The root of suffering is attachment. -Buddah
Clothing addiction is a real thing, whether that be through shopping or through an inability to let go.
We live in a culture where more is more and, for the most part, we can quickly and easily acquire whatever we like. What ends up happening is that as we collect we become attached.
When it comes time to move, get dressed, pack for vacation, or clean out your closet letting go or choosing feels impossible.
Learning how to let go of clothing so you can find your personal style is easy once you break your attachment to material things. But how do you actually learn to let go?
First, let’s start with why we get attached. Nothing is wrong with you. You’re not broken and you don’t need to be embarrassed, feel guilty or ashamed for not know how to let go.
Why we get attached to clothing and stuff
My dad tells me a story of how in school at the beginning of the semester a teacher began the first-day class by giving the students an assignment that would last the entire semester.
The instructions were simple. Find any object, durable, small enough to fit in your pocket, that has absolutely no meaning or value to you whatsoever and carry around with you at all times throughout the entire semester. Those who fail to produce the item during class will fail the assignment.
Maybe you’ve already guessed where I’m going with this. But at the end of the semester, the teacher asked each and every student to walk up to the front of the class and discard their talisman right into the bin.
The point of the story is that very few of the students could do this because they had assigned personal meaning to this meaningless object over time. They had become attached.
This is what we do with everything that becomes “ours”. We assign meaning to it and it becomes a part of us. It’s harder to let go of a part of yourself than it is to let go of a random blouse from Target.
Tip one: Get clear on your personal style
If you haven’t already gone through my workbook on style I recommend you do. You can grab it for free at the end of this post. In it, you’ll find pointed questions about how to finally figure out what your personal style is, what you truly like, what you don’t, and why.
When we have so many options staring back at us in our closets, the typical problem is that we think we like all of it. When in reality, we’re just attached to it. Ask yourself a few questions right now as you think about your clothes.
- Is there a theme I can see either in color, fabric, or pattern?
- What’s my #1 most favorite item in here? Do I have other things in this closet I love as much as this? Why or why not?
- If I lost everything in this closet somehow, what would I miss the most?
Those are just a few questions to get you focused on what you actually like. Whatever you do not LOVE you can let go of.
Tip Two: Create a vision for yourself
Finding your personal style goes hand in hand with creating a vision for yourself.
With social media, magazines, and more it’s easy for us to be sold an image of what a billion dollar industry tells us we should look like.
But have you ever really stopped and meditated on what you want for yourself?
I find that when I know what I’m moving towards and what I want or don’t want, it will inform my decisions. “What is the vision I have for my life?”
Take 4 minutes of quiet meditation to play a movie in your mind about what you want to look and feel like.
- How do you feel about your body?
- What obstacles have you overcome?
- How has your clothing served you in overcoming those obstacles?
- How have you changed?
- How do you want to show up in the world?
- Who do you want to become?
- What do you want to move towards or away from?
This is not a way to fantasize, but a way to help your mind get clear on what you actually want. It’s a visual image of what you actually want for yourself. You can tap into that at any time as a way to kind check in with yourself. “Does this article of clothing match the vision I have for myself?”
Either answer is good!
Tip Three: Accept Sunk Cost
The main reason why we remain attached to clothing and possessions is that we feel obligated to keep it because of what we’ve invested. Maybe you’ve been there, looking at a $500 suit or $75 dress and you can’t let it go until you’ve received a return on your investment.
Meaning you haven’t worn it enough to justify the initial cost.
But the problem is, you only have so much time. And if you’re not wearing or loving this particular item, you’re not getting a return.
We all buy things we wish we hadn’t. I once pleaded with a shop owner to let me buy a $100 necklace that I just had to have. Someone else really wanted it and I thought I did too. I wore it for a while. But now I never wear it because it’s’ no longer my style.
If I keep that item, I keep it from bringing joy to someone else.
All material possessions have an energy. Meaning that they take up space, are used, are handy, bring joy, or bring discouragement. Release that energy and you’ll get more energy in return.
Before I moved to Knoxville from Chicago, I was gung-ho about selling a bunch of my clothes to help pay for moving expenses. I procrastinated and eventually decided to have a selling party at my house. The clothes were all that was left to move.
A bunch of friends came over and a few people bought things, but in the end, I just couldn’t ask my friends to pay for this stuff. Besides the moving truck was literally parked out front all packed up and ready to go!
This stuff had to get gone.
A good friend of mine from church was about my size and a single mom who couldn’t afford to buy a whole new wardrobe. I told her she could take whatever she wanted and in the end, she left with a whole new wardrobe of awesome clothes that looked so good on her. I felt great, she felt great and I never once regretted getting rid of those things. I can’t even remember what items she took.
Several months after I moved to Knoxville, with just a few items of clothing I discovered the best thrift store in the world, where I found all new pieces for less than $100, many of which, I still wear to this day.
Let something go, to let something new in.
In our material-centric culture, everyone faces the problem of owning too much at one point or another. You’re not alone! There is no shame in that. You can learn how to let go of clothing you don’t love or need and open up space for greater possibilities and find your personal style.
Hone in on what your true personal style is by asking yourself powerful and revealing questions. When you create your unique style, you can learn to let go. Having a clear vision of the person you want to become will inspire you and inform your decisions. You can easily let something go that doesn’t fit with the real you.
And finally, you can accept that you’re not really losing anything if you give things away that you’ve already got a lot invested in. It will return to you.