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The Benefits of Cleaning out Your Closet

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

Over the past few months, my TikTok has shown me copious amounts of ‘closet clean-out’ videos, and they are quite intense. Creators are going through their entire wardrobe – like, I mean every single item of clothing they own – and getting rid of anything they don’t need. The process of getting rid of items is ruthless – clothes that haven’t been worn in the past year? Get outta there. Clothes that no longer fit, but maybe one day will again? Donate it, you don’t need them. Items that no longer spark joy in the way they used to? Consider it dead and buried!

While at first I considered this process to be severe and a bit harsh, I’ve gradually come to see the beauty behind the process after being inspired to try it out myself. Not only are you tidying up your closet, but you’re also decluttering your mind. Personally, my closet is the perfect example of disarray and I often look at it and feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of tidying I have to do. Not just that though, how often do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of clothing you have, or feel guilty for not wearing certain items enough? I don’t think we need that inner turmoil anymore – it’s time for a change.

So here are some reasons I’ve come up with to justify why dedicating an afternoon to a thorough closet clean-out is a good idea:

Eradicate the Negativity

Clothing-related guilt is such a real experience. We’ve all been there, stuck with items that we regret buying, or that we haven’t worn for years because they’re outdated. While you might not realise it, keeping all these things stored in your closet could be creating negativity in your life. How often do you think about all the money you’ve wasted on those neglected items shoved at the back of your drawer? Or perhaps you’re cringing for giving in to the outrageous fashion trends of the 2010s, and have a few too many t-shirts that say ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. Whatever that shame might be, you don’t need that negativity in your life anymore – it’s time to donate.

That one expensive jersey you splurged on years ago but never wore? Yeah, that one. The one that you’re only holding onto because you feel too guilty to get rid of it? Donate it! I promise you will forget about its existence the minute it’s not staring at you as a reminder of your poor spending habits. Also, you’ll feel better knowing that it’s gone to a loving home. And what about that box of scarves and beanies that your grandmother lovingly made for you that you never wear – they’re just too itchy. Just get rid of some of them and keep a few for sentimental reasons if you need to. She won’t be offended, and you’ll stop feeling shameful for never wearing them. And while you’re at it, be kind to yourself by getting rid of all those items that no longer fit you. They’re just making you unhappy each day that you no longer fit into them, and there’s no need to feel guilty for such a thing! Once you get rid of these things, they will stop haunting your nightmares, I promise you.

The Paradox of Choice

You know that typical movie trope where a girl with an extensive wardrobe is frantically flinging her many items of clothing out of her cupboard, where she utters the absurd phrase ‘I have nothing to wear!’ The joke, of course, is that she clearly has plenty of clothes to wear, but she seems to be oblivious to that fact. However, I stopped finding this trope funny when I realised that I was doing the exact same thing – that this was actually a highly relatable experience. And it’s not that I have nothing to wear, it’s the opposite! I have too many options that I can’t possibly consider all of them at once! Everything I try on feels wrong because I keep thinking that there must be better choices hidden in there. So, even though I have plenty of options, it feels like I have nothing to wear because nothing feels satisfactory, and I always end up feeling that I have nothing suitable to wear.

Well, it turns out this feeling has a label – the paradox of choice. In essence, the paradox of choice specifies that while we might think that having many options to choose from makes it easier to find an option that you’re happy with. However, having a plethora of options actually makes it much more difficult to make a choice, which can ultimately make us feel unsatisfied with our selection. In reality, it’s been proven that if we have fewer options, it’s much easier to make a choice that you’re satisfied with. This way, you aren’t haunted by all the alternative possibilities you could’ve settled with. This concept is summed up by The Decision Lab, who explains that ‘when the number of choices increases, so does the difficulty of knowing what is best. Instead of increasing our freedom to have what we want, the paradox of choice suggests that having too many choices actually limits our freedom.’

So, here’s where the closet cleanout comes into the picture. I’m theorising that the fewer clothing options you have, the easier it’ll be to choose an outfit you’re happy with in the morning. As stressful and time-consuming as the cleanout process can be, it will save you a lot of time and anxiety in the long run. Think of it as an investment for the peace of mind for your future self.

Reduce Stress

Building off from my last point on reducing anxiety; clearing up your closet space will also make you feel less stressed in general. Not only will you be less stressed when picking out the perfect outfit, but you’ll also feel better after you’ve tackled that chaotic clutter of shame on the other end of your bedroom. It’s a win-win situation!

Personally, my closet always looks like a tornado hit it, so trying to find anything vaguely coherent to wear is practically impossible. My stress levels increase the second I glance at the cupboard door. While I claim that the chaos doesn’t bother me, it definitely weighs on my mind. My room never feels tidy because of that area of shame, and it’s always a point of stress at the back of my mind that prevents me from relaxing entirely. Do yourself a favour and set aside an afternoon to clear up your closet a bit, I promise you’ll feel at least a little bit better (and productive too!).

So, let’s declutter and let go of all that clothing-related guilt and anxiety. It’s time to get rid of those piles of neglected clothes that have been collected over the past decade or so. I’ll admit, I don’t think I’m ready to fully embrace the Marie Kondo method just yet (due to my hoarding habits) but I think this whole ‘decluttering’ thing is a great start.

Film and Television Studies Honours student