Scorched Earth

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on

Definition of scorched-earth 1: relating to or being a military policy involving deliberate and usually widespread destruction of property and resources (such as housing and factories) so that an invading enemy cannot use them. via

I once arrived at a client appointment and upon entering her home I for a second thought that she had been robbed. Her calm and welcoming demeanor told me otherwise as she greeted me warmly as she has done several times before. But this was pre botox so my face clearly said what is going on when I saw that all of her family room furniture, sans the television, had clearly been given evacuation orders and had left the building. The tv sat awkwardly alone on the floor of the family room, looking like that friend that passes out at a part and then wakes up and wonders where everyone went. My client immediately read the the confusion on my face and said “Yeah, it’s time. I wanted to redo this room for some time now and keeping the old couch and chairs and rug was not motivating me enough to take the necessary steps to move forward. So, I figured I would get rid of all the things I no longer want and in order to make room for me to see and to take action on those things I do want. I needed clarity.” While this sounds brilliant on the surface I pointed out that she has elementary age twins and a husband and family that is very into watching all things sports on tv. Golf, football, tennis, baseball, if it’s televised they are watching it together as a family. “Oh, yes, we’ve been watching it on the floor or dragging in chairs from the kitchen to watch the tv.” Isn’t that uncomfortable I asked? “Of course”, she said, and just then I realized that was precisely the point.

Change is uncomfortable. The familiar, good or bad, is easy. We pick to stick with the problems we know rather than risk getting involved with something else unknown with possibly a whole new set of problems. The key word there is risk. We could try something new and it could be great and solve all of our problems and we could think why oh why did I not do this sooner, or we could try something new and think, yep, that’s that old adage about people always thinking the grass is greener, why couldn’t I have just stayed with what I know, problems and all. You see in taking out all her existing family room furniture this client was forcing herself to make a decision. And forcing herself to live without any furniture for a time being meant two things. One, no one will die for having to sit on the floor to watch tv, and two, she can more clearly envision what she wants. She didn’t feel the panic of having to run out and buy the first thing she saw just to provide a seating solution. In making her family and herself a bit uncomfortable she was the able to feel comfortable taking her time and getting exactly what she wanted to put into that space. Similar to watching a sports game when a player has the puck, or the ball, and the other team is closing in but you see a look of confidence on that player’s face. Sometimes you hear someone in the crowd say “You got time!” and they know it, they dribble the ball, they handle the puck, they contemplate their next move. They have time to think and make a decision that they are sure about. I know decorating is not an athletic game but there is something to be said in terms of relating to timing before you take your shot. If you can afford to take your time you have a better chance of getting it right.

When we fall back on what is comfortable and what is familiar we never give the new things a chance. We stifle growth. As silly as it sounds it was that extreme lack of having any furniture in the room that helped this client observe her family and their life and contemplate what type of furniture and layout would make sense for them. And of course, like most things, I can relate this back to your closet. When you keep hold of something that no longer serves you it breeds resentment. How many times have you held on to a pair of jeans that were too tight, too long, too short or just too something, only to try them on again for the 8th time and then get more and more irritated each time you try them on and then take them off. It’s annoying. Your annoyed at them but it gets displaced to feelings of :”If I was thinner, younger, had a better butt, had a smaller but, ate less cheese, worked out more….this wouldn’t be happening.” This is where I have to stop you.

Stop. It’s not your fault. You can blame the clothes. It’s okay. Let’s face it, there are more of them than there of us so why are we settling when there is oh so many fish in the see that we can wear?! Because we wear what is familiar. We wear what is comfortable, not just physically on our bodies but comfortable in our minds. Our brain does not like to shake things up, we take mental comfort and security in wearing what we have always worn. But we change, all the time. Expecting a pair of jeans from 3 seasons ago to fit the body and mindset we are in right now is problematic. Listen, after I had my breast reduction I thought that I would magically be able to wear all of my clothes that we too small up top and everything would look great. Turns out when you change your proportions and the silhouette of your shape that it’s not that easy I’ve been fighting this realization because it’s sad. It’s sad that there are clothes in my closet that just won’t look right on my body ever again. And yet, here I was, all summer, trying them on and taking them off and hanging them back up in my closet. This is nonsense. It was scary but I only felt justified to go out shopping for new clothes after I got rid of lots of my existing clothes and saw lots of empty hangers staring back at me. It also helped me focus on what is working for my shape so I knew what to look for more of. High waisted flat front pants are no longer my friend. At one time the proportions of my chest made it so that my waist looked smaller by default. Now a higher waist makes me look like Winnie the Pooh from the side. Suddenly my waistline was larger than my bustline so I needed to adapt to an entirely new way of dressing my shape.

So what’s so scary about an empty closet, besides the obvious fear of really looking like Winnie the Pooh and having no pants at all to wear? It’s that overwhelming feeling that takes over when we think about having to make the decisions. There is an excellent quote by a famous organizer, Barbara Hemphill that says that “Clutter is postponed decisions.” All those clothes cluttering up your closet are items that you have yet to make a decision on. The decision sounds as simple as keep or toss but it’s all those nagging questions that sneak up in the back of our brain creating a traffic jam in our decision making process. Quick decisions like “This sweater is itchy, it needs to go” get sidetracked with a train of thoughts that are careening out of control…”Maybe I just need to find the right thing to wear under so it’s not itchy, I like the pattern and the color so maybe I’ll just wear it for a short time rather than something all day, this sweater was expensive and from a good designer, maybe my sister will want this and I can keep it in here until I see her next”…and so on and so on. Next thing you know we are paralyzed and walk away.

I”m here to tell you it’s time. Take all that “furniture” out of your closet that doesn’t work. Only leave in what does work. When you do this you can clearly see what is missing. You can make constructive observations based on what exists right in front of you. Keep a list going, it will help you to make smart choices when shopping and to fill in the blanks. It may take some time and it will take some financial investment but keep your eye on the prize. And I’m not gonna lie, it can be scary. Letting go of all things that aren’t “you” anymore means we have to face the questions of just who we want to be right now, and what if we just don’t know? I don’t have a signature style. More than once I’ve thought about taking a lighter to my entire wardrobe (not really but figuratively) and forcing myself to start over. That’s a lot of work. I don’t always know exactly who I am right now as far as my style, but, what I do know is that I don’t have the exact same style as I did five years ago and I will probably have a different style five years from now. Life is about change and about evolving. Imagine yourself opening up the doors of your closet and seeing it clean, organized and only containing what you love and fits YOU, for the life and the body you have RIGHT NOW. And remember less is more. There is no need to fill up all of that empty space and refill every empty hanger. You got this.

Want some help?

I’m here to help you conquer the clutter in your closet. It’s a 4 week course for 1 hour a week where I will walk a small group of people through the closet clean-out process step by step, tackling different areas each week. There will be homework and things you can do on your own time but I will be there live every week to help talk you through the decision making process. It’s time to take back your closet. I’m only accepting a limited number so please send your name and contact information to me via text if you are interested in the details. The course will start on Monday, November 1st, at 7pm, and will continue every Monday at 7 through November 22nd. This course will be interactive in nature as it will work like a zoom call. You can interact as little or as much as you’d like and there will be no pressure to share any personal information with me or with the group. Total price for all 4 sessions will be $149 for the 4 hours.

Published by suziegaffney

owner at Suzie Gaffney Styling

One thought on “Scorched Earth

  1. Suzie
    I love this blog/article. You got me thinking, many parallels with my clients. Plus it is very much time to empty my closet.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: