Why do we have so many clothes?
Have you ever noticed that you have several clothing items in your closet that you never wear? In fact, I would be willing to bet that you wear 20% of your clothing 80% of the time. I am sure you are like me and at “laundry time” you have nothing to wear despite the fact that your closet is full of clothes! What is the issue? All of your favorites are in the laundry and even though you have all of those clothes in your closet, they aren’t what you want to wear. So why are all of those clothes hanging there, taking up quite valuable real estate, when you don’t wear them and you certainly don’t love them?
This is actually quite a complicated phenomenon with several issues at play, but here, I’ll discuss one main issue. Let’s begin by considering what clothing means to us and what it represents. At it’s most basic level, clothing is an outward sign of our identity in some way. When you go shopping you think, “this is me” - as in this item represents my taste, my values, my sensibilities in some way - or “this is not me” - as in this item is not me at all and I would feel uncomfortable wearing it. We are drawn to approach certain items and we are repelled to avoid certain items. For example, I avoid and am strongly repelled by strapless tops because they stress me out. I wonder how it will be possible to wear a bra, be comfortable, have freedom of movement when wearing something like that (unless it’s a bathing suit and in that case, I like the idea of no tan lines - but alas it would have to have optional straps). Also, it’s just plain unflattering on me given my larger bust size. FYI - if you have a larger bust, strapless is something you should consider avoiding. Ultimately, our clothing says something about who we are - let’s call this our actual self - and the clothing we purchase also says something about who we would like to be.
Shopping is a very future oriented task. If you think about it, when you go shopping to buy something, you are buying it for use in the future, so many ideas about how you would like that future to be are guiding your decisions. Sometimes that future is highly romanticized. “I’ll buy the smaller size because I’m planning on losing weight and this will fit eventually.” Or “I’ll buy that fancy evening gown for a future special occasion, despite the fact the last time I needed an evening gown was at my high school prom 15 years ago.” Or "I’ll buy this great coat at the end of the winter season because it’s so deeply discounted (SALE! SALE! SALE!)”, thinking how great that coat will be next year…even though by then our tastes may change and we may never end up really liking that coat. But we all do this in our minds! We rationalize the purchase by romanticizing the future meaning of that item because it represents some possible future version of our self that we would like - let’s call this our future self.
And then there are many items in our closets because we have trouble letting them go. They represent something from our past, likely something positive about our past - let’s call this our past self. “This was my favorite tshirt in college and I love it!” In reality, you love the memories you made while wearing that tshirt and it’s hard to let go. Or “I’ll keep these jeans that don’t fit anymore and they can be my skinny jeans that I hope to get back into after I lose the weight.” The problem with this one is that you will always compare your current body to those jeans and you will always feel inadequate about yourself every time they don’t fit. They will make you feel like a failure…and a fat ass. I think having smaller sizes and larger sizes in your closet is dangerous. Larger sizes are difficult too because keeping these items after losing weight gives you a sense of ease later when you want to binge - “Well, I always have some wiggle room with my weight because I still have those larger sizes so I’ll still have clothes to wear if I gain weight back.” Believe me, I’ve been there! If you are going to keep something that doesn’t fit, whether too small or too large, keep it stored somewhere else, some place where you aren’t confronted with the item daily or easily. You will feel more at east when confronting your closet each day.
So you see, our closets represent a more dynamic picture or who we are - the many facets of our identity. In our closets we are facing on a regular basis, our actual self (the great items that work and that we like), our future self (the items we think will work at some point in our romanticized future vision), and our past self (who we used to be). So when you go to your closet full of clothes with nothing to wear, what you are really facing is the fact that none of those items represent your actual self - those items are in the laundry because you’ve been wearing them.
So how do you get more items to represent your actual self, items you will actually wear on a regular basis? One way is to begin shopping more consciously. Chose items you love rather than an okay item that’s on sale (sales are a whole other dynamic to be discussed later). Think about who that future self really is and how the item fits into your lifestyle. Does the item seem highly likely to represent your actual self? You can also clear your closet of items that no longer fit or that you haven’t worn in over a year. If you are hesitant to say goodbye to it forever, store it somewhere else for a while. Our relationship with our clothes is complicated, and that’s okay. When you know better, you do better!