Unworn Clothing: How to Love It or Let It Go

August 10, 2012

What’s standing (or should I say hanging) between you and a great wardrobe? Believe it or not, it’s not lack of time, a limited budget or the fact that you would rather have a root canal than go shopping. Rather, it’s…drumroll please…all those lonely, neglected, despised or forgotten garments that have taken up permanent residence in your closet.

You may remember from “10 Reasons You Have Too Many Clothes,” why many women suffer from an overstuffed closet. The question now is what can you do about it? How do you know when to keep something or let it go? One thing is for sure: If you cannot clearly evaluate and honestly understand why a garment doesn’t work for you, you’ll keep hanging on to it hoping that someday you’ll find a reason or need to wear it. But (and this is really important), you will not miss it if you feel absolutely clear about why it won’t ever work for you. Not to mention that this gives you super valuable information for your next shopping trip.

So many women say to me, “But, it’s in good condition. I barely wore it.” Or, “I paid a lot of money for it so I have to find a way to wear it.” They are convinced that those are reasons enough to keep it. They are not. Everyone has a different idea of what is too much or too little, and how much you paid for something does not influence whether it looks good on your or not. Of course, the more you understand about what works in your wardrobe, the less likely you will be to waste money (of any amount) on things you don’t wear. The ultimate goal, with every garment, is to wear it so much that the price per wear becomes negligible…no matter what the original cost.

If you spent a lot of money on something that doesn’t suit you, now is the time to cut your losses, learn from the experience and allow something fabulous to come into your closet that you do wear a lot (and, let’s not forget this part…that you enjoy wearing). Once you understand why it doesn’t work the chance of you repeating that kind of expensive mistake again drops dramatically.

I totally understand that your closet might not change without some serious intervention, so let’s get started!

Let me say, first of all, that if your closet is overflowing with unworn clothes, you’ll want to take this one baby step at a time or you won’t do it. You know that’s true because you haven’t done it yet, right? The job feels daunting, not even a little bit fun and just downright overwhelming. On most days, you try to get in and out of your closet as quickly as possible as possible so you don’t have to acknowledge the situation. But, with this newfound information, you’ll see the results right away.

I’m going to walk you through the steps to empower you to move an item out with grace and ease when it’s clear it is no longer serving you. Ready, set, go!

1. Take one item that you’re not wearing out of your closet, put the item on (yes, put it on!) and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the color look great (not okay, decent or good enough, but great!) on you?
  • Does it fit you right now?
  • Is it in good condition or are you willing to do any necessary repairs (this includes de-wrinkling, a.k.a., ironing!)?
  • Does it have fond memories or at least no disturbing memories attached to it? (Please note that fond memories alone are not enough reason to keep it (at least not in your every day closet). If it has fond memories and it’s a great color, fits you, etc. then keep going. Otherwise, move it to another closet and admire it and enjoy the memories there.)
  • Does it work with your current lifestyle needs? So many times I’ve seen women keep clothes from their corporate days many years after they’ve needed them…just in case. If it has been more than a year, move them out.
  • Is it comfortable? If not, and the cause of discomfort cannot be remedied, it goes away.
  • Do you love it? This actually should be the first question but there’s a lot to consider here so keep reading.

That was step number 1. If you can say a resounding (not pitiful whimper) yes to ALL of these questions, you may move to round 2. If you said no to any of them, it goes in the go away pile (and we’ll talk about that more in a minute).

For all of you who just did that exercise without putting the garment on and chose to put the item back in your closet even though you haven’t worn it in eons (you know who you are!), take it out and ask yourself this:

  • Can you make a complete outfit with it? If not, ask yourself these questions:
  • How long have you had it? (If it’s more than 2 years since you’ve worn it, it automatically goes in the “go away” pile.)
  • Did it used to have another piece that went with it? This happens often. You buy a pretty print skirt, for example, and the top to go with it and then the top gets a hole or a stain and you have to discard it. This leaves you with half of an old outfit and no way to complete it. Chances are 10 to 1 you never will. (Again, if you’ve had it for more than 2 years, it automatically goes in the “go away” pile.)
  • If you are still reluctant to let it go, you absolutely must put it on. Believe me, your mind can play funny tricks on you and if it has fond memories associated with the garment you’ll feel compelled to keep it…until you see it on. At least 85% of the time, it turns out the garment is not as fabulous as you remember (and that’s not to say it wasn’t fabulous at some point but it had its day and this isn’t it). Perhaps it fits your body differently (or maybe not at all). It might feel “old” – like it came from a different era. And, often times you discover it has a stain, a tear or some defect that makes it less likely that you can still wear it. This is all invaluable information that you often won’t get without having the garment on your body.

Why go through all of this? Because it’s a thousand times easier to give something to charity, take it to a consignment shop or discard it if you know it will never work for you. There’s a freedom that comes with that awareness and once your closet is cleared of all the unworn and unwearable clothes, your mind and heart will feel lighter.

If you put something in the go away pile and you’re experiencing heart palpitations worrying that you’ll miss it, relax. There is an interim step that will give you some ease. Simply pack the items away in an empty closet or plastic bins in the attic. Most importantly, get them out of your every day closet. That way, if you decide you miss it you know exactly where it is. I can easily predict that 99-100% of the time you won’t miss something for even one second.

As you can see from all of this, if things just sit in your closet, you need to find out why before you take the next step to create a wardrobe you love. If after asking yourself all these questions you are still unsure about some pieces then it is time to get some objective, preferably expert, assistance. Sometimes you are just too close to the situation to be objective yourself or you just need some expert validation that you are making the right decision for the right reasons, and with a little support and guidance it all becomes crystal clear.

So, keep going. You’ll gain momentum the more you are able to understand what’s working and what’s not. In fact, make this a regular exercise so you don’t end up every year or two with a closet full of unworn clothes. Assess your situation on a regular basis and you’ll be getting dressed with joy and ease every day. Ahhh, can you just feel the relief!

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