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Folded clothes.

FASHION FAST: What the #SixItemsChallenge taught us about our relationship with clothes

How many items of clothing do you have in your wardrobe? How many of them do you actually wear? And how much do you care about where they come from?

These are some of the questions two of our APDO members considered recently when they took part in the Labour Behind The Label #SixItemsChallenge earlier this year.  Mel Carruthers of More Organised and Rosie Barron of The Tidy Coo both took part, each choosing six items of clothing from their wardrobes and wearing only these six items for the six weeks of the challenge.

Mel and Rosie were both interested in the aims of Labour Behind the Label, a campaign which works to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry. Their annual #SixItemsChallenge asks people to embark on a fashion fast, to rethink their wardrobe and really question their shopping habits.  So, when APDO President Katherine Blackler suggested members give it a go, Rosie and Mel both volunteered.

This is what they learned along the way!

Why did you decide to take part in the #SixItemsChallenge?

  • Rosie: I wanted to raise awareness of the impact that fast fashion has on garment workers.
  • Mel: Over the past few years I have tried to keep only items of clothing that I really loved and wore regularly. Having been a fan of Courtney Carver’s #Project333 for several years, the #SixItemsChallenge seemed like a way to challenge my relationship with clothes even further.

What were the clothes that you picked and why?

  • Rosie: Here in Aberdeenshire I live a fairly outdoor life, but I also had two conferences in London to attend during the six weeks, as well as clients to help, so I had to pick clothes that would be warm enough for home, but also smart enough to take away with me. In the end, I chose:
    – a dress I could wear to the conferences and clients
    – a cardigan
    – a jumper
    – a pair of jeans
    – 2 T-shirts

 

6 items of clothes that are file folded

Rosie’s 6 items

  • Mel: Like Rosie, I live in a rural setting so needed “outdoor” clothes as well as outfits suitable for client work and more formal occasions. I chose:
    – a black and white short-sleeved dress
    – a pair of dark skinny jeans
    – a black and white jumper
    – a black long-sleeved T-shirt
    – 2 striped Breton long-sleeve tops

 

Mel's 6 items file folded on the bed

Mel’s 6 items

What was the hardest part of the challenge for you?

  • Rosie: With four home-educated children, 11 horses, five dogs, a cat and poultry, keeping clean was by far the biggest challenge! I went to one business meeting in a damp dress and cardigan…
  • Mel: The challenge was in March/April, as the weather was very changeable. We’d had a warm spell in March when I was choosing my six items which fooled me slightly… later in the challenge it became very cold again and I wished that I had chosen a couple of warmer items for my capsule collection! It made me realise that in our uncertain Scottish climate we need a variety of clothes for different weathers.

What did you learn?

  • Mel: That clothes don’t interest me as much as I had thought. The relief of not having to choose what I was going to wear each morning saved so much time and stress – it was so freeing to simply grab what was clean out of the six items, get dressed and get on with my day!
  • Rosie: My experience was the opposite! I realised that I care for clothes more than I thought I did, and that I like wearing dresses.

Were you surprised at this?

  • Rosie: Yes, I always had myself down as someone who wasn’t bothered about clothes and I was surprised by how much I missed some of them.
  • Mel: I was surprised too. I love pretty things and trying on clothes when out shopping. So it was a real epiphany for me to realise that I don’t need lots of clothes to make myself feel good, and that beating “decision fatigue” when getting dressed in the morning really made up for any feelings of deprivation that I was expecting to have.
4 side-by-side pictures of Rosie wearing a combination of her 6 items.

Rosie wearing 4 combinations of her 6 items.

How has the #SixItemsChallenge changed your view of your own wardrobe and shopping habits? Will you be doing anything differently now?

  • Rosie: I ended up updating my wardrobe a bit after it. Having to use only six items really made me consider how each item in my wardrobe worked with all the others. For someone who usually only shops once or twice a year, this was out of character! Apart from that, I will continue as I was before, buying quality over quantity and keeping my shopping to once or twice a year.
  • Mel: I thought that I had a fairly minimal wardrobe (about 40 items in my wardrobe and another 30 stored under the bed for better weather/a thinner Mel). The challenge helped me to decide what I really loved out of those items, and I donated the rest. I then shopped for a few more items to really complete my wardrobe and make it work better… but I did it all from local charity shops and eBay. I have definitely changed my shopping habits after learning more about the distress and waste of our society’s addiction to fast fashion and I don’t want to be part of it.

How has the challenge helped you to better support your clients?

  • Mel: I have done a few wardrobe sessions with clients since completing the challenge, and I have been able to share my experience with them which has led to some interesting conversations! At the end of the day though, our clothes say so much about us and are such a personal choice, that I will still coach my clients through their decluttering journey, rather than dictate to them based on my own feelings about clothes and fashion. But I hope that through my experience, I can raise awareness of the misery and destruction of fast fashion and help people to make better choices.
  • Rosie: I think it has made me more aware of how some people view their clothes. I am not sure I have the skill to help clients rebuild their wardrobe after a declutter, but fortunately I can refer them to someone who I trust to help them. I know my limitations!

Mel & Rosie’s’ 6 ways to beat fast fashion:

1.      Buy pre-loved clothing – charity shops, eBay and social media are rich picking grounds!

2.      Share with and borrow from friends – especially for clothes for one-off occasions.

3.      Pass children’s clothing to others when they outgrow them.

4.      Buy quality over quantity, focusing on more ethical brands.

5.      Hold a clothes swap evening with your friends.

6.      Develop your own style and rely less on the media to tell you what to wear.

If you would like to find out more about Labour Behind The Label and the #SixItemsChallenge, head to their website at www.labourbehindthelabel.org  Perhaps you could sign up to the challenge next year!

Feeling inspired by this post, but need some help with the process? Visit our Find an Organiser page to find support near you.

APDO Swedish Death Cleaning decluttering organising

Death cleaning: The six basic principles

Have you heard of Swedish Death Cleaning? In this post, Filipa do Carmo of Khora Space Sorted reviews Margareta Magnusson’s book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” and explains how it works.

The six basic principles of Swedish Death Cleaning

If you found true joy in Marie Kondo’s decluttering tactics, then it’s very likely that you’ll fall in love with Margareta Magnusson’s new book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning”. The title might be somewhat off-putting, but this system is much more focused on the “gentle” side, rather than on “death”.

Death cleaning is what Swedish people do when they retire or slow down their working lives and have more time to deal with all the possessions they have accumulated over their lifetime. It’s about getting rid of the stuff they don’t need, so that their descendants don’t have to deal with it all.

In the author’s own words “it is a term that means removing unnecessary things and making your home nice and orderly when you think the time is coming closer for you to leave the planet.”

Margareta Magnusson is a Swedish artist “between her 80th and 100th birthdays”, who studied at the Beckman College of Design. A mother of five, she has lived all over the world including Singapore and Hong Kong. Her debut book is a New York Times Bestseller.

Here are my top six lessons from the book, although I would recommend getting a copy, reading it and then passing it on to someone who might also benefit from reading it.

1  It’s not sad

Simplifying your life and making your day-to-day life easier should never be considered sad. Margareta has a wickedly dry sense of humour, so by reading her book you’re most likely to approach the whole process from a lighter perspective.

She also takes pragmatism to its most sublime when she writes things like “Some people can’t get their heads around death. And these people leave a mess after them. Did they think they were immortal?”

2  Be gentle

Having said that, it’s also important to recognise that this won’t be the most cheerful task you’ve ever done. It’s important to be really kind to yourself throughout the process.

You will also find that the more you do it, the easier it will become and the less time it will take. The “practice makes perfect” principle applies seamlessly in this instance.

3  No time to rush

Unlike Kondo, Margareta’s approach relies on taking time to go through all your possessions and decide what to do with them. This is a slow journey taken over a long period of time. This means that you can work at your own pace and think well about what you want to do with the things you own. You can distribute them amongst your family and friends if you’re downsizing. Or, for things you are keeping, you can label them with instructions so that people know what to do with them when you’re no longer here.

Another important aspect is that death cleaning is a state of mind. You don’t have to wait until you’re 65 to start. The sooner you start, the easier it will be. If you are feeling overwhelmed with all the things you have, this a practice that you can start now, regardless of your age.

APDO blog Swedish Death Cleaning decluttering organising empty armchair window

4  Think legacy

One thought that might help you throughout the process is that death cleaning will make life so much easier for your loved ones. By discarding your things and taking full responsibility for what you own, you will not only feel empowered, but you will also be leaving only good memories and valuable references for your family. Grieving is painful; anything we can do to make it better will be highly appreciated.

Margareta has done a lot of death cleaning for her family and her testimonials of those experiences help us understand the importance of this practice.

During the process, keep asking yourself “Will this object give happiness to anyone I know?”.

5  Leave the best to last

As with Kondo, the best way to proceed is to start with the things that will be easier to part with. Your kitchen is a good place to start. You will probably have more plates than you need, duplicates and gadgets you rarely use. These are all good to donate.

“You may even have forgotten what it is you have there. Good for you, because you will now realize that you will not miss anything if you throw it away.”

Photos, personal letters and other memoirs should be saved for last. Margareta’s rule of thumb is to shred photos if you don’t know the name of the people in them. Also, she has scanned photos from her children, saved them on a memory stick and given each of them one for Christmas. Isn’t that a wonderful idea?

Pile of black and white photographs to be organised

6  Tell

Finally, it’s good to be up front about this process and tell the people around you know what you are doing and why. It will be easier to get the help you need and to find new homes for your unwanted objects. It’s also a good way to share the fond memories associated with some of these objects and an object with a story to tell always has special value.

If this post has inspired you to start with your own death cleaning or decluttering process, you can find your nearest professional organiser here.

Divorce agreement. Wife and husband can not make settlement

Divorce and Downsizing: 3 Steps to Letting Go of Your Belongings

Sarah Macnaught (Rightsize) specialises in helping clients to rightsize their homes and their possessions as they move through the divorce process. She is available seven days a week to cover all working hours and time-zones. Call 07792 298 595 or email sarah@right-size.co.uk for a free consultation.

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When people are going through a divorce I’m often brought in to help deal with their belongings. There are various scenarios. Sometimes the husband leaves to start a new relationship, taking the bare minimum of possessions. His wife is left feeling overwhelmed and resentful about having to deal with every single thing. So she calls me. On other occasions family lawyers and divorce coaches refer cases to me because their clients are arguing over Every. Single. Thing. As well as the negative moods and toxic atmosphere, couples fighting over joint possessions can lead to higher legal fees and longer settlement periods.

As a professional organiser and belongings coach I get my clients to approach dividing their belongings in various ways. But I encourage them to base each decision on this one value: “Is this fair and reasonable?”

Here are 3 steps to dividing up the home that all separating couples should follow to make the process as smooth as it can be.

Be Practical: Make an Inventory of Everything

Think like a removal company and draw up a home inventory. There are phone apps you can use – Sortly and Encircle are brilliant – and you can produce downloadable documents to share with each other and legal teams. Photograph stuff wherever possible and give each item some sense of size like this:

4 drawers obsolete black & cream computer cables

3 shelves football programmes

3 boxes old cosmetics

8 large boxes wine glasses

1 three-seater sofa

10 metres of DVDs

This will make you both stop and think. No, it isn’t fair for one partner to deal with everything. And the cost of setting up two new homes will be offset if belongings are distributed fairly and reasonably, just as financial assets are.

Be Mindful: Expanding into Two Homes

“If I keep (all) this, is that fair and reasonable?” Especially when children are involved, both homes will be family homes, so an even division of all utensils, furniture, clothing and toys is important. Though there are often things (mother-in-law’s ornate vase anyone?) that both partners will gleefully donate to charity rather than lay claim to. The excess of possessions in UK homes is well documented so there’s practically always enough to go around. One parent doesn’t need the standard British haul of 8 pots and 6 casserole dishes!

Also couples should think about their short term accommodation before making any decisions. One father told me, “I insisted on the 3-seater sofa and oversized armchairs from our 6 bedroom Victorian home. When the removal company arrived at my rented townhouse, absolutely nothing could fit up the narrow stairs to the living room on the first floor.  It’s all still in storage, two years later.”

Be Generous: The True Meaning of Conscious Uncoupling

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin may have made conscious uncoupling a ‘thing’ but it was originally coined by US therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas in 2011. The idea here is that you give generously as you let go of your possessions – re-gifting large furniture you love but have no room for; selling old paintings and donating the proceeds to your favourite charity; setting up a Men’s Shed with all your DIY tools and materials. The bigger the act of generosity on your part, the better you’ll feel about letting go.


This guest blog highlights how versatile APDO members can be regarding the services they provide. If you’d like to find an accredited professional organiser near you, search here. If you feel decluttering and organising could be your dream career, visit the APDO website for details on how to join APDO plus training courses.