Have you ever seen the movie “The Sound of Music”? Julie Andrews, playing a would-be nun, has been sent from the abbey to the von Trapp family as the new governess. Captain Von Trapp requests that before she meets his seven children, she change into a different dress. She tells him that she doesn’t have another dress, since they are required to give all their worldly goods to the poor when entering the abbey. “What about this dress?” he asks. “The poor didn’t want this one,” she replies.
I often think of this scene when working with my clients on paring down their clothing collections. For some of my clients, clothes that become worn out or soiled simply get downgraded. While new clothes continue to come into the house, old ones never leave. Either they become “clothes I wear for hanging around the house”, “clothes I sleep in”, or “workout clothes”.
It’s reasonable to redeploy old clothes for other uses. Not everything has to be new and stain-free. However, when the collection of redeployed, worn-out clothes exceeds the collection of respectable clothes, a review is in order.
I majored in math in college, so I often revert to mathematical terms when figuring something out. For example, what percentage of time in a typical week is spent working out? Let’s say you work out three times a week for an hour. Let’s also assume that you are awake 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for a total of 112 hours. That means that you work out for 3 hours out of 112, which is less than 3% of your awake time. The amount of drawer space allocated to workout clothes should therefore be pretty small.
If you work out three times a week and you do your laundry weekly, you need no more than 3-4 workout outfits. (It’s always good to have an extra in case your laundry gets delayed). If you do your laundry bi-weekly, you can make do with 6-7 workout outfits. That’s all.
You can do the same kind of analysis with “hanging around the house” clothes and “clothes I sleep in”. Rather than continuing to amass old clothes for these purposes, figure out how many you actually need, and discard the rest. Pick out your favorites, and let the rest go.
Remember, the way to keep your home clutter free is to let new things flow in and old things flow out. If you stop the outflow, you have a stagnating mess on your hands.
So, what should you do with the old clothes that you are discarding? Well, as Julie said, even the poor don’t want them. Take them to a clothing recycling location. If you live in NYC, check out http://www.grownyc.org/clothing for a location near you. If you live elsewhere, check your local recycling web sites.