Liberate Yourself, Starting With Your Closet

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On a snowy Friday afternoon last February, I was curled up on my sofa with a heart full of worry and sadness.

It finally occurred to me that my daughter, who has been my dearest friend, biggest fan and greatest teacher only had one more year left at home.

For a single mom, the meaning is simple. When she leaves, I’ll be sitting in an empty house.

So, what did I do on that gloomy afternoon?

I decided to clean my closet.

My mentor, Martha Beck, says that our living spaces are “three-dimensional portraits of our inner lives.”

I like to keep my house clean and clutter free, but my closet told a different story.

It basically said, “Tonya is avoiding a part of her life.”

When I’d think about tackling my closet clean-up, I’d immediately spin into stories of:

This project is bigger than I can handle.
It will take me forever!
No one sees my closet but me.
I can deal with it later.

Oh, the irony.

What I was really saying was:

Dealing with my daughter leaving feels too big to handle.
I may never get over this sadness.
I can put on a happy face for everyone and pretend this isn’t happening.
I’ll deal with my grief later.

On that afternoon, I decided that I wanted to confront my feelings, one piece of clothing and pair of shoes at a time.

I pulled out everything I owned with tears streaming down my face and piled them onto my bed.

When I say everything, I mean everything. There was nothing left in my closet. Not even a hanger or a spare earring.

An empty closet = new beginnings.

With a mountain of my belongings on my bed, I was forced to deal with the deeper issues that were brewing underneath the surface of my life.

This wasn’t just a closet makeover; it was about my own liberation.

By letting go of things, I was training myself to let go of my daughter. Even deeper, I was practicing how to let go. Period.

Over the weekend, I began to take each piece of clothing or accessory and hold it and ask:

1. Do I love this?

2. Does this represent the woman I’m becoming?

Sounds simple, right?

However, it wasn’t.

Throughout the process, my mind would often say things like,

You can’t get rid of that. It was a gift from your mom.
You paid so much for that dress. It’s wasteful to give it away.

And, the most recurring one was…

You might regret getting rid of that.

Fear can often be disguised as logic, but I was prepared for my mind shenanigans and trusted the process.

The more I let go, the easier it started to become.

By the end of the process, I was excited to get rid of stuff.

Those 2 simple questions guided me to completely transforming my closet into a space I absolutely love, all while learning…

It’s okay to let go.

Yes, I cried as I said goodbye to the dress I wore on my first trip to Paris. I hugged a jacket that I bought in Aspen many years ago. I danced around my bedroom in the same shoes that I had danced in all night in Monaco.

I thanked these items, and then I released them.

They were a beautiful part of my past; they didn’t belong in my future.

I cut my belongings in half, and only the exquisite was allowed to remain.

When I finished my closet transformation, I could sense a new freedom — of space, new choices, new beginnings.

Now, one year later, every item in my closet is something that I’ve deliberately chosen to be there.

And, one year later, I have come to terms that my daughter is spreading her wings to fly.

Life is about constantly shedding, editing and letting go.

It’s ironic how a person resists the very things that will liberate her.

If you’re feeling like your life is out of control, that you don’t have space to breath, or that you’re holding onto things that need to be released…

…head to your closet.

Your closet is more than a storage area for your clothes;
it’s a representation of who you are as a woman. {tweet it}.

Holding onto the size 8 dress? What are you really holding onto?

Does everything feel out of place? Does your life feel completely out of sorts?

Can’t ever seem to find what you’re looking for? Have you stuffed your mind with so much you can’t hear yourself?

Is your closet full of clothes from 10 years ago? Are you resisting change?

Cleaning your closet (or any part of your home) is about so much more than de-cluttering.

It’s about confronting yourself, dealing with the deeper issues, and developing the courage to let go of what’s no longer serving you and consciously deciding on the woman you desire to be.

A woman can liberate herself, starting with her closet.

Are you in?

Share below: the first step in this process is to get painfully honest with yourself. What are the current state of affairs in your closet?

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25 Responses to Liberate Yourself, Starting With Your Closet

  1. Your post today was in perfect timing to go with what I blogged about this morning! My entire bedroom, not just my closet, is my focus for March and I will need to do a lot of releasing to get it where I want to be. Indeed, my life is messy right now and I am working hard to bring everything into balance. Thank you for this post. What a confirmation!

    • Oh Carrie, I hear you! If I’ve learned anything, it’s that there will always be a part of our lives that feels a bit messy. The real secret is to embrace the mess and commit to creating it into something beautiful.

      What I really like is you have a focus for the month. When we try to do everything, we usually do very little.

      Something I didn’t mention here is the maintenance part of keeping things organized. Once you get your bedroom the way you want it, create a few simple rituals that will keep it that way. It’s such a glorious feeling!

  2. I can’t believe how one’s closet can carry so much baggage, or at least mine does. It has clothes in It that no longer fit me, but I’m always gonna lose the weight, it has clothes that I wore when I had a job, before I got laid off 3 years ago and have not been able to find another one. And it has the clothes I wear over and over and don’t really like. I’m afraid if I clean it out I won’t have anything left. De cluttering my kitchen or office is so much easier.

    • Joni, letting go is the hardest part, and it’s also the most liberating part.

      I’d rather have a few things that I absolutely love than a closet full of items that remind me of a past I no longer want to live in.

      Ask yourself: does this represent the next evolution of me?

      If the answer is no…bless it, and let it go!

  3. I am really looking forward to my next major cleanup. However I am waiting until I have finished an addition to my bedroom, which is a canopy for my bed that I am making. Adding one thing you will love and removing many things you don’t is one way to overcome the procrastination, but the clean-up process is rewarding in itself.

    • Ooh…a canopy? I’ve always loved them.

      Yes, removing one thing before adding another is a great rule.

      However, on this particular day, I decided to tackle it all. It was far from easy, but as you say, it is rewarding on the other side!

      xoxo,

      Tonya

  4. Thank you Tonya for giving me a confirmation of my most recent spiritual quest that I have been sent on…you see I am doing the same thing with my accessories in my home that you have done in your closet, and let me just say, it has been literally painful getting rid of things that are not something I would have ever given away before. Having the same feeling as you are stating about is this item classy enough for who I am becoming and do I love it!!! You have just given me the breath of relief and a way better understanding of what this new home journey is all about….THANK YOU FOR YOU STORIES, LESSONS AND THE EXAMPLE YOU SET WITH YOUR OWN LIFE TO HELP US!!!

    • You are SO welcome Marcie!

      Yes, letting go is painful, but it’s more painful to hang on.

      I’ve noticed that the fear of letting go is completely out of lack mentality. Will I ever need it again? What if someone finds out I gave it away? What if I don’t find something to replace it with?

      Yet, if we make decisions out of fear, it just breeds more fear!

      Plus, I’m craving white space in my life, and because we have stuffed our lives with so much stuff, simply having this space can often cause discomfort…until it doesn’t.

  5. Great post as always, Tonya. Thank you! I was wondering what the answer to your question is -Holding onto the size 8 dress? What are you really holding onto? – I always thought holding on to clothes that don’t fit would motivate me to get back in shape. But it in fact holding me back??

    • GREAT QUESTION Gaya!

      Let me ask you: when you look at those smaller clothes, do you feel excited and motivated? Or, does it create another feeling?

      My personal experience, as well as my clients, is that holding onto clothes until one day often put their lives on hold. They don’t invest in dressing the body they have now in hopes of getting back into their smaller clothes.

      The secret to creating the body you want is to adore the body you have right NOW, which means dressing it well.

      You’ll always know what to hang onto and what to release based on how you feel.

    • Here is another way to look at it. When you get back to a size 8, will you want to wear your old clothes? Or will you want to go out and celebrate and buy some fresh new things that represent who you are now? So, part of the motivation for reaching your goal is the reward of the awesome new clothes.

  6. Such a brave and inspirational post! Thank you Tonya for giving me a delicate and much needed prod in my derrière! Guess what my task is this weekend….having lots of Italian language homework is an excuse, not a reason.

  7. Thanks for the gentle nudge…I had a date with my closet today and pulled everything out only putting back what I love and what fits and now I feel a sense of calm when I see what is left. I love the result!

  8. Tonya! This is a wonderful post! I remember approx. 1 year ago sitting on the floor in my closet not knowing where to start! I knew the entire thing needed to be cleaned out and I did it one section at a time. It was the most freeing exercise I’ve ever gone through! I hope others follow your advice and get “Liberated!”

    The best news is that after I had finished my closet, which took me about 3 days to complete, I felt so good about what I’d done that I never let it get messy again! And I am very strategic about what I allow into my closet now – and my life!!! Suelement l’exquis!

    Thank you for all of your beautiful wisdom and inspiration!!

    Love,
    Donna

  9. Thanks for your post Tonya and I know this to be true. For me, my closet is good. It’s my books and magazines, and even old term papers; they’re all in clear plastic boxes and I’ve been avoiding sorting and saying goodbye for the longest. What an eloquent way you have explained why I need to deal with them no matter how uncomfortable. Thanks you!

    • Great point! It may not be your closet. It could be your pantry, desk or boxes you’ve been avoided. But, what I know is that it feels SO good to turn and face whatever area that is. Good luck Mimi! xoxo

  10. “Fear can sometimes be disguised as logic.” Oh my goodness is that a powerful statement!! My son graduates high school in June and then leaves for the Marines in July. I am handling this in many ways except for head on!! Time to do some closet cleaning and letting go. Thank you for such a timely post.

  11. I’ve been thinking of clearing my closet(s) recently – yes, I have more than one and yes, they are stuffed full to overflowing! And until yesterday, the clothes that I actually wear were not in the closet but on the ‘floordrobe’, because I felt there was no room inside for them to go.
    So, what is in my closet that makes life so out of control? Six years ago, my mother died. We were just beginning to rebuild a relationship that had been broken and had never been easy. When she died, I cleared out her things and brought them to my home. She had some lovely clothes – but they are not my size. However, I am an amateur dressmaker and as she was bigger than me, remaking them in my own size and style is not a big deal – only I didn’t. The things sat in the closet until I couldn’t fit my own clothes in there any more.
    Anyway, yesterday, with the help of my daughter, we got all my clothes off the floor and into the closet/drawers etc (they did fit after all). But now I have to go through everything item by item to decide if I really want to keep it/remake it etc. The only thing is, I still don’t feel ready to toss/donate stuff that once belonged to my mother.
    Not sure yet what the answer is

  12. I cleaned out my closet last week and so glad I did. A lot of past was in there, clothes I just no longer wear anymore and a style that would make you cringe. It is so liberating to do this and it gives you a new beginning for the future.

  13. Dear Tonya,

    Wow, what a post!! I love every part of it!
    Thank you so much for sharing your story and making me aware of so many things in my life! This all makes so much sense!
    THANK YOU for being an amazing inspiration in my life! I´m looking forward to hearing more from you!

  14. Dear Tonya,

    Can you imagine for 3 months now I have been going through my closet, putting aside what I don’t need and plan to visit an orphanage with my boys to donate (with joy)…. this include clothes, shoes and hand bags.

    I am encouraging my boys to do the same and we will visit another orphanage to donate to the needy! Yesterday I changed the curtains of my bedroom and bathroom….

    I just want a new environment, I just need changes just like I need changes in my life! The exercise is slow but I plan to finish this month end 🙂

    N

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