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  • Writer's pictureJen

Fall Closet Clean out

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

Do you look forward to cleaning out your closet when the seasons change? Does pulling out the new season’s clothes feel like seeing dear friends? Or, have you been reluctant to face what’s in there and keep putting it off until the last possible moment?

There’s no denying what lies ahead in my neck of the woods. Our first heavy frost was a few weeks ago and it’s not a stretch to say that a decent snowfall could happen in the next month. Ready or not procrastinator, fall is here and winter is on its way! Even though I’ve been dreading this job, I’m hoping that someday the unhealthy fear and resulting procrastination will be in the rear view mirror.

Obviously I’m not there yet, but recently I started down a road that I’m hoping will lead me farther away from it. Many years ago, my husband observed that I was a “very fearful person” (Cue the deer in the headlights look...). I didn’t see it then, but over the years it’s become pretty clear.

So, the thought of getting ready for the new season has been (ha!) a scary thing. I didn’t want to face what I have in my closet from last fall and winter. I do have a few old friends in there, but I have more than a few frenemies.

I've read plenty of versions of how to clean out a closet and my favorite one started with “grab a glass of wine”! But if I did that, you’d find me sawing z's; so hot chocolate has been my cup of courage! Armed with surging happy-brain chemicals, I’ve been engaging with my cold weather clothes.

What kind of grown woman would need courage to face her wool sweaters???

That would be the kind of woman who feels like the clothes she doesn’t like (and by the way, picked out and purchased herself) confirm her worst fears about herself.

How do you get to a place where you confirm your worst fears about yourself by the percentage of clothes that you don’t wear? I really can’t answer that one, but I know it’s not about the sweaters. It’s about a belief I already had. Somehow I had turned the fails in my closet into proof of my fear about who I am. Or what I fear people are thinking I am.

If there is anything that I’ve learned these last weeks; it’s that the only way to start to put this irrational fear behind me is to push myself to walk through it whenever I notice it happening. That is, do it even though you're crazy scared. Psychologists calls this habituation. That means by repeatedly exposing yourself to something that produces anxiety, you will eventually cause your fear/anxiety response to decrease. Over time, this really does increase your confidence because you realize that you actually can survive facing your fears. I’m not saying it’s easy. Or much fun. That is, until you start seeing that it makes a difference. Little by little.

So, I’ve been slowly cleaning out my closet. Every day I spend a few minutes working on a shelf or a pile. Sometimes, I try the same thing on 4 or 5 times before I can make a decision. I’m trying to understand why something doesn’t feel right. Or look right. Who doesn’t want to try and figure out how to shop smarter? Or just understand better what they like? Or what looks best? Nothing is scary about that. That should not have have been such a surprise.

But it was.

What had I been so scared of? That discarded pile of clothes that I knew would be a byproduct of the clean out? As I moved along, it became clear that It wasn't about the clothes. It was about the awful feeling that came from the fear of being a failure. Who wouldn't want to face that? That's the tangle of irrational fear.

As I've been working through this, I've realized that there are lots of reasons why my clothes end up going in the throw away and give away pile. A big one is that I have a huge weakness for a bargain. There’s always more than a few good bargains in my pile to give away. The happy little rush I get with a good bargain sends me to the checkout a little too quickly. My other downfall is my impatience to check off a box when I’m out shopping. My pile has plenty of stuff that I bought just because I was trying to find "something" to wear. I shouldn’t have settled for just anything and kept looking until I found what I really liked.

I’m nearly done getting the closet cleaned out. Taking small steps and being able to see the irrational fear for what it is has made all the difference. Now, I feel strangely satisfied when I look around my closet. I see things I like and feel good in. I’ll wear what I have.

The war isn’t over, but a battle has been won. Just facing it is one more step forward, and it feels good.

If unhealthy fear keeps holding you back, I hope you’ll be encouraged to start walking through it. You never know what a difference it will make until you try.

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