Wardrobe dilemma: What to let go of

I am often asked about where to draw the line in keeping pieces of clothing for sentimental reasons, or culling them to be practical.

There are certain pieces in our wardrobe that hold special memories … of people, places, events, phases of our lives.

If being authentically Who We Are is the most powerful Self we can be in this life, then it stands to reason that connecting with our authentic style will only aid this.

So, do we keep something from our past that doesn’t reflect Who We Are these days, after we have evolved from that point in time, or that relationship, or do we let go and give it away for someone else to connect with and enjoy?

For me, the most important question is, which part of yourself does the item of clothing connect you to? Does it empower you? Does it bring a smile to your face? Is it keeping you stuck, sad or angry, or is it reminding you of a time of joy, empowerment or love? Does the piece still have a lively charge to it, or does it feel limp, like its day is done?

I had this dilemma only months ago in a clean-out of my wardrobe. I am normally pretty good at culling my clothes and only holding on to what resonates with my authentic Self and brings me into connection with the truth of who I am. However, there was one piece that had escaped the last couple of wardrobe culls. It stood out like a sore thumb. It was a completely different style. All of its buddies had gone years before, and externally, it was a style that didn’t connect with a single fibre of my present being.

As I took the shirt in question out of my wardrobe, the crisp cotton still felt almost crunchy, only having been worn a couple of times. As I held the shirt, I felt a pang of sadness. A feeling of disbelief. A wrenching within my stomach. Could I really cull this shirt? There was a feeling of betrayal if I did, and there was a feeling of holding on to a sadness if I didn’t. I was torn between moving on and trying to somehow keep the past alive.

Now, usually I have not had any difficulty recycling clothes – sometimes I’m too good at it! Yet this shirt had been given to me by a kind colleague and friend. It represented so many memories of times we had worked together – the laughter, the long hours, the pressure and the times we drove each other crazy.

As I stood there at my wardrobe holding the shirt, I knew the struggle I was having in culling it: it was a symbol of life, the continuation of a friendship.

Yet, whether I kept the shirt in my wardrobe or not, nothing could bring our friendship back – nothing could bring him back. A soul gone too soon. A phone call that left me cold, as I heard of his passing, a life lost to the pressures and the stress of our society, and the desperation to be all things to all people.

I didn’t get to say goodbye – it had been about twelve months or so since our last phone call, we caught up now and then and it was as if no time had passed, yet now all time had passed and there would be no more catch ups, no more phone calls.

I stood staring at the shirt and felt lost in sadness. This shirt was the last reminder of a very kind and genuine man, a respected colleague, treasured friend and a man who would have done anything to help others. He was no longer here, yet the shirt to me felt like the last tangible piece of his life. I felt for his wife, for his kids. They not only had a lifetime with him but a whole house full of memories – I had just this one shirt.

As hard as it was, I let the shirt go; I recognised that it was not breathing life back into his presence again. And it was a constant daily reminder to me when I looked inside my wardrobe, of a friend gone too soon. It was an unhelpful burden to place on myself, to hold onto an object like this.

I felt a tug from inside, as I carefully folded the shirt and put it in the bag, and as I do with all my recycles, thanking it for its presence in my life. As I let it go, I felt a subtle release from the sadness. I blessed it as if saying goodbye to my friend, and let it go with loving kindness. I felt a strange relief. A surrender to the sadness, yet also a freedom, in realising wholeheartedly that I didn’t need something physical to remind me of a treasured friend and a time of my life that represented fun, friendship and a freedom to be myself. That part of me has not died, and I will be forever grateful for the time we shared. I don’t need a shirt to hold on to memories like that.

Perhaps you’re holding on to a dress that an ex-lover gave you, or a piece of jewellery that stings every time you see it, but you just can’t quite let it go. Perhaps there’s an item of clothing in your wardrobe from a past era and you have no idea why it tugs on your heartstrings, stopping you from putting it in the recycle pile. I encourage you to take that object and give it a moment of your time. Ask yourself openly, what is it that connects me on such an emotional level to this piece? What am I afraid of letting go? What am I feeling right now? Do I want to feel this way, or would I prefer to let go?