Preparing to Pack: Clothes

You may have seen me mention this on social media, but after living in Scotland for nearly a decade I’m moving back to Canada in December. Before we move, the Scotsman and I need to sort through the five years’ worth of belongings we’ve accumulated in our current home and decide what we want to bring with us to Canada. As such, I’m starting a new series on Calm, Joyful Life, all about how to pare down your belongings in preparation for a big move.

I’ve always prided myself on having a ‘slow fashion’ approach towards clothes. I don’t buy new things often, and I wear my favourite clothes year after year. Some of the things in my closet came across the ocean with me nine years ago, and some of them, like my favourite scarf, will be travelling back across with me this winter.

I truly believe that this approach to clothes is more sustainable, for both my wallet and the environment, than frequent buying and frequent discarding. Because I rarely let go of clothes, however, they have a tendency to accumulate. I went through my sock drawer last week and found I had enough socks and tights to last me SEVEN weeks: 11 pairs of woollies, five pairs of running socks, eight pairs of tights (two cotton, six nylon), and TWENTY-FIVE pairs of cotton socks. Yes, I have enough cotton socks alone to last me nearly a month.

No one needs that many socks, not even Dumbledore.

There are other things in my closet that are perfectly acceptable pieces of clothing but that are just not my style anymore, or they never really fit me quite right. And with the cost of transatlantic shipping being what it is, I don’t want to bring over clothes that I won’t wear.

How to pare down and declutter your closet in preparation for moving to a new home

Packing for a move

And so I took it upon myself last weekend to sort through my clothes and identify which pieces are worth bringing across the ocean with me. There are a lot of guides online for paring down your wardrobe in general, but I found as I was sorting through my clothes that there are some different considerations when preparing a big move like this. For instance, a lot of advice will tell you to consider your lifestyle and if you’ve ever worn a particular item in recent memory, but of course when you move to another country your lifestyle is bound to change.

There are three main categories in which I kept clothes that I haven’t worn in ages, because I expect that I will when I move.

Outerwear

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. While my Sorel winter boots are still in my parents’ mud room, I have three winter coats here in Scotland and more scarves than I care to count. I did pare down my scarf collection quite substantially, but I also held onto some of the very heavy scarves. They’re simply too thick and warm to wear in a Scottish winter, but I’m sure I’ll appreciate when we get another -40C windchill. Likewise, I kept my sunhat; Scottish summers are famous for being non-existent, so I’ve only worn it a handful of times, but I expect I’ll get much more use out of it back in Canada.

If you’re sorting through your clothes when planning a move, consider the climate you’re moving to, instead of the climate-appropriate clothes you wear most often now. If you’re moving from Britain to Australia, for instance, then keep your summer clothing but be more ruthless in paring down your winter clothes.

Activity-specific attire

There are some things, like my hiking boots, that I brought with me from Canada and expected to wear, but never did. However, I know that the first time I go on a canoe trip when I’m back in Canada I’ll need them, and if I don’t have them I’ll just go out and spend $100+ on a new pair and have to break them in.

Similarly, while I did practice karate while I was at uni here, my expensive gis have been sitting in my closet for a few years as I’ve had difficulty finding a new dojo. My old dojo back in my hometown is still going strong, though, and I have every intention of returning to classes there once I’m settled in.

Businesswear

As a software developer, my current dress code for work is jeans-and-t-shirt casual. Although I’ve not worn my dressier clothes lately, however, I know that when I return home at the very least I’ll need clothes for job interviews, and there’s a good chance that I’ll find a job where I need to dress more smartly for work.

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Ensuring you’ll wear the clothes you keep

One thing I want to make absolutely clear is that in all of these categories I only held onto things I reasonably expect to wear, in terms of both style and occasion. I kept the businesswear that both fits and is to my style because I am definitely going to be going to job interviews and I am likely to find myself in a job where I need to dress smartly. On the other hand, I got rid of my solitary pair of shorts because, even though I’m moving somewhere with warm summers, I don’t really like them and they don’t fit well.

The ‘I used to wear it all the time’ fallacy

This fallacy is the number one reason why I’ve held onto far too many articles of clothing over the years. Let me know if this scenario sounds familiar.

You’re going through your clothes, pulling out all the things you wear regularly and setting aside all the things you never wear to give away. Then you pick up something – a shirt, a pair of jeans – that you haven’t worn in ages, but you put it in the ‘keep’ pile, because you used to wear it all the time, so it must be something you love, right?

Er, not necessarily.

Perhaps you really do love it, but it doesn’t fit anymore or you never have reason to wear it. Unless you’re pregnant/post-partum, then if it doesn’t fit anymore either have it altered or give it away, because truthfully you’re unlikely to ever wear it again in its current state, no matter how much you love it.

But let’s say it does still fit, and you still don’t wear it. It’s easy when you’re planning a big move to assume you’ll wear it in your new home. The Scotsman and I are already making plans for all the things we’ll do in the Great Canadian Outdoors, and so whenever I came across activewear and outerwear in my closet purge my gut reaction was to keep it.

Perhaps in your case it’s summer dresses or woolly jumpers that you’re absolutely sure you’ll wear when you move, even though you never wear them now. You tell yourself it’s the climate, but is it really? Or has your own personal style changed over the years? You may have loved dresses when you were younger but now gravitate towards shorts, or maybe you prefer lighter weight cardigans and layers over the heavy sweaters you used to favour.

In the end, I gave away five lightweight jackets and held onto two: my good GoreTex raincoat and my everyday biker jacket. I won’t need those other spring-weight jackets when we move because any circumstance I’m likely to find myself in can be covered by either of the jackets I’ve held onto or a fleece pullover. Many of those are jackets I used to wear regularly before I got my biker jacket, but since I received that one for Christmas a few years ago I’ve simply never worn any of my other lightweight jackets. Not once. My style hasn’t changed substantially, but that one jacket fills the style and practical role that a handful of other jackets contributed to before, so I don’t feel the need to hold onto the others anymore.

In the end, I gave away around one third of the clothes in my closet, and what I’m keeping should all fit in a single large duffel when I move – as long as I wear one of the winter coats on the plane.

Over to you

Have you ever had to streamline your closet for a move? Do you have any advice to share?

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