Organization for a Woman's Soul

Does your closet mirror your life?

Does your closet mirror your life?

October 16, 2007|By PAT MATHEWS

I'm still searching for that fabulous cream-colored blouse I spent a fortune to buy. I just had to have it. I wore it once and it disappeared.

I don't have any daughters who could have raided my closet in the middle of the night, no friends have reported finding a new blouse in their homes, and I have searched every corner of that closet at least 50 times. The blouse is among the missing.

I've looked everywhere. I've found clothing I thought I had given away. I found things that don't fit any more, and clothes that were the "real me" 20 years ago. But no lovely, expensive, cream-colored blouse.

In closets, as in life, less is more. I found, in my search for the missing blouse, that the 80-20 rule applies: I wear 20 percent of my clothing 80 percent of the time, while the remaining 80 percent represent my mistakes. Impulse purchases, the things I just know I will fit into one day, my bargain buys, and the long-forgotten outfits, squeezing the life out of the 20 percent that represent my favorites.


Most of us have drawers, closets and inboxes that are so full we've lost track of what's in them. Not to mention that when they're full, there's no room for new stuff. Have you ever noticed that as soon as you get rid of what you no longer need or want - new things start to show up?

It's the same with ideas, beliefs, or emotional attachments. Whatever your threshold (how big is your closet?) is for holding onto old notions or behaviors, once you reach that limit, there's no room for anything new until you discard some of the old.

Regina Leeds, author of "The Zen of Organizing: Creating Order and Peace in Your Home, Career and Life" (Alpha Books, 2002), says that women often feel "overwhelmed by the way the chaos feels." That's certainly true for me.

In a way, my closet is a metaphor for my life. When it is packed, cluttered and disorganized, I feel out of control and disappointed in myself. I avoid dealing with the mess because it seems like too big a task to complete, at times insurmountable. I hold onto the old. So, instead of cleaning it up, I just let the mess get bigger.

According to Leeds, these feelings can be linked directly to the clutter.

"Your ability to think clearly, live without unnecessary stress, be healthy and productive, manage time and money, have peaceful relationships with others - all are compromised by chaotic environments," she says.

A closet full of clothes you never wear, rooms that are too crowded with furniture, stacks of magazines you are going to read someday - they all create clutter that may not allow space for new experiences or benefits in your life. Clutter isn't just about just taking up space in your closet. It's continually taking up space in your thoughts, day and night.

Then, one day, I decided "enough is enough." I dropped everything and tackled the huge job of organizing my closet. In the middle of the job, I felt even more overwhelmed. Then, slowly, I began to see order come from chaos. I assembled a huge pile of clothing to donate. I felt lighter, in control and yes, calmer and more relaxed. I noticed that I was more open to new ideas, about my closet and also about my work and my life. I made space for new thoughts, and I felt more in control.

My tips for organizing your closet ... and your life:

· Decide what's really important.

If you keep every piece of clothing you ever had, chances are it is stuffed into small places and getting wrinkled. If something is important to you, give it a place of importance. Otherwise, get rid of it.

· Stay ahead of the clutter.

Weed out old clothing and ideas regularly. Get rid of something every day to make space for something new.

· Don't try to be perfect.

Organization is really a habit. If you keep up with it daily and forgive small relapses, it's less likely to overwhelm you again.

Most importantly, remember what this process is about. Is it possible that the most important thing you'll find under all that clutter is yourself?

Oh, and I never did find that blouse. I guess it's time to buy a new one.

Pat Mathews is a leadership coach and consultant who lives in Chambersburg, Pa. She can be reached at

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