The Patterns of Our Lives

“What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized.” -Chuck Palahniuk

We all develop patterns in our lives that prove chaotic and distracting, sometimes even destructive.  So this week, I want you to ask yourself: “Do I have a disruptive pattern with my closet?”

Like so many other areas of life, your closet can be susceptible to a combination of wanting too much and not knowing how to prioritize it all. So when you start to feel your closet (and drawers and hamper and floor and so on) overrun with clutter, I can understand the overwhelming urge to whip out a large garbage bag and just trash everything you own. But before you do that, I strongly advise you to first stop and assess the relative importance you give each of your life’s chaotic elements, starting with your clothes.

Let’s start with a simple question. When you go shopping, what is the one criterion you absolutely must have in an article of clothing to buy it? Now expand that to your existing wardrobe, and tell me what one overarching trait you find applies to every item (or at least most of the items) you own.

For example, if I had to pick one characteristic for my closet and criteria, it would be “comfy“. Sure I could say “colorful”, or “funky”, or “tomboy-ishly cute”, but above all those, the one core element I’ve found I must have in all my clothing is comfort. That’s because comfort is the one thing I refuse to sacrifice for any other attribute. Even if it looks amazing on me, or shows off my awesome tattoo, or does wonders for my cleavage — the minute it starts to pinch, pull, prick, ride up, fall down, or dig in, it’s gone (or doesn’t get bought in the first place).

So what is your one encompassing word? What is your clothing “must have”? Knowing that will help you identify your own wardrobe pattern, which is an essential step to managing its chaos. With that in mind, I recommend you try and channel all that overwhelming chaotic energy of yours into super productive purge periods, wherein you pick just one area of your room or closet at a time, and then divide and de-clutter.

In these periods, knowing your most essential clothing requirement will provide you with a very effective method of examination and elimination. As you go through your cramped closet and drawers stuffed with clothes, digging out those shirts you forgot you had or the pants you haven’t worn in ages, make a practice of asking yourself 4 main questions to determine which pile each should go in:

  1. Have I worn this item in a year?
  2. Could someone else better use it? (either by donating to those less fortunate or to someone specific you know who’d love it)
  3. Am I holding on to this item for reasons other than the desire to wear it? (ex. sentimental value, or looks similar to something you want but not close enough to actually wear)
  4. Does it embody comfort? (or insert your pattern word here)

These 4 questions will help you speedily sort through each item into one of 3 piles for “Keep“, “Toss” and “Donate“.

Many items won’t even need to go beyond number 1, since you’ll probably know pretty quickly if you’ve worn it recently and still really want to keep it. Those promptly go into the ‘Keep’ pile. Likewise, you may have items that you very quickly decide to get rid of, such as that ripped up t-shirt you wore once for a Halloween costume but now wonder how the hell you could have possibly thought it looked any good. For those equally easy decisions, you’ve got your pick of the ‘Donate’ or ‘Toss’ piles, depending on whether or not they are in good enough condition to be re-sold or useful to someone else.

But for those questionable items, the ones you find yourself torn about, the above questions can prove invaluable in helping you make that difficult decision. They have for me, and I can now proudly say that 4 full bags of clothes and shoes have taken over corner of my house, ready to be donated – not to mention the additional bag that went straight to the dumpster.

So go ahead. Get inspired! Take this method and tackle that mess of a closet you’ve been meaning to sort through. Just remember to first identify that one key element you refuse to compromise, be it comfort or otherwise.

And if you find this challenge worthwhile, please share a comment here and let me know how it goes! Feedback is always welcome. In fact, it’s encouraged. It’s open and ongoing communication that makes for a truly positive and productive living experience.

Well, that and an organized closet. 🙂 Happy purging!

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