By Julie Morgenstern
UNLEASH THE REAL YOU
If you’re craving change, start with your closet. It holds the clues to your inner self — to all your selves. Who you are right now. Who you were. Who you dream of being. By shedding and getting it current, you’re poised to change your whole life.
Not long ago, I shed most of the clothes in my closet. I asked three questions of each garment: Do I love it? Is it flattering? Is it the image I want to project: receptive, strong, sexy? Before I knew it, my closet was 80 percent empty. There was a sense of movement in my new open space that was like ocean air drifting through. Everything felt light and fresh and clean. That night I slept better than I had in years.
THREE CLUES THAT YOU’RE READY TO SHED
You’re gripped by the feeling that there’s something more you want, but you don’t know exactly what it is. It’s a glimmer in your mind that’s vaguely pulling you forward — a deep-seated wish, a buried dream rattling around inside.
What you want feels out of reach. You wonder if you’ll be able to pull it off — or if you have what it takes or if you really deserve it.
You’re feeling weighed down by something that’s preventing you from moving forward.
SHED: WHAT IT MEANS
SHED is about far more than just throwing things out. It involves 4 steps:
- SEPARATE the treasures — identify the gems that are worth hanging on to.
- HEAVE the trash — eliminate what’s weighing you down.
- EMBRACE your identity — connect to who you are without all your stuff.
- DRIVE yourself forward — explore the direction that connects to your genuine self.
DO YOU NEED TO ORGANIZE, OR SHED?
1. You organize to become more efficient. You SHED to get unstuck.
2. Organizing gives you access to what’s most important to you. SHEDing is a process for discovering what’s most important to you.
3. It’s possible to get organized without getting rid of anything. It’s impossible to SHED without letting things go.
A Zen parable tells of a wanderer on a lonely road who came upon a torrential river that had washed out the bridge. So he built a solid and heavy raft, which carried him safely across to the other bank. “This is a good raft,” he thought. “If there’s another river ahead, I can use it.” And he carried it for the rest of his life. How often do we hang onto things that served us well at one point in our lives but are no longer relevant or useful? Clutter is something that no longer serves you.
Does your closet feel stagnant? Does it make you feel guilty or overwhelmed or burdened? Does it deplete your energy? It’s cluttered.
YOU NEED A THEME
The reality is, no one lets go into a vacuum — no one lets go of anything without reaching for something else. But if you don’t know what you’re reaching for, you won’t let go. The solution is to come up with a theme. Take the pressure off yourself. Stop trying to figure out exactly what you’re going to do next. Instead, define what the next chapter in your life is going to feel like. What part of you do you want to express? Freedom? Creativity? Intimacy? Serenity? Balance? That’s your theme. When you get the right word — the right theme — it mobilizes you to move forward. It gives you something exciting to create space for.
BEFORE YOU DIVE IN
If you do all your thinking on paper first, decluttering your closet can be incredibly fast and painless. Ask yourself: If all of this were to be gone tomorrow, what would I miss? Write your answers on a sticky note and post them on the wall. Keep referring to it while you sort and shed. The first half hour will be slowgoing until you get a rhythm going. Then it speeds up: It really takes only 3 to 4 hours, on average, to finish.
GET IN THE MOOD
You need energy and enthusiasm when you SHED. Weekends are a good time; late nights are not. Open the windows and get some fresh air in the room. Make yourself a refreshing drink. Play music that fuels you. Now, focus. You’re going to be making a lot of decisions: You’re getting ready to cleanse.
KNOW WHERE THINGS ARE GOING
Decide in advance who’ll get your castoffs: a charity, a shelter for homeless women, Dress for Success, your sister. Have a box or shopping bag for each organization or person you’re giving things to — and for what you’ll toss.
DOES IT STAY, OR DOES IT GO?
When you’re unsure of whether you’re ready to part with something, ask yourself: What has more value to me? This object, or the cleared space?
Arrange everything you’re keeping in a way that makes it easy to find things and put them away. Organize your closet into zones. By garment type, by season, by occasion (work, casual, dressy).
IS IT A TREASURE?
Treasures are practical or sentimental items that are worth holding on to. A practical treasure is that perfect little black dress that works for you every time. Sentimental treasures are fair game — the threadbare cardigan you wore all through college, the vinyl handbag your grandmother gave you for your 13th birthday. Ask yourself: Is this the best and most important reminder of that time in my life, or person I knew, that I own?
WHEN YOU HIT THE WALL OF PANIC
About 75 percent of the way through decluttering your closet, WHAM! You’ll suddenly be overwhelmed by all that open space: What am I going to fill the emptiness with? Who am I without my stuff? Your impulse will be to retrieve what you just tossed, or rush to fill the space with ANYTHING new. Don’t. This is a true breakthrough moment: It’s your chance to detach your identity from your things, and remind yourself that you are who you are, no matter what you own. The good news is that it doesn’t last long. Once you get to the other side of the panic, you’ll experience an extraordinary sense of calm, self-confidence, and freedom.
TOSS LIST FOR THE CLINGY
Clothes that don’t fit, and will be out of style by the time you hope they fit again. Give them away!
Clothes that are stained, torn, or have lost their shape. Toss ‘em!
Shoes that hurt your feet. If you’ve never worn them, give them away. Otherwise, throw them out!
Outdated handbags, belts, and scarves. Donate them!
THE POWER AND PLEASURE OF A BEAUTIFUL CLOSET
I can’t tell you how important it is to house your clothes with dignity. Toss those flimsy wire hangers that get twisted and mangled. It’s worth every penny to buy wood or padded hangers, quality hooks, and containers. Don’t mix styles — plastic bins for T-shirts, baskets for handbags. Keep it unified and simple. You want everything to be so aesthetically pleasing that going into your closet every day is a joy.