Stuff Happens! Here's how to finally find the courage to declutter your wardrobe 3 weeks ago

Stuff Happens! Here's how to finally find the courage to declutter your wardrobe

Is your wardrobe clutter free?

Probably not, very few people's are. Filled with clothes that don't fit, clothes that aren't nice, and clothes that have never been worn, the humble closet should be a space of tranquility, organisation, and things that you actually wear.

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For most of us though, it is not. But thankfully, there are ways to fix that.

Below is an extract from Emma's new book, Stuff Happens! A guide to tackling chaos and letting go of perfection, the book aims to explain the logic behind why we're so attached to things, and how soothing your inner chaos can help deal with your outer chaos too.

This extract considers overflowing wardrobes and the countless things we tell ourselves to justify not getting rid of items that we simply do not want anymore.

Emma has many suggestions for how to deal with such scenarios, but one that stands out is the "body scan." You can read more about this practise here.


In my experience, there is rarely a simple answer to the question ‘Does it fit me and do I wear it?’ which we can use to determine whether or not an item stays in a wardrobe. We’ve learned from Chapter 4 on sticky items about the range of excuses we can concoct to justify keeping an unsuitable item. Here are several ‘getting dressed’ scenarios I have taken from my own life and the lives of clients and friends. Hopefully, they will shed some light on the complexities with which we are faced every time we open our wardrobe door.

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  • I try on the garment. It feels terrible. Perhaps it is itchy or too tight, or too big around the shoulders. But it was expensive. So I tell myself I’ll wear it someday. I won’t. It stays in the wardrobe, taunting me.
  • The garment doesn’t fit correctly. I tell myself I’ll alter it. I don’t. It stays in the wardrobe.
  • The outfit fits, but I don’t feel like myself in it. It suits the event I bought it for and so I wear it. I am uncomfortable at the event and can’t quite figure out why.
  • I try on an outfit that I once loved but which now feels strange on my body. I realise I’ve outgrown it but I cannot get rid of it for sentimental reasons. The garment remains in my day-to-day wardrobe, taking up space.
  • The outfit is amazing. It looks so cool on the hanger. I put it on, but it looks frumpy and wrong. I feel like I can’t live up to it.
  • It fits, but I’m bored of it.

How can we free ourselves from these frustrating scenarios? By being systematically honest with ourselves about what fits and what works. This takes time and can be painful, but the benefits are huge. Finding a style of dress we are comfortable with and sticking to that can be liberating and allows us to know we will feel comfortable, no matter what we pick from our wardrobes on any given day. This does not work for everyone, however. I myself swing between wanting bright, colourful garments and wanting to only wear monochrome. These fluctuating self-expression ideas have confused and annoyed me for years, but now, with the wisdom of age and experience, I see it as a very natural desire for change and novelty. My clothing collection contains all the colours of the rainbow and I can pick and choose depending on my mood.

Each person’s wardrobe, taste and body image is unique, but the best advice I can give is to be fully honest with yourself about what makes you feel good and what doesn’t and try to take it from there when making future purchases.

One really useful practical strategy for making clothing decisions is to learn how to practise the body scan, a tip I learned from Ann Marie O’Connor’s book The Happy Closet. It’s a variation on the spark joy exercise but with the clothes actually on your body. Pick an outfit that is a sticky item and wear it for a day or to an event. Pay attention to how you feel when wearing it. Are you uncomfortable? Are you constantly aware of your body because the garment is too tight or sits in an annoying way? Does it give you sweat stains? Can you sit down in it comfortably? Does that matter? This sometimes takes time, but you will feel so liberated when items are judged in this way.

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Stuff Happen! by Emma Gleeson is published by Sandycove and is available online here.