Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Life

Cluttered Closet, Cluttered Mind?

When I got back home after traveling for a month around Europe with only a 20-inch suitcase, I could no longer deny the fact that my bulging closet required some attention.

Image by Wikimeida Commons

Granted, it’s summer, so I could fit an exponentially greater amount of clothing into my Samsonite than if it were a season that required bulkier outfits. But still, the experience of having a compact wardrobe was liberating.

That’s why my first task upon arriving home — before I unpacked and before I made a grocery list — was to clean out my closet and my dresser. It’s like my walk-in closet, which I share with my husband, cried out to me as soon as she heard my key in the door.

“I can’t breathe,” she said.

“I will save you, dear!”

Trash. Donate. Keep. Those were the three piles into which I sorted every piece of clothing I owned, including scarves, coats, underwear, bras and tights. I let no sentimentality distract me from my mission for a simpler and more streamlined wardrobe.

That brown miniskirt that I bought on sale at Bloomingdale’s but clung where I didn’t want it to cling? I said good bye, but it did sting a little. After all, that skirt represented my proudest shopping moment. For some fluke — because it was a season old and no longer in the store’ system — I got that skirt for one cent.

The like-new hot-pink and hot-purple pair of tights that were all the rage a couple of seasons ago but I haven’t worn since? Buh-bye.

Professional organizer Julie Bestry, who I follow on Twitter has offered the following advice to me in the past: If you don’t feel completely comfortable in a piece of clothing — even if it’s practically new so it seems wasteful to get rid of it — it’s likely you won’t ever wear it. So donate it. You will not only getting a cleaner closet, but also a calmer mind.

A cluttered closet, according to a recent study, can raise stress levels in women. For me, there is also the guilt of the amount of money I spent on clothes I didn’t need and don’t wear.

Most shoppers understand the exhilaration of scoring a deal of the decade, and indeed there is a connection between clothes and the psyche. But the downside of that connection is the self-loathing that occurs when peering into a full closet and thinking, “I’ve got nothing to wear.”

I recognize that clothes are more than a vehicle for fashionable expression. They tell the story of where we are at a certain point in our lives. Also, there are times in our lives, after we give birth, or when we are ill, that we might need more choices in terms of sizes and comfort. But at this point in my life I crave simplicity and a wardrobe that minimizes the time I spend deciding what to wear.

Three trash bags later (one for the dumpster and two for donations) it’s clearer to me that I have clothes to wear. And I didn’t have to go shopping to find them. They were just hidden by the weeds.

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.