Clothes: How to let go of what no longer serves you

Wearing something once or twice is no longer cool, says LOUISE O’DWYER, who explains how climate change is impacting the way that women especially see themselves
Clothes: How to let go of what no longer serves you

Our wardrobes express our sense of identity and our identity is the strongest force we need to stay consistent with how we define ourselves, says Louise O’Dwyer.

THE world of fashion and style is an inclusive one and now, more than ever before, we are being exposed to the new and exciting trend of ‘re-inventing and wearing second-hand clothes’.

Once frowned upon, now encouraged and celebrated, second hand clothes reflect a changing mindset in a time where climate change and waste is to the forefront.

This does not mean that we look any less stylish, what it does mean is that the days of wearing something once or twice is no longer cool.

This is a sustainable way to enjoy fashion, without the guilt associated with loads of un-worn clothes in your closet.

Gather up what you don’t wear, what doesn’t fit, or that section of ‘maybe someday clothes’ and do yourself a massive favour (an act of kindness) - let them go!

The psychology behind holding onto things that you no longer use or need is a fascinating topic and has very little to do with living in the here and now. Rather, it has everything to do with staying stuck in the guilt that you made a mistake, splurged on impractical, unwearable bits, and you get caught in the clutter cycle.

“I can’t waste money by throwing it/giving it away” goes around and around in your head.

Well, I say, enough with the punishing and defeatist attitude and say hello to a new way of looking at it - “I deserve to only have beautiful things in my wardrobe that make me feel and look great”.

A recent study found that 85%of women (in particular) have clothes in their wardrobe that don’t fit or were never worn. Does discarding a coat or a pair of jeans that are two sizes too small mean that we are admitting failure once?

Would we rather live with the continual discomfort or guilt associated with looking at them? Rearranging them every time we look for something is a waste of time and much needed mental energy. They are a burden.

Most people store clothes in three different sizes, with the expectation that their weight will fluctuate. The smallest sizes are kept because women are ever hopeful, so long as they keep the ‘thin clothes’, there is the motivation to change. To discard them would be an admission of defeat.

On the other hand, there are financial reasons for hanging on to clothes too. Every purchase is an investment, we are aware of the monetary value, and we expect to wear an item of clothes enough times to get our money’s worth.

Yet the value of an item can change depending on whether we classify it as a possession or as rubbish.

So, if we discard it, we perceive it as a loss of economic value. 

By giving something away, we are declaring that it has become worthless to us and that somehow we have failed as a customer.

This idea of creating rubbish is compounded now that we are living in such an environmentally conscious society.

Believe it or not, we can convince ourselves that it is being socially responsible to limit rubbish by holding onto things! The balance of keeping it or ‘not keeping it’ boils down to which is more desirable.

We know that we do not need these clothes but we ‘fear’ not having them! We fear not having the time, money or ability to find a replacement item because we have a personal connection to them.

Our wardrobes express our sense of identity and our identity is the strongest force we need to stay consistent with how we define ourselves.

But our identity evolves over time as life experiences change us, or as we age, so our wardrobe should reflect our changing roles and preferences.

These unused clothes can be tightly woven into our psyche as they ‘preserve’ our younger selves or reflect our aspirations to be thinner or more confident. If we must ‘give away’ these clothes, then it can feel like we are abandoning our dreams or our memories… and this can leave us stuck in ‘no man’s land’.

What YOU wear should reflect who you are, what you want to achieve in life and sometimes, how you feel in the moment.

Clothing is an identification tool that functions in determining the symbolic boundaries between people. They can convey non-verbal clues about your personality, background and your financial status so yes, there will always be a personal connection to what you buy, how you felt when you bought it, what was going on in your life and how wearing it made you feel.

So CLOTHES ARE A BIG DEAL and you have to train yourself to let go of what no longer serves you.

This is a great time of the year to free up some space in your wardrobe, the benefit is always that you feel better, clearer and more focused about what you like, don’t like, or actually need.

The new wave of charity shop shopping, encouraged by London’s Fashion week, really enables you to be more imaginative about the way that you wear things, which is inspiring. A lot of fashion has been previously unavailable (financially) to a certain type of person but charity shops have made it ALL INCLUSIVE and a FORM OF ACTIVISM that has really taken hold over the last few years.

There is tremendous joy in finding unique, affordable clothes and reinventing them to suit your identity.

We are living in times where we shy away from ‘real throwaway fashion’ as we look for quality and repeat wearability only.

Fast fashion is on a downward trend and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

The trend where influencers have to wear a different outfit for every photo is now being frowned upon and those who revisit outfits are celebrated for promoting it.

Our pandemic lockdown period caused all of us to stand back and reassess our lives, what we want, but more importantly what we need, and most of us now realise that less is more.

Yes, of course support your local boutiques, but stop buying the ‘trash’ in between and pass on what you no longer use.

Give it away with a light heart, in the hope that it will bring joy to someone else.

‘Life’s persistent and most urgent question is, what are you doing for others?’ Martin Luther King Jr.

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