Let’s tackle a big piece of spring cleaning your life (which we’ve been talking about a lot recently!): your closet.

It can be daunting to stare at piles of clothing — some you love, some you have nostalgia for and some that are “aspirational” — in order to make sense of it all. We carry a lot of emotion and history in our clothes, so parting with these objects can be painful.

But the rewarding feeling that comes from reexamining and simplifying our wardrobes helps us grow. I’m not the same person I was a few years ago, and I won’t be the same person a few years from now. I find myself having to shed clothing to better suit my lifestyle and values.

I must confess that I haven’t always had a sustainable closet — and that’s OK. Part of connecting with yourself means approaching self-discovery without judgment. Sustainability is a process, not a perfect end goal.

I moved to New York City two years ago. Only then did I truly begin to invest in sustainable clothing. At first, I did it because of my limited closet space (a common problem for most New Yorkers!). Yet even after the initial closet downsizing, I still found myself surrounded by clothes that weren’t bringing me satisfaction or comfort. So here we are.

I really like the Marie Kondo method of tidying, because it revolves around a very simple and life-giving question: Does this bring me joy?

Often we make clothing choices based on what felt right at a past point in our lives or what we think will feel good in the future. Marie Kondo’s method relies on staying present. You hold an item of clothing in your hands and cultivate your inner sensitivity to joy at that moment. I was truly surprised by the things I wanted to remove from my closet because they no longer served me.

One thing you may run across when doing your own closet spring clean is a sense of guilt. You may wish you hadn’t “wasted” money on an item of clothing, or you might ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”

The truth is, we are conditioned by so many forces to consume without thinking. With any change or growth comes a degree of regret, or even shame. I own leather, for example, and I’m not quite ready to get rid of it, but I struggle and doubt the decision sometimes.

That’s why it’s important to remind yourself that, as long as you are on this journey, you’ve already taken the first steps to conscious consumerism.

Marie Kondo encourages you to thank the clothes you are donating or selling, because they have served you. It sounds a little cheesy, but that simple articulation of gratitude makes it a little easier to say goodbye to an object. It also helps to know that these clothes will go to new homes where they will be more useful than they are now, unworn in my closet. (More on that later!)

Here are some of the beloved items in my closet I’ll keep and continue to cherish:

  • Red sweater by Good Omen: I got it from The Better Shop in Brooklyn, which carries only sustainable clothing.
  • Tiger-print vintage Escada coat: I was lucky enough to get this from my grandmother’s epic closet.
  • Black cap-sleeve shirt from Reformation: one of my favorite brands. Check them out online or at one of their brick and mortar stores.
  • Oversized white shirt by A New York Affair: designed in Brooklyn and ethically made in India.
  • Graphic white long-sleeved shirt by CHNGE: with each purchase of that shirt, CHNGE donates 10% of the profits to women’s shelters in New York.
  • Geometric block-print shirt by Morgan and Greg
  • Red fitted shirt by Osklen: Their mission is to produce things ASAP — “as sustainable as possible.”
  • Star shirt by Paris-based Ipsilon: given to me by brand designer Emy and currently available to purchase at The Canvas in Williamsburg.
  • Sheer gold sleeveless shirt by Alexander Acosta: Read our feature about this sustainable designer on the blog!
  • Clouds shirt from Reformation: My boyfriend hates it, but I think it’s fabulous and love the idea of walking in the clouds.

After you’ve done your own closet clean-out, weigh in with us on Instagram and Facebook to share your experience. What did you keep? What will you be doing with the clothes you choose to let go of? How did it make you feel?

My own Kondo clean-out made me feel lighter, as if I were shedding expectations and getting a little closer to who I really am. It’s truly inspiring how much impact small choices can make on our lives.

What to do with all the cleaned-out clothes? In our next video, I’ll show you how to sell and donate that clothing to keep the sustainable loop alive.