June 4, 2018

How I KonMaried My Closet… and My Life

This was intended to be a New Year’s post, then a spring cleaning, now we’re almost officially at summer but I refuse to ever bring you something that’s half baked or, worse, all fluff. I’d rather wait till it’s worth it, till you get a good before and after, some real takeaways. There’s another blogger I follow, whom I love. She keeps it real on Stories, is a hands-on mother, we see her in her PJ’s, sans makeup, preparing breakfast and her kids are the cutest. But, when it comes to her blog, I often find, there’s such a disconnect. It’s one professional photo of her after the next with no real substance. She recently wrote about organizing her closet too (We’re not reinventing the wheel here, we write about what’s actually going on in our lives and who doesn’t love a good spring cleaning?) and I couldn’t wait to check it out as I was mid-way through mine. What system did she use, maybe there was an item she discovered that I’d find helpful or some tips I’d adopt (and credit, of course)? But, once again, I was discouraged to find that it was just a plethora of photos of her with perfectly stacked piles of clothes. We didn’t even seen a closet shot, in a closet organizing post! What?! Am I missing something here?

I tend to be the extreme opposite, without one photo of me in this entire post so there’s probably a middle ground there but, truly, for me, this is not a vanity project. You know what I look like. If you’re clicking on this post, hopefully, it’s because you actually want to see a before and after, pictures of my closet, read about KonMari, my takeaways, even my previous hoarder status, something, anything other than an airburshed, professional photo of me with hair, makeup, good lighting and post-production touch ups. So, with that said, if, like The Bachelorette, you’re here for the right reasons and actually want to see a closet post, I hope you’ll be pleased. If not, well, I can give you a few names of some other blogs you might like better. 😉

I purge my closet twice a year and, yet, every year, I still had all this stuff. It was almost as if my clothing was breeding, multiplying. Where did it all keep coming from? When we moved, I gave away and threw out a ton. I said I refused to bring baggage, literal and physical, with me. Of course, I brought both. But, still, I thought, clothing-wise, I was in decent shape. Sure, I had a lot of things but it was years of collecting and curating my style and I truly felt like I had a well-equiped wardrobe, something for every occasion, season, feeling. And then some.

Simultaneously, my college friend Cassidy left her job in advertising to pursue her passion for organizing and owning her own business, Felt. Naturally, she needed testimonials, not to mention hours, to become KonMari certified. Cassidy doesn’t do anything half-assed. She went to business school at Columbia and you bet your booties she was going to be trained by the best in the organizing world too. She texted me one day, “You’re probably too OCD to have a messy closet, right?” Ha. HA!

My closet was where all my perfectionist skeletons were buried. It’s were the clutter was, the excuses happened, the shame spiraled. I could have a near perfect day, where I felt like I’d accomplished a lot, been present, a good parent, wife, friend and, still, I’d retire at night to my closet and immediately feel bad about myself. There was unfolded laundry, a spilled-over suitcase that sat for far too long after a trip, piles of bags and business cards… And I was always too tired to do anything about it, which furthered the cycle.

I told Cass she was, of course, welcome to come over, that I could always use help but that I wasn’t sure how much of a transformation it’d be since I’d just done a big pre-move purge.

As a vow to myself and her, I didn’t touch one thing before she came. Had it not been a friend, I would’ve absolutely straightened up, likely shoving things into drawers and closets when I ran out of time to properly organize. But since she’s seen me at my worst (Hello sophomore and junior years of college!) and still loves me, I let the mess remain so we could get a true before and after feel. She snapped some photos and we got to work. It wasn’t until a month ago that I finally saw those pictures after she sent them to me and, now, through the eyes of a reformed shopper. Holy hoarder! What was I doing?

Cassidy began the process by explaining that the KonMari method is to pull everything out of my closet so you can properly see it, hold each item and see which sparks joy. This is where my anxiety entered. Everything? What if we just do it in sections? No. What if we run out of time? We won’t.

I finally had to face years of over-buying, rationalizing and gathering. It’s clear now, that what I thought was purging was simply maintenance. A shirt with a stain, pant with a hole, my least favorite of my five denim shirts, tarnished “gold” jewelry… Of course it was easy to get rid of the unquestionable. But anything that brought a slight pause stayed. And stayed. And stayed. And since I had so much, couldn’t even see or access it and kept shopping, that added up to a few big bags each season. But to truly purge, to give away every “some day”, “what if”, “it used to fit”, “I once loved it”, “it reminds me of”, “it was a special occasion” was much more challenging.

I felt a pang in my chest, a lump in my throat and realized I was about to cry. Over my closet. I looked up, locked eyes with Cass and we both started to tear up. I asked her if this ever happened before. And she replied, “every time”.

What is it about giving away belongings that is so emotional?

It made me really do some digging as to why this was so hard for me. And what I discovered is that I’ve spent my whole life trying to be prepared, feel accomplished, successful. And, as silly as it is, my wardrobe was a part of that. I worked hard to make the money to buy those items, it was years of hustle and sacrifice. And I finally felt like I’d established a good collection. I’d accumulated stuff. I didn’t need for anything. That box was checked off.

The reality is, that more than half that stuff didn’t fit, I didn’t like, was reminders of not-so great times, wasn’t in the best condition, didn’t make me feel good about myself… So WHY was I holding on to it? Forget joy, the majority of these items caused pain. And yet, I kept them. I created space for them in my home and my life. I made daily excuses for them.

And the second I started to get rid of them, really purge for the first time in my life, I felt so much lighter. And really proud of myself.

Cassidy made it easy. Fun even. Oh, the laughs we had over some of those tragic pieces or my ridiculous reasons. And, while she’s one of my greatest friends, there’s no doubt you’ll connect with her immediately too. She’s like a warm blanket, a soft space. It’s no wonder she comes from two psychiatrist parents as her services extend to far more than mere organizing.

Once I actually started the process and really let go, I was surprised at how easy and freeing it was to give things away and shocked at how big the donation pile was. I was on a high from it all. I looked around the house, what else could I organize, give away?

The next morning, the emotional hangover set in. Did I give away too much? Was anything left? What would I wear? Did I have to buy a whole new wardrobe?

The beauty is, it allows you to actually see, for once, what you have and the space to truly take care of it (I was definitely a buy in bulk, get a good deal, treat it like crap kind of girl, which says so much and are absolutely ways of thinking and habits that need to be rehabbed.). There were a few holes. Ones that had been filled but with items that weren’t flattering or in terrible condition so it was time for an update.

I went to the mall and bought a few pairs of jeans that actually fit, right now. Not in a few months once I lost the rest of the baby weight, not from years ago that might come back into style or if I starved myself would one day maybe work. There happened to be a 40% off sale at the store. Typically, I would have stocked up, taken advantage, grabbed anything remotely cute that caught my eye but I didn’t want to fall into the same pattern and get back to the place that got me here so I bought just the jeans and left. For some, that seems simple. For me, it was herculean.

The laundry basket beside the washer and dryer used to hold all four of our clothes. It, of course, was always overflowing and when we needed to sort or look for something, we had to pull everything out, creating even more of a mess. Now, I have three, chic bins in my closet. One for my dirty clothes, one for Zach’s (The night before, he puts his work clothes in my closet and gets dressed there in the morning, since his closets are in the bedroom and mine are in the back of our bathroom, so he doesn’t wake me.) and one for dry cleaning. Now, if we’re looking for something specific, we know where to go, they’re light enough to carry to the washer and the small bins mean we have to do laundry more often, keeping us accountable and making it much more attainable to do and fold, or roll. 😉

It was Cassidy’s idea to put looser, not as easily folded items like bathing suits, socks, cover ups, even shorts into streamlined bins like this and use tags to label them. It’s perfect for seasonable items as they’re out of the way for the months you don’t need them.

The KonMari tips were revolutionary. Marie Kondo’s “folding method” is more of a rolling. She believes items should be able to stand up on their own and not be in a stack. There’s less wrinkles that way and they’re easier to access and maintain.

I never thought my pajama drawer would make me so happy. Never going back to stacking again. While it definitely takes a bit more time in the beginning, it saves time in the end because they’re not constantly becoming disheveled and you can actually see what you have so you wear it all!

The clothes process inspired me to tackle my jewelry area and transform it from storage shelves to a pretty display that I like to look at every day. I tossed the old, banged up brown leather carryalls I had previously placed them in because they no longer go with my aesthetic and most certainly did not bring joy, but I also couldn’t see what I was looking for. With these brass and glass containers, they’re not only pretty, I can spot everything.

When I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I improvised. The hammered brass bowl is actually intended for an animal. Yes, my pearls are in a dog bowl. I’m classy like that. The clutches are in trays designed for paper, I have beaded necklaces in a bathroom canister and, at one point, I had my bangles stacked on a paper towel holder, which worked perfectly for them but not the height of my shelves so it had to go.

I wanted there to be some inspirational and meaningful items too: A beloved family photo, a print from Third Clover, which all of the proceeds go to Everytown for Gun Safety, my grandmother’s beaded bag that she wore to my sister’s wedding and the shoes that started my entire writing career.

I replaced my drawer organizers too, which were dark brown, wooden ones that were so dusty and banged up and felt too heavy and clunky. These updated grey, fabric versions feel much fresher.

Speaking of, I had so much empty space in my closet now that I wanted to remove the back shelves and create a little personal nook. I’d always wanted a sitting area in my closet but when we moved to this house and the preexisting closet was rather narrow, I thought, “Oh, well. Next house.” But who knows if there will ever be a next house? Sure, in my dream scenario, we’ll hit it big, move to a home we design and my closet will be a full room with an island in the middle. I’ll also have blemish-free skin and children who never cry.

Why couldn’t I make it happen now? Zach had plenty of reasons why and it started with him not wanting to remove the shelf. He came up with many fairly valid points like what if I needed the shelf one day? But that’s exactly why I needed it to go. I didn’t want to have empty space just waiting to be filled. I want to live a stream-lined, simple life and those shiny shelves would taunt me. As always, I persisted.

So my dad and Zach, begrudgingly, took out the back shelf and I was on the hunt for the perfect chair. Typically, I would have purchased a couple hundred dollar, perfectly-sized, pretty (and perhaps uncomfortable) new addition for this space but this project has truly changed me. Instead, I looked around the house. Because, after all, this isn’t about how it looks but how it feels. After this post, no one is really ever going to see this space as it’s just for me and if I’m going to be working and relaxing back here, I want it to be comfortable and make me happy.

At the same time, I was thinking of transitioning Oliver’s nursery glider (that used to be Lilly’s) out as we never use it anymore. In the early days, when he was getting up throughout the night to eat, we’d feed and rock him there. But, recently, it’s just been taking up space. And once we removed it, it really opened up the room. We moved Lilly’s old book nook that she loved but outgrew (and we get so many questions on, to this day) to his room and got her a cool, new big girl chair, which was even further reason I didn’t need to buy something for myself. Lilly now gets everything, I get the hand-me-downs!

But, instead of sell or give away our old nursery rocker, I decided to rehouse it in my closet. Sure, it’s a bit big for the space and a little stained, given five years, two moves and two babies but it’s one of the comfier chairs I’ve ever owned and I love the history and sentimentality of it. It truly sparks joy, both when I think of it and sit in it. And it really sparks joy in Zach when he knows there’s not another new house purchase on the credit card.

I’ve always loved this print. It just makes me happy. And the meaning can sum up so many things. I’ve got my own back, for, like, ever, I’ll take care of and protect myself, for, like, ever, I’ll continue to write and create, for, like, ever, the love I have for this home, my family and the life we’ve created here is for, like, ever… I also like that it brightened up the otherwise cool space.

The pillow was repurposed too. It once belonged downstairs in the living room and, while I really liked it there, it wasn’t make or break. I love how it picks up the yellow from the print with its fringe and the blue lines from the storage cubes and ottoman. It just works.

The ottoman was a new purchase but since it’s Threshold from Target, it was a steal, not a splurge. Seriously, some of the poufs I was looking at from Homegoods, not One King’s Lane, were hundreds of dollars! I love the how the rich blue velvet brings out the gold and silver decor on the jewelry shelves, the luxe gray carpeting and the blue and white stripes but still balances out the much more casual chair and print. I think the combination of everything pulls it all together and makes it work when they otherwise wouldn’t.

It’s now become my favorite space to write. I have a big, beautiful office, which gets a lot of use, but i I’m writing something personal, vulnerable, soul-baring, I want a safe space, a small cocoon where I feel shielded and protected, unseen.

It seems so silly that a closet project was so rejuvenating and that a shoe box-sized space has become my sanctuary but I love that something so small, both metaphorically and realistically, was able to have this much of an impact. And that I didn’t let the naysayers (Hi Dad and Zach!) detract me from what I wanted. Mostly, I’m proud that I’m finally breaking years of bad habits and becoming a better, freer version of myself. The closet is just the start!




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