I recently received a question from a reader:

“I gained a lot of weight after I had my son and fell into depression. My closet is so full of clothes that don’t fit me. I was holding onto them as a motivation to lose weight. However recently I was hunting for something to wear and became so frustrated that it was full of clothes I can’t wear. It was so full that a piece of the closet that keeps the clothes on the racks fell off and so did a bunch of my clothes. I need to organize it and get rid of what I can’t wear. At first I felt as if it was a sign of defeat. Almost as if I was giving up on losing weight. I plan on listing them to help pay off my debt but wanted advice on how to do it.”

If I’m being honest, I have received many questions over the years about closets and what to keep and what not to keep when it comes to fluctuating weight, but I’ve never answered them publicly, frankly, because it makes me uncomfortable to think about sharing my own journey with you. The truth is that over the course of my adult life my weight has varied by nearly 100 pounds. What might be even more shocking is that when I was at my lowest weight was not when I was the healthiest – far from it!

As you can probably guess, with weight changes like that, I’ve been thru this issue with having multiple sizes of clothing and not feeling sure about what I wanted to do about it. My challenges with weight were beyond simply how much I put in my mouth and how much I exercised. I had deeply entrenched emotional traumas and beliefs that I had to explore before I could let go of the extra weight. I bring this up, because, my very first advise to anyone in this situation is to have compassion for yourself. You might think losing weight is something as simple as needing to get your ass off the couch and going for a walk and eating less sugar and more veggies, but if your weight is something you’ve been struggling with for a longer period of time (and it’s not because you’re lazy) there’s probably a deeper emotional component to it.

One of the big things that’s come out of my own journey is realizing how much more we as a society we value how our bodies look than how our bodies feel. And although it’s a serious issue, it brings to mind a silly Saturday Night Live skit from the 1980’s:

Is it really better to look good than feel good?

In my own life, several years ago I was led to find an online weight loss coach, Jena La Flamme, who’s core message is about feeling good in the body instead of punishing it. In other words, pleasurable weight loss. And although I’ve never done any of her paid programs, I have found her newsletter and free classes extremely interesting and helpful, and me seeing this key concept around pleasure helped me start to shift some of my beliefs about my own body and how I treated it.

Keeping this in mind brings forward the second piece of advise I would give someone in this situation – stop and think about how you actually want to feel when you are wearing your clothes! It can be helpful to take the time to write this out. Of course there are different occasions where you may want to feel more dressed up or snazzy, but there are usually some overall ways you want to feel – like comfortable for example!

From here, there are a lot of ways to deal with clothes of different sizes. Here’s what has worked for me.

Even as the scale continued to go up and up and up no matter how little I ate or how much I exercised, I still wanted to keep my skinny jeans. At first when the scale started to go up, I kept all the pants that were just a bit too small. Damn, I wanted to fit into those skinny jeans again – and one pair in particular that somehow made my ass look fantastic like no other pair of jeans I’d had before. As the scale continued to go up, I eventually let go of all the jeans and pants that were only so-so, but this one pair of jeans I really wanted to keep because I’d never seen another pair in this particular cut or color. And although it was nearly four years later, I did eventually fit back into them, and I was glad that I kept this one pair of jeans, but the others I couldn’t have cared less about.

What I found in my own experience was that when I saw so many pairs of pants that I hadn’t been able to fit into for months, I felt defeated. Like every time I was in the closet was a slap in the face, something in the back of my mind telling me that I wasn’t doing it right, that I wasn’t working hard enough, and it didn’t take too long to realize that that didn’t advance this sense of well-being or pleasure that Jena was talking about.

What has also worked for me is shopping for clothes mostly at thrift or consignment stores. This world produces far more clothes than can reasonably be used, so part of my thrift shopping is environmental, but it’s also to do with the weight fluctuations that happened for me and the affordability of needing to buying different sized clothing on a semi-regular basis. Plus, I’m hard on clothes. Even when I try really hard to keep clothes nice, it’s not usually how things end up. This is something I’ve had to come to simply accept about myself. This route is not for everyone, but it made getting rid of old clothes that no longer fit me easier because I knew I could find something else that fit me better and that I could afford. I take on the one-in-one-out general guideline when it comes to getting new clothes, so this gave me more incentive to get rid of the old.

Another really simple guideline is to only keep as much as you can reasonably fit in the space you have. If you have a small closet, does it make more sense to fill it with clothes that fit or clothes that don’t?

To Summarize:

  • Have compassion for yourself.
  • Think about how you want to feel when you’re wearing your clothes.
  • Get rid of anything that doesn’t make you feel that way!
  • Feel into whether you feel motivation or something else to keep clothes that don’t fit you.
  • Consider shopping for clothes at second hand stores to help keep costs down.
  • Keep only as much as reasonably fits in your closet.

I’d love to hear about your own experiences or hear any questions in the comments below!


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