Although my dreams are filled with Carrie Bradshaw style walk-in wardrobes and rooms dedicated entirely to housing my burgeoning shoe collection, in reality I am actually glad that I have limited space for my clothes (well, two wardrobes and a chest of drawers).
Where would it end otherwise, I wonder? Would I still own long-ago fancy dress outfits, my college flares, and nu-metal band hoodies (infused with the smell of smoke and Strongbow, no doubt). My senior school disco dresses, Tammy Girl jumpers and holed pairs of Converse? Although my clear-outs have usually been as the result of a house move or to make way for new things, I still find them somewhat cathartic. Can I liken the shedding of three bags’ worth of old clothes ensconded in a British Heart Foundation charity sack to the shedding of skin? Sure it’s nothing as impressive as shedding my exoskeleton like a spider, or moulting feathers like a chicken, but I still regularly shed long-forgotten dresses, average books and unwatched DVDs. It’s like a ritual cleanse, an interior detox. It’s good for the soul, I’m sure.
I read a blog post on Gala Darling last year that really stuck with me (it’s one I bookmarked and regularly revisit). It’s called ‘Happiness is simple: why too many choices make us miserable’. It’s something I never would have thought of before I read the article – would I want hundreds of dresses, endless menu choices at a restaurant, a library full of books? Sure! That’s a no-brainer right? Well, actually, no. What the article suggests (with references to other books and studies), is that our brains cannot cope with too many choices – too many choices makes us feel stressed out and unable to make an informed choice. One of the studies referenced concludes that “the current abundance of choice [in society] often leads to depression and feelings of loneliness and isolation”.
As someone who gets very anxious looking at restaurant menus (What if I choose something that’s disappointing? What if I order something and someone else’s looks better?) I can totally empathise with this scenario. When I read the blog post last year it made me realise that having so many clothes and shoes, was making me unhappy. I felt guilty for the things hanging in my wardrobe with tags on, I felt stressed in the mornings at what on earth to wear to work, my ironing pile was taking over my kitchen like some kind of laundry based ‘Day of the Triffids’ and I was becoming tempted to buy another bed under which to hide more ‘under bed storage’ (a.k.a. boxes full of dresses). Five bags went off to the British Heart Foundation, several parcels went off to eBay buyers and I felt instantly better. Last year one of my New Year’s Resolutions was ‘one in, one out’ – I buy an item of clothing, and I put one on the charity pile. It means that getting a dress out of my wardrobe is no longer some kind of coathanger wrestling match, it allows me to be charitable throughout the year, and it gives me less choice. I have outfits I regularly wear to work, and guess what, I’ve never been papped by Heat magazine on the way to work and put in some kind of horrendous article about celebs who ‘recycle’ their favourite ensembles (wow, she wore a dress more than once? How very 1990’s!) Plus, I genuinely believe that there’s nothing more beautiful than clothes hanging neatly and freely in a wardrobe. The seven wonders of the world ain’t got nothin’ on my closet.
Last year I also read a book by Gretchen Rubin called ‘Happier At Home’, in which Gretchen chronicles the year she spent trying to make her home a happier place. One of the chapters is dedicated to clearing clutter, inspired by William Morris’s famous quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful,” – and “Order is Heaven’s first law,” – Alexander Pope. I am 100% behind the idea that order and tidiness is linked to happiness ; as someone who gets incredibly stressed when our house is filled with piles of clothes, shoes and other clutter, I think there’s incredible contentment to be found in neatness. In Gretchen’s search for home-based happiness she tackles clutter ‘shelf by shelf, drawer by drawer’, asking “Did one of us use it or love it? Would we replace it if it were broken or lost? If so, was it in the right place?”
I actually read this book on holiday, and sad as it might seem, I couldn’t wait to get home and get de-cluttering. It seems at odds with our consumerist culture, but honestly I actually felt excited at the prospect of owning less stuff. I’ll be staying true to my rule this year too and will be having another huge de-clutter this month to make room for the Christmas presents I was given and January sale bargains I’ve picked up. If you’re feeling in a funk post-Christmas (I hear ya), I urge you to give de-cluttering a try. Go shelf by shelf and give yourself an interior detox, I promise you’ll feel better.
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