As I write this, we’re almost ten months into curtailed work, travel, and social activities due to COVID-19. The name that sounded so contrived not long ago now sounds familiar. It’s almost taken on a personality of its own. It certainly has a reputation. Nasty.
It’s turned our daily routines and homes upside down in so many ways, including how we use our spaces and how we dress for the day.
We formerly worked in locations arranged and supplied by someone else.
We costumed ourselves according to how others expected us to dress.
Now we’ve adapted our homes to workspaces and our wardrobes to comfort and performance rather than social norms. The emphasis is now on demonstrating that working from home can be as productive as being present onsite—even if we are in sweatshirts.
Working from home also means needing fewer clothing items since we’re wearing more comfy clothes and dressing less for social and workplace expectations. Jeans were once casual wear compared to what we wore to work. Now jeans and slacks feel like public casual wear, and elastic-waisted pants and sweaters are our everyday outfits.
This shift in our collective thinking reminds me of when it was a big deal when corporate America began to relax strict dress codes and allow Casual Fridays. Maybe when we return to group work, we’ll call out Dress Up days or Work From Home Comfy Clothing Fridays. I doubt we'll be able to wear hoodies and exercise pants to the office though.
Whenever we experience a change in routine, something different from our usual pattern, there is an opportunity to reflect on our habits. And sometimes, when things feel out of control, finding and focusing on seemingly small areas can help you feel more balanced and less adrift.
Did you notice these three ideas?
Take advantage of this experience. You’ll benefit from more uncomplicated simplicity and even save money by noticing what the pandemic has taught us about our wardrobes, most notably your attitude about your clothing choices.
With these in mind, now is an excellent time to review your clothing habits and decide how to change them going forward.
1 It wasn’t your clothing that made you successful. It was you. If clothes were essential to your good performance, you would be doing a poor job now. Hold onto that thought when you review what’s in your closet.
2 Your comfort clothing is different now from when you were out in public regularly, and it feels pretty good. You don’t miss the daily stress of choosing what to wear to work and how to accommodate the weather. Consider how to reduce that future stress by preparing now. Think back to late 2019. Anything you wore before then will now be almost two years old when you have the occasion to wear it again. Do the styles you have look appealing to you now? Do they still fit?
3 Clothing has a habit of insidious accumulation. It's time to revamp your wardrobe and dressing spaces. Take a tip from people that travel a lot by relying less on outfits that require matching pieces and more on mix-and-match, multi-use items. Basic black slacks are classic precisely because they work with almost any color. Save the patterns for a few accent pieces like scarves, shirts, or other accessories.
What’s the minimum number of each clothing type you will need to get back to being out more often at work and in your social life? Two dozen pairs of pants may be double what you actually use. Of course, it's always a struggle between what you need and what what you like and want. We can talk about that and how it affects all areas of your life.
When your wardrobe is less of a statement of art, money, or influence, people will notice you and your efforts more than your clothing.
If you feel anxious about reducing your clothing choices, let me promise you, with all certainty in the validity of my prediction, you do not need or use as much as you have.
When you have fewer choices, you’ll have less tension about choosing what to wear. Paradoxically, having fewer options can also make you more confident because you know what you have is complimentary.
You’re smart. Use this time away from your work location wisely by culling and reorganizing your clothing. Drop what you can into the donation bag you keep in your closet. (You do have one at the ready, don’t you?)
If you think you don’t have time to do this, consider how much time you are not using to drive to work. A 30-minute commute equals an hour a day, not including the time it takes you to prepare, arrive, and settle into work. You’ve gained at least a few hours a week to reduce and organize the things you put off when you worked elsewhere.
Ask a friend or family member to help you stay on task and offer their opinion if something looks as good on you as you think it does. Accept their opinion!
Yes, it’s a weird time. Remember, though, gifts can come in strange, wacky wrappings.
Condensing your wardrobe will feel good when you realize you can access what you own more easily, dress more quickly, and with less distress about your choices, and save money by not buying as many things that you will only wear rarely.
Ready? Here's how (Get on the email list for more guidance!)
This is one of the few times I will advise (give you permission!) to buy products in advance of your organizing project.
Buy hangers. After years of experience, I prefer the clear plastic swivel hook variety like these from Wayfair. Retail stores use them because they are inexpensive, sturdy, and orient automatically to the hanging rod. Many stores will give them to you for free if you ask.
Check out installing a new closet system. They’re a lot easier to install than you think and make closets efficient and inviting. Here's a link to Lowe's version. Solid shelving is a little more money but better than the wire versions.
Put a donation bag nearby. Whether it's a large facility or a small local charity, have your favorite donation drop off location identified. If you can, avoid trying to be your own distribution manager by having multiple locations to take different items. The people that run donation centers are professionals at that. Trust them to find good homes for the things you don't need.
Take items out one at a time or put everything on the bed or a table and return to the closet and drawers only what you’ll wear. Do a little at a time or a (short) marathon. If you're working with a helper ask them to be your hands and move things from place to place. You need to stay in one place to make decisions.
Even though this may not feel like the most important issue to focus on, it's one of the foundations of building your better, more masterful self. When we're not tripped up by our spaces and our stuff, we can focus on what is truly more vital to your life: the good decisions and actions that lead to better relationships, more stability, and richer experiences. (Click here to start mastering your day to master your life.)
Remember, you are not your clothes. You are all your good traits, skills, and character, even when you’re in an old comfortable hoodie.