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Trying to let go – What a closet purge taught me about myself

July 28, 2010

Me, on a rickety old boat in India, in one of my favourite skirts

Recently, a friend (who likes to shop more than I do) gave me three large bags full of great, almost new, hand-me-down clothes. It felt like Christmas, especially since many of them look better on me than a lot of the clothes I already owned.

Because I’m a bit of a pack-rat, I didn’t have alot of room in my closet or dresser for this windfall. So last night was purge time. As best I could, I tried to be ruthless and let go of anything that a.) I hadn’t worn for awhile, or b.) didn’t really enjoy wearing even if it was recent.

The clothes I packed up for goodwill fit into three categories:

  • Clothes that are too baggy because my body has changed OR because I’d convinced myself that an overweight woman like me shouldn’t wear fitted clothes.
  • Clothes that used to fit me a size or two ago, that I still really like, and that I hope to fit into again some day.
  • Clothes that I never really liked the look or feel of (once I had them home from the store and on my body), or that didn’t really suit my personality, but that I felt guilty about getting rid of because I’d invested money in them.

That list says a lot about the things that I hang onto:

  • Old ideas about myself and how I should or shouldn’t dress or I should or shouldn’t look.
  • Unrealistic ideals about what I want to look like “some day”, coupled with dissatisfaction over how I look RIGHT NOW.
  • Guilt and unhelpful attachment to choices I shouldn’t have made.
  • Shame over being the size I am right now and always a longing to be something different.
  • Feeling that it’s wrong to want to look my very best, and that some days I should just be satisfied with boring, poorly fitted clothes.
  • The sense that if I hang onto worn out, baggy, or not-quite-right clothes, I am fitting into the image I’ve painted of myself as a frugal/earthy person who doesn’t want to use up too much of the earth’s resources for her own consumption.
  • The idea that I’m supposed to dress a certain way (professional/practical/conservative/not-too-loud/not-too-sexy) to fit certain roles I have in my life and to ensure I don’t offend anyone or rock the boat.

That’s a lot of baggage I’m trying to pack away in those goodwill bags. No, I’m not idealistic enough to believe that a one-time purge will allow me to shake all of those old ideas, but I have to start somewhere.

Here are some of the new ideas I’m trying to replace them with:

  • It’s okay to look great, feel great, (and maybe even a little sexy!) and enjoy what I’m wearing.
  • My style is somewhere in the range of eclectic/colourful/global/bohemian/wanderer/artist – and THAT’S THE WAY I DRESS!
  • I am a good steward of the earth’s and my own resources AND I appreciate and value the beauty and comfort in what the earth has provided for me.
  • I look good and feel good the way my body is RIGHT NOW, even if it’s far from society’s ideals.
  • It’s okay to be who I am and let that shine through the clothes I put on my body.
  • Old choices are in the past and I can let them go without guilt.
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10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2010 10:37 am

    Yes! Yes! and Yes! To the last part at least! My biggest one is hanging on because I invested money in the clothes even though, as you wrote, they didn’t feel or look right or good when I got them home. That says alot to and about me. Where are my investments? Thanks for the food for thought.

  2. July 28, 2010 10:42 am

    I love this post. It really speaks to me and the way I beat myself up all the time. I love the way you have written about this so simply and formulated your new ideas. I’m going to try to do them too. Especially number 4. You might like to go and explore http://www.stylestatement.com (or get the book) it helped me to really pin down what my style is in an amazing way. You look gorgeous in your photo, the kind of woman I’d make a beeline for at a party.
    Dawn 🙂

  3. July 28, 2010 10:48 am

    There is so much in this post, Heather. It is packed. Really.

    The thing I have had to learn to accept about ME is that I am a very simple sort of animal. 🙂

    I WANT all that glitter and craziness (see gala darling) but then I put it on and feel like I am a walking hanger and not a person. Oh well…

    🙂

  4. July 28, 2010 10:58 am

    Heather,
    This is a lovely post. I also seem to cycle through these mindsets about who I should be vs. who – – – ? Major identity issues circle around weight and personal appearance in my life and have for a very long time. Every time I see another woman give herself permission to let go of this baggage it encourages me greatly. Thank you so much for your beautiful post.
    Kirsten

  5. July 28, 2010 11:22 am

    How this post resonated with me! I am constantly reframing myself through my wardrobe: right now I’m a 20-pounds overweight author who’s about to jump back into the gym-power walking-yoga every day routine that I abandon and begin again.

    I’ve just finished my first solo book project (well, almost – but I got the Book Proposal out there today; and the book is so close to being done that I can see the finish line) and as I feel around for what’s next, the little voice keeps echoing up: Wellness, exercise, you….

    What I love about your post was the way that you observed your own process, listening to the dialogue of your inner critic and met it with a gentle response from you inner “I am”

    FInishing things is so powerful. Letting go of the past is, too.
    Good luck! I’ll be joining you on this journey. Subscribing right now!

  6. July 28, 2010 11:49 am

    Wow, Heather. I want to say something profound, but I’m quite frankly too blown away to do so. Amazing post. I see so much of myself, and many others I know, in here.

    I also did the clothing purge recently and it’s amazing to realize what’s released along with the garments themselves.

  7. July 28, 2010 1:23 pm

    Heather,
    I’m going to print this and tape it on the closet wall–a closet full of clothes that don’t fit in various ways. And then, baby steps.
    Thanks,
    Angela

  8. July 29, 2010 7:01 am

    This is such a lovely post of letting go, letting come.
    Thank you for reminding me to revisit my ‘closet’ and take a critical look.
    Love
    Mihirini

  9. July 30, 2010 7:13 am

    Great post! Wow!
    Warning: overshare coming…

    Ok, here it is. I’ve always been really small busted, and in recent months, my bust size has increased. Significantly. Like, almost tow cup sizes.

    I can’t TELL you how many weird self-image things that’s bringing up for me.
    None of my tops fit. Except my ‘fat’ ones. Now, no other part of me has changed, just the bust. But yet, in my head, I hear myself saying, ‘oh, I guess I have to wear one of the fat tops then…’

    Yup. You hit the nail on the head with this post!

  10. August 2, 2010 4:52 am

    Everyone is different. I love a woman who loves to dress on the slightly flamboyant side. There are lots of capes, shawls and whatnots in her closet.

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