While many people are weeding out their book collections (I wouldn't dare touch mine), summoning the energy to clean refrigerators, under-the-sink cabinets, and over-stocked pantries, I am spending a little extra time these days getting my closet in shape for the next season, and more importantly, for the next year.
For me, having most of my wardrobe edited, tailored, mended as needed and otherwise ready for use is one of the most important time savers. A friend once asked me why it took me so little time to put together outfits that made me happy in the morning. My answer remains the same: my standards aren't particularly low, it's just that when you are familiar with everything in your closet, and have taken steps to make sure everything that takes up space is in usable (preferably brilliant) condition, it is no more difficult to get dressed in the morning as to "cook" a bowl of cereal. Okay, it can be harder that that: fat days, weird weather days, injuries and so on can complicate things.
Over the next few days I'm not going to be writing about editing my wardrobe, because the Bargain Queens have already done a nice series on that a while ago. Instead, for me, spring wardrobe cleaning is about going through everything and making sure it is in tip top shape. Spring is an especially good time for this because soon enough (at least for those of us in the colder climes) it won't matter so much if we leave our wool coats at the cleaners for a few days or weeks. This is more minor, but I also feel that the lighter colored items that become more popular in the spring and summer (some sandals, floaty dresses, colorful raincoats, etc.) show wear more readily than some winter stalwarts (like black boots and heavy, dark coats). I know that in my haste to embrace autumn clothing at the end of balmy August and September, I (lazily) tend to thrust some of my summer clothes away without due consideration.
Here are the first two steps I am taking/have taken. As the numbering of this post suggests, I intend to update the blog as I add more tasks to my spring wardrobe cleaning adventure. This is one of the nicest features of this kind of "cleaning", rather than one big task, there is a series of smaller ones that can be squeezed in during your favorite television show or on the way to the gym.
1. Repair Shoes
Sounds simple enough, but I don't know enough people who repair their shoes consistently. In my experience, most people would rather wear shoes that are in bad condition, with nearly worn-through soles, missing lifts, peeling insoles and worse than spend twenty dollars to repair them. This is silly. Not repairing shoes is silly because buying new shoes is often more expensive than repairing old ones, and further, repairing old shoes that fill a need in any shoe wardrobe (like black pumps or brown flats) means that hard-earned money can go to adding additional shoes to the shoe wardrobe (!!) rather than constantly replacing the classics. Buying good classics in the first place, and repairing them as needed, is always a good buy.
One of the first things I did yesterday was go through my entire shoe wardrobe, and pick out the pairs that need obvious repairs. Before taking any of them to the local shoe repair man (make friends with yours), I considered whether each pair was worth the money it would require to fix them. If the shoes cost only fifteen or twenty dollars, and are not particularly well made, they might not be worth new heel lifts (the little piece on the bottom of the heel for the uninitiated, when it's missing often the metal inside the heel clacks annoyingly and even painfully on any hard surface) that will cost ten. In which case, if the shoes have truly outstayed their welcome, I say goodbye. Why throw away shoes? Because as cute as they may have been once if their condition is poor I will look silly wearing them. Say this to yourself as you part with those worn-to-shreds flats you picked up at Target. Of course, sometimes inexpensive shoes are worth the repairs. If it will make you cry to not have them anymore, consider taking them in for repair anyway (as long as they're still healthy for your feet). If they were an exceptional deal, which explains the low price, and so have good architecture and quality materials, get them repaired anyway. That's a bargain that keeps on giving.
In addition to taking in shoes that need obvious repair (new lifts, new soles, etc.) I looked at shoes that might be close to perfect, but have issues. The heels are too high (start thinking about insoles), the shoe is a bit dirty (see below), they make too much noise (have the cobbler-is that word still appropriate?-replace the cheap plastic heels/lifts the vast majority of shoes, even expensive ones, have with rubber, which will make them quieter and more comfortable). Think about why you're not wearing any specific pair and think about whether there are any solutions. This is going to hurt: if there are no solutions, give away or throw away. It's that simple. Stuff in poor condition makes an otherwise polished person look silly. Almost anyone is better off with two good pairs of shoes than ten pairs of mediocre shoes. One thing that helps me make sure I complete this task is to take the shoes out and put them in a bag, by the door, to take to the shoe repairman. It's too easy to forget or ignore the problem when the shoes are in the closet.
Plus, lots of times a good shoe guy can do lots of crazy things to make your shoes better! Don't be afraid to ask.
2. Clean (and repair if necessary) Purses
It's very easy to fall into a purse rut, no matter how many cute bags you own. There is that favorite, the one that actually stays on your shoulder (miracle of miracles), holds everything you need without seeming clownishly large, and hides dirt like a champion. And, if you're the kind of person who doesn't mind only having and using one or two classic bags, go for it. I almost wish I were more like that.
On the other hand, plenty of women have a closet full of chic and fun purses that serve a variety of purposes, and most of these get shoved into the closet or wherever accessories are stored, and ignored 80% of the time (this is a very scientific statistic, can't you tell?). This, like having old and busted shoes around, is asking for trouble. Once or twice a year, go through purses to remind yourself of what you have. Throw away, or better yet give away, bags you wouldn't be seen in public with anymore. If they're too worn/stained/etc to use in good conscience, either investigate cleaning and repair options or get rid of them.
Many bags can be cleaned or spruced at home. Check tags for washing instructions for bags made of canvas or similar. There are plenty of at-home leather cleaners and conditioners that can help remove small stains or discolored spots (like where your jeans rubbed some dye off on that leather bag) with ease. For big issues, and often for suede (although there are at-home options for suede), consider calling in the big guns. Having a purse cleaned professionally can be expensive, but if your leather tote was expensive to begin with, or is irreplaceable (be honest with yourself here) it can be worth the expense. Consider whether the additional use is worth the investment in a professional cleaning. Consider taking in purses one at a time to be repaired. Consider taking the bags that need some work done out of the closet. I store the ones I'm cleaning myself near the television so I can work on them while watching Top Chef and have decided to take some of my suede stuff in for cleaning, one piece at a time, this spring.