t-shirts and bikinis and socks, oh my

 

If you asked me to go with you on a tropical holiday to Bonaire, I would most likely think ‘oh dear, and I have no swimwear’ and frantically start shopping for some. It’s not easy finding decent swimwear in my size, so I’m on this Holy Grail quest for the perfect bikini. That’s right, bikini, I don’t need to be all covered up just because I’m plus size. But when I start going through my swimwear I realize I can stop the search. It turns out I have 26 perfectly lovely swim outfits, some of them with matching sarong or shorts. Not sure how that happened. A couple of them were a bit worse for wear, being about 100 years old, but the rest has basically not seen the light of day, let alone the sun, a swimming pool or the ocean. So I think I’m set for now. It’s so strange to discover how many items I’ve been purchasing out of fear when actually I have all I need and then some.

A couple years ago, on a Mexican vacation, I bought a beautiful green swimsuit, with matching green chemise. I wore it a couple times there, and then it went into my cupboard. And when I needed it for another holiday I suddenly couldn’t find it. I was certain I’d taken it to Belgium when I was staying in a hotel with swimming pool and actually expected to use the pool (I never do). Or maybe to Brazil. Either way, it had clearly slipped out of my suitcase somewhere exotic and I was annoyed I’d lost it. It was one of my more expensive swimsuits and having the green chemise without it seemed silly, yet I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of that pretty thing. Well, guess what I found, all the way at the bottom of my cupboard when I emptied it? That’s right. The precious green swimsuit from Mexico. I took it as a sign from the universe indicating that this cleanse was the right path for me.

I also go through stockings and socks. I didn’t wear skirts or dresses all winter because I had no pantyhoses, and they are no fun to shop for. But while sorting everything out, I find out I have over 30. Sure, some of them are yellow and orange and therefore promptly donated (what was I thinking?) but the rest is black and perfectly wearable. So dresses are back on!

Next in line is sleepwear. I have lots of pajamas that I never use because I don’t like when the top is too short to cover my tummy. I get rid of them ruthlessly, visualizing how happy I’ll be to sleep with a warm tummy every night. What I wear the most are giant t-shirts with prints such as Miss M&Ms saying ‘I don’t do kisses’. They’ve been washed so often that the print is all wrinkled, hardened and unreadable. Out they go, after many years of happy nights. I thank them for their loyal services and the joy they brought before saying goodbye, as Marie recommends. I also have the sexy negligees that seemed like a good idea but never get worn as I prefer my shoulders to be covered when I sleep. Ok, I know those aren’t really made for sleeping, so I keep the nicest one and get rid of the rest.

I move to sportswear. Most of my sportswear come from Decathlon or H&M. It is mainly shapeless and in ugly colors (army green? Ewwww). All the pants are too long. Some of the hoodies have broken zippers. I fill in a whole bag with all this crap. I keep only what makes me feel happy when I wear it. It’s still enough to workout several times a week, which I never do, even in a good week.

My last category of the day is tops. Long sleeve, short sleeve, tanks. The pile on the floor comes up to my knees. Marie Kondo says people usually have 140 tops. I actually have 200. Holy smokes. Overwhelmed, I start by picking the ones I love best. They usually have embroideries, flattering cuts or just a pretty color. I notice I haven’t worn some of them for years and decide to give them another chance. I also need some basic t-shirts and tanks to go below other items. I’m left with tops that never really looked good, or tops in colors that I never really liked, relics from the days when I would buy anything that fits. I discard them, and it feels like saying goodbye to that rather miserable time of my life. I will no longer buy items I don’t like just because they fit. Those days are gone. This feels like therapy.

I enjoy the process a lot, even more so because I have actually purchased drawers and instead of putting the sorted items back where they were, I take the time to fold them the KonMari way and arrange them by color, rainbow-style. It looks so pretty. I can’t stop staring it everything. It feels like I live in a boutique owned by people with good taste.

It takes me the rest of the day to install the drawers into my cupboard but once I’m done, I feel so proud. From that day onwards, I feel a thrill of pride and joy every time I dig into those drawers. I can’t wait to get the rest of my clothes into drawers, and organized by color!

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how many black cardigans?

So it’s day 2 of my KonMari experience. I went to bed last night with the satisfaction of having detoxed my wardrobe quite successfully. It feels like the beginning of a new life, one that is filled with only gorgeous little things, darling. The hanging part of my closet has reached a zen-like emptiness, and I have realized that my problem was never ‘not having enough hangers’ but ‘having too much crap’.

I start the next day going through suit jackets (which I never wear), where I find a few gems among some horrors, all of them long-forgotten. I wear one of them the next day at work and get compliments. Maybe this is the new me, not only clutter-free but also slightly more professional-looking?

I move to skirts. Here as well, besides a few recent purchases that I still like, I find some very old items that never even seemed to ever fit me that well. Sorting through all this is like archeology. going through strata of different eras: my first job, holidays, ballroom dance… The memories flow through me, it’s like these clothes are my madeleine.

Sweaters are stored high up on a shelf in my cupboard and I never dig through the back of that shelf, I usually just grab whatever is in the front, nearly falling on me. What I find there is slightly horrifying. It turns out I have 8 purple cardigans and 15 black ones. Some of them have understandable seasonal differences, but most of them are nearly identical. The worst is that if I went shopping right now, I’d probably be looking for a black cardigan because, you know, cause I don’t have any. I get angry and ruthless. I only keep the cardigans that look good. Those that have cute ribbons or buttons. Anything plain or shapeless or cheap goes into a donation bag. I also discard a couple comfy sweaters that I enjoyed wearing but just don’t look good. Still, I find so many lovely things that make me happy, I can’t believe I never wear them. I wear one of the cardigans later that week, and all day I feel like I won some weird kind of contest.

Shoes are overtaking my house, and the shelf above my sweaters are summer shoes. I throw them all on the floor and Kondo (that’s right, it’s a verb to me now) my way through them. Basically, there are 2 categories: gorgeous heels that are pretty much unworn, and flat sandals that are so worn they are actually unwearable. I find a couple of pairs that I never wore simply because they hurt. I put them in a new pile which is ‘potential sales’.

I get the plastic bags to the donation bin, full of energy for the week. I can feel the space that this cleaning is making in my house and in my mind. I look at my agenda and get annoyed to see it will be a few weeks before I can spend a day on this again, but I stay committed. By the end of this year, every item in my house will be ‘sparking joy’.

100 Dresses

So it’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m ready to get started with Step 1 in my KonMari decluttering journey. Dresses.

I decide to use my living room as sorting area. Which means I’m walking back and forth from my closet to my living room, arms full of dresses, well, too many times.

Some dresses are hanging nicely from a hanger. Some hangers carry 2 dresses. Some dresses are crumpled on the floor of the cupboard, having fallen from their hanger. Some are in the pile of half clean/half dirty clothes. One is still in the shopping bag, not even unpacked.

I’m playing some nice music, drinking tea, the sun is shining, I’m excited. I decide to keep track of how many items I’m keeping vs. not keeping. I’m careful not to write ‘throwing’ away because I’ve decided I’m giving everything, somehow.

I get started. Quickly it’s clear that there are some items in there I never even liked, even when I bought them. Looking at them, it’s very easy to put them in the ‘away’ pile and my mind drifts to the time in my life when I felt so awkward about my body that I would buy anything that fitted somehow. It saddens me. But it also makes it even easier to discard them, as if I’m forever saying goodbye to that time of my life.

Then I get into dresses that I fell in love with, but never really fitted or looked good on me. They do ‘spark joy’, looking at them, but when I pick them up I remember what I feel like wearing them, which is not great. Sometimes I put them on and run to the mirror. Some of them are actually wearable but mostly they make me feel not so joyful so ‘away’ they go.

A few dresses make me feel joyful even though I never wore them. I hesitate. Marie says if you hesitate you shouldn’t feel forced to discard them. So I keep some of them. Mainly some that actually look good on me. Or one fabulous silk piece that is pretty much bag-shaped but has a print that makes me smile. Maybe I’ll turn it into a pillow. It stays.

I find a couple dresses that actually don’t fit well, don’t spark joy of themselves, but have beautiful appliqué or beading. I set them aside. My plan is to remove and keep the sparkly bits and put the dresses ‘away’.

My final count is over 100 dresses. And I don’t even wear a dress every week! I get rid of about 30%, which is good, but still leaves me with an obscene number of dresses.

Looking at the ‘away’ pile, I actually notice most of them have hardly been worn. They are in perfect condition and I would say the average cost of each item was probably 100 euros. What a waste! I’m thinking someone could probably sell them and make a little money. Not me, cause it’s just too much trouble when getting rid of so many things, but someone. So I place an ad on Facebook. Anyone willing to take them and sell them can keep a good commission of whatever they make. Thankfully, one friend replies and I decide to give her the dresses.

Feeling elated, I immediately plunk all my trousers, jeans, shorts, leggings and jumpsuits in the middle of my living-room and start going through them.

My findings are even worse. I probably have 25 cheap black pants that I hoped I’d wear in the office but just don’t fit. Same for shorts. Leggings are the opposite. I wear them so much that I keep them all. In the end, I keep only about 50% of my bottoms. The rest goes in a bin bag. I enthusiastically get out of the house to put them in the clothes bin for recycling. It’s full. I look up the closest alternative bin and lug my bags to it. Putting the bags into those bins, knowing or rather hoping that they will be useful to someone, I feel satisfied and I grin like a madwoman. Then I head back home, ready for more.