I Clean My Closet Once a Month: Does that Make Me Compulsive?

Reaching for wardrobe nirvana

10.27.16
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On the fourth Saturday of every month, I clean my closet. There is no exception to this rule. For the majority of that morning, I sit cross-legged, as if meditating, in front of my closet among piles of garments I have newly vetoed and begin folding them into bags labeled Sell, Donate and Mom (the stuff in this bag goes to my aunts and cousins).

What you are probably thinking is that as someone who is frequently called an influencer and thus gets given a lot of stuff, that I even have the ability to clean my closet so often is a privilege. Given the frequency with which incoming merchandise is infused into my wardrobe, it makes perfect sense that I should match this volume with that of outgoing merchandise, but no! I have always cleaned my closet on an alarmingly regular basis.

When I think about why that’s possible, I feel guilt about a former fast-fashion addiction (I recall buying at least one thing every week with my allowance over the course of high school and college from either Forever 21, H&M or Zara), but I digress. The whole ritual is curiously cathartic for me. Truly a bit like meditating. I get to think long and hard about what’s in my closet and why it’s there and how it even got there and whether it brings me joy.

Just kidding, I do not ask myself if everything in my closet brings me joy. (If you are unfamiliar, this is a basic principle of Marie Kondo’s tidying method: you’re supposed to ask yourself whether your garments bring you joy and if they don’t, you get rid of them. Personally, I find Marie Kondo to sound a bit like a serial killer so it is hard to take her advice at book value.)

Recently, I heard on a podcast that tidying up is a form of self-respect and that made me feel less compulsive about the whole thing. It’s a nice sentiment, isn’t it? That taking care of your space, respecting your belongings, knowing where everything is at all times is one way to show that you respect yourself? I’m going with it, and because we’re no longer flirting with the beginning of a season but rather are knee-deep in its trenches, I’m also going to suggest that if you have no plans on Saturday morning, you take some time with your closet. Get to know it, you know? Tell your summer clothes to fuck off (but in a nicer tone) and remind yourself constantly as you appraise pilled sweaters and ripped jeans and poorly ironed wool pants that quality trumps quantity. Quality trumps quantity.

What I mean by this is that sometimes it’s really comforting to look into a full closet, even if it’s full of stuff you don’t care about. But wardrobe nirvana, really, is the ability to blindfold yourself and feel satisfied with whatever you subsequently pull out of your closet. This means you are an extremely coordinated shopper, but also that you’ve actually developed that sort of French wardrobe of which women’s magazines are always extolling the virtues.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to give you closet cleaning tips now, particularly because I find the photo above kind of condescending (ultimately, I *do* have a lot of shit, but that’s the double-edged sword about compulsive behavior, isn’t it?), so instead, I’ll speak to both ends of the compulsion coin and share three questions I ask myself when stuck on a garment while cleaning my closet, and another three I follow (made up?) for shopping. If you feel like I wasted 612 words worth of your time, I’m sorry; here’s the gift of discovery (snake toothpaste!!!!!) to make up for it.

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For closet cleaning:

1. When is the last time I wore this? (If the answer exceeds 12 months, I will typically relinquish the garment.)

1a. Do I like how I feel when I wear it, or do I often take it off because even though it makes so much sense theoretically, it never works when I put it on? (If this answer is yes, so long.)

2. Do I have another, better version of this garment that I would almost always choose to wear in its place? (See 1a answer key.)

3. Am I holding on to this because I feel like I have to, even though if I were not blinded by the label inside, I’d have probably gotten rid of it already? (I find this happens a lot with vintage designer clothing.)

For shopping:

1. Am I buying this because I’m bored or because I actually want/need it? (If you’re bored, don’t get it. You probably don’t actually need anything, btw. Unless you’re starting a new job at Goldman Sachs and used to work at Man Repeller in which case, WTF are you doing?)

2. Will the acquisition of this garment provide an overall lift to the rest of my closet? Will it make getting dressed on a consistent basis feel more fun? (If the answer is yes, ka-ching, ka-ching.)

3. What utilitarian purpose does this serve? (If none, that’s okay, but you should know, particularly if you are training to be a professional walker-with-platform-on-head.)

Photos by Krista Anna Lewis.

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