The start of a new year is time for taking stock of where we’re at and where we want to go. In some cases, dealing with the road of life is much easier than dealing with what’s in one’s closet, whether it involves style or organizing your wardrobe.
Easier than tackling major style issues is clearing out one’s closet, a ceremonial act of purging what’s old and iffy to make way for items that work best for you. Take a deep breath and maybe a drink before you start. If you’re the sentimental sort, grab your camera and take photos of pieces you’re parting with for old times’ sake. This old baggage can always be posted to a blog or Flickr so they’ll always be with you in a sense, without junking up your life.
Every organizer will tell you the same thing, that the first thing to do is get rid of stuff. The 80/20 rule is that most of us wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time, and that unworn 80 percent is just taking up valuable real estate.
For Alice Inoue, advising people how to apply feng shui principles to their wardrobes is a natural extension of her feng shui consulting business.
"I started with my own closet because I had to live the lifestyle. I believe you can’t preach what you don’t practice," she said.
"It’s not about hanging a dragon in your closet, but more common sense. It’s all about bringing order to chaos to allow good things to flow into your life. Your closet is a great place to start."
Inoue didn’t have to do much to get started. She has only one small closet that prevents her from getting too attached to things.
"My closet looks like a man’s closet. I’m not a fashion person so it’s easy. I don’t have all kinds of crazy stuff. If I buy three new shirts, I get rid of three old ones so I have the same amount of hangers."
She said she does a lot of hand-holding with clients who do feel attached to clothes, but the reality, she said, is that instead of making a person feel happy, hanging on to things can make a person feel bad about her place in life.
"They may have gained 10 pounds and might be hoping to squeeze into one of their favorite dresses again someday, but it just ends up making them feel fat or bad about themselves," Inoue said.
"A lot of us in Hawaii keep stuff ‘just in case,’ but those pieces of clothing won’t bring back your skinny figure or your youth," she said. "Feng shui is about energy and aligning our environment with our intentions. You have to ask yourself, ‘What does this item do for me? Does it lift my energy or make me feel icky or yucky?’ If something doesn’t flatter you or reflect who you are today, donate it to other people who can really use it."
She said to start by scheduling a cleaning day and making three piles: one to keep, one to donate and one to throw away.
"Turn off your phone and tell yourself you will not do anything else that day. Once you get into it, you’ll start feeling lighter and happier."
With your piles in place, there are several organizations that would welcome your pieces, like Savers, Goodwill Industries and the Salvation Army, for whom sales of your unwanted items are directed toward charitable endeavors. You also benefit because those deductions are often tax-deductible. It’s too late for 2010, but save your receipts for 2011.
If you’re analytically inclined, you can measure the impact of your donations at Goodwill’s Donate Movement website (donate.goodwill.org), which adds up the hours of training, job search classes and other services provided from funds raised from donations.
If you need new ideas for organizing your clothes, Simply Organized in Kapolei offers many organization devices. T-shirts and jeans can be rolled up and placed in cubicle storage devices, and see-through plastic shoe boxes make it easy to find what you’re looking for.
The simple idea of organized shoe boxes turned into a business for Sommer Meyer of Closet Fetish, which will be featured in the March issue of Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine.
Meyer was enrolled in a Hawaii Pacific University business class in which students were tasked with drawing up a business plan. At a loss for an idea, Meyer reflected on her long-standing practice of taping photos of her shoes to shoe boxes for easy identification. It worked, but it always bothered her that "all the boxes were different sizes and different colors, so it never looked organized."
She decided to create standardized boxes, and while the project was only supposed to be on paper, "I put in too much work, so even if it was the stupidest idea ever, my closet would be perfect."
She ordered three sample boxes from China and sent out a press release to see whether anyone might be interested in buying them.
"In one week, InStyle magazine, Oprah and Traditional House all called and said they were going to feature my shoe boxes, and I only had the three. I was so naive. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I just put one foot in front of the other."
These days, she counts stylist Rachel Zoe and celebrities like Halle Berry, Kim Cattrall and Denise Richards as her clients. Richards showed her Closet Fetish boxes in an episode of her TV show, "It’s Complicated," and hers is one of the many diva closets featured on www.closetfetish.com.
She feels strongly about her 350 pairs of shoes because she’s a firm believer in the idea that "shoes make an outfit."
"You can be wearing an outfit from Target or Walmart, but paired with Manolo Blahniks, you could go to the theater or out for dinner."
She feel she’s at the limit of what works. "I have so many shoes now, for every one I buy, I have to give away two. It’s the only way to keep up. I keep my favorites, but I’ll do closet swaps with some of my girlfriends."
Before buying anything new, she recommends going over what you have.
"The best shopping I ever do is in my own closet, because you forget what you have and sometimes you can think of whole new ways of wearing things."
» Simply Organized is at 889 Kamokila Blvd. in Kapolei. Call 693-8888.
» Also, California Closets has opened Kahala Mall to offer custom home-storage solutions.
» Go to www.higoodwill.org/locations/donation-centers for a list of Goodwill’s 17 donation centers.