What To Do When None of Your Clothes Spark Joy?

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I’ve said for most of my adult life that when I grow up I want to be a minimalist. Obviously I’m not yet a grown up. Ask anyone who has seen my house if I’m a minimalist and they will laugh at you. Life in a busy family is messy, and while I am learning to accept a certain level of chaos, I’m far from resigning myself to a life of clutter.

I find clutter physically exhausting. I also find my anxiety levels increase dramatically in a cluttered space. In order to combat the exhaustion and the anxiety I’ve tried to create a habit of continual decluttering. I’ve frequently got a box or a bag or a corner or a closet devoted to collecting the things I no longer want. Fortunately I’ve come a long way from worrying that something might be useful in the future and thus I must never throw it away. For in that, my friends, lies the path to hoarding.

I understand the concept of keeping only what sparks joy. I understand that can even include clothing items that don’t currently fit, but may still make us happy. That’s fine.

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But what if nothing sparks joy? What if after years of being a shape shifter I hardly recognize my body? Certainly this alien figure does not provide the canvas required for the clothes to spark joy. What if, even if flattering clothing existed, I couldn’t purchase it anyway because an entirely new wardrobe is not in the budget? What to do if no clothes spark joy? I’ll tell you something: tossing them all and walking around naked is most definitely not the answer.

After ruminating heavily on this problem for about a year, I’ve come to see the situation in the inverse. In doing so, I have found peace.

Now instead of asking myself if this particular item of clothing sparks joy (answer: none) I identify which pieces spark negative feelings. Since changing the question I find myself realizing that some pieces of clothing actually make me feel worse. Maybe I’m always tugging and adjusting, maybe I’m always covering up a stain, maybe the fabric is clingy even though the cut is generous enough that it shouldn’t cling. Whatever it is, I’m becoming more aware of my feelings with the clothes and some practically beg me to be thrown away.

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The New Yorker cartoons, always on point.

It took me quite a bit of time before I could make such observations. Go easy on yourself and just get rid of what you’ll miss the least. You may not end your task with a home so perfectly organized that it is an ethereal masterpiece. Perhaps you’ll never LOVE your clothes. But if you get rid of the things that have a negative impact on you and your emotions, then you’re succeeding. Progress is the best we can do.

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