing-related question in the Facebook group.
This woman felt that all of her clothes that she had boxed away were in bad shape and otherwise undesirable for wearing, but she also felt that she might need them one day. She has new clothes that fit her well, are in good repair, and that she enjoys wearing, but she can’t seem to shake the feeling that if she donates all the stuff that’s been boxed away she might regret it.
It’s a good question, because it gets at the heart of a huge decluttering problem – fear of loss.
The first thing to do (and this woman was on this track already) is to get all the new, nice clothes on hangers – or someplace else where it’s clearly visible, and to make sure it’s seen every day. This reinforces the idea that there are nice clothes to wear, and there isn’t an inherent need to wear the stuff in boxes.
The second thing I’d suggest is utilizing a time-based box to remove some of the fear. The idea is to create a “just in case” stash of clothes that will solve a legitimate future clothing problem (the claimed source of the fear), without taking up a ton of space.
In order to do this, you need:
- A box. This can be a plastic storage tote, or a medium-size cardboard box. Enough to hold about a week’s worth of clothes.
- A roll of wide tape. 2” wide tape of any sort will work. Duct tape, packing tape, etc. Yes, even if you’re using a plastic storage tote – we’re going to be taping this thing shut!
- A marker & a piece of paper. To make notes on the box or tote.
- A garbage bag. Possibly multiple garbage bags, depending on how many clothes you have. If you like you can separate them into “trash” or “donate”, depending on the condition the clothes are in.
Once you’ve gathered your supplies, head over to your closet (or wherever you have your “nice” clothes). Then follow this procedure:
- Pull out one clothing item from storage. You’re going to go through the boxes of clothes that you don’t think you need, and pull them out – one item at a time.
- Pair the item you pulled out with a “nice” item. You’re going to compare the item in the old box with the items you’re currently wearing.
- Consider whether it’s nice enough to be worth saving. Sometimes you might surprise yourself – it might be in good shape and wearable. If it’s as nice as what’s in your closet, feel free to hang it up there. Otherwise….
- Either add it to the new tote or a garbage bag. Either it goes in the tote/box from the first list, or it goes in a trash bag to be donated / tossed.
- Repeat for every item of clothing. You need to do this for each item of clothing that’s currently in a box, bag, or other storage.
That’s the basic procedure.
Now, there’s a potential snag here. You might wind up with a “keep” box that’s full and overflowing, and a very sparse bag of trash and/or donations.
Here’s the final rule – these are all clothes that weren’t good enough to hang in your closet. You’re solely storing them “just in case”.
So go through them, and pull out a week’s worth of outfits. It doesn’t matter what they are, because you’ve already decided that they’re clothes you don’t really want to wear. These are “emergency clothes”. Those outfits go in the box/tote.
Everything else goes in the trash or in a donation bag – and that’s easy enough to determine based on condition.
Seal the box with packing tape, and write on the side “Emergency clothes – 2016-04-14” (or whatever the date is when you finish this project!).
Now you have a sealed box. If you ever need it, you have a week’s worth of clothes stashed in there. And if that box is still sitting around a year from now, the date written on the side and the fact that it’s completely taped shut will remind you that you’ve been okay without the contents of the box for a full year.
Eventually you’ll likely reach the point where you realize it’s been so long (one year, two years, three years) that your fears about needing the items in that box are unfounded – and you’ll be able to let it go.
And in the meantime, it’s only taking up a small amount of space.
Once you’ve done that, you have your emergency stash – and the rest can get donated or pitched!