Have you watched the new Netflix show, Tidying Up by Marie Kondo? If not, you are one of the few that hasn’t! Since it aired on January first, people across Instagram and beyond have been sharing their tidying journeys, and it’s fascinating. Everyone is posting photos of bulging trash bags headed to GoodWill, neat drawers layered with perfectly folded clothes, and closets hanging quietly with only the best outfits.
Five years ago, Marie Kondo’s book was actually part of my style journey. I had just read the book, Dressing Your Truth by Carol Tuttle and was ready to go through my closet, but I wasn’t sure how to start. I read the Spark Joy book first, and then I dived right in. I didn’t follow every detail suggested in the book, which meant that I didn’t hold everything up and wait for either a spark of joy or a “dead inside” feeling. But the concept of finding out which pieces I valued most, and only keeping those helped me let go of some other pieces I had kept for too long. I learned how to fold my clothes in a way that helped me easily see what I had available. I still use these techniques and love them.
How do I Live this Way?
I then looked at my almost empty closet and wondered what was next. Shopping, it seemed. But how was I going to shop for new pieces that wouldn’t just end up in the GoodWill bags next year? How did I know if I was going to value that new top I saw at TJ Maxx for more than a few weeks? How could I keep my closets and drawers satisfied with only those things that worked for me? How could I live this way, so that I wasn’t collecting things that would just be ready to toss in the next closet purge? Was there a way to strike that balance between living with less and having enough to choose from?
That was five years ago, and it has definitely been a learning experience, as I found my way through those questions. I haven’t done a major closet purge since, but I go through my closet every season and stash away the summer clothing til next year and get out my winter clothing from last year. Usually, there are a few pieces that need to go, and I make some notes about pieces that I want to start looking for. Now that I know the types and styles of pieces that work for me and my lifestyle, every time I get rid of a piece it helps me refine that even more
Last summer I started looking for a black wrap dress. This is a very timeless style, one that has been popular ever since it was designed. I decided that it would work well for my style, and hopefully be one that I would be able to wear for years. I had sold several pieces of clothing that didn’t work for me on PoshMark, so I saved my earnings for my wrap dress. I looked and looked until I found an Eileen Fisher wrap dress that was my size, the perfect just-below-the-knee length I wanted and short sleeves. It came a few days later, and I put it on and immediately loved it. I knew it was a piece I could wear for years.
Black is a color that works well for me, and it can be easily dressed up with heels or dressed down with casual sandals or flats. It was one of the few pieces I took on our trip to Europe last year, and I loved it. It was soft and comfortable to wear for long days of driving, dressy enough for evenings out, and casual enough for a day visiting castles and markets in France. This is still hanging in my closet as a piece I truly value and wear often. It was a perfect investment, and one I am happy I made.
Don’t be afraid to Let Things Go
I also bought a pair of designer shoes on Thred Up two years ago. They were vintage, red leather and had a little heel. I thought they would go with almost anything, as I love red, and be a perfect long term investment. Well, I wore them one time, and they hurt my feet so badly I was limping by the end of the night! I tried them again several times, and they just weren’t comfortable. Also, as I looked at my closet, I realized that I didn’t have a lot of outfits that would even work with these shoes. So I sold them on Poshmark and used the money to buy my wrap dress.
Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to let things go, even if it was an investment! If you’re not going to reach for them all the time – let it go and buy something you will reach for regularly.
Shop with Intention
These days my closet stays pretty small. I actually miss doing those huge closet purges, because I get so much joy out of getting rid of extras. But I find that I think less about my closet, it’s a tool that works for me instead of being just another overwhelming decision every day. I think more about the items of clothing that make it into my closet. I have several classic and timeless styles that I find myself wearing year round. I have leather flats that work with all my outfits, and leather sneaker-style shoes that I wear constantly. I have a pair of leather Frye boots that I invested in this past Cyber Monday and love them. All these were items that cost more than I used to pay for clothing but have served me much better than the $15 discount sneakers I used to buy every season at K-Mart.
I used to shop for the fun of shopping, always hunting for “something” even though I often didn’t even know what that was. Now I shop with intention, looking for specific pieces that I think will serve me well. Shopping with intention takes prior preparation, but much less time actually in the stores.
Be Okay with Having Less to Choose From
Talking about quality over quantity is easy. Fun even, to let yourself consider dropping $200 on one pair of shoes that you know you will love. But living that way takes intention. It takes being ok with having less to choose from. And that can be hard for me sometimes. It takes creativity to pull a new outfit for a special event out of what I already have in my closet instead of just going shopping. I’m finding much more joy in my closet, and less overwhelm as I shop. I’m finding that intention works better for me than impulse, and quality lasts through many seasons.
Yesterday, I took a few hours and went shopping by myself, for myself, for the first time in quite a few months. I needed new tops, new boots and was hoping to find the perfect sweater. After searching through the racks at TJ Maxx, I headed to the fitting room. The attendant let me take all my 14 items in at once since it was a slow day. I immediately loved the first dress I put on, it was a soft and comfortable almost knee length dress with long sleeves that would be perfect with tights and boots. The next few dresses were just ok, and every single top was either too loose in the wrong places, or too tight in the wrong places and none of the sweaters fit well or had a look I was going for.
Side note: Does anyone else glance at the price tag before putting something on, and adjust your expectations accordingly?
After walking out with only the one dress, I went to the shoe store. Same story. The one boot style I liked didn’t have the exact size I needed. I was a little frustrated as I drove home, and told myself it must be like Murphy’s Law for Shoppers — when you don’t need anything, you find so many perfect things, and when you actually need something, there is nothing available.
I thought of the “need” language that I was using. Perhaps I needed to adjust that to reflect want, because saying need, and then not being able to fill it, was giving me a perspective of lack. If I allowed this feeling of lack to make my choice to buy something that didn’t align with my closet goals, would I have been taking this piece to Good Will next season because it wasn’t sparking joy anymore, to quote Marie Kondo?
When I used to shop all the time, I didn’t have specific items I was looking for, I simply went into the store and let the racks tell me what I wanted. Now, I look at my closet, my lifestyle, my personal style and let it tell me what I need. But the racks don’t always concur, so then I wait. Waiting for the right piece is ok. It’s part of being ok with having less to choose from while you wait.
My Personal Style
These are the leather sneakers that walked me through a hike in the mountains of Montana and took me through an afternoon of sky diving in the Florida sunshine.
These are the leather flats that went with me down the streets of Annecy in France, through the airports during our flights to Paris, and walked me across the beautiful Palo Alto park in Texas.
These are the brown leather boots that I wear as I run errands in my hometown.
This is the black wrap dress (similar dress) that I wore on the Mediterranean beach and to a dinner with my friends last week.
These are the articles of clothing I invested in that helped me live my life with joy.
Clothing is for Life – Choose What Works for Yours
This is why we buy clothes, because of what they contribute to our daily life. I often have to remind myself that while a gorgeous lace dress might work for me, it may not work for my lifestyle if I don’t have many events it would be appropriate for. Choose clothing that contributes to the life you have and the life you are living right now — not the life you would like to live someday or the one you want to live.
In my current culture, as a mom, owning and running my own business and attending casual meetings and social functions things like flats, boots, wrap dresses, etc. is what works for me right now. Clothing has always been very cultural, and different things are appropriate based on the culture you live in. Clothing lets us create an expression, an artistic articulation of who we are. I enjoy my life so much more in clothing that helps me to feel attractive and live comfortably in my everyday. I want to build a culture of intention, of purposeful choices and practical options in my everyday life and style. I also want to build a culture that celebrates beauty everywhere, even in practicalities such as clothing. We wake up every morning and put on clothing – why not make it beautiful and full of life and love that helps us live with joy?
The post The Tidying Up Phenomenon – And How to Live that Way appeared first on Urban Southern.