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How to Dress Better and Improve Your Life

Lesson 15 of 25

When Your Closet is Overflowing

Jennifer Baumgartner

How to Dress Better and Improve Your Life

Jennifer Baumgartner

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Lesson Info

15. When Your Closet is Overflowing

Lesson Info

When Your Closet is Overflowing

Why would you have a closet that overflows? Anybody have an overflowing closet? I do, and the reason why it's overflowing is because I buy more than I purge, so I run out of space. Well, and of course, I'm not gonna let you get away with that answer! It's true! Why do you buy more than you have room for? Like the reasons I said, like I, you know, just boredom, like I see things that I like and I just buy it. So it's really, it's often used as kind of an emotional, there's an emotional component to it. So either there's a creative component where it feels, you enjoy it, it gives you this creative boost when you're finding things that you like. I actually do enjoy fashion. I think that's one thing that I-- How would I guess that? I do enjoy it, but like, it's also a joyous experience for me, like when I go and find things, I get excited about it, I enjoy wearing it, it definitely makes me happy when I wear it. So yeah, I'm definitely guilty of buying more than I certain...

ly need. But I buy more than I purge. I'm in love with everything in my closet, so it's very hard for me to let go of them. So, you know, it's very common, when people are shopping, and they might keep things, you know, there is a creative element to shopping. I always think, when I would go shopping, it was like walking through a museum and looking at the galleries and actually being able to buy what you see, and that's a really exciting thing to do. So for me, shopping was very much a creative pursuit, and I could own it, and I could wear it, so even better. The other thing is, of course, you do have that boost when you shop. There is kind of this rush, this feeling, this surge of dopamine when you shop, so it does make you feel better. The problem arises when it causes issues later on. So, the reasons why people shop. It's difficult to give away what you might need or what you might like, and it's often not just giving away the actual object, it's also giving away what the object might represent. We talked a lot about associations that you have with your clothes. So, you have something from the past, and you don't wanna give up that time in your life, or the age that you were, or the body that you were. You just don't wanna part with it, so you keep the item in the closet, because that item holds all of those things, the internal things, in its threads. There is an indecisiveness. So, sometimes it's really hard to decide what you can keep and what you can give away, and it's a true organizational difficulty. There's also avoidance, so if you have a bunch of stuff, you don't have to deal with the other things in your life, right? This is chaos and you only have to work at that. If you cleaned out your closet, there might be other things that come out in your life, and it's easier not to look at that. Your stuff also expresses an external state, so when you feel out of control, your closet might be out of control. When you feel too constricted, you might rebel and have a closet that is out of control. Or the closet might be restricted with life. Clutter is a form of security, so it does keep a buffer between you and the world. When you have a lot of clutter, you may not let people in your house literally and figuratively because you don't want anybody to see it, but it serves as a good reason not to have people over when you may not wanna deal with the other issues. Another one, and I see this all the time, is nostalgia. And it's not just with your clothing, it's with all your stuff. Your clothing is neutral. We talked about this before when we looked at clothing projective assessments. Your clothing has no inherent meaning, but we put the meaning onto our stuff, and it kind of holds the spirit of the memory, or the person, or the person that you were, and if you were to give away the stuff, you're giving away that love line, or you're giving away that memory, or you're giving away your past. But we know that object is not any of those things, but we have made that connection, and it's very hard for us to detach it. Another big one, hey, it's a good deal. I had a client I worked with, she had tons and tons of stuff. I'm like, why are you having this? Like, why won't you give this away? It didn't fit her anymore, it didn't make sense for her life, and the biggest reason was, well, I got it on sale! I'm not gonna give away this T-shirt, it was like $500 and I got it for two bucks! I'm not gonna give it away. Well, you're paying for the maintenance of it, you're paying for the storage of it, so you are spending money on it, you just don't realize it. Another one that's coming up a lot is not being wasteful. So, people feel guilty that they have purchased this item, now they're not wearing this, and if they give it away, it's like waste, and they don't wanna contribute to waste. So, there's a bunch of questions I ask people when they're dealing with these reasons. Are your closets and drawers filled to capacity? Do you have additional storage bins to accommodate your items? Do you have clothes and accessories in other areas of the house, like shoes, people put their shoes in stoves. Do you have clothes you don't wear from five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago? Do you keep your clothes that are stained or ripped? Do you keep clothes that are too big or too small on you? When was the last time you gave away anything in your closet? Do you have difficulty deciding what to throw away, what to give away, and what to keep? Do you find it hard to give away items because you, quote, might need it one day? Do you find it hard to give away items because you have memories associated with them? Does the clutter in your closet cause you distress? Do you have clutter in other areas of your home? Have your friends and family suggested you clean the clutter? Have they offered to help you? Please, let me throw this away for you! You were talking about your wife, and you know, if your spouse is telling you to give away something, you know, you might wanna think about it. Does the thought of giving away your clothes cause extreme distress? If you answered yes to any of these, you're struggling with extreme clutter in your closet, and it's time to examine what you have, why you wanna keep it, and do you really need it? Does anybody self-identify? Is anybody here a person who doesn't like giving away their clothes? And we kinda know why. You told us a little. This is your day, this is your segment. It's not necessarily clothes, but I have that with something else, with camera equipment, and lighting equipment, and things that I use for photography. I've gotten a lot better, by the way, given away a lot of them, sold them, what have you. But I still, to this day, when I look at them, I really don't need a lot of it, and I have enough equipment for somebody who generates lots of income from it, but I still hold onto them. And, you know, I haven't found a balance with this particular part. Clothes is not the issue. I guess it manifests itself in camera equipment. And it's very common, you know? There's a reason why these shows like Buried Alive and Hoarders is so popular, because there's probably a piece of us, not that we hit that diagnostic level, but there's probably a piece of us that can get that, that there is this holding onto our stuff, that stuff we may need some day, or stuff that holds memories, or stuff that we keep after a trauma. So, there are portions that we understand and recognize, and as we get more and more stuff, we find that we hoard, we hold onto, we clutter even more. I sit down and create these scenarios for myself that, if this situation happens, I'm gonna need these two pieces of equipment. And I hold onto them. Sometimes, when we go on vacation, I used to take a lot of the stuff, but those situations never arises, and I never need it, and if something happened, I knew how to deal with it without any of that stuff. Well, and it's interesting, 'cause talking to you throughout this class, you're a preparer, you're precise, you do things a certain way, and so this is just kind of an extension of making sure that, if something would arise, you would have what you need, that there are no surprises, right? So it's kind of an extension of the whole you, and that's why you're seeing what you're seeing with specific to your camera and that equipment. So, the treatments. I always look, there's a popular kind of concept in business that's called the Pareto principle, and we're gonna apply it to your closet. 20% of your stuff is doing 80% of the work, so why are you keeping 80% of the stuff? And I just try to think about, when I feel guilty about giving things away, or I'm like, ooh, I might need it, or ooh, maybe I'll fit into that if I stop eating so many cookies or something. It might be what makes me feel better is who else might like this now? Is there somebody that can get joy from this? Then let me just have that joy and be joyful that I can give somebody that, so that's kind of a way to look at it. And the way I measure it in my own closet is I will put clothes inside out. So, I have clients, like, when they wear their clothes, when they take them off but they don't wash them, they go inside out and then you know that you've worn them, and are you actually wearing them? So after a month or three months' time seeing, like, what did I wear and what did I not? If you are washing your items, I will have my clients put those items, like, in the back or at the bottom. And they're not allowed to go to the bottom. They have to wait. So, making sure that they're wearing all their clothes, that they're wearing those items, I mean, you usually can go into your closet and you know what you wear all the time. Amy, you had showed us, like, there was the black shirt, and the jeans, and the black flats. That's gonna be something we already know, you know, you're gonna wear all the time. So, we all have those things, those go-to pieces. Making sure that you own more of those than less. I also have people switch hangers. That's another popular thing where you just, even if you wash the item, when you put it back in the closet, you put the hanger the other way, and that's a guide that you know you've worn it, and so that's an item that you keep, those items that have been used, that are working for you as you have worked hard for them to buy them, and clean them, and wash them, and dry clean them, and things like that. There's also another thing I do is I have my clients take everything and put 'em on the bed or the floor. We lay out the clothing and we put them in categories, the tops in one area, the bottoms in the other, then the dresses, the accessories, the jewelry, and then we look at, are there any repeaters? Are there any things that are not working? What can we get rid of? I talked to you about, like, when you're going through your closet, if you could categorize something, picking the best of that category, they all kind of serve the same purpose. I am totally a hoarder of cream-colored sweaters. Why, I don't know, but I love cream-colored sweaters. Do I really need 800 cream-color sweaters? No, but what I can do is dump all my cream-color sweaters on a bed and say, okay, who are the stars of this cream-color sweater category? And then I pick the stars, and the rest, I could probably give away, which I try to do. Also, disassociating the memory from your stuff. Your clothes are not your memories, your clothes are neutral. You have put that memory on them, you have put that meaning on them. See if you might be able to disassociate them, and if you need to, put the memory on something else or take a picture. I have a major issue with giving away my daughter's artwork. I'm like, I'm a horrible mother, I'm throwing away her crafting! And I had a traumatic experience where my daughter actually found my recycled, in the recycle center, her artwork, and she told me, I can't believe you're giving away my clothes, which furthered my sadness. But what I did was I came up with a way to create a collage, I take a picture of the artwork, and now I feel like I can give it away without having, you know, stacks of artwork that she has made. You can also think about, when you're buying one, for every one item you have, remove two. You can limit the container. So, as you see in food studies, if I give a person a larger container and have them go to a buffet, they're not gonna put the same amount of food as they would in a smaller container. They're no more hungry, they just try to fill the container. So, there was a study done, if I gave you a little container of popcorn, a small one or a big one, you are gonna eat the big one, you're gonna eat it just as much as you would the small one. You're gonna not only fill the container, you're gonna consume a larger container. So, limit your containers. If you don't wanna buy more, don't let yourself go beyond a bin, or don't let yourself go beyond your closet. Create a life with an action plan to match the wardrobe, rather than keeping your clothing. So, if your clothing has memories, find out what it was about that memory that was exciting, what you liked, what you're really holding onto, and try to put it in the current life, and then have the wardrobe to match. Like a hobby, your old body, unfulfilled dreams. There's obviously a clinical hoarding disorder, and there's been more education about hoarding as we see it on TV. We kind of bring light that it's not just somebody who can't give away their stuff. It's actually a clinical issue that is based in chemical interactions in the brain that a person does need help with. So, this is obviously somebody who keeps items that they don't have any use for. They have issues with ability to let go, to organize, to make decisions, what they can and cannot keep. It begins in adolescence, like many diagnoses do, and it worsens, it often escalates, and a lot of times there's an environmental trauma that can trigger it. There's a really fascinating study that speaks to the physiological component of hoarding. It was neurological research from the University of Iowa in 2004. It revealed that, when people have a prefrontal cortex injury, they were never clutterers, but all of a sudden, they started obtaining and keeping their stuff. They started showing hoarding behavior when they had a damage to that area of the brain, so that tells us that there's something going on with the prefrontal cortex of somebody who might be hoarding, that this isn't just them being lazy, or them being messy, it's really an issue that deserves proper care, and it doesn't need to create guilt or feelings of self-blame. Just like we wouldn't blame somebody for getting any other disease, we cannot blame somebody for having hoarding. So, when the prefrontal cortex is damaged, patients experience uncontrollable urges to collect objects and hoard them. So, we can use cognitive behavioral therapy and medication to help people who are dealing with hoarding issues.

Class Description

Every time we buy a piece of clothing and choose an outfit to wear, we’re saying something about who we are. Our dressing behaviors are like windows into our psyches, exposing our deepest feelings, desires, conflicts, and problems.

Author and clinical psychologist Dr. Jen Baumgartner will begin by looking at the general principles of psychology of dress and fashion, then dive into the nine most common dressing difficulties—from buying more than we need to being bored with our look to avoiding mirrors.

In this fascinating course, Dr. Baumgartner will not only help you examine your wardrobe and how it reflects your emotions, but will teach you how to modify your choices so you can make real improvements to your life—both inside and out.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand the principles of acquiring, assembling, storing, organizing, and removing.
  • Identify which of the nine dress difficulties applies to you.
  • Stop buying items that you don’t really need or want.
  • Avoid always being in work clothes or mom jeans.
  • Formulate a strategy for changing your behaviors and revamping your wardrobe.


Yolanda Azpiazu

Loved it! Incredible class, so interesting and filled with new concepts, I am a big fan of the author and I admire her for the way she suggests us to analyse things with curiosity and looking "bellow the water", rather than judgement. Thank you so much for this wonderful class Dr. Baumgartner.

a Creativelive Student

It's about how you dress, but really, it's about how to use the way you dress as a lens to better understand yourself. Packed with useful information and tips, highly recommend! Thanks Jenny!