The Emotions of Stuff : Clothing



This is part two in a six part series on de-cluttering.

Welcome back to my series on the Emotions of Stuff. Yesterday’s post was a bit of an intro into why  we have such strong feelings about our belongings. Going forward, I’m going to revisit the different categories of my journey through the emotions of stuff with Marie Kondo’s method. Maybe, by sharing some of struggles that I went through, someone else journey will be a little easier.

When I first decided to declutter my home, it was because I felt fed up and out of control with my surroundings.  I really thought I had just gotten sloppy and when I cleaned things up, life would be different.

And it was different.

It’s been life-changingly different.

I just didn’t have a clue about the journey I would take to get there.

And I didn’t understand that in committing to this journey my internal changes would be hands down greater than any outward decluttering I could do.

Marie Kondo in the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up breaks down her decluttering method into very simple steps: create a vision for your life and home; purge first then organize; purge by category (only in this order: clothing, books. papers, komono, and sentimental items); select things to keep by how they spark joy and the need you have for the item; thank the items you are discarding; then finally, organize the remainder, and make sure everything has a permanent  place to live.. By staying with the order of categories, you will hone your joy skills.  By the time you get to the sentimental category you will have gained a lot of self knowledge about your past choices and the decisions should be easier.

Well, maybe.

When I started tidying my clothing, I figured this would be a simple category to do.  I thought I didn’t have a lot of clothes, just ask my hubby! I also thought that it would be easy because I just wasn’t “into” clothing.  It made sense to me that this would be the area to start, because it was like a warm up for things to come.

But when I pulled everything out, and I mean everything, from every nook and cranny I could find, it filled  the bed and  spilled onto the floor. That was my first shock. I had a lot more things than I thought, and used.

I separated my clothing into subcategories because I thought it would be simpler for me. And it was.  As I did that, I tossed out things with paint stains and holes that couldn’t be repaired. No real emotions yet, I was just clearing the trash.

No emotions; that is, until I picked up my first thing.  It was a dress, and I really don’t wear dresses.  My lifestyle is casual and an occasion that calls for a dress or skirt are few and far between.  I really wasn’t sure what I felt when I picked up that dress.  I liked the color. But I really didn’t know if it fit well, because, truthfully, I had never, ever tried it on.

I had a lot of clothes like that.  When the experts say that we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time, they were describing me.  I hated trying things on in the store.  Those fitting rooms with 4 big mirrors and bright lights catching you from every angle and showing every flaw intimidated the heck out of me.  Even with the soft background music and helpful sales people, I want to spend as little time as I could shopping for clothes.

I also felt like my apple shaped body had betrayed me.  It was hard to find things that fit well and looked good. It was hard to find clothes that “skimmed the contours” of my shape. Things that did, looked baggy or too tight in other places.  Usually when I found something I liked, I just got more of the same, and wore a type of uniform.

So, back to figuring out if this dress sparked joy. I hemmed and hawed a good 30 minutes about that first dress. I avoided it. I walked out of the room, made a cup of tea and congratulated myself on emptying the closet.  I did anything I could think of to avoid trying on that dress.  Finally, I tried it on.  Actually it wasn’t bad. It was a little long, but I could fix that.  It was ok around my waist, just a little straight. But I thought it had possibilities. So I decided to keep it.  Eventually I did hem it and put a few tuck in to give it a more flattering shape. I have worn it a time or two for special events, so I’m glad I saved it.

I kept one other dress and a couple of skirts that I liked and put the rest aside to go into the donation bag.  I struggled with thanking them.  Most of the things in the bag had never been worn.  I berated myself for wasting money, even on the sale items.  I was angry because these were things that would stare at me from my closet every morning, and each time I would see them, I felt guilty about the money I had spent.  I felt stupid and could not understand why I should thank my clothes for feeling like that.

I went on to tops and sweaters.  That was a welcome break, because I was wearing most of those.  But I did find things that I had never worn.  Some were too tight or too baggy or the wrong color for me.  Others were gifts that I had never worn because they just weren’t my style.  Those were easy to bag up.  I still had not thanked them because I  didn’t see the point. I was feeling like a failure with my past choices.  I couldn’t yet see that I was learning a lot of  things about myself. Right now, I just felt angry.

What confused me even more though were the things that I wore often.  When I put those things on, I felt nothing.  No joy, no sadness, just blah.   I thought I was doing something was wrong.  Where was that feeling of intense joy?  I’d had very strong reactions to the other things I had tried on. I didn’t know what I was feeling now.

Maybe I just needed a break.

So I stopped for a bit. Actually, I took a couple of days off from it.  The clothing category had worn me out.  I remember thinking that if every category was like this, then I would be tidying for the next 10 years.  It was depressing to think about. I was in no hurry to get back to it.

But the clothes that had been on my bed after sorting that day, had been shoved to the floor when I went to sleep that night. And there they stayed.  The feelings of guilt I had about clean clothes sitting in a wrinkled heap finally broke me down. I continued on with the clothing category. It turned out there wasn’t much left to do.  But, I took my time and thought about my choices.

Pants! I had a limited number of those, but there still things I didn’t wear because they were too tight in the waist or too baggy in the seat. I had saved them because I planned on altering them. I had good intentions, but I never acted on them. I also had hoped I’d lose weight for a few of them, but honestly the pants were the wrong shape and no matter how much weight I lost, my basic shape would be the same.  Out they went.

Socks, under things, and pajamas were so much easier to do. I got rid of a few things, but most of what I had was fine.

In the end, I was struck with what I had gone through: the anger, self loathing, frustration, and sadness. What I thought was a simple process, wasn’t.  I did learn a lot, but I was so glad that category was done!

For me clothing was a lesson on how I viewed myself. It was a mixed bad of tricks on just how I felt.

  • I didn’t like my body shape and I blamed myself for it.
  • If the clothing didn’t fit, I saw it as my fault and not the clothing.
  • I stuck to uniforms because I liked the ease and simplicity of getting dressed.
  • I was intimidated by my clothing, especially dresses.
  • I tended to choose practical outfits because they suited my life, but I didn’t have a lot of nice outfits to wear.
  • I didn’t have a lot of “style.”
  • I wanted to know what my “style” was.
  • I spent a lot of money on clothing that I never wore and that made me angry at myself.
  • I realized that even when I bought something new that I liked it took forever for me to wear it.
  • I didn’t wear what nice clothing I had because I didn’t think I was worth it. (I know, I know it isn’t true, but it was how I saw myself at the time).
  • I used my clothing to punish myself for not being perfect. Things would sit in my closet. I would see them everyday and know that I wasn’t able to wear them.

I was pretty shocked when I saw what a skewed vision I had of myself. I know my loved ones didn’t see me that way. So why did I?

I didn’t have any fast answers on why, or how to fix it, but the knowledge of how I saw myself, helped me to move forward a little.

Not once during this first category did I think about my vision plan. I guess that was probably because my plan didn’t have much depth and wasn’t very personal.  My plan was simply to have a house I could invite friends into and a was easy to keep clean. As soon as I got into the nitty gritty of tidying, the plan fell a part.

I decided I needed to revisit my vision plan. I was emotionally  wrung out from just doing my clothes.  I had thought more about my self worth and dreams during the last few days than I had thought about in years.  This process was so much more than just clearing the junk from my house.  It was clearing my soul, too.

As I took the rest of my non-joy clothing and put it into the donation bags, I realized I was no longer angry about what I was giving up. I had 7 huge bags to donate. Yeah my original assessment of not having a lot of clothes was way off.  I looked in each bag before I closed it for the last time.  I wasn’t looking for anything to keep.  I wasn’t changing my mind.  I had made my choices of what to keep and I was fine with them. No, I looked into each bag to remind myself of what I had learned.

I looked into each bag to see who I had been and who I was now, and to say thank you and goodbye to the things that had brought me to this first step into change.

As tired as I was, I was glad that I started.

Now, on to books!








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