Getting rid of 90-percent of my clothing helped me discover a dysfunctional relationship I let go on for way too long. I’ve always loved clothing and imagined they were working to enhance my self-confidence. However, I’d never considered the emotional baggage they collected as they sat idle in my closet.
The First Signs of Trouble
I was pregnant with baby number three when we moved into the forever home. You know, the one you dream about raising your babies in. You imagine watching their first steps across the living room carpet and later posing on the stairs for their junior high dance photos. That kind of house.
The only problem with the forever home is that we moved all our past junk into it.
I remember touring our home before purchase thinking how our walk-in master closet was the largest I’ve ever seen. Well, once my boxes of clothing were moved in, it seemed to close in around me. I did what any reasonable woman would do. I ran to the Internet for answers.
After ogling hundreds of Pinterest photos of gorgeous closets, I came across one that stopped me in my tracks. The photo didn’t stand out because of the row upon row of identical shelving waiting to organize all the clothing I could throw at it. It stopped me in my tracks because it was so simple.
This ladies’ entire wardrobe fit onto one bar. Above the bar was a shelf with a piece of pottery and a framed canvas painting. This lady didn’t even need half of her closet! She had room to decorate it too!?! She deemed her closet’s contents a “capsule wardrobe.”
Boy did that phrase send me down a Pinterest rabbit hole of no return. I saw rectangle after rectangle of carefully curated collections of clothing, all perfectly coordinating. You could mix and match 10 items into 64 different outfits combinations! Never repeat an outfit!
Well, that was all well and good for those chic, not pregnant girls, but a capsule wardrobe obviously wasn’t going to work for me and my mommy life.
I tossed the idea of a beautifully-curated wardrobe into the mental trash bin. I thought there was no way I had the time or money to deal with that.
The Breaking Point
Several years (and several pant sizes) came and went. My baby was born and grew to be a toddler. I was engrossed in home improvement projects and decorating my forever home in all the ideas I collected and pinned.
I stumbled upon that old pin of the capsule wardrobe. For the last several years, I’d organized and reorganized my closet every way possible, never content with the results. I’d obtained color-coded bins and hauled them up and down from the top shelf, creating hours of work each season.
I still didn’t feel ready for a small, curated capsule wardrobe, but I was tired of the emotional wasteland that had become my closet. It was shoved full of clothing from when I was a working mom, from before baby, from several dress sizes ago. I was tired of looking at clothing that didn’t feel like “me” anymore. In desperation, I decided I needed to live with less.
Cutting the Fat (Clothes)
The first thing to go was the bin of “fat clothes.” Yes, the label literally said that. Those were the post-pregnancy, not-quite-in-regular-clothes-yet clothes.
The next to go were the blazers and the dress pants – all the professional items. Even if I were to re-enter the workforce, it was clear to me that the days of matching suits were over.
I was on a roll now. Next, I dug into all the pre-first-baby clothing that hadn’t fit since – you guessed it – before my first pregnancy.
Eventually, all the bridesmaid dresses, free event T-shirts, old uniforms, and super high heels were gone too.
And then, for the first time in recent memory, all that remained was the clothing that actually fit and I actually wore.
Swipe Right for These Clothes
It was a revelation. I hadn’t purchased anything. I hadn’t coordinated anything. The clothing that hung in my closet is what fit my body and my lifestyle.
I had to get rid of all the excess to reveal the treasure that was there all along. The clothing that actually fit me, that I actually liked, that I actually felt good wearing.
The clothing I kept isn’t magazine spread-worthy. No one else might consider them treasures, but they are my personal gemstones: my favorite jeans, a comfy sweater, and slide-on shoes that live by the front door because I wear them so often.
To me, they are treasures because I relish wearing them day after day. The beauty is in the function, the fit and the fabric. We suit each other. You could say we have a healthy relationship.
Like the glow of a new relationship, weird things started happening:
I walk into my closet and smile.
I get dressed in 2 minutes flat (including decision-making time).
I don’t second-guess what I am wearing or feel self-conscious.
I am comfortable literally and figuratively.
I never imagined that changing this one part of my life would make such a huge impact on the rest of it. I didn’t just physically get rid of those old clothes, I also got rid of the mental baggage they stowed away. I gave myself permission to be who I am now and dream about the future.
It’s a simple concept really but one that sometimes escapes many mamas. With the changes happening to our bodies, our closets start resembling time capsules more than dressing rooms. We add clothing but don’t get rid of what no longer works, and the things that represent our past lives.
I no longer feel guilt over the pretty heeled shoes that sat dusty at the bottom of the closet. I don’t have to shove that two-piece swimsuit farther back into the drawer to avoid thinking about my midriff. I don’t have to acknowledge the new skin bulges in the old clingy workout tops, nor do I have to bypass the pair of jeans that fit me at the same number on the scale last time (but mysteriously not this time).
Like a bad relationship, I had to break up with my clothes to feel freedom.
Those clothes can now have a lovely second life with someone else.
They have moved on and now, so can I.
Megan Ericson lives with her capsule wardrobe (and family) in suburban Ohio. She helps other mommas create their capsule wardrobes at meganericson.com. You can also find her on the Minimalist Moms Podcast talking about adventures in motherhood, minimalism, and mindfulness.