Spring Cleaning!

by Jodi R. Galin, Ph.D

This is the time of year, at least in the Northeast, when the weather begins to get a little warmer and we all look forward to putting away our winter sweaters.  Now is an excellent time to clean out our clothing closets and donate or discard clothes that are out of style, no longer fit, or have not been worn in a long time.  My only spring cleaning regrets happened years later when I thought about the few dresses that I had owned in the 80s that would have made for very good costumes for my kids. Oh well.  

Please be aware that departing with favorite clothes can be an emotionally challenging task for many, especially those struggling with eating and body image issues.  Below are a few ideas to consider and tips to help:

  1. Would you prefer to do this task alone or with the support of a trusted friend or family member?  Consider the emotional challenge that you may face by having to acknowledge that some pants, tops, dresses, jackets, etc. may be too small on you now.  Do you know someone that could help you feel okay in your body now? Or would you rather be alone while figuring out what to do?
  2. Do you want to try on the clothes that you don’t think will fit or would you rather not have that experience and just make a decision?  This is not supposed to be a task that dredges up history. Sometimes just moving on is easier.
  3. I strongly recommend not keeping clothes in your closet that do not fit you now.  Everyone feels physically uncomfortable and emotionally irritable when wearing clothes that are too small.  If those favorite pants remain in your closet, you may be tempted to wear them just one last time. This is never particularly helpful.  
  4. As you contemplate the clothing in your closet one at a time, ask yourself how long since you last wore each item.  If a year has come and gone or the season past and you chose to not wear it, get rid of it.
  5. Consider if in the recent past you have tried on but didn’t wear this red shirt or those black jeans.  Did they leave you feeling not “good,” beautiful enough, competent, stylish….? If so, give it away.
  6. Is that sweater too itchy, too warm, outdated, not the right color on you…. Time to give it away.
  7. Consider the amount of time this task will take.  Would you prefer to do it all at once? Or schedule half an hour at a time so as to not get too overwhelmed by the task?  Any progress made is good progress.
  8. Some of your beloved clothes may be too well-worn to give away; those belong in the discard pile.  
  9. Is there someone you know that would appreciate having that loved jacket or the dress that your wore to Aunt Susie’s wedding?  If not, consider charities that take donations. Make sure this is a simple task. If giving the clothes away requires too much effort, you may not do it.  Someone I know had lots to give away because she put off the task for so long, so she arranged a monthly pickup schedule from a charity. This held her accountable to her goal of clean, organized closets.
  10. Lastly, you deserve a reward!  I believe that we should all reward ourselves when we do an unpleasant task that is good for us.  Consider giving yourself the gift of time to do something “decadent” (like time to read a book or your favorite magazine or watch a television show instead of taking care of responsibilities).  Alternatively, lunch out with a friend or purchase a small gift for yourself. Then there is always more clothes shopping……