Maybe I’m not normal, but my house is usually cleaner during a deployment than it is when my husband is home! I can train the kids to clean up their things, but I haven’t seemed to train him yet. Also, when he’s not around to tell me to relax and take breaks, I can get worked up into a bit of a tornado, sweeping through the house and wanting to organize EVERYTHING. There’s probably some psychological reason for that. There is so much that I can’t control during a deployment–when he calls, when he returns, whether he is safe, etc. So I tend to grip the reins a little tighter in other areas of my life, trying to gain greater control over the things that I can. For that reason, deployments are a great opportunity for cleaning. There’s something very satisfying and therapeutic about taking an area of chaos (like your closet) and making visible progress to turn it into something clean and orderly.
Now, before we get any farther, I will caution you that I’m talking about cleaning out YOUR OWN things, NOT HIS. Deployment is not the time to sell his old plaid shirt or get rid of his dusty golf clubs! That is not a good way to make him feel welcome in the house when he returns. But you can totally clean out some of your own things, and make room for a cute new homecoming outfit. If you are thinking of tackling your closet, here are some tips to keep you motivated:
- Start by taking everything out. I know, it’s a pain and makes a big mess, but starting from scratch helps you see the full space you can work with, and also reminds you that you have an un-used stack of sweaters on the top shelf. Why are they still in there?
- As you pick up each item to put back into the closet, ask yourself some basic questions:
- Does this fit?
- Will I probably wear it again?
- Have I worn it in the past year?
- Is it damaged? (stained, torn, missing pieces)
- Is this still my style/ would I buy this now?
- If you answer anything with a NO, it’s time to make piles to sell, donate, or trash. If you have expensive items that are still stylish, they might be worth the time and effort to sell them. Donate anything that is in good condition but simply doesn’t fit you anymore. (More about that later). Trash anything that is stained, worn, or damaged.
- Use some organization techniques to arrange things in your closet. You can use shelf dividers to keep things in neater stacks, hang shoe racks for shoes and accessories, and group clothing by season or by color.
- To sell items, start with your base resale Facebook page. Every base seems to have unofficial Facebook groups that make it easy to post a picture, and then sell to someone in your neighborhood. Then you don’t have to bother with packaging and mailing items. Have too many dresses from the Balls? Someone is sure to want them!
- Donate items to the base Thrift Store. On Navy and Marine bases, the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society runs a Thrift Store that provides low-cost clothing and household items to military families. On Air Force bases, the Airman’s Attic is a similar program. Find out if your base or unit has these. Also consider donating to the base chapel, if they have a White Elephant or Swap Sale. If you are donating anything of value, you can get a receipt and write it off on your taxes (if you don’t use the standard deduction.)
- Fabric can be recycled instead of trashed. Before you throw old things away, consider up-cyclng them into something new. If you have basic sewing skills, you can make a long sleeve shirt into a short sleeve one, or put a new hem on a skirt. I once turned an old pair of jeans into a cute diaper bag with built-in pockets! Also, remember that clothes in any condition can be shredded and recycled into carpet and filling material. The Salvation Army is a charity that will do this, and for-profit businesses like Goodwill offer it, too.
So those are my cleaning tips! Now it’s time for you to get started! Post your before and after pics below, if you would like to share your progress. Happy cleaning!