Clothing vs word editing: How brave are you?

"You really want me to get rid of most of these?

“You really want me to get rid of most of these?”

"Some of those are brand new!"

“Some of those are brand new!”

It looks like we had a break-in at our house, doesn’t it?

We didn’t.

I snapped these photos after my hired image consultant put my entire wardrobe through an official “closet audit.”

A few weeks ago I wrote a business article about a local personal image consultant, Dulcet Style.

Intrigued with the image make-over process, I decided to give it a try and signed on for colors, style and silhouette analysis. The closet audit was the next piece of that process once we’d established my basic fashion roots according to how I prefer to dress, what my body shape and style is, and what colors appear to work best with my skin and hair coloration.

Color-wise, I am an autumn. Didn’t surprise me a bit. That is how I saw things for me.

The good news is that, instinctively, I’ve been making pretty good choices about me, myself and I for a long time. Mostly.

I had an article to write the afternoon she came, so I gave her free range in my bedroom to go through everything.

I could have stood by and watched her work, but with a deadline approaching, I decided it was more efficient if she did what she does, and I did what I needed to do. We agreed to meet up after she’d finished her sorting and analysis.

The psychology of the responses to all of this from friends and family have been as interesting a study as was the whole process itself. Many were defensive on my behalf over some of the things suggested to me by this consultant. They needn’t have been; this lady doesn’t make a living by insulting people, and she and I had a good time together throughout this process.

When you go through such a process you are willing to become vulnerable. As a writer I face that every time I submit a story or an article, and by now it doesn’t scare me nearly to the degree it did in the beginning.

The agreement stood between us, however. We’d do  the closet audit, but I would have final say on what did—or did not—get chucked into the donation bins. As it should be. These are my personal clothes, after all, and I am the one who would pay for their replacements.

I left her in my bedroom and I returned to my computer to finish the article.

Two and a half hours later you see in these pictures what I saw when I returned to my bedroom. My closet was substantially barer than a couple hours earlier. While she explained to me which pile was for this reason, or that reason, and why she made her decisions and choices, I listened.

There was probably 20% of my original wardrobe left hanging in there, and I did like the things she decided should stay, but it took my breath away for a moment. And I admit—as I glanced through some of the piles I noted things that I knew I would not be leaving in said “discard” piles, but would be hanging back up in my closet.

"Where have all my clothes gone?!"

“Where have all my clothes gone?!”

My article that was due could only be 800 words. I’d talked to three sources for my information before writing. 800 words isn’t much time. When I’d finished my initial draft, I had nearly 1300 words. No way could I turn that many words in, so I did my own word-wardrobe culling process.

I read and re-read, cut and pasted, moved this here, that there, took things out completely and put them into a CUTS zone at the end of the document—in case I changed my mind later—and trimmed the article down to under 800 words.

When I had it sitting on the page like I thought it should be, I handed my husband a red pen and a print out and asked him to give it a read through, marking anything that seemed out of whack.

An editor—like an image consultant—is a big help in seeing what might be wrong right before our eyes, but that we cannot see because our eyes were part of the creation process.

People told me I was brave to let a virtual stranger go through all my clothes. They said they’d never do that, but what I took away from the wardrobe revision was a sense of relief, and I honestly hadn’t expected it to feel as cleansing as it does. The consultant told me I would feel that way when it was done, and she was right.

I liked the idea of a cleaner, more efficient closet. I liked the idea that the jacket I hadn’t worn in 10 years was going to be out of my way. And that sweater I bought 5 years ago?–and now realize was a spontaneous purchase for some reason I cannot even recall, well . . . life is going to go on just fine once it goes to Goodwill.

It was so okay to be vulnerable that day.

That closet process is exactly like a writer’s words in their early drafts. That time comes that we have to send some of our words on their way. It’s because there’s no room for them in a piece, or they provide a redundancy that makes a piece sluggish, or they aren’t the right fit for what we are trying to accomplish.

At first it feels like we’ve wasted our effort to write them, but we’ve had the time with them; the writing practice. They did serve their purpose.

I’d typed in an additional 600 nicely written words for my business article, arranging my interview resources’ quotes ever so neatly about the article. But on two and three reads through it after the consultant departed, and my eyes having been away from them for a while, it didn’t take long to see what had to go.

I cut, rearranged and finished the piece and sent it on its way.

The next day I took a fresh look at all those piles and stacks you see in these pictures. At the end of my session my husband and I lugged 63 pieces of clothing to Goodwill and a ton of old belts, long ago too small, too worn, too outdated. I figured it was about a 60/40 split. Sixty-three pieces went out, and that last 40 she thought I should let go of, stayed.

Welcome to the world of editing. This is how it has to be with your words. If we open our minds and our ears, we know instinctively that we really don’t want to keep every single one.

It’s a good thing to learn that we can let go. We are so much better off for it.

Words, or clothing--it's all about compromise. Meet my new closet today!

Words, or clothing–it’s all about compromise. Meet my new closet today!

“Sure sign of spiritual growth: You want more freedom—and less stuff”  – Lisa Villa Prosen