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How to Break Up with Your Clothes with No Regret

August 29, 2012

Every now and then purging your wardrobe can be a hassle in itself…almost like a job.  Like most people who plan to purge their wardrobe, you create three piles…one to keep, one to give a way, and one to toss in the garbage, but knowing which clothes to give a way, toss and keep is usually tougher than you may have bargained for. 

How do you determine which clothes to keep and which clothes to give a way?  How do you know which clothes are just plain trash?  How do you determine what is worth keeping?  First of all, some are easier to tell than others.  For instance, if the clothes are badly faded, got holes in them, the zipper is about to fall off and is broken, missing buttons that can’t be rematched with arm pit stains — obviously, these are to be thrown in the trash, period.  If you can use any of them as cleaning rags, then by all means do so. 

Some of your clothes you may discover are so out of fashion that no amount of accessorizing can bring it back into fashion…definitely to be put in the donation pile.  If you’ve recently lost weight and that dress hangs off of you, and is three sizes too big, is the first thing that pops into your mind “alteration?” Don’t even think about it!  Regardless of how pretty that dress may have been when you were three sizes larger, one thing I have learned is you get rid of all of the large clothes you had so you are not tempted to go back to that size just to wear them.  It’s happened to me!  There was a purpose of your weight loss…don’t sabbatage it.  Plus sized clothes…OUT!

Even then you’ll find yourself going back into the “give-a-way” pile wanting to keep something you really don’t want to give a way, or you go back into the “toss” pile to discover you really don’t want to throw away that old T-shirt from your Hay-Days.  But realistically, where in the scheme of your wardrobe is it going to go and what value does it bring?  The only use you’ll get out of that old T-shirt is perhaps doing yard work in it, sleeping in it, or washing the car with it.  Are you really going to slap on a pair of high heels, accessorize it and step out the door in it?  Perhaps working out in it would even be a better suit for it.  If you discover that you are spending more time in the “toss” pile and the “give-a-way” pile, then you are certainly having some separation issues you need to work out.

Clothes you keep are usually those you purchased in the last year or two, or three, up to five years ago.  If you find that you are still schlepping around clothes from the 80’s and 90’s and here it is 2012, it’s time to make a clean break and let them go.  Chances are you’re not even wearing them, or have may have only worn them once or twice when they looked nice at the time, or even not at all.  Trust me when I tell you that you won’t regret it in the end if you donate them, and no one is going to hold you accountable for your actions. In fact you’ll be doing someone else a huge favor.  What’s that saying?  “Your trash is someone else’s gain?”  It’s true, especially if you donate your still-wearable clothes to a charity bazaar, thrift store or women’s shelter.

But this just doesn’t relate to purging your wardrobe to remove clothing you longer wear, were impulse buys and you know you’re never going to wear it, and clothes that have gone through the ringer so many times that they are no longer wearable; this relates to vast wardrobe issues you may have and have concluded that you are never going to wear everything in your closet.  You probably don’t even wear 1/3 of what’s in your closet.  Think about it.  If you say you wear “everything” in your closet, I’m sure you’ll get an eyebrow raise from your peers who seem to think and believe differently.

Perhaps minimizing what you wear can mainstream your idealistic value on your wardrobe and give you an overall outlook at what you can realistically wear over a period of time.  Ask yourself, do you need 20 pairs of black slacks, 100 pairs of jeans, and several white shirts that you have so many that you’ve lost count?  How many impulse buys did you have because you liked the color or design, or the print pattern?  So many of us get caught up in that trap that we don’t realize the money we’ve wasted until time has passed and we’ve decided to explore our closet and find that there are tons of clothes at the back of the closet, in bags, or just balled up on the floor that we forgot about them and concluded they’re never going to get worn.

Holding on to those size 2 pants and you’re a size 10 now?  Honestly, do you think you’re going to drop the weight just to wear them again?  Be realistic and honest with yourself.  And what about that tank top that’s had more mileage than your car…think it’s time to say goodbye to it?   There’s no real reason to holding on to them.

In an article, How to Break Up With Your Clothes by Pierre Bastien,” the article is pretty clear about how you can actually break away from a huge wardrobe drama by wearing less clothing and no one would be none the wiser.  The beauty of it is, it’s coming from a male perspective.  Yes, ladies, even men go through what so many of us women go through with our wardrobe dilemmas.

When I first started writing this post, I had no idea that there was already an article on the subject.  In comparing notes, it’s basically the same scenario that women face on a regular basis.  We are compulsive shoppers when it comes to clothing.  We amass ourselves in fashion that at the end of the day we say, “I don’t have anything to wear to the cocktail party tonight,” while looking at five or six different dresses.  We hold on to clothing that we’ve had for decades and find that the hardest thing to do is to let it go and walk away. 

Do we keep that dress we’ve had for decades knowing it’s out of fashion or no longer fits properly, or do we let it go?  Do we keep those shoes that no longer has a sole and heel or do we try to beg the shoe repairman to fix them knowing they are unfixable?  We become so consumed with our fashion that we lose sight of how much money we actually spend when the truth is we are never going to wear everything in our closet.  It’s just impossible.

A test would be to pull the clothing you’ve purchased in the last year and see how much clothing is left in the closet.  Chances are you could probably do away with the rest if the year’s worth of clothing measured up to what was left hanging or lying around.  It would be a real eye opener and make you really think that perhaps you are buying way too much clothes.  If you just wore those clothes you bought in the last year and not shopped for clothes in one year, can you think of the money you would have saved?  It’s staggering, considering that some of your clothes are likely to be name brand.

Over the years we accumulate so many clothes that we utilize every available space in the house when our closet is full to the brim.  At some point we need to know how to say “enough” and make it a point to wear what we spent so much time buying.  I had eight plus years worth of clothes and shoes in my closet, going as far back to the mid 1980’s to the late 1990’s.  The majority of them coming from thrift stores and someone’s garage in the 1990’s.  In 2005 I went through my closet and got rid of everything from 2004 back, including all the thrift store items.  What all I did not donate to thrift stores or charity bazaars, I tossed. 

I gave away coats and jackets to the elementary school my daughter grew out of, gave jackets and coats to homeless men and women, and just made a clean sweep of them.  With all the clothes I’ve given away, I can now say I have gotten down to five years of clothes in my closet and every six month I am giving clothes a way and I have no regrets.

How do you make a clean break with your clothes with no regrets?  At the beginning I said that the your clothes should total up to the last five years, and if you are carrying around clothes years/decades prior to that, it’s time to let them go.  Well, lets take it one step further.  After you’ve determined what’s trash, what’s to be donated, and what’s being kept…take one years worth of clothes and make this the set of clothes what you’re going to wear for one year.  That includes evening wear, work clothes, shoes, etc. and wear them for one year and do not go shopping for a period of one year.  If I can last six months without shopping when I first did the experiment, you can certainly go one year.  

At the end of one year you will probably realize that you’ve had more money to pay bills, buy food, tend to your kids school needs, give your kids lunch money, get your hair and/or nails done, put gas in the car and/or buy metro passes, pay your credit card bills, and pay your mortgage without squeezing other accounts to make up for what you spent on clothing and shoes.

If at the end of one year you realize how much of an eye-opening experience this was and it gave you some value and you actually learned from it; that you can utilize your entire closet after this experiment, then you have passed the test.  But if after one year you have suffered major withdrawals from having not gone shopping, and you can’t wait to get back in the stores to load up on more clothes and shoes, etc., you still have work to do, but it’s not a bad thing.  It’s just obvious that this experiment took you to a whole different place in your thought process.

The moral of this post is break away from clothes that are not being worn that someone else can benefit from.  Make a clean break and feel good about the contribution you’re making to those who are less fortunate than you.  Utilize what you have before you go out spending money on clothes you don’t necessarily need.  Before you go and give department stores your hard-earned money, pull up a chair in front of your closet and make a list, and go shopping in your closet.  You’d be surprised at what you find.

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