POSTED ON APRIL 1, 2009:
Out with the Old
Effective spring cleaning means parting with your inner packrat
In preparation for a vacation I recently took, I went online and purchased an oversized weekend bag. Upon its delivery, I discovered I was more excited about the size of the box than I was the bag itself...but, I digress. Looking at the box, I saw a big disposable trashcan, one that I wouldn't have to empty for weeks, which was thrilling.
I'm sure that sounds disgusting. It's never smelly trash, just tons of Diet Coke cans and boxes of frozen dinners since I can't cook a thing. See, these take up a lot of space and require multiple trips to my apartment's dumpster, and it's just that I hate, really hate taking out the trash. It's right up there with loading and unloading the dishwasher or cleaning the shower. Although there are people out there who enjoy cleaning house, I am not one of them.
I like a tidy space but not the work that goes into getting it that way. But what's weird is that I love organizing and getting rid of items that serve no purpose other than cluttering my apartment; these are the things that I enjoy "cleaning."
This spring, as the phrase "spring cleaning" is thrown around, I won't think of a thorough scrubbing of the baseboards or the elbow grease required to make the inside of the oven shine, but cleaning out the closets, dresser drawers, makeup bags, bathroom cabinets and jewelry boxes of belongings that I no longer use.
Apparently, some folks maintain a sense of balance when it comes to their closet. These people, upon purchasing something new, get rid of one item automatically from their wardrobe. Buy a new top; get rid of an old one. However, if you have to hold a massive spring cleaning of your closet and drawers, you aren't one of those people. But, you could be! If (after you have gone through the initial closet purging) you implement this rule--buy one, get rid of one--you can avoid future wardrobe overhauls.
But that's far into the future. For now, you need a system in place. First, I know that you likely need to set aside time to do this; depending on how much a consumer/hoarder you are, you're probably looking at an hour or more. And, don't look at it like you'll do a little bit now and finish it later because you won't. You'll start, get rid of one or two things and then decide you're finished.
Instead, you need to designate space for two piles: discard and donate. You might even have a "to-do" pile. This would be for things that would be in use if only you did something to them, like pants that need to be altered for length, a button that needs to be sewn back on a cardigan or a watch that needs a battery replaced. If you're certain that you will put those items to use, they can be placed in the to-do pile; if you know that they will just continue to collect dust then donate them.
Once you have the space cleared for the piles, go through the items you have. Start in the back of the closet and the bottom of drawers as these items are rarely, if ever, worn. Quickly examine the items. You'll know right away why it's not being worn. It might not be your style anymore or perhaps it's outdated. It might have stains or holes. It could be something that was a former favorite but through extensive wear just doesn't have the same luster it once did.
If there are items in question, try it on. It could be something that was lost in the cracks and could be pulled to the front of the closet for further use. It might, however, no longer fit. If it doesn't, it's not worth keeping. Clothes and accessories are for wearing, so if you can't wear them or simply won't then you don't need it.
If the item has to go, you need to decide its status. If it looks gruesome or has stains, etc., they should be discarded immediately. This would also be where single socks or single earrings belong. Shoes that are in extreme disrepair should also be thrown out. Garments still in good condition should be in the donate pile.
Something to consider when cleaning out your wardrobe is to contemplate what it is you're giving away. Is your donation pile filled with items that you have only worn once or twice? Are there clothes with tags still attached? Think about why you never wore them. If there are a lot of really trendy pieces that weren't worn repeatedly because they soon became out of style, you might be a shopper that neglects closet staples. If there are a lot of things that never fit right (i.e. you wore it once and went crazy all day tugging at the waist or fidgeting with buttons on a top so that you didn't have side boob peak-a-boo), you can begin to figure out what doesn't work for your body.
This can be a valuable realization when shopping in the future. Because, let's be honest, even if you re-sell these items, its money gone. Going through your closet will make you a smarter shopper and help save you money in the future.
When you're shopping in a store, you might not take the time to remember these difficulties. In the fitting room, you might quickly try something on, like the cut and color, and buy it without ever realizing that it's something you won't wear more than once. And obviously, if you find yourself getting rid of items that still have tags or were never worn at all, you can come to realization that you need to save receipts and keep clothes tagged until the very second you walk out the door wearing them.
You'll probably hit the closet, but don't forget the
dresser drawers. Go through bras and underwear (discard pile!) and jewelry boxes. Even go through the bathroom, getting rid of bottles that only have enough lotion for an elbow or that you know you've had a long while. Those items, like food or medication, have a shelf life.
Obviously when you're done, you'll have an easy time disposing of the discard items, but you'll need to determine what course of action you'd like to take with the donate pile. Organizations throughout the city take these items. The paperwork you receive can make them a tax deduction next year; but more importantly, it's good to give at a time when people need assistance.
But, if you are one who needs the extra cash, there are ways to go about selling your items. Consignment stores around town can sell your items and give you money, or you can take matters into your own hands and hold a garage sale.
It's helpful that spring cleaning also takes place in garage sale season. If you don't feel like you have enough for a single sale, rope your friends into following suit, cleaning out their stuff and having a group event. Things left over could always be donated afterwards.
Also, don't ignore the fact that, while the American dollar has seen better times, gold is still in demand. If, while cleaning out your jewelry box, you discover broken necklace chains and single earrings made of the yellow stuff, you can always get cash for that. Of course, do your research and never send it away to one of those places advertised on television commercials.
When you're done with your spring cleaning, you'll have free space and possibly a little extra change in your pocket to go and replenish what you gave away.
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