I've been spending the past few months cleaning out my closet and trying to refine my personal style. You can read the whole journey here.
Okay, last week's entry was weak. I wanted to give an update and establish some rules, but it didn't really go into the emotional process that I was going through while starting the tossing process. This week, I'm hoping to remedy that.
Clothes are an emotional thing. You pick them out and spend your hard earned money on them - that makes them hard to give away. Someone bought you a sweater for your birthday or Christmas they thought you'd like. That gives it instant emotional factor. You won first chair flute in those khakis. You got engaged in that dress. You used to fit into those 0s. You spilled a margarita all over that dress, but hey, it reminds you of your Bachelorette, so what are a few stains? That was your first suit. Those are your favorite shorts (from college, of course). That was what you were wearing when Kelly Clarkson won American Idol.
Clothes HOLD onto our memories and emotions. You might not have any photos of your outfit from a particular day, but pulling that dress out of your closet unleashes a whole walk down memory lane. Or worse, you DO have photos from a particular day which is solid proof that you used to look super awesome in that one thing.
I had to deal with a lot of emotions during my initial purge. I had to let go of gifts from friends and families I'd since grown out of and moved on from. I had to let go of things far too small for me instead of holding on to hope that they'd one day fit again. I had to force myself to toss out things that USED to be my favorites, because my style has evolved from there and they no longer fit my lifestyle. I had to toss a few things that were just TOO DANG YOUNG for someone who is going to be 30 next year (uh, that's another emotion entirely).
The first step is being open to the process. I admit, in previous purges I didn't get rid of that much because I allowed myself to hold on to things for emotional reasons. This time, I told myself, "Okay, today is the day. You haven't worn that sweater in 8 years, I don't care who gave it to you, it's time to let someone else enjoy it." Convincing yourself that your pieces will go to a good home where someone else will love them is a great way to get going. Hey, that was my favorite sweater. In college. Maybe some college kid will pick it up at Goodwill and it'll be her new favorite sweater.
The second step is being honest. After I turned 25, my metabolism went to utter crap and I gained about 30lbs. It wasn't bad weight, really - I was "fat and happy" in my relationship, comfortable in a new job after a lot of unemployment, and my mom always told me my eating would eventually catch up to me, and I'd have to work at it. After adjusting slightly, I've settled in at the size I am now. This is what I am when I'm eating what I want but am generally active. This is where most of my closet should be right now. At one time, my pants ranged from size 0 to size 10, but what are the odds that I'll be ALL OF THOSE SIZES in one year? Slim to none. I have no problem with girls holding on to a small range of sizes (think, 2-3 range) if their weight fluctuates a lot over a year. For me, I can gain and lose 10 lbs in the course of the year, so it makes sense for me to have jeans in a few sizes. But this is where the honesty comes in - my range has moved up, and it was time to let go of the size I used to be. My husband was actually a huge part of this admittance - he told me if I DID happen to lose a ton of weight, wouldn't I want new things that were in style NOW, instead of those old khakis I used to wear when I was 23? Good point. My body continues to evolve and now that I'm getting older, the shapes of my clothes have evolved too. A 23 year old's pants look totally different than a 30 year olds. Mostly because we don't shop at Abercrombie any more (side note - how to test if you're old. Try to go in A&F. If you complain about the noise or smell within 10 seconds of walking in, you're old).
Step three :: Acceptance. You have to accept a whole host of things for this process to move forward. You have to accept your body where it is now, and then accept only the things in your closet that help that body look and feel its best. You have to accept you are no longer 22 and there are a few skirts in your closet that still are. You have to accept that you might be at a new point in your life - six years ago, I WAS wearing dress pants every day and suits occasionally and I needed the wardrobe of a young business professional. Now that I work from home every day, I tend to wear a more casual wardrobe and have no need for my suits any more. That doesn't mean I throw out everything except my yoga pants. I still go out in public. But it does mean it's time to re-examine pieces that I haven't been wearing because my lifestyle has changed. And finally, you have to accept that you have too much, it's overwhelming, and the only way to fix it is to throw some stuff out.
If you're having issues with the acceptance part of the purge, I'll tell you what I did. There were just a FEW pieces that I couldn't let go. Mostly suits and dress pants that I thought I might want again some day - so I boxed those up in a Rubbermaid bin, put it in the attic, and there it will stay until I need it. If you can't let go, at least put some stuff in storage. It'll ease your mind and still help with your closet space.
Be open, be honest, and accept. These are the first steps in overcoming the emotional side of the purge. I had to have a few come to Jesus meetings with myself over some pieces. I pulled them out, smiled at the memories associated with the places they'd been or the people that gifted them, and then they went in the pile. The most important part of the purge process is DO. NOT. GRAZE. THE. PILES. If you start looking and thinking "What if??" you'll start pulling things out and going backwards.
This is an extremely emotional process. Don't be ashamed if it's hard - clothes can be part of your identity. They're a representation of you, in a way. Just remember that while they were a part of your life, they aren't a part of YOU. I know this feels like a break up, in a sense, but remember how you tossed out that guy's stuff after you realized he was SO not good for you? Cut the cord. It's harsh, I know, but you want to make room for the better things in your life.
Anyone else have serious emotional issues with throwing away their clothes, or am I just a crazy person? (PS - I tossed stuff from every picture in today's post! Hurrah!)