By Amanda Addey-Jibb
Some of you are preparing to pack up your lives and leave our blue forest this summer, and I know that it’s more than a little stressful. With only a month to go and a lot to do, packing and cutting down on junk is probably the biggest source of anxiety. The rest of us are making the transition into summer weather, and that in itself poses some unique challenges. Whether we’re leaving or not, we could all do with a little less baggage in our lives. So fear not! I’m here today with some tips for you all, and hopefully they will be useful for those of you sticking around another year too!
It’s important to know what you need and don’t need going forward. What are the essentials in your life? Most likely, it’s electronics, whatever hobby equipment you use, maybe some books, and clothing. Whatever your list is, make sure it’s true to you. These items are usually really personal, so whatever is important to you, keep it and have no regrets about it. On the other hand, maybe a lot of what you intend to pack (such as books and equipment) can be bought again back home, so unless it is very expensive, you could try selling them back to a thrift store or to other JETs for a little extra cash. Or for books of any kind, consider donating them to the Aomori JET Library! You can contact Daniel Hontos in Tohoku-machi for more information.
For today’s article, however, I want to focus on the wardrobe. Clothing always seems to take up too much space in our luggage (and lives) for what it’s really worth. Whether you’re switching to summer mode or looking to shed the excess, going through your closet and removing the pieces you don’t need or wear will definitely help lighten the load.
First, consider the capsule wardrobe method. The basic principle is that you build a particular wardrobe (set of clothing) for each season, with all of the pieces being within a certain colour palette and thus totally compatible and coordinated. This is an idea I personally cannot accomplish just yet, but that I am definitely maybe sorta working towards. The ideal is supposed to be around 30 items or less, and it could look something like this: 4 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 1-2 skirts, 1-2 dresses (switch the skirts and dresses for more pants or shirts if you don’t wear them), 8-10 shirts, 4 jackets or sweaters, and 6-8 pairs of shoes.
Obviously for some of us this is not an easy feat, while others may already have less than 30 regular clothing items. The key points to take away from the capsule wardrobe are, a) your wardrobe should only consist of clothing you love and wear regularly, and b) you shouldn’t have any duplicates. For example, if you have 6 sweaters of similar design and/or colour, it’s possible that you don’t really need all 6. Perhaps 1 or 2 of those sweaters could be worn with the majority of your outfits just as well, and you probably already find yourself favouring one over the others anyways. You might be laughing right now but I have 4 green sweaters in my closet… and that’s just the green ones.
Second, keeping all that in mind, go through your current wardrobe with the deliberate mindset to reduce duplicates and excess. Set out 4 piles for dividing:
Keep: You wear it regularly, it fits you well, and you like how you feel in it.
Maybe: You want to keep this but you’re not sure why, or it has a few small issues with the size or style.
Donate: It doesn’t fit you right, it doesn’t go with anything else in your closet, it looks exactly like something else you own, or you just never wear it.
Trash: It’s in bad condition and can’t be worn.
Then just take everything out of your closet, throw it on your bed, and start sorting. (Those of you who followed my de-cluttering advice a few months ago will find this familiar.) I predict you will find stuff you haven’t touched in 3 months to a year (maybe since you arrived in Japan). For winter stuff, you might as well box that up for the summer, or, if you’re going home, consider shipping it now so it’s dealt with. You already know what to do with the trash and donate piles, so do it now before you start having second thoughts.
The maybe pile is where things start to get really difficult. Try on all these clothes again and ask yourself, “Would I buy this again in the store today?” and “Will I wear this in the next 3-6 months (or ever)?” If you can say yes to both, then keep it. If not, donate it. You can always buy it again in the future if you wake up with cold sweat in regret…
If you’re still not sure, just hold onto it and hopefully you don’t mind letting it take up room in your luggage. And if you are staying in Japan, put all that stuff in a box and hide it in your closet for 30 days. When you find yourself dipping into it, you’ll know that you should keep those items, but otherwise, you’ll have a reason to donate that stuff in a month’s time. For a more thorough infographic closet-cleaning cheat sheet, check out this blog post.
Cutting clothes out of your life shouldn’t be a big deal. Remember, it’s just stuff. When you’re packing, keep in mind that you probably don’t remember what you wore ten years ago, so you most likely won’t miss most of your current clothes either. In trying to live by the “less is more” rule, you can free up a lot of space in your suitcase/closet and in your mind.