Originally published, August 15, 2017 in the Times Standard.
Even though I have successfully downsized, I still struggle with letting go of clothing I don’t need or wear.I don’t have a built in closet anymore, but I have a large dresser and shelving that could fit a huge amount of clothing. So space isn’t the issue.
So what’s the problem? There probably isn’t one other than my comfort zone with stuff. I don’t like having things around that I don’t use.
If your “zone” for clothing says you have too much, there are things you can do. It starts by figuring out why it’s in your closet.
It’s interesting to think about how clothes were dealt with during your childhood. Neither of my parents liked to shop so we were shabbily dressed until we could drive ourselves to the mall. My sister and I spent years wearing boy’s clothes because we had older brothers. Boys’ departments were no-nonsense and manageable with my Mom’s impatience.
One of my most vivid childhood memories of Dad was his faded red Cornell sweatshirt, stretched out, too small, and ridden with holes. He wore it all the time. Okay, not to work, but pretty much every other minute, including when he coached my brothers’ baseball teams.
My current neighbor’s son looks at clothing in an interesting way. He asks himself if he will wear it as many times as it costs in dollars. Buying a pair of shorts on sale for $4 is a good deal if he wears them more than four times, but not if they cost $50 and he only wears them 20 times.
Hmmm…If I buy something for $50 will I wear it 50 times? Annually I would have to wear it once a week to make it “worth it.” A $100 purchase would require an annual “wear-age” rate of twice a week. If I buy expensive clothing every year (every season) I will have to make daily wardrobe changes to “spend my clothing.”I am not suggesting this makes any sense. Still, I now think more about my clothing purchases.
If you want to improve your relationship with clothing, try some of these:
* One in, one out. Only buy items to replace worn out, non-fitting, non-loved items
* Store off-season clothing away from your closet to better see what you already have. One way to do this is by creating a “capsule wardrobe” where you have a limited number of items each 3 month period. (Courtney Carver, 333 Project)
* Backward hangers. Turn hangers backwards until you wear an item, then turn it frontwards. After a month you will see what you don’t wear.
* Evaluate the real reason you aren’t wearing something. Too big, too small? While a couple off sized items won’t matter, an entire parallel wardrobe does. If it doesn’t fit, does keeping it motivate or demotivate you? If you are keeping it for emotional reasons, would taking a photo or re-purposing it by making a pillow or quilt provide the same feelings?
* Reminders of bad decisions of expensive purchases. Keeping it doesn’t bring back a poor investment but will remind you about it. Who needs that? Find a consignment shop to get some of the money back or donate to a thrift shop and put money into a nonprofit’s coffers.
* Environmental Impact. Recognize the impact of clothing choices on the environment and those who make the clothing. If we reduced our clothing consumption, we could afford to choose fewer, high quality, fair trade or locally made items and less would be discarded into the landfill. If we change our shopping decisions, companies will have to change their production decisions.
Keep only what you love and be honest about how you much you can truly love well.