The Purge (No, not that one)

Last weekend, because it was the beginning of October, I asked my partner if he would bring down from the attic the storage bin that holds my fall and winter clothes. I realize as I’m writing this that it makes me sound a lot like a fancy person who has a lot of clothes that I have to sort and store by season but the truth is less glamourous: we just don’t have a lot of storage/closet space.

Like most older homes, ours is lacking in closets. There are no closets on the main floor at all. There are two in the bedrooms on the second floor. Both of these are built under the stairs that lead to the attic, so these so-called closets are oddly shaped and extremely small, almost unusable. We have added wardrobes to hold clothes in those rooms. The third bedroom has no closet at all and no room for a wardrobe.

So, every “season” (I use season loosely here, honestly) I box up the clothes I won’t be wearing for several months and take them to the attic.

And while I don’t seem to have a lot of clothes, this storage bin has been getting heavier each time I empty and fill it. It’s your standard sized Rubbermaid tote, you probably know the one, and it’s always kind of exciting to be reunited with the clothes that I haven’t seen for some time, like old friends.

“Oh, there’s that dress that I love, you’re looking great!” Or, “I forgot I bought you, lovely sweater, just at the end of the season, and we had so little time together! How nice to see you again!” And it’s so nice to wash and dry them and hang them up and anticipate wearing them once the weather turns cooler.

But then, inevitably, there are those few items that return to me via the Rubbermaid bin that are less like old lovely friends and more like the toxic relatives at family gatherings. The ones that make things awkward and make you uncomfortable but you can’t escape them. These items, well, they are a bit more complicated.

And maybe if you’ve read this far you know what I’m talking about, your head might be nodding right along because you too have these items of clothing that present challenges to you, to your wellbeing. And if so, this is for you.

In the past when I’ve done the seasonal switcheroo with my clothes, I’ve pulled things out and made decisions based on qualitative data. Saying things like, “Oh I love this dress” or “Yes, this is still so cute” or using anecdotes like, “I wore this to that concert and had the BEST time!” But what I wasn’t doing was looking at the quantitative data, the measurable data, the data that can be used for statistical analysis. So my research was flawed. (I work in a medical academic library, I’m so sorry.)

Basically I was going by feelings. And in other non-research language: I was not trying things on.

And this was a HUGE error on my part. And really WHY on earth would I take the time to wash, dry, and hang clothes that didn’t fit me? Because the plan used to be that one day they WILL fit me, that they are the INSPIRATIONAL items of clothing and they will REMIND me daily that they don’t fit but that they SHOULD fit. If only I could be better.

And if you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I’ve been on a journey for the past several years to avoid this kind of thinking in a lot of areas of my life. But for whatever reason, when it came to the clothes in my wardrobe, my brain just didn’t get the memo.

And so these dresses and jackets and things would hang there, and when I would go to get dressed for work or for an event I would see them, just hanging there. Unwearable for me today. But maybe next week or next month they would see the light of day. If I could just be better.

And it’s madness, isn’t it?

And so this time when John carried the bin downstairs and put it in our bedroom for me, I attacked it with a plan and an evidence-based plan at that. (Again, sorry.)

This time I brought a large garbage bag with me and every item I took out of the box, I tried on. And if it didn’t fit on Saturday, it went into the bag for donation.

It was probably the WORST day to try on clothes because it was hot and muggy and if you’ve ever spent an hour or more trying on clothes in a mall or a department store you KNOW how awfully sweaty you can get. My lighting was better, but that’s really the only difference. Nevertheless, I continued until I had tried on everything in that bin. And I was ruthless.

At the end, I had about five or six dresses, tunics, etc. that I was keeping and nearly three-quarters of a bag of things to donate. And eliminating some of those things made me sad, I’m not going to lie. Clothing can be tied to so many memories, and it can be hard to let go. The dress I wore to a good friend’s wedding; the one I wore when I presented at my first conference. Both had to go.

It also might feel wasteful or fiscally irresponsible. “I bought these things with actual money, now it’s down the drain!” But the reality is a dress that hangs in a closet unworn for season after season after season is already money down the drain, isn’t it.

After the bin, I attacked my current clothes, my warm weather clothes, and did the same thing. That exercise filled the garbage bag to the top and then some.

And how overwhelmingly freeing to see not a wardrobe bursting with clothing that makes me say “Maybe one day…” but to instead see a neat row of STUFF I WILL ACTUALLY WEAR on a regular basis. And how much better for my mental health to not look at all those clothes and then judge myself for reaching for the same four items because they are the only things that truly fit.

It’s a task I should have done years ago, of course, but I wasn’t ready for it then. Then, it felt like admitting failure, admitting defeat. I was ready for it Saturday. On Saturday it felt like a triumph.

And, it turns out, I don’t have too many clothes. What I had was a wardrobe overstuffed with dreams and sadness. And now I don’t. And my mood, my mental health, everything, is better for it.

So, if you can, I encourage you all to fill your closets with loving friends and purge them of toxic relatives. You deserve to be free. And comfortable.

I eliminated SEVERAL ill-fitting party dresses during The Purge, so I bought a new one that fits perfectly. It is from Desserts & Skirts and I absolutely LOVE it.

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