If you’re reading this you’re probably staring at your “clean wardrobe” task on your to-do list or maybe you’re even in your bedroom, staring at a closet that hasn’t closed since the last sale you came across. Maybe you're even reading this as a form of procrastination. Whatever the reason, I'm glad you're here to dive deeper into whatever it is that's making decluttering so darn difficult for you.
We all know that the volume of clothing alone can be overwhelming but it's not always "overwhelm" that stops us from letting go of certain pieces. The act of letting go what we consider ours can be even more challenging because of the psychological meaning we give to them. Clothing and your personal style is how we showcase ourselves to the world. It also showcases who you are to yourself. Working on your relationship with yourself is arguably the most important one you could ever work on. It leads to more confidence, love, and respect. With that being said, let’s dive in.
Scan the headers for each objection and stop and read the ones that feel sticky to you.
This is you if you’ve ever said or thought, “I have to keep this, it was expensive.” Or “Oh, no no, that’s a good brand.” - said about a purse or garment that you’ve never worn.
Our society values money and productivity, in some cases, over anything else and it is a perfectly normal reaction to value the items you paid money for. Money is a subconscious representation of time, it can also represent a status you want to maintain. Our closets are full of symbols, but symbols only hold meaning when you’ve assigned them meaning. Some of those meanings have been assigned by society, others assigned by your family culture or religion. Items like a designer purse for example.
The first thing to do in this case is to understand what you truly value: money, status, or time. This could take some soul-searching. A trick to start getting into your subconscious is to note if which items you have a hard time letting go of and what the internal monologue is around the item. Are you comfortable donating a t-shirt from Walmart but uncomfortable donating a designer belt with the price tag still on it?
What to do: Reclaim the value. What in your closet can you sell? Either through a local consignment shop, Facebook Marketplace, or another online platform? There is still a monetary value of these pieces which you can reclaim by selling them. If it's status you value, trading in one designer garment for another at one of your local consignment shops is also a great way to hold onto what you truly value.
If you’re holding onto garments because they represent either who you were, a good time in your life, or who you want/ed to be.
Your clothing is a visual representation of who you are, who you think you wanted to be, or who you were, depending on the piece and the value you’ve assigned it. They can also link directly to a fond memory thus turning the garment into something more valuable than money; sentiment.
Embodied Cognition: "The theory that we think with our bodies as well as our brains. Sensory and motor systems are seen as fundamentally integrated with cognitive processing." - Prof. Google
Basically, it’s the theory that all of our senses contribute to how our brains process information. And the sense of touch is felt with your entire body, so when wearing clothing you’re building memories with your whole body.
What to do: The garments that represent memories can be the hardest ones to let go of because of the sentimental attachment, but do you need to let go of them? Or do they just need to be in a different location? You can take these garments that mean the world to you and repurpose them into art, pillows, rugs, bags, etc. That way they’re out of your closet and in a spot where you get to look at them every day. If you’re not willing to display these items place them in a suitcase or box where you can reminisce whenever you feel the urge while still making space in your closet for the items you wear regularly.
3. Lifestyle Shifts (body changes, friend changes, new jobs)
Has your lifestyle has shifted recently and you’re going to “go back” to who you were before the shift? Hint, we never really go back. This could look like getting pregnant (the biggest culprit), a new friend group, a new job, new body shape.
Your style is a collection of your habits, lifestyle, and values. Some of these will shift as your life changes, you build new friendships or get a new job. As your lifestyle changes very rarely does it “go back” to “how it was” because you now have more information, and you’ve developed new habits or interests. Even if your friend group returns to what it used to be, you return to your old job, or your body looks exactly the same after childbirth you’re not the same. Which is great, you’re changing, you’re evolving, and your wardrobe gets to do the same.
What to do: Trust yo’self. If you’re holding onto older clothing that used to represent you and your values trust that you’re being called to these new experiences, which require a new version of yourself. It’s never easy to grow or change but you’ve done it before. Think about those times. Are you the same person that you were 5 years ago? 10 years ago? Do you still have those clothes? If the answer is yes - do you still wear them? (f yes, then this isn’t your reason.)
“BUT my: sister, mother, brother, boyfriend, cousin, co-worker’s sister’s cousin, gave them to me. I HAVE to keep it.” Sentimental connection to clothing is a real feeling, this is why women have a hard time letting go of their wedding dress or a garment associated with a major life event, scroll up to memories if you're holding onto the gift for sentimental reasons. If you're holding onto the garment because someone gave it to you and now you feel bad, keep reading.
Are you a people pleaser? If the reason you’re holding onto the piece isn’t for sentiment is it because you’re worried about what the gift-giver will think? Are you good friends with this person? If the answer is yes - they will understand why you’re donating the garment in question. If they’re not a good friend - do you care what they think? This type of people-pleasing can often be seen in other areas of your life too. I know when I started discarding gifts the emotions that came up for me were around giving up a sense of validation I had received from the gift giver. Does this sound like you? It became an exercise in holding boundaries for myself, which suck. People-pleasers don’t like holding boundaries. The boundaries in question are physical boundaries regarding space and your body. It’s okay to put yourself first and your gift-giver should be able to understand that. (If they don't and they ever ask - they won't - say that the ugly sweater you were given is in the wash.)
What to do: Ask yourself this: When was the last time you asked about or noticed when someone you gave a gift to was wearing it? You’re probably thinking about it now because I just brought it up, but if you’re honest - probably never. If you’re worried about what that person would think, don’t worry about it. They won’t.
This is for you if: you have garments from all eras of your life, ranging from high school all the way through university, to now in a variety of sizes.
What to do: What areas of your life do you struggle to trust yourself? Money? “What if” moments? You are smart and your brain will always find a scenario in which you would NEED that garment. Trust is a strong emotion that takes time to build. Start slow and don’t try and take on your entire wardrobe at once. Start with areas where you know you trust yourself. “I trust myself to not go back to this size.” - discard the items that are the size you trust yourself not to go back to.
You also don’t have to donate anything right away. Put the items you're considering donating in a box. Close the box and set an alarm on your phone for 4 weeks into the future. When the alarm goes off ask a friend or family member to help you, anything in the box that you can name, you can keep. Anything you can’t were items that you hadn’t thought about in those four weeks. Donate whatever’s left in the box.
6. Overwhelmed with where to start
Every time you go to start the process you get overwhelmed and give up or start to feel anxious.
What to do: Start small, by section and on different days. Set a timer for the amount of time you’re giving to this project (I recommend between 1 and 2 hours depending on the section.) All you’re going to do on the first day is go through your pants. Then you’re done. The next day, go through the tops, and so on and so forth. When you’ve sorted through your entire wardrobe, which might take weeks - and that’s okay! Go through your wardrobe one last time and build outfits. Anything you have a hard time styling purge.
7. No time.
There are a lot of methods that take hours to work through your closet. There are also strategies that take a few minutes a day. It could also mean that you need an accountability partner.
It’s hard - we don’t do things that appear hard but wardrobe planning is an important skill. Especially if you’re looking to save money, build a new habit, de-stress, and save time. It involves some right-now-work, anywhere between four to eight hours, but will save you over sixty-one hours yearly. Having a planned wardrobe can also save you upwards of $1,500 (that’s a conservative average of how much Americans spend a year per capita on clothes. Shein’s average price is between $12-$20).
Oh, and if you were to value your time at $15/hr - you spend an extra $915 a year looking for an outfit to wear.
The whole process can be daunting for sure, but once you figure out your blocks you're able to work through them, making your wardrobe fun and a representation of yourself. If you're looking for your HOW-TO guide for decluttering your wardrobe CLICK HERE to get your copy of the Capsule Wardrobe Builder PDF.
Comment any questions you have!