Sometimes the amount of clothes I own can feel overwhelming. I look at them, and I feel guilty for not using lots of them, but then frustrated because I can never get to what I own, or even see it. Everything is just piled on top of everything else. Then I get that classic “nothing to wear” feeling, and I just get in a complete grump. I don’t even want to go through stuff, because it’s all so horrible I don’t even want to look at it.
But this time, I’m not ignoring it. I’ve gone through my regular, day-to-day type clothes and culled a whole bin-liner to give to charity. I’ve done this not because of some New Year’s resolution, but due to a happy coincidence of inspiration which has helped me face the mess. So if you’re looking for a bit of motivation or inspiration for tidying or decluttering, here’s my list of ways to find it:
1) Visiting (tidier) friends
I visited a friend for New Year, and the experience was surprisingly inspiring. The friend I was visiting very kindly gave me and my partner their bedroom to sleep in. The bedroom wasn’t inspiring in itself: it was actually the spare room of the house, didn’t really have very much in it, and was a rather uninspiring pale brown colour.
However, because the room was quite sparse my friend had folded and stacked most of their clothes on the shelves. And it just looked so simple and functional! Unlike my own shelves, where I had left my clothes tangled up, confused and generally stuffed in as tightly as possible, my friend’s shelves were neat, tidy and definitely not over-filled. I was pretty jealous of how easy it was to see what was there and get to it. Seeing it up close, by accident, also made it very real. This wasn’t some show home, or someone known for their tidiness or obsessive decluttering. This was just a regular person with similar hobbies to mine.
I’d definitely say, if you’re looking for real slap-in-the-face inspiration, take a few minutes to privately peruse one of your tidier friends’ rooms!
2) Reading books (or articles) about tidying
A good writer not only communicates their passion, but actually makes you feel like you can do the thing just as well as they can. A friend very kindly gave me a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I’ve just read the first quarter or so. I may talk about the book in more detail later, but it is a pleasant and easy read. To a Westerner her perspectives on inanimate objects seem rather odd, but she makes you really feel like you could tidy your whole house and keep it tidy. I probably wouldn’t spend money on the book myself, as it is repetitive and could be much more firmly edited down to a hundred pages or so, but it is invaluable as inspiration if not actual content.
3) Working out what you really want to wear.
Marie Kondo tells you to hold each piece and ask Does this spark joy in me? Which I think is definitely a good way of getting past the excuses we often make of but I might need it… it’s very functional… etc. But when I was decluttering I focussed more on Is this clothing actually me? As well as the obligatory Does this shit even fit me properly? and Do I even like this any more?
The key, as Kondo identifies, is not just to have a bunch of clothes which are good enough for their use but which you are apathetic about, but a smaller number of pieces you actually really like. You don’t need to have a Pinterest board of ‘your own personal style’ to do this. You already know who you are, and what you’re comfortable in. You need to pick out those clothes which allow you to really feel genuinely like yourself, and recycling everything else (assuming that leaves you with at least enough clothes to last a week!). Pretending to be something you’re not is awkward and uncomfortable, and other people do sometimes spot it. Your best clothes, the ones that you will actually wear rather than pushing to the back of the shelf/drawer/closet, are the ones that truly resonate with who you actually are inside.
I know it doesn’t initially seem a big deal, but I think that getting rid of the boring clothes I only have and wear ‘because I should’ is a small but important part of learning (remembering!) how to be more myself on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis. So I’m trying to give up all the things that look ‘okay’ on me, so that what I have left are the good things, the things I actually like wearing and make me feel more like myself. I don’t need a lot of clothes, I just need to be able to easily access ones which I am confident and happy wearing on a daily basis. And which don’t make me feel too drab! So if you’re feeling dowdy, or uncomfortable, or just not able to really into to the clothes you have and wear, you could use that as good inspiration to declutter your wardrobe. Just don’t ‘throw out’ the whole lot (as Kondo seems intent on doing, much to my annoyance!), give them to charity or recycling!
4) Realising your body shape or needs have changed and responding to that fairly and honestly
I have to admit that this cull highlighted that I’ve fallen into some terrible traps with my own clothes. One of the worst has to be One day I’ll lose weight and this will fit again. It’s so easy to say this to yourself and then push the offending item to the back of the closet. I’ve done it loads, specially in the last year or so, when my IBS has played up and made it impossible to wear some things due to tightness, or waistband position.
As I picked up, tried on, held, and generally considered all of my clothes, I’ve realised this is an absolutely poisonous mindset to have.
Please, please please don’t do this to yourself. The last thing you need if you have any self-consciousness about your body is a bunch of clothes that you wish you could wear but which can only hang around making you feel shit about yourself. Get rid of them. It doesn’t mean you don’t intend to lose the weight, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever wear that sort of thing again. It isn’t a defeat. It’s just getting rid of something you are essentially keeping around to remind yourself that you are not good enough as you currently are.
You are good enough. Even if you want to change your body shape or weight, you are still perfectly sufficient right now. Don’t keep things that tell you otherwise, or make you feel guilty or ugly or un-wonderful. If your body shape or needs have changed, but your wardrobe hasn’t, use it as a chance to declutter your wardrobe. It may seem too hard, or be painful to face up to, but being honest with yourself is important, and you can get through it. It’s okay to be you, and it’s okay to want to change, but if you’re anything like me, holding onto these objects just lets you use them as mental cudgels to induce guilt and dislike for yourself.
I haven’t finished decluttering my clothes yet. Whilst I have a bin-liner full of day-to-day clothes from my shelves to go to the charity shop, I want to be more rigorous with my more formal clothes in the little wardrobe, and the (argh!) hats, box of scarves and gloves. However I have culled a bunch of stuff for being way too fucking boring for me and that’s given me quite a lot of joy!
I hope these suggestions help you find inspiration to declutter your wardrobe, and re-discover all those things hiding at the back!