50 Days Happier: Day 1 – Baby Steps

Day 1 of my challenge is all about getting organized and avoiding pitfalls.  The biggest pitfall  I can anticipate is my tendency to charge out of the gate and try to do too much too fast.  So I set myself the very manageable first task of reducing my wardrobe (I’m thinking by 50% or more) and giving myself a couple of days to finish.

T-Shirts and Hoodies: Where I am Most Prone to Excess

I started with the easiest target, my t-shirts (long and short sleeve) and hoodies.  If these garments don’t make up the majority of my wardrobe, they certainly make up the portion of my wardrobe that is most encumbered by needless crap.

Step 1: Laundry

I started by pulling all my long and short sleeve t-shirts out of my drawers. At first I was pretty proud of myself, thinking. Wow, J.  This really isn’t too bad! Then I realized that a significant number of my t-shirts were probably in some stage of being laundered. Chagrinned, I completed a couple of loads.

Starting to lay out the t-shirts.

Step 2: Rules

Once I got all of my laundry cleaned and dried, I decided to identify some “problem areas” and establish some ground rules for the big purge.

Problem 1: My Grubby Lifestyle – I do a lot of things that require grubby clothes.  I work on my own cars. I use power tools. I garden. I craft. I have a ton of old, stained, ripped clothing that keep around in order to wear for these kinds of activities.  But after only a few moments of thought, I realized that I don’t really need “options” in terms of this kind of clothing.  One grubby shirt will do the job,

Problem 2: Team Apparel – I have a lot of VT and UNC stuff (and a growing collection of Randolph College stuff too) and parting with my team apparel is a MUCH more difficult decision to make.  I wrestled with how to address this excess and ultimately decided to go back to “the ultimate question” – Does this make you happy?  In most cases, the answer is: yes.  So I am going to be kind to myself and not bring the axe down too heavy here.

Problem 3: The “Skinny” Wardrobe.  Like lots of folks my age, I struggle with my weight. I have gained and lost and regained more weight than you can imagine in the last decade.  And for at least a decade, I have held a “skinny wardrobe” on reserve–clothing that I have justified keeping, though I can not wear it, because I convinced myself that I will want to wear these things “when I am skinny again.”  My justification game is STRONG here.  First, these clothes have taken on an immensely symbolic power. For a very long time, the thought of getting rid of them has been akin to giving up on my commitment to getting fit.  I have sincerely felt that throwing these things out would be to give up, to settle for being overweight and unhappy about that. Second, and based on the assumption that I will eventually win the fitness war with myself, I have believed that saving these clothes has practical value. I wont have to buy a whole new wardrobe when I lose the weight.  This is was honestly the worst of the problem areas.  After a lot of emotional unload, I just decide it was time to let it go. Did the decision make me happy? No. But neither does keeping this stuff around.  I might as well shoot to minimize.

After acknowledging these problems, these are the rules I came up with:

Rule 1: If it is ripped, stained, or otherwise mutilated, throw it out. Exception: Keep one “grubby” T-shirt to wear when you need it.

Rule 2: If it doesn’t fit, send it to the thrift store or give it to someone you know would want it.

Rule 3: Consider the gym.  At least one or two t-shirts should be things you can work out in.

Rule 4: Quality and versatility count.  Choose what will last and what you can comfortably wear in the most scenarios.

Rule 5: If you can’t remember the last time you put it on, send it to the thrift store or give it to someone you know would want it.

After the purge – Short sleeve t-shirts on the left, long sleeve on the right,

Heartened by the successful reduction in t-shirts, I decide to tackle my hoodies. Hoodies approach the status of uniform in my wardrobe.  I wear them all the time.  For this reason, I wasn’t nearly as aggressive about purging here.

My hoodies are 100% team apparel. From left to right: Randolph College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Virginia Tech

Ironically enough, the ease with which I thought I was going to breeze through my hoodies left me open to getting blindsided.  A garment that by more than one of the rules I established for myself clearly needed to be thrown out, reached up out of the bottom of my drawer and snatched my heart strings. Stained, ripped, faded and a little tighter than I can comfortably wear now, my very first piece of VT gear, bought when I was a student 20 years ago, tested every bit of resolve I had.  I waffled.  But, I finally realized that it wasn’t the hoodie. but the idea of the hoodie that I was attached to.  I took a picture so that I still had a connection to that idea, said goodbye, and kept moving.

My first VT hoodie. Goodbye old friend.
The keep pile of hoodies.

I wanted to keep on going after the T-shirts, but I decide that this was a great place to stop…baby steps and all.  Still I am unreasonably excited to have freed an entire drawer in my dresser.  The vision of a easily accessible clothes in a sparse and organize closet already has me excited to keep going!


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