Clearing out stuff

detailed blue plastic bag for collecting garbage and bin on a colored background, top view

The look of sheer panic and dread in the eyes when I suggest letting go of clothes that someone hasn’t worn for years… Does the idea of this trigger your fears? Letting go can be a real problem for certain people. Granted, so many of us grew up in times when ‘waste not want not’ was shoved down our throats but times have changed and we simply must move with them. I have found that it is definitely an age thing; a huge section of women over 40 become emotionally attached to clothes or shoes and have a real struggle letting them go, even when they have served their purpose and fulfilled their lifespan. Younger women see, more clearly, the lifespan in an item of clothes and retire them accordingly when they either no longer fit or the wear and tear is starting to show. My advice is ‘be brutal’ and there is no better time of the year to clear out ‘stuff’ than in January. 

January was named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions and protector of gates and doorways. He is depicted with two faces, one looking into the past, the other into the future. In ancient Roman times, the gates of the temple of Janus were open in times of war and closed in times of peace. It makes so much sense then that January is the month where we can draw back in order to regroup and get ready to face the year ahead. It is a time for reflection, peace and purification. Having spent the last few years knee deep in the world of Neuroscience, it never ceases to amaze me how much better all of our lives would be if it became part of our childhood teachings. Focus and clear thinking is impossible if you are surrounded by clutter…there it is in a nutshell. Not alone is having ‘piles’ of clothes a waste of time (constantly having to sort through everything to find what you need), it is definitely not the key to having a successful working wardrobe. More does not always mean better and a clever eye and well-thought-out plan to ‘cull’ is one of the best things that you can do for your wardrobe, your life and, most importantly, your mind.

Use this month to assess what you have and, like Janus, reflect back on how much you have used certain clothes, or not, while also looking forward realistically,  on whether you will ever wear or use them again. Not for one second am I telling you to just dump stuff; I’m asking you to let go of what you don’t need. In the world of Neuroscience, the brain is constantly assessing and eliminating all perceived threats, in other words, the brain is looking for safety and peace and, like a small child, likes to be rewarded. So here is your reward, when you make space, you feel better and you can then start scanning for some glorious new bits. Getting rid of a pair of black jeans that have faded and look dull next to black is a good thing – you can treat yourself to a new pair. On the other hand, throwing away a pair of expensive winter boots just because they need some love from the shoe repair shop is downright silly. Give whatever you can to anyone that you know who you think might like to have it; this helps you to feel less panicked when you know deep down that you haven’t worn something and that it’s unlikely that you ever will. I’ve done that so many times and it is a delight to see someone you care about wearing it, looking great in it, and loving it far more than you ever did!

Bin all of the excuses! Now why would you deprive yourself of buying/borrowing something new? This kind of thinking goes far beyond the matter of not having the money to replace something, there is also the thought process behind whether or not you deserve to have something new or better…try to remind yourself of that. As Irish women go, we are great at convincing ourselves that something ‘will do’. Even the tone you use when you say ,’it will do’ is somewhat self-sacrificing, isn’t it?  We have sacrificed enough in the last few years, so we all deserve everything that this wonderful world can give us, even if we have to seek it out and pay for it ourselves. 

I really hope that reading this will help to get you into the right mindset to have a good old clear-out. It will be good for your soul and a tonic for the mind. Don’t overwhelm yourself, just pick sections of your wardrobe, take your time and always celebrate if you fill a bag of goodies to give away or pass on, especially if it is because something no longer fits you. If it hasn’t fit you in quite a while, let it go, if you haven’t worn it in the last few years, let it go; and keep reminding yourself that holding on to it is a constant reminder that you are NOT wearing it and is in fact a bit of a dig at yourself! It’s ok to have a small bag of ‘will I/won’t I ‘let it go’ – you can hold on to that bag for about a week and reassess but most of time you will be happy to let everything in that bag go. 

We all have friends with young kids and young kids love costume jewellery and high heels so make a date with yourself to fill some bags of bits that you no longer use, especially those skyscraper heels that never even made it from ‘the car to the bar’! They will bring the biggest smile to the littlest of faces and open the doors to a world of imagination and fun.

And of course the most wonderful part of re-organising and reducing your wardrobe is when you re-discover those gems that you had forgotten you had, treasures that re-invent themselves and love you more every time you put them on but somehow you had forgotten all about. The entire culling process was worth it now, wasn’t it?

Happy New Year, try to find the ‘happy’ in everything and in every place and if you are feeling a slow and a bit tired and reflective, that’s ok, take your time because that’s what January is all about! Spring will slowly and surely come and resuscitate you. You have lots of wonderful clothes and bright colours to look forward to, I promise you that… 

Louise O'Dwyer

Louise O'Dwyer is an Image consultant based in West Cork

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