In many ways, modern green living is very different depending on where you live. In this installment of our Town & Country series, Katherine and Margaret discuss one thing that is almost exactly the same.
Katherine: "The easiest way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it."
Twice a year, I swap out all the clothes in my dresser and miniscule closet to make room for the next season’s items. The cool summer clothes get folded and tucked away in a shallow bin that fits under my bed, and out come the cozy, warm winter clothes and heavy socks that I’ll need during the upcoming cold months. The reverse process happens in the spring.
Living in a small house forces me to be a lot more organized with clothes than if I had a large walk-in closet in which to store everything. Instead, all my clothes must fit within a five-drawer dresser, or vie for space in the tiny, slanted-ceiling closet that my husband’s shirts and sweaters also occupy. And because the seasons and temperatures are so extreme here in Ontario, Canada, it doesn’t make sense to waste valuable space on items that can only be used for a few months out of the year.
Although the task itself is a bit of a pain, it gives me an excellent opportunity to purge old, ill-fitting, and rarely worn items. What makes it easy is the fact that I haven’t seen most of these ‘new’ seasonal items for 6 months, which gives me a fresh perspective on them and much less sentimental attachment. By contrast, when clothes kick around my dresser for a long time, it seems harder to let them go because I keep intending or hoping for an opportunity to wear them.
I always make sure I have a large reusable bag on hand for donations. (This is crucial; otherwise, you’ll find those unwanted clothes worming their way back into the fray!) If there’s even a flicker of doubt in my mind as to whether or not I wear this shirt or that skirt enough to justify keeping it, into the bag it goes. Usually the bag hangs around for a few days while I swap out the seasonal clothes in my sons’ dresser and gets topped up with various other items, but I rarely change my mind. Once it’s there, it stays there.
Over the past few seasons, I’ve reduced my clothes to half of what I used to own, but I don’t intend to stop here. My goal for the next year is to build up a better selection of versatile basics so that I can get rid of the specialized, designed-for-specific-use items that occupy my dresser.
Margaret: Storage is a serious issue in a small space
Although Katherine and I live in strikingly different places, our approach to dealing with off-season clothing is almost comically similar. Like Katherine, I swap summer and winter clothing twice a year, and store what’s not in use under the bed.
In June, I moved in with my boyfriend, and was confronted with the challenge of not only living in an apartment with less closet space, but also needing to share that space with another person. I do have a pretty big armoire, but in a 400 square foot apartment, it’s necessary to put away the items that won’t be in use for several months at a time. However, I imagine this space-saving trick isn’t as useful if you live somewhere where it’s warm all year.
There are a few basics that stay in my armoire all year round: skirts, jeans, camisoles and teeshirts. But when the first few weeks of chilly weather set in, I know it’s time to put away light dresses, tank tops, shorts and sandals, and bring out my warm sweaters, heavy blazers, cozy scarves and boots.
Also like Katherine, this annual shuffle is an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate the clothing I have. With a few important exceptions, if I haven’t worn something since the last swap it has to go. Although I gave away, sold and donated a lot of clothing pre-move, I still feel like I need to be careful about accumulating too much clothing. So, as I put away my warm weather clothes this year, I decided to give away a white sundress that I just didn’t wear all summer. On the other hand, I’m definitely keeping a pretty party dress that’s perfect for summer weddings, and although I didn’t have an occasion to wear it this year, I’m sure I will in the future.
Here in New York City, it’s pretty easy to re-sell clothing that’s in good condition. While I have little expectation that I’ll get much money for my clothes from shops like Buffalo Exchange and Beacon’s Closet, I do feel that this is the one of the best ways to recycle clothes. Whatever I can’t sell or give to a friend, I donate to Housing Works.
I don’t spend much time shopping, but I do get a similar satisfaction in re-discovering favorites that have been in storage. It’s a tiny bit like shopping in my own closet: seeing my own things with fresh eyes.