Who are you? Sorting through your clothes can be a revelation

Who are you? Your clothes give you away in more ways than one. There is much you can learn about yourself by sorting through your clothes; what you hang onto, what you let go of. Photo: Kristine Deppe

WASHINGTON September 2, 2012 - Miguel de Cervantes wrote, “Make it thy business to know thyself, which is the most difficult lesson in the world.” He obviously never sorted through a closet stuffed with years of accumulated clothes (probably too busy with windmills). The way we do or do not let go of items we own tells us plenty about ourself.

It can be freeing and frustrating to go through closets and dressers, weeding out clothes that do not fit or are dorky looking. You will likely find more than a dozen items still pinned with price tags. There will be clothes bought on impulse, or to brighten a bum day. Clothes that used to be in style and now look silly, although someday that style will be back.

Clothes are practical, and fun. They cover our body and express our personality. Even people who care little about appearance say something with their crumpled drab shirt and khakis. We put on clothing to keep us warm, to hide, to stand out, and for artistic expression.  

Our level of attachment to clothes is related to our financial history and current monetary flow. It has to do with our parent’s and grandparent’s attitudes about money and clothing. There are clothes shoppers who have never worried about price tags, free to purchase whatever they like, and many who purchase whatever they like on credit. 

Sorting through our clothes reveals personal fears. We might hang on to things that are worn or ill fitting because we fear the future. Some of our clothes have sentimental ties we loathe to sever. We keep some items that we have outgrown, hanging onto a slim image of ourself wearing that natty suit or dress. 

We might think, “What if I get rid of this jacket and then need one and can’t afford it?” Maybe we hear our parents saying, “This blouse is perfectly good for school, there are plenty of children who have hardly any clothes you know.”  

Our closet holds hostage items that are in style but look ridiculous on us. Maybe we don’t know what our clothing style is so never decide what to keep or discard. 

Sometimes, through need or thrift, a person or family wears predominately pre-owned clothes; you cannot pick them out of a crowd. There are mountains of beautiful clothes to be found in resale and giveaway stores. Resale shopping is an inexpensive way to supplement or build a standout wardrobe, and are places we can charitably drop-off what is no longer wanted.  

Recycling old clothing also relieves waste-not-want-not guilt as you tie up a dozen bags of rejected items, more than half of which you were crazy to buy. Adding that clothing to a landfill would render much of it a partly biodegradable waste of personal resources. By giving the clothes away they might still be of use. 

Letting go of useful unused things (whether clothes, tools, or leftover paint in drip covered cans) will highlight aspects you like and dislike about yourself. It reflects your inner landscape and how you approach the world.  

It can reveal how fearful, or not, you are of the future, how optimistic, sentimental, practical, and impulsive. It bears witness to your store of self-knowledge, self-trust, self-esteem, and self-honesty. All that, plus more room in the closet for new clothes.

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Jacqueline Marshall

Jacqueline Marshall is a writer for Help For Depression, and freelances primarily in the areas of psychology and personal development. She has a MA in Counseling Psychology and is a licensed therapist living near Chicago.

Jacqueline has experience helping those diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness, and in providing general therapy services for individuals, couples, and families. Prior to counseling, she worked in graphic design and music education.

When not writing or counseling, Jacqueline enjoys reading literature and math-less books about quantum physics. She is a published poet, and has studied animal communication and energy healing.  


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