Guest Blog Post
by Melissa Curran Walker
In the fall of 2014 my daily outfit was work-out wear. I was on sick leave from work and disguised my need for comfort (and lack of motivation) in a uniform that I hoped told the world I was busy getting healthy, not that I was simply wearing the closest thing to “acceptable pajamas” because I couldn’t be bothered to put together an outfit. When I finally began to feel better and decided not to immediately return to work, I knew it was time to shed my security blanket. If I wanted to overhaul my life and feel better, I was also going to have to look better.
I had recently read Marie Kondo’s book (“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”) and my inner organizer was bursting to try out her methods on my wardrobe. Kondo’s approach is to sort per category and, as you do so, to hold every item in your hand: if it sparks joy, keep it, otherwise let it go. In a few short hours I had vastly overhauled my closet; the donation pile was larger than I had expected, but with old, ill-fitting, and never worn pieces removed, I could finally take stock of my wardrobe as a whole. Unexpectedly, at the end of the process I also had a clearer idea about how I wanted to dress: a casual but smart look, pulled-together for the school run or coffee meeting. Going forward I’d be able to purchase new pieces that fit into this vision, avoiding the kind of impulse or “one-off” buys that end up clogging your shelves and, eventually, your donation bags.
So far, the overhaul to my wardrobe has been working. I have tried to continue to be constructively critical about my wardrobe and adhere to Kondo’s mantra of “sparking joy”. But I have to admit there are a few items I still haven’t worn in the last year that do spark a modicum of joy, but which I know I’m holding onto because of an emotional attachment. So the question I had to ask myself was, did these items spark enough joy to keep around, or was holding onto these items actually holding me back?
For example: I had this black dress printed all over with tiny flowers hanging in my wardrobe which I loved. I’d had it for years, but almost never wore it, though it survived the Kondo purge since it sparked enough joy to earn its place in the closet. But why didn’t I wear it? I didn’t wear it because it wasn’t my most comfortable dress, it pulled under the arms and, frankly, didn’t look very good on me. But I still loved the essence of “it”. It reminded me of a dress I had in college I used to wear with my Doc Martens and an avocado-green cardigan from the local thrift store. It reminded me of an earlier identity from long ago—twenty years later, I put on that dress and was transformed into my younger self, tight armpits and all. But then I’d take it off again because the truth is, it wasn’t only the dress that didn’t fit me anymore. I’m not the same girl who used to wear those Docs and that avocado sweater.
So the way I see it, the problem with a dress like that hanging around, taking up space in my wardrobe, is that it wasn’t sparking joy in me about my life today. That simple piece of material was a crutch for me to hold on to a piece of my past, to lament something that sometimes seems to be lost, my history, my youth, maybe, something that holds me back from moving forward and embracing that casual but smart grown woman, the wife, business owner, and mother I’ve worked so hard to become. I’m proud of this full-grown woman.
I said goodbye and donated the dress.
So I challenge you to ask yourself: Do I keep something in my wardrobe because:
- I spent a lot of money on it?
- It reminds me of who I once was, in a style I once rocked?
- I might lose the weight again, it could still fit?
- It was a gift from a friend or loved one, but I don’t love it?
Clothing is a powerful tool to communicate our inner selves to the outer world. Our personal style empowers us in our many roles but we have to be thoughtful and remain in charge of that vision. Remember, you can’t make room in your wardrobe for the “you” of now, if you can’t let go of the “you” you used to be.
My action challenge to you is:
- Pull out the “never wear” items from your wardrobe.
- Hold each item and think about your emotional response.
- Dig deeper, and ask yourself if it fits (physically and emotionally) the “you” of right now, today.
- If not: can you let it go?
About the Author:
Still struggling with the challenge to let go and organize your wardrobe? Contact Melissa Curran, a professional organizer who runs her own business sorted.by Melissa (www.sortedbymelissa.com). Her mission is to help working families find more space, focus and time for a richer quality of life. She shares her organizing & minimalism journey on her Blog (http://sortedbymelissa.com/sorted-blog/) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/sortedbymelissa).
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