A few months ago, I finally tackled a project I was putting off for quite some time. I went through all my old clothes and decided what to keep and what to donate. Normally this type of activity does not cause me any angst. In fact, I love getting rid of things and making more space in my home. But there was something about the clothes that made me feel uneasy.
There were a lot of clothes – old blouses, sleeveless summer tops, nice work clothes from stores like Talbot’s, pants, jeans, skirts, even a suit. But truth be told, I hadn’t worn any of those clothes for many years. And as I was sorting through the stuff, I realized why I was holding onto these clothes, which amounted to two reasons.
The first reason had to do with taking financial responsibility for myself and the purchases. You see, I bought the majority of those clothes using credit cards and a Talbot’s charge card; essentially using money I did not even have. In fact, there were a few outfits that still had tags attached to them.
Bryan and I took fiscal responsibility for our lives and haven’t used a credit card since December 2008. Even though I feel less financially-burdened, seeing all those clothes in my closet made me feel so irresponsible and guilty. I had no business buying them in the first place. So I hung on to the clothes because getting rid of them felt like admitting to failure.
The second reason had to do with when I wore the clothes last, which was before Sophie was born. I fully acknowledge and accept the fact that our bodies change after having children (especially those of us who have children in our 30s and beyond). I worked SO hard to get myself in shape and lose weight in the years proceeding pregnancy. It truly saddened me to realize I will likely never fit into the petite medium blouses I used to wear. That some of those very cute petite pants will never fit again due to my post-pregnancy tummy. It was as if a part of my life (and my clothes) were over and I didn’t want to move on.
I didn’t realize I was still “mourning” my old body. It made me sad that I couldn’t wear all those nice clothes anymore. And since we started getting real about our finances, it’s not like I had the money to go out and buy a new wardrobe (although I didn’t years ago either). So I kept the clothes, thinking maybe – one day – I can wear them again.
I’m not quite sure why I was finally ready to move on. All I know is one weekend, I decided to get rid of the clothes and make space in my life and closet. When I finished sorting, it came out to FOUR large garbage size bags of clothes! I stared at them, feeling ashamed, telling Bryan it was such a waste of money.
But then Bryan said something profound that changed the way I looked at the situation. He told me to think about all the people who truly can’t afford clothes who will benefit from my generous donation. Those nice name-brand clothes will go to people who can’t afford to shop in the stores I bought them. (Even I’d be thrilled to find a pair of barely used dress pants at the Goodwill!) And by donating all the clothes, I was helping Goodwill keep employees and save jobs.
Bryan’s statements completely shifted how I saw the situation. I suddenly felt confident. Even though there were negative connotations attached to the clothes, I felt happy knowing the items would make someone else’s life better. Someone who couldn’t afford a Talbot’s suit would now feel good wearing one she can afford. I happily loaded the bags into the car and drove to Goodwill.
I don’t have the sadness or guilt when I go into my closet anymore. I know that I really can afford whatever comes into that space now. And I don’t have to be constantly reminded of the past (and my pre-pregnancy smaller size). Now I only see what’s literally in front of me. And that feels good.