Could you imagine owning 200 pairs of jeans?
Francesca Tulk actually did own over 200 pairs of jeans at one point. She also shopped compulsively, buying up to 40 items at a time, many of them not even in her size.
But over the past few months she has been slowly regaining control over her spending, clothing clutter and credit card debt. Francesca is undertaking the mother of all wardrobe cleanouts, and removing at least one thing (but up to as many as 50) per day. And as yet, she has barely scratched the surface.
This Simple Living in Real Life interview is packed with some great insights and tips – from someone who has seen what happens when things do get out of hand. I hope you’re as inspired by Francesca’s story as I was.
You’re currently undergoing a huge wardrobe decluttering project, removing at least one thing every day. What motivated you to begin?
I have a walk-in wardrobe the size of a small bedroom. It has been fitted out with a good storage system, but it got to the point where not only were all the shelves, drawers and hanging spaces crammed to capacity, all the floorspace was also filled. The roof of the walk-in is nine feet high and piles of clothes reached the ceiling, to the point where I couldn’t even open the door. My nine year old likes playing a game in there called ‘trapped’. Need I say more?
I had 200 pairs of jeans and wore two. I owned swimming costumes in double figures, yet I don’t swim, and bras in sizes well above and below my own. Most of my clothing was pointless!
Each time I looked at the clothes I would feel a great weight and depression come over me. Nothing seemed to fit right and I wore maybe ten items in total. YET I still bought more. I believed if I kept buying, eventually the miraculous outfit that would turn me into Carrie Bradshaw might emerge. Of course it never did.
The tipping point however was a more real problem, and that was I had been continually buying on credit, and as a result had run up huge debts on my cards.
Something had to give.
How do you go about the task of decluttering?
I initially freaked out because the task was too overwhelming, so I just started one item at a time. However, I was getting very frustrated as nothing seemed to be making any difference, so I began getting rid of bags and bags of things at a time, up to 50 items in one fell swoop. The charity shop thought it was Christmas as I kept coming in with more and more.
What about the project is proving harder than you thought it would be?
I am finding it hard to forgive myself for wasting so much money. It bothers me that I will be paying for items on my credit card for some time yet – items I have already donated and long forgotten. It is a good lesson though and has made me more determined to get my life sorted once and for all.
What about the project is proving easier than you expected?
It’s surprisingly easy so far. I keep remembering something my mum said about how clothes were ‘just rags’. The more I look at my clothing the more pointless and rag-like it looks to me.
I had good stuff – well, stuff I liked. I never bought designer, just thrift store items in tremendous bulk. (Sometimes 30 items at a time.) It then continued with buying clothes for my daughter. She and I have decluttered her clothing too and I hope I passed on a good message to her by doing that.
As you work through your sizeable wardrobe, have you discovered anything about yourself?
Phew, this is a big one.
I have realised I like a rock star/biker chick type style, so the abundance of girly dresses and frilly things is ridiculous. I prefer skinny jeans and don’t like any other style. I realise I am a size 12, not an 8 or 10 or 14. I realise fewer items can make amazing outfits. I now understand that real style has nothing to do with owning a tonne of clothes.
But most of all I realise my purchases were done to make me feel more unique. My self-esteem was so low that I thought I could improve it by throwing money at clothing to tart me up. It has taken years for me to realise this, but I finally think the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train. As my wardrobe becomes less in clothing, my heart feels so much lighter.
What are some of the benefits you’ve already seen as a result of simplifying your wardrobe?
I can find items to wear a little more easily. I feel confident my debts will be paid off since I have made a huge effort to pour money into my credit cards and not waste money on clothes.
I have always been fairly minimalist in all other areas of my life, just not when it came to spending on clothes. The rest of our home isn’t cluttered and I’ve consistently cleared out anything superfluous to our needs and do so even now. (With the exception of the wardrobe, which was my blind spot.) Generally, I abhor excess and waste. In fact, I even rifle through bins at my workplace for leftover food for my chickens! But now I am now able to apply my beliefs about excess to my wardrobe and it is a big relief.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for those struggling with similar wardrobe issues?
- Ask yourself: If this item had a K-mart label, would I still want it? (It might be the label you’re attached to.)
- Try to live with thirty items for three months and see how much easier it is to get dressed each morning.
- Ask a trusted person if they think you have a problem. My husband is brutally honest and whilst he never told me what to do, he made some suggestions that basically suggested that less is more.
- Blog your worries and concerns. By blogging I was able to really focus and take stock on what I was doing. The picture it painted was so bleak and my credit card slips so abysmal that I knew I had a problem.
- For each new item you think you have to have, you must commit to getting rid of two. That way, at least the clothing/clutter population has a chance of becoming smaller.
- Just start. Start somewhere. Don’t put it off. Understand that if you have an excess of something, and you still think it isn’t enough, one more isn’t going to make it better.
- Expect to feel angry at yourself. Whilst this isn’t the best feeling to have, it sure is impetus to get things started.
To learn more about Francesca’s project, you can visit her blog Closet Blitz, where she’s documenting many of her wardrobe exorcisms.