In this series of articles we are thoughtfully exploring ideas to help curate your own signature style.
There are five parts in this series, and I've written mini, less-than-5-minute articles within each one for you to explore bit by bit.
This article belongs to defining.
'The more you let go, the more space you create for what you really love'
Many moons ago, the tell-tale signs of another 'decluttering' exercise were evident outside the door of my room. This was namely, a pile of clothes in a heap sat waiting for their next destination (whether it was to the washing machine or the local clothes bank was as yet unclear).
My mum used to profoundly dislike this sight - and she'd look at some of the things in the pile, and query my decisions to be 'getting rid of' these things.
"It's not 'getting rid of' them - they're moving on! To a new life!" I would insist.
To add to this analogy, recently, I went to throw something in the rubbish near my home, when the contents of the bin caught my shocked attention: it was full of clothes. The entire, huge rubbish bin was full of in-tact, wearable, clean looking clothes. I couldn't help but feel this was a real shame, but also very preventable.
It is, in many ways, the 'easy' thing to throw something away in the bin when you don't need it. But how might you give things away gracefully instead?
In the rest of this article we explore some ways.
In a past article, we reframed our approach to 'decluttering' to consider it more of an audit of our clothes.
The phrase we're reframing today is 'to get rid of'.
While I don't have a replacement phrase directly for this - I prefer to think of clothes I no longer want as moving on to pastures new.
Almost like they're being given to a new, appreciative soul, and will have new adventures elsewhere.
I think that things, like people, aren't very useful or happy when they have no purpose. So if something has been sitting around unworn and you find it no longer fits in the grand scheme of your curated wardrobe, consider giving it a new lease of life but letting it move on. (P.S. I think it is more than ok to keep things simply because you truly love them. That, in and of itself, is a good purpose for something to have).
Let's look at ways you can give things away with a little more grace. Some effort might be involved, but I really believe it's worth it.
The following are some principles and processes I follow when giving away clothes. Maybe you have some of your own - I'd love to know!
Wash, dry & fold before giving away
There is something beautiful in preparing your clothes to go to a new home, to be covering a new body. If your clothes are in good condition, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be worn and loved again.
Washing them, packing them up neatly as if you’d like to receive them yourself is a beautiful way of honouring the clothes you have before sending them off.
I like preparing my give-away-able clothes as if I’m handing them over to a sibling or best friend. Speaking of a sibling or friend...
Offer your pre-loved clothes to a sibling or close friend of similar style/size to you
I have a wonderful friend of spookily similar size and style to me, and so one of the first things I do when I no longer want something is run it by her: often, she will grab what is on its way out of my wardrobe! This is ideal for me, since I know it will be cared for and well used in her own wardrobe.
Have it altered if you still really love it but it isn’t fitting well
If an item of clothing isn’t fitting well, whether it’s a size issue or just uncomfortable, and I don’t want to let it go, I’ll try to get it altered.
There have been several things that I’ve salvaged just by adding a button or a popper or cutting off sleeves.
If you're not able to see how it might be changed, take it with you to a tailor and ask for some ideas.
Find a point of contact who can help find a home for your clothes
If you have access to someone who is connected to families in need, or works in charitable ways, contact them directly and personally.
See if they know families or people who fit the size of the clothes you have.
This is my preferred way of giving clothes a new life and purpose - once you find a contact connected to families who appreciate these things, it's a wonderful give-back opportunity.
Be skeptical about the big charity boxes
There are a couple of reasons I don’t like to use the big clothes charity boxes that are dotted around town here.
I once saw inside them as one had been left wide open, and the clothes looked and smelt so terrible, the kind that nobody would want to wear.
What’s more, I can’t guarantee that my clothes will reach the people they need to. The clothes I saw inside the clothes bank seemed to have been there for a very long time.
I prefer not to use these unless I can help it. I feel just calling it a clothes ‘dump’ is somewhat negative.
It's best to make an effort to get pre-loved clothes into the hands of people who need them directly.
Place neatly, near a dustbin, but not in the dustbin
I learned this from a friend who said she had once seen people fishing around in dustbins trying to salvage whatever they could. She said whenever she has left things in a nice, neat looking bag near a dustbin, they have disappeared almost immediately. I found the same with a couple of other objects. If you place your belongings in a nice way, folded and washed, and in a decent bag, it’s highly likely that it will reach someone who really is in need of the items.
This one I know least about, but I know people who frequently sell clothes on eBay and other similar sites. It can be a very fruitful way to give old clothes a new home.
We can (and should) let go of clothes differently if we stop framing it as "getting rid" of them. Our old clothes were not pests! They provided cover for our one unique body. That's something special.
Letting go of clothes can be a very satisfying part of curating and maintaining a wardrobe that works for you if you can find an outlet through which to do it gracefully.
The letting go process can be very fulfilling when you make an effort to preserve good clothing, prepare it for a new 'adventure' and get it into the hands of people who will really be able to make use of them.