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Melissa Schmalenberger, Published March 06 2014

MS. Simplicity: Going on a closet diet

The best way to keep a goal moving forward is to speak it publicly. So here I am, speaking publicly.

I am going on a diet – a clothing diet. Inspired by a friend who is doing this for a year, I am not that disciplined. This is not an easy thing for me to do as I have lost some weight over the years and have discovered cute clothes that make me feel good, and I want to buy them.

Please understand that I am not extreme by any means. I am not a Kardashian with an overabundance of clothes. I still practice the one-in-one-out rule in my closet, which means for every one item of clothing I bring home, one must leave.

But even implementing this rule, I have found something that holds true to me and I am sure to you as well – I don’t wear all of my clothes. I don’t even wear half of my clothes. So I am going on a clothing diet – nothing new for 6 months.

Statistics say we wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time. Want to do an experiment with me? Take all the clothes in your closet and turn the hangers backwards. As you wear something and hang it back in your closet, turn the hanger the right way.

Try this for a few months and you will see how much you actually wear. Make a deal with yourself and say that whatever is still turned backwards in 6 months you are going to donate.

One woman says she never buys herself any clothes and instead spends her money on her children. I used to be that woman.

Looking back, I had these very well-dressed kids, and if I allowed a picture of me in it, I was a dowdy mess. I am not saying you have to spend money on yourself, but feeling good about yourself makes you a better wife and mother. I really wish I would have received that message earlier in my life.

You are going to say things as you decide to keep things as well as when you try to get rid of things in your closet. You are also going to find excuses to buy things.

E “I paid good money for that!”

Yes, for sure you did. But as the saying goes, you need to love it, use it or lose it.

E “But I have a special occasion!”

I think I could find a special occasion every single day. Knowing that there is a special event coming up does not give me permission to buy new clothes.

E “I have nothing to wear!”

Yes, you may say that after a few weeks, but that’s what makes this all worth it … push through it. Get creative with a scarf or a piece of jewelry.

At this point, you will start to rediscover things that you always looked over. You may find out that the sweater you never wore because you thought the color looked bad on you actually looks nice on you.

E “But my mom gave that to me and I don’t want to hurt her feelings by getting rid of it.”

I usually turn this question around on my clients and ask them, “if you gave someone a gift and they no longer needed or wanted it, would you want them to keep it?” They usually say of course they wouldn’t. Then why do you want to treat yourself any differently?

Besides, chances are your mom wouldn’t even notice if you donated that sweater. And if she does, you have bigger issues going on with your mom than an ugly sweater.

E “But I got engaged in that shirt and can’t part with it.”

If you think about it, is the memory in the clothing, or is it in the event itself? Keeping the shirt isn’t going to relive the memory for you. Keeping a picture will.

Men who keep years of T-shirts in drawers, this is for you as well. Yes, someone might make you a quilt out of them. But give yourself a timeframe to get that quilt made or get rid of the T-shirts.

E “But when I lose weight I want to wear those skinny jeans, so I am going to hold onto them!”

When you lose the weight and can fit into those jeans, you are going to want to buy yourself new jeans, as nobody is wearing acid-wash jeans anymore.

Plus, I know when I walk past my skinny jeans in the closet, I usually feel bad and then want to eat a cookie. Sort of self-defeating, so time to get rid of those skinny jeans!

So what is this little social experiment going to do for me? Hopefully it will help me focus on what I really love and also gets me wearing more items already in my closet.


Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did it with Ms. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo. Email her atmelissa@mssimplicity.com.