I’ve never been much of an athlete. But there are a handful of things that give me the adrenaline rush I imagine sports stars feel.
The sight of squishy-soft cheese. The sound of the “Will & Grace” theme song. And knowing new clothes have just been delivered to my door.
I don’t buy expensive fashion, which is actually part of the problem. My issues are of the death-by-a-thousand-cuts variety. Cheap tank tops here, fast-fashion dresses there. Don’t get me started on what the word “clearance” does to my brain chemistry. I order clothes like they’re groceries. And I am good at rationalizing my decisions.
But here’s the thing: No matter how much I buy, I can never find anything to wear. So I did what any adult woman does after an epiphany. I texted Mimosa, my most organized friend, the word “hellllllllpppppppppp.” She came over and ransacked my closet.
That’s an exaggeration. What she really did was sift through each item and ask me tough questions. Do you like this? Do you need this? Do you have something else exactly like this? You see that this has holes in it, right?
I had at least five little black dresses. Guess how many you need! One. I had been harboring clothes that I wore for my years-ago wedding events. Guess how many fit! None. And as a person who literally never wears a black cardigan, I was shocked to learn that six black cardigans are six too many.
The end result was a nearly empty closet — and an amazing side effect: I stopped buying stuff. Because my clothes were in plain sight, I could bypass the Facebook sale ads from my favorite brands. I knew I had everything I needed because I could see it every morning.
The author in her favorite shirt of all time, from Meg Shops (this one made the cut), plus her newly cleaned-out closet. (Natalia Bougadellis/Coverd Photo)
And so, I haven’t bought one new thing for four months. I’ve considered it — I’ve dropped dresses in my online cart, made it all the way to the counter at T.J. Maxx clutching a designer coat and gone to visit pants at my favorite boutique, just to see how they were doing. The other day, I seriously lingered over a set of cashmere sweats online, but eventually, kept scrolling. Is there a Nobel Prize for self-control?
Despite not buying a stitch, I’ve managed to get dressed every morning, attend fancy events and have outfits to spare while others are in the wash. It has taken a lot of willpower to break my mindset, and I will admit that I’ve compensated with other things. We have a weird amount of almond milk in the fridge, for example. It was on sale.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my closet fast:
1. Be ruthless. This is no time to linger over each item in your closet. In fact, I’d recommend doing just what I did: Invite over a tough-love friend whose style and sensibility you trust and give her carte blanche to pare down. She won’t steer you wrong.
2. Be realistic about what you really, actually need. One of my patented moves when I found something I loved in my closet (I never noticed this T-shirt was so soft!) was to rush online and buy five more. Once I decided to pause before buying, I had time to think about whether I was perfectly fine with just owning one of everything. There’s this thing called the washing machine that works wonders.
3. Be ready to be tempted. You’re going to feel super virtuous and one day decide that you’ve just been SO GOOD and DESERVE a little treat. This kind of thinking is a slippery slope, my friends. You’re in a new wardrobe relationship now. You’ve gotten back together with some old loves. Turn off the shopping Tinder and enjoy the good things you have.