the season of giving thanks – and supporting our local community

As we enter the holiday season with Thanksgiving next week, we’ll be thinking a lot about our loved ones, expressing our gratitude and love in the giving and receiving of gifts, and celebrating together.

So many people in our community are unable to practice these rituals because they don’t have everything to meet even their basic needs. A very meaningful way to give thanks is to practice generosity by supporting others. Generosity grows gratitude, and gratitude grows generosity!

purge and provide

ndwc_wardrobe consult_donation pile

“Clearing the closet was remarkably freeing. I can open the door and look in there now and feel good. As we tried on and discarded items, Nancy was able to tell me how and why something no longer worked for me, and I could then see it too.” ~Sue, A Year of Style client

There are a variety of reasons why some may not have what they need – suffering homelessness, losing a job, escaping domestic violence, and arriving to the United States as a refugee or recent immigrant are just a few. One way we can support people facing these issues is to donate the clothing we are no longer wearing to organizations who can get that clothing into the hands of those who need it.

Sue, a client who recently completed A Year of Style with me, did a significant purging of her closet (see photo). As she said, it was extremely liberating for her to let go of the clothing that was going unworn and bogging her down. Not only did she take care of herself by addressing her wardrobe, she also helped many others by donating that clothing.

‘pay it forward’

In almost every community, there are small, local organizations that offer services and goods to specific groups of people in need. I published this list last year around this time, and I’m putting it out there again because they still need our help.

The following organizations meet the immediate clothing needs of their clients – interview and work wear for women and men developing job skills to enter the work force, a free-of-charge clothing shop for people who are homeless, winter outerwear for refugees who have been forced from their own countries. These organizations are vital to the well-being of so many of our fellow citizens right here in the Twin Cities.

Look online for local organizations in your community and consider a clothing or monetary donation to one of them. These are the groups making immediate, positive change for so many people. Your unworn clothing (and donation dollars) will be put to good use.

Generosity grows gratitude…gratitude grows generosity.

Dress for Success (national; local affiliate-St. Paul)

Professional clothing for women entering or re-entering the workforce.

International Institute of Minnesota (St. Paul)

Offers many services to new Americans, including winter outerwear for people who have recently arrived in Minnesota.

Joseph’s Coat (St. Paul)

Provides clothing and essential goods to individuals and families facing a variety of challenges, including homelessness.

Ready for Success (Minneapolis)

A program of Project for Pride in Living, Ready for Success offers business wear to low-income women and men entering the job force.

STEP-St. Louis Park Emergency Program (St. Louis Park)

Provides assistance and food and clothing to St. Louis Park residents in need.

Tubman – Harriet’s Closet (Minneapolis and Maplewood)

Harriet’s Closet offers clothing to women who are struggling with relationship violence, substance abuse, and mental health issues.

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my wardrobe consult

“Ugh! I need a wardrobe consultant!” I whined to my husband.

Recently, I made the switch in my closet from warm weather wear to fall and winter clothing. As I dug in, it quickly grew into much more than a switch. It ended up being a full-blown assessment of my wardrobe, which is what I do with clients in a Wardrobe Consult.

As discussed in my last post, my style has evolved some this past year. Partly because of the change in my hair color, and also inspiration from French fashion during our extended stay in Lyon last fall (nostalgic sigh). Things were piling up – I had added new-to-me pieces to reflect my new style, but hadn’t done a closet purge in several years.

My closet is on the smaller side, so I store off-season clothing in a closet in the hallway. This is actually good, because it forces me to directly interact with all of my clothes twice a year as I make the swap.

Notice I said “good.” Not “fun.”

Sound familiar?

I LOVE helping others to organize their wardrobes and to make them more functional and enjoyable. I can do that every. single. day. My own stuff? Not so much.

When it’s your own things, your emotions, and – let’s face it – baggage, become a part of the story. Facing stuff that has been lurking in your closet for years, if not decades, can bring up all kinds of internal stuff too.

why it can be hard to assess and purge

It takes precious time – before you begin, it feels like it will take FOREVER to accomplish anything.

So many decisions have to be made, which is overwhelming, and sometimes even paralyzing.

A lot of memories come up – some good, some bad.

Experiencing guilt of purchases you made that haven’t worked out.

Finding clothes that fit at one time and don’t anymore (too small or too big), or never actually fit, can trigger negative body image messages.

Finding unworn items you like the idea of, but never really were you, nor will be, can also trigger purchase guilt.

Items are outdated or just plain worn out, but have sentimental meaning.

Items are outdated, but aren’t worn out, so it seems wasteful to purge them, even though you aren’t actually wearing them.

Managing gifts from people you love that just don’t work for you, and you don’t want to hurt their feelings by purging them.

When it’s my closet I’m addressing, I quickly get overwhelmed by decision-making. I also can get caught up in self-scolding – this time around I pulled out a bridesmaid dress from a friend’s wedding that occurred EIGHTEEN years ago (or was it 19?) and several other dresses that were 15+ years old and too big, but I had saved them anyway. Why??

I also have the “it’s not worn out” guilt around things that are still in good shape but are no longer my style. Do I keep them, just to have as options? (No. Consign them!)

See, I needed my own wardrobe consultant. Because organizing and purging, especially your clothes, is actually grappling with your sense of self and your personal history.

Having someone who is objective and who can give you support throughout the process with encouragement and gentle, honest feedback can make the process much less overwhelming and much more effective. I help my clients keep a positive perspective, avoid getting bogged down, and have fun in seeing the potential in the items that do work in their wardrobes.

It took me 6-8 hours over two days to completely go through my clothing, which was more than double the time it usually takes when I work with a client. This reminded me how helpful – and efficient – it can be to have a supportive presence to help you along! Working together, we usually get through most if not all of a typically-sized wardrobe in three hours, not only purging, but also creating new outfits with the keepers.

I had a lot of conversations with myself while I was doing my wardrobe consult. The exact conversations I have with my clients. “When did you last wear this?” “Do you actually LIKE it?” “Does it make you happy to wear it?” “Why do you feel like you need to keep this?”

And I tried to treat myself as I do my clients – with encouragement, support, humor, permission to purge, and permission to keep certain items that just can’t be let go – yet. The bridesmaid dress and other late-90s delights did go. Again, why???

I took three garbage bags of clothes for donation, and I consigned 15 items. I feel much lighter to have cleared out clothing that was doing nothing but cluttering my closet. Others will benefit from my purge, and my wardrobe is ultimately more functional without those items. I also now know what I have and what needs to be added or replaced, which makes shopping more focused and fruitful.

Ready to take the plunge into your closet in a faster, less painful, more productive (and FUN) way? Contact me today to set up YOUR Wardrobe Consult.