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purging

on wearing clothes that fit

on wearing clothes that fit

A couple of weeks ago, I looked into my closet, flipped through the hangers, and had these thoughts: "no, I can't wear that...that doesn't fit..that one doesn't hang right...I though that would work but it doesn't..." It was the worst feeling. It was hard to get dressed. I whined to my husband that I had nothing to wear. I felt unattractive. It's something I hear often from clients. I've certainly experienced it before, just not in recent years, and had forgotten what it felt like.

When I moved to New York in my early 20's, I gained weight thanks to an office job, amazing restaurants on every corner, ordering in every lunch break, and cold weather that destroyed my will to work out. A move to Miami and the option to run on the beach took care of the issue at that time. Ten years later or so, by this time living in St. Louis, I changed size again, this time because my admittedly lucky metabolism slowed down in my 30's (oh, ok, fine, and another period of no desire to exercise). This time, there was no reverting back to smaller sizes.

mindful closet - on wearing clothes that fit

It's the worst feeling when your clothing is tight, rubs, doesn't button, or makes you feel self-conscious. You end up only wearing one or two things because they are more forgiving. There's a simple solution: buy new clothes. I remember how I felt when I gave in and did it both of the times I mention above. It's such a relief. You feel lighter. In my experience, you actually feel better about yourself, just because there's nothing cutting into your waist or bustline, accentuating what you don't need to be constantly thinking about. When you feel better about yourself, you're in a positive place and can more easily be motivated to make changes if necessary. However, I'd like to point out that women's bodies naturally change throughout life. Sometimes you just change sizes and nothing needs to be done except
accept it.

Why do we resist buying new things in a new size? We don't want to spend the money, we're sure we'll get back to the weight we were when we bought those clothes, we think we can make do, we haven't accepted we might permanently be a new size?

This time around, it took me a few days of not recognizing what was going on before I bit the bullet and bought things that made me feel comfortable and attractive. And it worked! I was so happy to look in my closet again and see options! I felt comfortable in my clothes, which made me feel comfortable in my skin. If you're really in a transitional phase, you don't need to buy all the clothes, but you need enough to get you to the next stage or season. You shouldn't have to suffer for a summer because that's how long you need to adjust.

mindful closet - bookhou at home bag

After bringing in the new stuff, I did a mini-purge of anything that was bought only for maternity and never worked. Then I moved any clothes that I was keeping but that didn't currently fit into the basement. I did this once at the mid-way point of my pregnancy, but it was time to do it again, since I was past being able to wear much of it. This is actually one of my biggest pieces of advice. I tell my clients all of the time, but am not sure I've mentioned it much here on the blog: get the stuff that doesn't fit out of your sight. Preferably in another closet or the basement. Every second you spend looking at an item and remembering why you can't wear it is wasted time and bad energy. It also forces you to use brainpower and decision making energy that could be saved for more important topics.

At different stages of life, we have different reasons for doing this. Most of us put away our winter and summer clothes in the off-season, using the same logic - why look at it if it won't be an option to wear that day? For some people, it's just moving the formal wear out of their closet since it clearly won't be worn most days. For others, like myself and the new and expecting moms I've worked with this year, it becomes an ongoing process. I currently have only maternity clothes and post-partum clothes in my closet. Many items fall into both categories, since I've been told I'll leave the hospital looking like I'm still 5 or 6 months pregnant. I'm also starting to rotate in items that I can't wear on this particular day, but will soon be good for breastfeeding (a whole other wardrobe conversation in itself). The clothes that I love, will still work for my current lifestyle, and will eventually wear again are in the basement.

mindful closet - transition dressing

Oh, and there's a place for those pieces that you know, deep down, you won't wear again, but have special meaning. I call it a nostalgia box and lots of clients choose to use it. The shirt you wore on your first date with your husband, your high school letterman's jacket, the top you bought in Paris slightly tipsy from wine, the dress that was your mother's or grandmother's - you don't have to get rid of them, but they shouldn't live in your closet. Put them (within reason, no need to keep every t-shirt from every music festival - that's for the musicians out there) in a nice storage bin in the basement, just like you would family photos.

By following through on a few of these steps, you'll end up with a closet full of real options and less frustration when getting dressed. Any thoughts? How have you gotten through transitional phases?

(In the photos, taken on Cherokee Street, I'm wearing one of my new dresses that actually fits, old Dr. Scholl's sandals, old Need Supply necklace, and bookhou at home bag.)

five steps to a mindful wardrobe

five steps to a mindful wardrobe

So, what exactly is a mindful wardrobe? What does it look like? It's when you open your closet in the morning and you love every piece in it and every piece loves you back. It’s when getting dressed is easy and fun, not frustrating and stress-inducing. It’s when there are no longer sleepless nights worrying about whether you have the appropriate clothing for a given situation. It’s when you shop knowing exactly what you’re looking for and you make good choices. 

Believe it or not, it is possible. Here are my steps to get you on the path to enlightenment:

Step 1: Define your personal style. Before you ever get into your closet, you should know what you want to look like. This might seem unnecessary when all you’re itching to do is get in and start clearing, but it’s wasted time if you don’t do this first. For instance, if your style is boho-chic, pencil skirts are not going to get a whole lot of action and it’s better to know this going in. (Not sure what your personal style is? Check out my post on defining your style here.)

Step 2: Get rid of everything. Just kidding. Get rid of most of it though. Remember, having too many choices is draining. I like to break this down since it can be an overwhelming process, so this is the first round, the easy stuff. Here are things you should get rid of immediately:

  • Clothes from high school or college or ten years ago. If it has sentimental meaning, put it in a box. Get it out of your closet.
  • Clothes that were a gift. I know, I know, you feel like you need to wear it in the presence of the gifter. You know what? They’re big kids, they’ll have to get over it. Ask people to give you gift cards instead.
  • Hand-me-downs. Hand-me-downs are for five-year-olds (anyone else get mistaken for a boy as a kid because you were wearing your cousin’s clothes?), not for grown adults. If you didn’t choose something because you loved it, it has no place in your closet.
  • Stuff that doesn’t fit. Please please please stop hanging on to those clothes that you’ll wear when you finally get rid of that extra five pounds. Let’s face it, that might not happen for a while and when it does, these clothes will probably be outdated. Anyway, you should reward yourself with new stuff at that point!

Step 3: Going through the “maybe” pile. This is where the real willpower comes in. These are pieces that you feel like you should wear and yet you don’t. Things you’re saving for the one occasion they might be appropriate for but never happens. Things that you spent money on but never wore. Things that only go with one other piece in your wardrobe or that require purchasing something new before you can wear it. Things that make no sense for your lifestyle. Like the clothes that don’t fit, these things are not just cluttering up your closet, they’re cluttering your mind. They’re like toxic friends, spewing negative messages and inducing guilt every time you open your closet. Let them go. Tell them you are no longer going to let them intrude on your newly found zen-like state. Tell them that you can’t control their actions, but you can remove yourself from being around them.  Wait..sorry, what were we talking about? Oh right, clothes. Got side tracked into a therapy session there. Back to the point. If something’s going to get a coveted place in your closet, the answer to these three questions should be yes:

  • Do you love it? As in, so much that you want to marry it?
  • Do you feel good in it? When you look good and are comfortable in what you’re wearing, you will have a better day. You just will.
  • Is it “you”? See Step 1: define your personal style

Step 4: Make a list. After all this purging, you may realize that you have 20 tops you love and only 1 pair of pants, or vice versa. Maybe you have a closet full of cocktail dresses, but nothing to wear for real life. Make a list of what you really need and stick to it when you go shopping.

Step 5: Stop buying stuff! Seriously, if you’re buying clothes while you’re grocery shopping, it’s probably not a good idea. If it’s not on your list, you better think twice. If someone tries to give you stuff, politely decline. This is where the “mindful” part comes in, because it’s really hard to be so picky. Save your money for one beautiful blouse, rather than four impulse buys you’ll never wear. Don’t settle. You deserve better.

Too much for you to take on? Take the Making Space course and get led through the process with videos, worksheet, and a supportive Facebook group. Sign up here!