Cleaning Out, Gunn Style

I’m going to redo my clothes closet.

First, I should say that, instead of a normal closet, I have more of a “nook.” It’s a closet built under the slant of our very steep roof. It’s probably one of the only things I despise about our house. It’s absolutely ridiculous. And I get the section of it that’s right by the door; Keith has to reach back into the dark recesses of this triangular space to find anything. Our cats use it as a hide-out to get away from the dog.

tim_gunn.jpgThat being said, I’ve recently read two books with sections about dealing with cleaning closets, one of which is Tim Gunn’s book A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style. Why I feel compelled to read about organizing instead of just organizing says a lot about my state of mind. But now I’ve decided to actually do something.

My closet isn’t really “dirty” or even that disorganized. Same for my dresser. It’s more about – does this stuff do anything for me? Is this what I want to be wearing? Does it even flatter me? I’m guilty of buying a lot of stuff from Savers or garage sales that has kitsch factor but isn’t necessarily flattering and then I tire of it. Or there is stuff hanging there that doesn’t fit me. There is one dress that never fit me but its so cute and was 99 cents at this small town thrift store, so I hold onto it thinking, “One day I might get a mysterious illness that causes me to lose 20 pounds and then I’ll wear it.” But, hey, that already happened to me and I still didn’t fit into the dress! That dress, though, is something I want to gift to someone (someone skinny) because I can’t bear to send it off to a thrift store after owning it for 12 years.

Tim Gunn takes this closet organizing very seriously. He links it to discovering one’s “authentic self” and then launches into a little discussion of Kierkegaard. You have to make a choice. If you don’t, someone else will make it for you (meaning, in this case, that you’ll be the victim of fashion trends and magazine editors or whatever the buyer at WalMart felt like putting on the racks that day). He says this is the basis of personal style – making a personal choice based on your individual taste and getting rid of everything else. “If you have to ask if you should keep it, throw it away.”

Lately, I’ve been in the mood to get my closet down to about 15 things and my drawers down to a few neat piles. My clothes are overwhelming and stupid. Don’t even get me started on the underwear drawer. There also needs to be a moratorium on t-shirts. And some dresses that just seem to be more costume than dress.

In preparation for this weeding out, I bought plastic tubs from Target. The idea is to store the clothes I don’t want to wear right now. I can hear Tim Gunn gasping. In his book, you need to get rid of everything you don’t want to wear. I’m imagining it more along the lines of a museum… I’m taking some items out of rotation and putting them in cold storage.

The next step is to assess everything that is left and find the “narrative through-line.” I’m not making this up. You’re to find what these clothes have in common. It sounds like a fun party game. At the end of this, “Your soul has spoken.” You then need to wear one of these “soul-stirring” items every day for the next seven days – get them into the rotation. The idea is that most people save the things they love the most only for very special occasions. You’ll gain confidence. I guess. That’s not me talking, that’s The Gunn.

Important note: after this clean-out you don’t immediately go shopping for more stuff. You have to read a few more chapters in the book, including one called “Preparing to Shop.” More on this later.