The pleasure and pain of clearing out your wardrobe
Japanese guru Marie Kondo and Irish writer Annmarie O’Connor offer great advice about how to ruthlessly dispense with clothes you don’t wear or that make you uncomfortable
Marie Kondo helps a mother and daughter create “joy” in their dining room/office. Photograph: Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Annmarie O’Connor, author of The Happy Closet
It’s the end of January and most of us are reaching the end of a road paved with broken resolutions. However, we remain tormented by a post-Christmas hangover that looms over us in the form of unwanted stuff: unfortunate January sales purchases, unreturnable presents and groaning wardrobes filled with clothes that are not made to last. This is a malaise that can only be cured by ruthless decluttering.
Enter Marie Kondo, author of the multimillion selling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a book that promises to eliminate all superfluity in households through constant, laser-precise cycles of decluttering.
Both of her books (Spark Joy: An Illustrated Masterclass on the Art of Organising and Tidying Up is the other) allude to making the reader a much more content, joyful person.
So does Annmarie O’Connor, fashion editor at the Irish Examiner and author of The Happy Closet. According to O’Connor, “A happy closet is more than just a physical space. It’s a mindset, one that keeps the flow flowing and the go going.”
Kondo’s books focus on tidying, and O’Connor’s is a thoroughly practical look at contemporary shopping and fashion habits, but they share some similar advice when it comes to decluttering and storing clothing.
Clear space – in your schedule and on your floor
First, make a date and keep it, because this will take a while and it will involve an unexpected amount of hauling.
If you have multiple wardrobes, Kondo suggests doing one a day in order to avoid fatigue, whereas O’Connor recommends bringing snacks and taking regular breaks. Invite a practical friend for consultation, if you want.
Lay every single piece of clothing that belongs to you out on the floor: every musty coat stored away, every grotty sock, every elastic-pulled pair of knickers. Get your wedding dress if you have one: it is going on the bedroom carpet with all the rest. This will give you an idea of the carnage you must wreak.
Love versus need
First, get rid of anything that is no longer wearable. If it is damaged, shrunk, worn to pieces or badly made, put it in the bin. Then sift through the remainder for clothes that fit oddly or make you uncomfortable. There’s no point wearing beautiful clothing if it makes you feel nervous or self-conscious.
Now we are at the difficult part: ascertaining if you love a piece enough to keep it, especially if you don’t really wear it any more. If the item has no real utility, it might be time to discard.
Store what you keep correctly
Folding is an integral part of Kondo’s KonMari method. There’s a precise way to fold everything, from pairs of socks (they are essentially “on holiday” in your wardrobe, says Kondo) to larger items such as bulky jumpers and parkas.
The Happy Closet also contains a dizzying amount of information about hangers: which material for which type of garment and which kind you should never go near.
Make sure to leave space
“It’s the white space – the pause, the ellipsis – that gives us a chance to breathe and appreciate what is right in front of us,” says Annmarie O’Connor. It is essential to leave some rummaging room in your closet, but if the cupboards are totally bare it means you might be doing something wrong.
Kondo advises against this kind of extreme decluttering, saying that a large amount of white space encourages otherwise champion tidiers to accumulate more things to fill the space. She recommends that wardrobes and closets should be about 90 per cent full.
Get rid of cast-offs in a cost-effective way
The Happy Closet recommends a number of apps to keep you on the decluttering level and to help you get rid of unwanted goods. These three websites and apps are also great for offloading the unloved. Depop (available free from Apple and Android app stores) is an easy way to make a quick buck on good-value fast fashion, and Vestiaire collective.com is a safe and easy way to sell on gently worn designer clothing.