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editing: my closet, my life

Categories: basics


I’ve been cleaning my closet out for weeks now, slowly weeding out all the pieces I don’t wear. For the most part, I have no second thoughts about what I’ve put in the giveaway pile, but there’s one jacket — a navy and white striped jersey blazer — that I keep taking out and putting back in and taking out and …

You get the idea.


I bought the jacket last summer, on a whim; I loved the idea of the striped blazer, and it’s super cute and fits really well. And I’ve never worn it because it doesn’t go with anything in my closet. I’m not sure why; the waist seems to be in the wrong place or something. All I know is that every time I put it on, it looks silly. But it’s cute and it’s in my closet and I am totally determined to make it work.

I’m like that about things — not just my clothes, either. Even when I can see that a project or a job isn’t going the way I had anticipated, I’m loath to quit, because I made the commitment and I’m always sure I can make it work. Even when I’m also pretty sure I can’t.


I had taken the jacket out of the closet, again, and then I saw these photos of Gwyneth Paltrow, in a campaign for the Swedish brand Lindex. The clothes are classic and Preppie and look a lot like pieces I already own — and in with all the other things I’m already wearing, there’s the blazer! Just like mine! And paired with pieces I already own! Maybe that was how to make it work.

So I gave it one more try.


When I know something isn’t working, I have no trouble giving it up. But anything I think might be workable at some level is harder for me — even if I’m struggling to find the solution. So the striped blazer lingers in my closet while I ruthlessly edit the rest of my wardrobe.

Yesterday, trying once again to make the blazer work, I had a light bulb moment: All this closet cleaning isn’t about my closet at all. This ongoing wardrobe purge is about other things in my life that I can’t seem to make work. I have too many commitments right now, and while they’re all good opportunities, not all of them are working for me. But just like the blazer, I keep thinking that I’m bound to find a way to make everything come together.

What would Gwyneth do? She would stick to what works for her, that’s what.

I’m giving up the jacket — for real this time — and I’m dropping a few of my commitments as well. And cleaning off my desk because it’s making me crazy. And I’ll probably get rid of a few more things in my closet, because that makes me feel like I’m in control.

What do you do when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Do you shop or clean or lose yourself in all of season two of “Downton Abbey”? Dish in the comments. (I’ll bet Gwyneth does yoga — and then goes home and has a glass or three of wine. Just a guess.)

Photos via Marie Claire

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8 comments so far...

  • I go running when I’m overwhelmed, but then I also over-snack on sugar and carbs, which sort of cancels out the running, so….sigh.

    But, this is interesting, because sometime last spring, I had this exact experience AND exact realization. I was going all crazy trying to figure out my wardrobe and my closet, what I needed still, what I needed to get rid of, and I was sort of obsessed for awhile. And then I actually had this EXACT conversation with a friend–I vividly remember realizing that my closet was a metaphor for my life at the time. The future was so unknown and overwhelming that I was projecting that onto my wardrobe–i.e., how did I know what pieces I might need later on?

    So, I know exactly how you feel right now.

    Shannon  |  March 17th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

  • I hit the sugar and caffeine when my life feels out of control. Exercise just makes me feel more tired and strung out (despite what everyone promises me–it doesn’t matter how much or little I work out, I just get a net of more tired than before). I also craft (I make cards with rubber stamps) and that helps, but I also tend to impulse buy when stressed. (Both craft supplies and clothing).

    I will admit I’m having similar struggles with not only my own closet but my children’s wardrobes as well. We pass clothes on from kid to kid, but people give you things, and sometimes I like my boys to match, so the younger boy has many more clothes than the older one, and we have extremely limited storage. It is hard to know how much to keep, because some of the hand-me-downs are in rough shape after the older boy wore them, and won’t last as long for the younger one. Sigh. I recently revamped my whole “look” as I finally worked out what my personal style was, rather than just throwing stuff on. (After three pregnancies in less than four years, it was getting bad). So I’m also trying to figure out the minimum number of pieces I need, and I”m trying to make good investments.

    Anyway, I’m there with you because my older and youngest kids are chronically ill, and my life feels out of control, so I’m clamping down on stupid stuff like wardrobe numbers, and toys, and whatever else is just taking up space in this house.

    Juliana  |  March 17th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

  • I spent at least 2 hr cleaning out or organizing my closet yesterday. I was tired but felt very therapeutic at the same time. I guess I’m a cleaner/purger when I feel overwhelmed.

    allison  |  March 19th, 2012 at 6:17 am

  • The sure tell that know my life is out of balance when everything is piled up at home (or the desk, or the car). The only way to get control is a long day of cleaning and purging. It gives me a sense of calm and control when everything else is going crazy.

    Also why my husband blames me when anything goes missing in our house (usually guilty).

    We’re getting ready to list our house and no matter how many times I purge (basement, closets, kitchen, kids toys, you name it) I still look around and see an episode of Hoarders in the making.

    And I also have one of those closet items - mine is an adorable navy cotton fitted cropped blazer that is just too short, but I can’t let it go. I don’t think I’ve even tried it on in over a year. Maybe this is the push I need to let it go.

    Lisa  |  March 19th, 2012 at 6:55 am

  • This settles it, I’m cleaning out my closet!

    Meegs  |  March 19th, 2012 at 7:48 am

  • If you’d REALLY like to freak yourself out and find out why we do seemingly nut-so things like hang on to those impulse purchases, you should read the book Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori Brafman. Literally life changing and a quick, fun read. I do trainings for a living, and I’m constantly referencing this book to explain why it’s difficult to change and let go. And this is why I have clothes in my closet with the tags still on that I bought three years ago! :)

    Rotten  |  March 19th, 2012 at 8:05 am

  • Once your wardrobe paring-down is complete, I hope you’re going to tell us what your wardrobe consists of! I’m always shocked at the completion of What Not to Wear, how few clothes the person has, and I’m interested to know how few/many you end up with.

    Jens  |  March 21st, 2012 at 2:26 pm

  • Meredith  |  March 22nd, 2012 at 5:00 pm