When None of Your Clothes Spark Joy: Can’t Seem to Tidy Up?

Quick! Run into your closet and pull everything out of it. Then, hug each item and only hold on to the ones that spark joy. That’s the Kondo method.

It’s a nice concept, isn’t it. Marie Kondo has taken the world by storm. I made it through one episode of her “Tidying Up” show and I was out. I didn’t need to watch anymore.

As a result, my husband went through is closet and weeded out a few more items (he already does this regularly), then he proceeded to fold all of his t-shirts into little rectangles.

I wish I could get there. But I just can’t.

See, if I went through my closet and pulled out every item that didn’t spark joy–I’d be left with my black jumpsuit, my black dress, and three cardigan sweaters.

Hello, my name is Heather, and I have a hard time getting rid of old clothes. I know I’m not the only one. My contributors wrote about this phenomenon here and I even wrote a letter to my too-small clothes here.

I’m trying to get better. Really I am. But, every year when I’m certain that Spring has “sprung” I carry a 200 pound (only a slight exaggeration) plastic tub of clothing up the stairs and begin the process of replacing the cold weather garments with the warm weather ones.

But, every year this strange thing happens.

I hang up dresses that I know don’t fit me.

I fold into the drawer shorts with a number inside that’s way too low for my current weight class.

And, I say this in my head, “I’m sure I’ll drop a few pounds this summer, then it may fit. If I do change sizes, I’ll need new clothes. It would be irresponsible and wasteful to get rid of these now and then need them later. I’m saving money this way.”

You can guess what happens next.

Every Fall, when the weather gets cold, I’ll put those same clothes back in the tub–unworn.

Clothing has a strange power over me. I hesitate to part with certain garments for two main reasons: 1) sentimental attachment or 2) the number on the little tag stitched inside. Combine them and you’ve defined a piece of clothing that could potentially hang in my closet, forever!

So, I keep the clothes that don’t fit. All of them.

  • That ridiculously small-sized cocktail dress that I fit in for one formal night (and one night, only) before pregnancy wreaked havoc on my hips,
  • Skirts that only fit during the breastfeeding-weight-loss-buzz but haven’t zipped in the 9 years since,
  • Jeans that no longer button, and
  • Those t-shirts that looked cute when I was 26 but now require a stretching ritual to reach all the way to my waist.

They each have their own story of past glory. But now they jeer at me.

They tell me I’ve gone from accepted to awkward, like the once cool kid who no longer fits in.

And they dangle there, forever, as a reminder that I’m not good enough.

“Hahaha…You’ll never fit in me again…”

They taunt and shame me.

My clothes make me feel fat. They tell me I’m not good enough.

So Why Do I Keep Them?

Most of us think about being ashamed only when naked. But, I believe, we often overlook the shame induced by our closets. We let a two centimeters high number printed onto a one inch wide tag dictate our value. And we allow the size of that cute outfit from a bygone era play the dictator in our current state of contentment.

I know I’m not alone. Okay, maybe Marie Kondo’s helping us all . . .but many of my readers and listeners are doing the same thing I do. Staring at closets full of clothes that are the wrong size.

And feeling guilty about it.

So, Marie Kondo has her rules. I’ve come up with some of my own. Our goal here is to get shame out of the closet. I guess you could say it’s an opposite strategy to Kondo’s. Instead of looking to keep what will make us happy, we can, at least, look to get rid of what’s bogging us down.

Rule One: Clean It Out to Shut it Up.

Most women have a wide enough variety of sizes hanging in their closet to open a second hand store. In the last ten years–from my wedding day through four pregnancies– I’ve worn seven different sizes. Seven! Guess which ones are the hardest to get rid of? Yes, that’s right…the smallest ones. I “appreciate” those lower numbers. Too much.

Here’s my encouragement:

Rid your closet of the extremes.

Stay within one size of what you are wearing right now, today, and get rid of the rest. If you are currently on a weight loss journey, undergoing medical treatment, or if you just had a baby then keep some of the smaller sized items, up to three sizes away, only. (Even on an aggressive weight loss plan losing three sizes in one season is a lot.)

Don’t do the “keep the smallest size as motivation” trick!

The size of whatever “motivational garment” hanging there will more likely cause discouragement than incentive. Plus, after you lose the weight it may not fit the same way it used to anyway. (Stuff moves! Nothing fits me the way it did pre-baby, even on those days when I weigh what I did back then!)

Another rule of thumb: If it hasn’t fit you in more than a year (and you weren’t pregnant or within one year postpartum) then be like Elsa and just let it go!

Seriously.

I know all of your excuses for hanging on. (I use them too.) But, try a clean sweep. Then, when that little summer dress from your glory days shouts, “Hey fatty, you aren’t as cute as you were that summer!” shut it up by ripping it off the hanger and giving it away. When none of your clothes spark joy

Rule Two: Only Buy Clothing That Fits

Are you a “shopping optimist?” I am sometimes. I find a cute item on the clearance rack that will fit “perfectly” five-to-fifteen pounds from now and bring it home where it stays hanging for years until I give up and donate it to Goodwill.

If you are a shopping optimist too, let me encourage you to stop. This is a tremendous waste of money and a great shame inducer. Buy clothing that fits you now. Not ten pounds from now.

No matter what size you wear today, there are great clothing options out there that look nice.

Don’t punish yourself by not allowing yourself to spend money on clothing in your current size!

I’ve done this, post-babies especially. Let me assure you, this is a mind game that doesn’t work. It keeps you trapped and depressed and, once again, shamed.

Instead, buy some clothing that you like and feel good in. Then should your size change, go do the same thing all over. I’m not suggesting you shop at Neiman Marcus and spend a thousand dollars through this process. Rather, let me encourage you that even with $50 at Target or on the TJ Maxx, Ross, or Marshall’s (all my faves) clearance rack, you can get a few great pieces to get you through a season in whatever size you wear, today. And, friend, that’s okay, no matter what size it is!

Here’s why…

Rule Three: Release the Shame. That Tag Doesn’t Determine Your Value.

Friends, pay no attention to the number on the tag.

It’s just a number. Though its voice may be loud and dominant. It may sound like it has authority, but it doesn’t. A size is only a size. A number. A metric by which they cut clothing.

There’s been so much manipulating and changing of sizing over the last 10 years, that number doesn’t really mean a whole lot. Your size 10 from high school may or may not be the same as today’s size 10.

No matter what the number, it’s not the metric. God’s scales don’t work like ours do. He doesn’t use that number to define your value.

We have to know and believe that God doesn’t love those who wear a size two any more than those who wear a size twenty-two. In fact, he loves you beyond (what you) measure.

And, he has a much greater plan for your life than you fitting back into the size you wore in high school.

I pray that you’ll believe that.

Your worth, your infinite value, is found in the sacrifice that Jesus paid for you. Derive your value from him, not a number, not a label, not a nostalgic piece of clothing that no longer fits like it once did.

If you have a garment you like to wear but feel ashamed because of the size on the tag, then cut the tag out. Get rid of it. You don’t really need it anyway after you leave the store. So, stop the shame from tempting you with discouragement every time you get dressed.

We started a forum on this topic a few months ago on Facebook and one reader responded with this: “Easily fifty percent (of my closet doesn’t fit). I have work to do. Not on me, the closet.”

I thought this was awesome!

Friend, you are not the problem, but your clothes may be. The good news is, you can do something to change that. Immediately.

Go hit that closet!

 

 

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