The Fat Girl's Guide to Spring Cleaning Your Closet
Posted by Angela in Getting Real,Loving Our Bodies
Closet reorganization by LizMarie

After a ridiculously long winter (even our southern readers had a rough one this year), the official arrival of spring this weekend offers a wealth of exciting possibilities. More daylight hours to lift our spirits. Green, lush life ready to burst forth from trees, lawns and flowerbeds. The return of sandals and a great excuse for frequent pedicures (check out our Guide to Spa Services for tips on getting a perfect pedi). And let's not forget the annual emergence of cute boys who ride the bike path with their shirts off.

When the weather takes a turn for the awesome, one activity tends to get trampled amid the usual (and understandable) bum rush to get outdoors: the joy of spring cleaning your closet. Now, if you're anything like me, you may be thinking that using the words "joy" and "cleaning" in the same sentence is crazy talk. And sure, it may seem like a painful and thankless task on the surface, but think about it -- how often do you get a chance to redefine yourself by tossing some things that are holding you back and to set the tone for a new season, all in one afternoon? Besides, spring is a fickle time of year, and that first string of rainy days is perfect for some spring cleaning time.

Run a Google search for "closet organization" or "spring cleaning" and you'll get a good handle on all the wardrobe-rotating basics: make "keep," "trash," "mend" and "donate" piles, neatly stow your winter clothes in airtight plastic containers, etc. However, we thought plus-sized girls and their closets might appreciate some tweaks to the standard approach, so grab your sorting bins and some courage and get ready to dive into the abyss.

Stop saying "Someday . . . "

Dig through almost anyone's closet and you're bound to find some ill-fitting or out-of-date clothes. For most fat girls, however, the amount of unwearable items tends to be much higher. I call this the "Someday Syndrome"--how many of us have bought dresses or pants in a too-small size as incentive to lose weight, or held on to favorite clothes that once fit but are now too tight? These garments languish in our closets, staring us down every day as we repeat a "Someday" mantra: "Someday, this cocktail dress will fit." "I'll be a size X again someday." "Someday, when I lose these 50 pounds and get back to my college/wedding/pre-baby weight . . ." "Someday, I'll be able to zip my 'skinny' jeans." While these intentions may be good, the reality of Someday Syndrome keeps us from feeling great about who we are today, and starts us on the road to a guest spot on "Hoarders."

This spring, we're issuing a dramatic challenge: get rid of your "someday" clothes. Do what the experts say and pull out every piece of clothing from your closet. Try on each article in front of a full-length mirror, and force yourself to make an honest assessment: is this a size/color/style/cut that looks flattering on you today? Would you wear this out of the house -- as-is or with minimal tailoring -- and feel comfortable and confident? Can you sit, walk, bend, reach and move around in the garment(s) comfortably and without need for constant adjustment or fidgeting? If the answer to any of the above is "no," it's time for that piece to go.

The flip side of "Someday Syndrome" is the emotional challenge of parting with clothes that are now too big, thanks to successful weight loss. I've watched many friends contemplate this situation after shedding 20, 40, 100 pounds. Even if the items haven't been worn in months or years, there's often such a reluctance to part with them for good; they're a security blanket of sorts in case of a backslide that causes the weight to return. But whether you've packed the "fat" clothes away or are still drowning in sweaters two sizes too big, spring cleaning is the perfect time to pare down to the clothes that fit you today.

Letting go is a good thing

Very possibly, the rationalizations are kicking in already: Those suits were expensive. You've been losing weight and you really are almost ready to zip those jeans. You don't want to have to reinvest in size 18 dress pants when you lose 20 pounds. What if you really don't keep the weight off?

It's true the average plus-sized garments cost more than those made in smaller sizes, and we've all spent far too much money on different sizes as weight has fluctuated up and down. (No one ever said fat was all fun -- or fair.) But before slamming the closet doors shut and leaving the accumulated sizes to be sorted out in the future, try taking an honest look at the items that are so hard to part with. If you bought jeans today, would you really buy that style? Is a trendy dress from 2001 really going to be something that sees future use? How does encountering these reminders of an earlier version of your body make you feel? How much happier would you be to open a closet every morning without the guilt (and the clutter!) offered by every garment that doesn't fit you right now?

The truth is, if your closet is ruled by any combination of sentiment, habit (I'm the worst offender when it comes to buying six colors of the same shirt) or fear, it has ceased to be functional. Go ahead and keep the truly important sentimental pieces, like your one pair of "goal jeans," or the largest pants that show you just how far you've come. Keep the next size that you're shrinking into if you've been on a successful weight loss track. Pack these items up and out of daily sight, and then let go of the rest of the baggage.

Re-sell, recycle, re-gift

Don't fall prey to the lure of keeping ill-fitting items just because they're expensive or have never been worn. Stylish, designer and professional clothing (and accessories) are perfect for sale on consignment, which involves taking your gear to a consignment retailer to be re-sold through their store. The shop pays you a percentage of the selling price, usually your choice of store credit or cash (with store credit likely providing a higher "profit" percentage). Individual stores handle merchandise intake differently; some accept seasonal clothing all year, while others have prescribed intake months for certain items. Consignment is a good option for recouping some of the monetary value of quality items.

Clothing swaps are another way to recycle your old threads while possibly picking up something new in a better size or more flattering style. Swaps can be as informal pooling resources with a few friends after spring cleaning or as elaborate as a local or online event. One of the coolest swaps I've attended took place several years ago when I was active on a specific Weight Watchers message board. In preparation for a weekend meet-up in Chicago, dozens of us cleaned out our closets and brought the clothes we had outgrown through weight loss. The pile of garments was staggering; it was as though each girl had suddenly found 40 sisters with closets to raid, and the array of sizes and styles offered something for almost everyone. In addition to easing the financial burden of replacing clothing that had grown too big, it was inspiring to see a favorite dress or shirt suddenly given a second life with a new owner.

Items that don't make the cut for resale or swapping can find a home with local nonprofit organizations, which are always looking for clean clothes in good condition (without rips or stains, etc.). Try calling or checking the web sites for organizations that serve veterans, the homeless, victims of domestic violence, or individuals re-entering the workforce after rehabilitation or incarceration. You can also check with your church or larger groups such as Purple Heart or The Salvation Army. It surprises many people to learn that organizations often place plus-sized donations at the top of their wish lists. Your good deed is especially important because it gives recipients a simple dignity we often take for granted: wearing nice clothing that fits well.

Start spring organized and energized

With the clutter cleared, sentiment packed away and only your best looks remaining, now comes the really fun part: re-stocking your closet in whatever way best fits your lifestyle. Hopefully the fashion show of trying on each outfit helped identify what staples you might be lacking or where you might be in a rut. To freshen up your wardrobe, consider integrating a new color or trying a style you fell in love with in a magazine or on a friend. Most importantly, make sure the items you return to the shelves and hangers bring out your confidence and make you proud of the gorgeous, dynamic girl you are.

Have an inspiring clean-sweep story to share? Want to offer your favorite tips for getting organized? Tell us in comments.