I'm often told - by colleagues, family, friends, my boyfriend, my ASOS delivery man - that I own far too many clothes. I don't know what qualifies them to swoop down and officially label my clothing collection as 'too big' but at the end of last year there was just no escaping it any more. I had a problem.
Earlier in 2017, my partner and I moved into our first small house and out of my parents' larger one, where I occupied a large wardrobe and storage in two of the other bedrooms.
In our new place, we initially tried to limit our clothes to just the one walk-in wardrobe (we converted the box room into a room for our clothes). I failed miserably and my clothes just spread everywhere.
As the new year rolled in, I knew I had to make a change. I was wearing the same clothes to work every week and felt no affection towards my wardrobe whatsoever. Everything was old, or boring, or really 'last season'. The only thing that would make me feel mildly better was buying new clothes, which would just fuel the anger again after a few weeks.
I decided to invite an expert in decluttering into my home to see if she could shake me out of my hoarding rut and teach me some organisational tips along the way.
Meeting my match
Thankfully, Virginia Feacey, Country Manager UK at Rebelle is used to a little bit of closet chaos. As part of her job at the second-hand resale site, Virginia often goes into client's homes to help them identify the diamonds in the rough. Somehow, I thought our experience together might end up a little fruitless.
'I don't own any labels', I told Virginia almost as soon as she'd walked in the front door. She smiled and told me I'd be surprised at how little I knew about my own clothes, pointing out a pair of UGG boots that I'd left lying on the living room floor. 'That's a label', she said.
Tail between my legs, we went upstairs where I guided Virginia around my various storage spots.
To give you a mental image: At any given time, I have three drawers of activewear, jeans and underwear, a rail for my skirts, trousers, tops and knits, and another for my blazers and dresses in the walk-in. There's also a closet in our spare room which houses my coats and bags, one bigger drawer in our bedroom where my nightwear and loungewear live and then my shoes are just all over the house in various free spaces I manage to find.
And that's only the current season. I keep next season's clothes in a suitcase (or three) on top of my wardrobe and have another large case for my skiwear.
'Let's get started!' Virginia said, more enthusiastically than I would have felt in her shoes.
We started by created four piles labelled with: 'SELL', 'MAYBE', 'CUSTOMISE' and 'TOSS'. Clothes were then sorted into these piles according to these rules.
TOSS: Throw anything that is ripped or stained, super dirty or too worn to give away into a big bin liner.
SELL: Put everything that you don't want to keep that's still in a good enough condition to sell or is of value in a box.
MAYBE: If an item fits and is in a good condition but you simply can't decide if you like it or not, put it here. Then, hide the box somewhere so you won't see it every day and note if you ever miss any of the items. 'If you completely forget about them it's a sure sign that you can get rid of them for good', Virginia told me.
CUSTOMISE: If you have clothes that you really like, that don't fit any more or items with buttons missing or hems that need altering, pop them in this box. But be honest with yourself about taking them to be fixed and make sure the cost of alteration is worth it!
Everything else goes back into your wardrobe, organised by 'category' i.e. tops, knits, skirts and then by colour.
'If you want to end up with a tidy closet afterwards, take everything out and really examine each item as you go', Virginia advised. 'Try anything on that you need to, and sort into the boxes as you go.'
Virginia gave me some simple questions to ask myself as we did just that.
Does it fit?
Have you worn it in the last year? Because if you haven't, you'll probably never wear it again. (Excluding occasion-wear).
Does it have a history or special meaning? You should keep it! Find a place outside of your wardrobe to store it, where it won't get dusty.
Does it make you feel good?
Does it go with other things in your wardrobe?
Is it in good condition? If not, can it easily be fixed or will you actually take it to get fixed?
Is it annoying or uncomfortable to wear?
What I learned
Having a relative stranger look through your wardrobe really brings a fresh perspective on your shopping habits. I found myself cringing at showing Virginia some of the items I owned. Odd, considering that I obviously liked them at one point.
I also quickly realised that in a few cases I had five versions of the same thing; five sweaters, five light blue pairs of jeans (actually more), and about nine pairs of gym leggings. BUT I only had one 'going out' top and zero pairs of dark blue jeans. Virginia agreed that my wardrobe was missing some of the more 'classic' staples. 'Replace the cashmere knit that shrunk in the wash!', she told me afterwards. 'And don't put the next one in the washing machine'.
Her other observation? 'Don't be afraid to throw things out you are no longer wearing or don't love!' she told me, nodding her head towards another top I said was a gift and I couldn't throw. 'Of course hang on to things you have an emotional attachment to or good memories of, but just because it was a gift, doesn't mean you need to hang on to it.'
Decluttering expert Marie Kondo preaches that we should only ever buy or keep things that bring us joy. Virginia tried to get me into this mindset when we were trawling through my rails and my piles, and piles of shoes.
We ended up finding a lot to chuck - some of which is in a good enough condition to take to the charity shop - and a decent pile that I could sell, too. Among the numerous Topshop striped tops we did find a few gems. A Peter Pilotto co-ord from Target that I never wear, a cute top-of-the-high-street bag and an old pair of Louboutins I think have been on my feet all of one time (because OUCH). It's items like these Virginia says would be great listings on Rebelle while cheaper items can go on Ebay or Depop.
Has it changed anything?
Aside from my spanking new, colour-coded, decluttered heaven of a wardrobe?!
Since living my new, decluttered life, I'm noticing that I'm wearing clothes I haven't worn in ages. In fact, the first day that I got dressed after the edit, I picked a top I'd forgotten existed because it was buried so deep among everything else.
This was another takeaway from the experiment - keeping a tidy wardrobe and drawers will help me see what I have and make dressing in the mornings easier.
I honestly feel quite embarrassed about the sheer volume of clothes that I had, and so really want to make a conscious effort not to get that way again. I'm going to try Virginia's one in one out policy, and just try to buy less stuff in general.
I've written a list of all the 'staples' my wardrobe seems to be missing, so if I do ever get a shopping urge, it'll be on one of these investment pieces rather than that cute floral, boho, wrap top from Zara.
My plan is to try and do a wider edit of my clothes every few months, so that it never feels too overwhelming. We'll see if I stick to it!
Overall I found the experience cathartic and cleansing. I actually am excited about my new shopping mindset - and all the space I'm going to gain in my house!