Last night as I finally got to packing for my upcoming Costa Rica Movement is Medicine Retreats, I realized I had to go through those dreaded suitcases I’ve been filled up with clothes all year to find my summer stuff.
As I opened them, I realized I hadn’t worn most of this stuff in YEARS.. little dresses from my college days that would barely fit my left leg, colorful skirts and dresses from my travels now creased in wrinkles, countless baggy sweaters from my days in chilly Boston.. All these memories of times when these purches were a good idea and how much of a different place of my life I am in now.
I looked through these items and realized that at this point, almost none of them served purpose in my life anymore. So instead of packing for Costa Rica, I started unpacking and throwing them all away (the Pitta in me came out!)
In proper Marie Kondo fashion, I held each piece up and asked myself “Does this item bring me joy?”
At first, it was a question I had to deliberate. Well I guess I could still wear this or make an outfit out of that, I tried to convince myself.
But twenty minutes into the process, I didn’t even need to ask the question anymore. NONE of these items brought me any joy. In fact, they brought me constant anxiety over not having enough space in my tiny one bedroom apartment and not even wanting to look through my stuff because I would be overwhelmed with having too much. (First world problems, I know, but decluttering is something many of us struggle with.)
I realized the reason I held onto these items for so long was
- my optimism
- my inability to let go
- my desire not to waste
My optimism said “You’ll find a reason to wear this again, keep it around in case!”
My inability to let go said, “You can’t throw that away, it carries so many memories!”
My desire not to waste said, “You’re seriously going to just throw these things away? You spent so much money on them, MAKE IT WORK.”
But then my reason came in and said, “If I was going to make it work, I would have worn them in the past year. The biggest waste is to keep them in these suitcases unworn.”
So in came the trash bags. I stuffed years of cocktail parties, backpacking journeys, winter storms and family holidays into these bags.
Part of me felt nostalgic, as each piece carried with it such strong emotion. But holding onto these memories no longer served purpose in my journey to create space for the new.
After a while, it became easy.. In fact, it became fun and effortless, as I fell into a total state of flow. I continued until 4 in the morning, stuffing bag after bag with dresses, leggings, pajama pants and bathing suits (using that Vata energy now!) And with each bundled up bag, I felt freer than ever before.
I ended up giving away 90% of my clothes.
As I looked through my bags, I reflected on what they represented in my life.
My findings were:
The things that I most easily let go of were those that were cheap in quality and didn’t stand out i.e. almost all my Forever 21 and H&M stuff. Because I didn’t value these items and they were cheaply made, I had no problem giving them away. In fact, I noticed almost all of them looked the same; a different variation of a little black dress or off the shoulder sweatshirt.
On the other hand, the things I wanted to hold onto held some sort of value to me. They were either purchased somewhere I knew I would never go again (aka a remote market in India) or were of high-quality (the things that I splurged on and was apprehensive at the time, but still come back to time and time again.)
The finding: Spend on things you value and don’t waste your money buying a bunch of the same old garbage.
For the price of the 20 different cheap and now falling apart Forever 21 dresses I bought, I could have bought several really nice high quality dresses that I would still come back to.
What does this mean for us?
Get out of your routine and stop playing small.
In life, we become apprehensive about splurging on ourselves so we make these little half-ass decisions.
- I won’t get the outfit that I’ve been coveting after but I’ll buy this cheap replica.. (and end up never wearing it because it has no value to me.)
- Instead of going on one really nice retreat a year that nourishes my soul, I’ll just follow along online and it’ll be like the same thing (and feel totally burnt out by the end of the year.)
- Instead of ordering that meal or supplement I would really love to try, I’ll get the cheaper version (and be unsatisfied or have no effect on me.)
Spend on what you value. And do not spend more.
That is not to say I kept all my designer stuff and it brought me lifelong happiness. Lots of that stuff went out the door too (and it’s been years since I’ve even bought anything that would be considered ‘designer.”) But the reason I even held onto it for years is because it was still worth something. Those XXS BCBG skirts I used to love in college that definitely wouldn’t fit my right arm but I held onto because I invested in them and they still hold amazingly. That bag I got as a gift that I never wear but still hold onto because maybe someday I might.
In fact, those “designer” items are the only things that people actually will still buy. If you’ve ever tried to sell your clothes to a thrift store or online app, the only things you’ll actually get approved on are the ones with some sort of value. No matter how many great that knock-off looks, it’s still a knock-off and that’s how the world sees it.
The moral of the story is:
- Fill your closet and life with things you love and hold value to you.
- Don’t settle for knock-offs; in clothes and life.
- Spend your money wisely and on what matters (experiences over things.)
- More things will not make you happy. It will make you unhappy.
- Purchase only what you need and hold onto it.
- Dress timelessly so you don’t have to keep changing your outfits every time the advertisers decide to change the style.
- If it’s no longer serving you at this point of your life, donate it to someone who it may.
There is a girl out there that still goes out at night and would love to wear that old dress of yours that used to turn so many heads. There are mothers out there who would love to have your old nursing clothes. There is someone out there that would kill to wear those heals you haven’t put your feet in for years. There are families out there who would feel so blessed to have your children’s hand-me-downs.
Giving clothes away is not a waste. Keeping them and not wearing them is.
Whether you give them to your house cleaner, a nearby shelter, Salvation army or Good Will, a local thrift store, homeless person or even just sell them online, you will feel SO much freer and lighter by clearing that space in your life so you can make room for something new.
Keep it light, keep it simple, keep it eternal,