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What's stuffed in there?


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POSTED: Thursday, January 08, 2009

If there's a bright spot for retailers, it's that the will to shop is still there. It's just set on inactive/hibernation while potential buyers are stuck in purge purgatory. Having surpassed finite closet space, and graduating to rolling racks or bins piled to the ceiling, many are facing the reality that they can't add until they subtract, a feat easier said than done.

Six years after becoming a mom, jewelry designer Rhoda Cohen is one who's ready to move on. It took "admitting I have a new body now."

"I was at a point where I couldn't close drawers. They were stuffed with T-shirts friends gave to me and you just hold on to them because they were gifts.

"On New Year's Eve, I just said, 'OK, I gotta do this.' I called some friends and they were doing the same thing."

Her clothing is now boxed up and waiting for a trip with friends to one of the swap meets next month. "It's more like a social experiment than about making money, but I have cool stuff, like good sneakers that don't work well on me but I see other people wearing and they look great."

THE EXPERTS sympathize with the purger's plight, but, like quitting smoking, the best way is to go cold turkey and get it done quickly. Many are reformed pack rat who know their dilemma firsthand.

At In My Closet, a Kahala Mall boutique laid out like a well-planned closet, co-owners Jina Watanabe and Chong Yamamoto make-do with a deep, narrow 500-square-foot space that's so intimate customers are apologetic about opening drawers of accessories, as if they're invading someone's personal space.

The drawers give easy, clutter-free access to belongings. Accessibility is important to Yamamoto, who believes out of sight is out of mind when it comes to getting dressed.

She said she once collected bins of clothes, but in keeping with the openness and flow of the boutique, now makes it a point to donate or give away her old belongings to help make way for the new.

"Bins are such a great idea, but your closet should be laid out in a way so you can see everything because you'll forget what you have if you don't see it," she said. "Your closet shouldn't be overstuffed. You should have a little space left so you can add a few pieces."

Chong spent three days after Christmas cleaning out her own closet. "I'm a procrastinator, but I wanted it to be new, I wanted it to be fresh for the new year. Some of my friends started earlier, but I work better when I'm under pressure."

CHONG'S ADVICE fits the new less-is-more era of post-consumerism in which the key tenet is to "shop your closet" before heading to malls and boutiques. That means taking stock of every piece of clothing you own to determine whether it's still wearable, suitable, current or mendable, and getting rid of the things that don't flatter you.

After you analyze what's left, determine how you might add to start building a cohesive wardrobe, rather than returning to old ways of stuffing the closet with many disparate pieces.

Once you adopt a mindset of adding only what's necessary, you'll own fewer but more wearable pieces. And, if you can do this over time, you'll find yourself spending less by buying quality clothing you need, versus mass quantities of cheap goods that satisfy your need to shop, but leave you hating everything you own the morning after.