The Wardrobe Architect is a popular series that ran in early 2014. It’s currently being expanded (with help and feedback from you) into a comprehensive toolkit. You can read all the posts here. If you want to give feedback and get first access when the toolkit is finished, enter your email:
We’ve reached the last week in our Wardrobe Architect series today. Sad, I know. But by now we’ve each developed our first capsule wardrobe plan, and I’ve given you some tools for project planning so you can go forth and try it out.
However, if you loved this series as much as I did, you should know that I definitely plan to expand it. I’ll be posting about that in a wrap up next week and asking for your feedback, so gather your thoughts!
In the meantime, let’s discuss our final topic, wardrobe editing.
Why is it so difficult to let go of things?
Slowly, we collect things into our lives and homes. We buy things we need, and things we don’t need, things we want, and things we don’t really want. They pile up in our closets, our garages, and our living rooms.
All of this clutter begins to drown out the things you really love, the objects you’re attached to and find value and beauty in.
And yet, they are so hard to give up. Why? Let’s dig a little deeper into our psyches to find out.
One reason is loss aversion, the human tendency to strongly prefer avoidng loss over making gains. In other words, we find the pain of losing $1 much greater than the pleasure of gaining one.
Tied in with this concept is the status quo bias. In addition to fearing loss, we also have a preference for things remaining as they are. We see the current state of affairs as a natural baseline, and any deviation from that presents the threat of loss.
All of this makes a good deal of sense if you are fighting for survival. Our brains are trying to minimize risk. When you are in a life-and-death situation every day, this is a very good thing.
After all, the risks and reward for our ancestors were far different. The reward was food. The risk was death by lion. No wonder our brains err on the side of avoiding the risk.
But we don’t live at the mercy of wild animals these days (or most of us don’t), so this bias can sometimes make our thinking a little haywire. There’s really no risk or great loss when you give away a sweater you haven’t worn in two years. But somewhere deep inside, you’re afraid of losing something.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when we hold two beliefs that contradict each other.
This feeling is incredibly uncomfortable for most of us, and we will do what it takes to alleviate it, including sticking with beliefs that defy common sense.
The original belief is whatever enticed you to purchase the thing. You believed it was worth your hard-earned cash, that it represented who you are, or that you would treasure it always.
Now, you are thinking of abandoning it. You must either admit that you were wrong, or convince yourself that you really will use it, need it, want it.
Couple this with the status quo bias, and it’s much easier to convince yourself of the latter. Why take a risk?
Overcoming these mental hurdles
- Be self-aware. The first step in overcoming these blocks is to recognize them for what they are. They are psychological biases. They don’t necessarily make sense.
- Name the risk. When I find myself wringing my hands over throwing out something I never use, I stop and think about what the chances are that I will need to replace it. I think about whether it’s really something I will be worse off without, in any way.
- Name the reward. What is the reward for cleaning out your closet? A fresh perspective, feeling good in what you wear, less guilt about things you don’t wear, better buying habits, cleaner space. Some or all of these might help you.
- Appreciate what you don’t miss. This has been extremely helpful to me. Every time I do a clean out, I realize that no matter how hesitant I was to give something up, I completely forget about it once it’s gone. I can’t think of one thing I’ve given away that I truly miss.
This week, it’s time to edit our closets and rid of ourselves of what we no longer need or want.
- Gather your capsule wardrobe items together. I find that having them all in one place (perhaps hanging together in your closet) better allows you to see what you may or may not actually wear.
- Pack away out of season clothing. This is optional, but if you have limited space and live somewhere with distinct seasons, I find it tremendously helpful.
- Purge. Empty out your closets and drawers and set aside anything that no longer has clear, obvious value to you. Be absolutely ruthless. You won’t regret it.
Optional: You can set a goal for yourself to get rid of a certain number of items, as I did recently. I found this to be surprisingly helpful when fighting some of the demons I talked about above.
What internal struggles do you face when purging your closet?