A Curated Closet – is it too much pressure?

A Curated Closet – is it too much pressure?

Is a curated closet a worthy goal? It may depend on what curated means to you, but I have observed that it can create quite a bit of anxiety to actually create this according to some standards. When did we start setting such high standards for ourselves?

William Morris said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

But the bar began to be set before Morris. Marketing as an industry seems to have begun in earnest in the 1920’s and has been manipulating us ever since.  One of the early advocates of ‘marketing’ was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, and if what I’ve read is to be believed, he was quite enthusiastic about using his uncle’s psychological observations to get people to buy based on their insecurities about themselves.


Because I’m Worth It

A Curated Closet

In the 70s, a famous slogan was written for L’Oreal hair colour by copy writer Ilon Specht: “Because I’m worth it.”   The current trend of curating your closet is, in many senses, another level of these messages, because now, simply having enough money for clothes isn’t enough – now we are supposed to love everything.

So we curate. You may call this clutter clearing or minimalism or some other name. I have enjoyed doing Courtney Carver’s Project 333 which I write about here. But what I began to notice is that I found myself – after downsizing – continuing on to refine and curate in search of those ‘love’ items. I may have not been increasing the total number of clothing I owned by much but I was still – even unconsciously – on the search for the perfect curated closet.

In some Facebook communities on minimalist fashion I’ve read how people feel they haven’t been successful in downsizing the items they own because they don’t have anything in their closet they love.  Think about this for a moment: even after downsizing we look in a closet full of clothes and feel we need to keep working on it.

Presumably we loved the things we bought (for the most part, the majority of it, anyway) when we bought them. Why do we fall out of love with them so fast?

Retirement Wardrobe
Loved last Winter!

When beginning the downsizing the wardrobe process, we get rid of the obvious things: you know the ones. They don’t fit, they are shabby from wear or washing, or they are for a part of your life that is finished. They may be gifts that didn’t suit you but you couldn’t part with, trends that didn’t suit you, or fast fashion mistakes. Those are relatively easy to let go of, once you start.

Now the closet is at least somewhat more deliberate and streamlined. But is it curated? Do you love everything? You may have found that you’ve unwittingly raised the bar for yourself.

We are told that we should only keep clothing that ‘sparks joy’ to use a current catch-phrase (because we are worth it?).  I accepted this as a worthy goal until I began to realize how much anxiety it was creating. Not because of the search, but because of the guilt it creates at finding I have clothes that are not worn out, still fit, but I no longer love them. Because this mindset keeps you attuned to more buying, to ‘get it right – to have the perfect curated wardrobe. And I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of this. I’m ready to get off of the treadmill.

Good Enough

When I started to see my own cycle, I began to rebel and think about a new goal. That new goal is ‘good enough’. In fact, when it comes to clothing, I think ‘okay’ is really good. I have a closet full of clothing that is ‘okay’. It is good enough – and I don’t feel cheated at all that I am not wearing things I love everyday.

I love them just enough – just the right amount for an inanimate object that doesn’t have feelings, and is, after all, a consumable. It is always one wearing away from being unwearable.

Why? Because in these clothes I can be myself. I can do whatever needs to get done without being concerned about wrecking my best clothes. The majority of the clothes I enjoy wearing everyday are work horses. I like to have things that are easily replaceable, which means for me, a closet of basics. 

I do have a few things in my closet that I really, really like – they are my  Divas. I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t wearing these more than I do, because, you know “I’m Worth It.” Sometimes, having that special jacket or dress for special occasions is fine – it actually makes the times when you wear it stand out more in my memory.

Love is for Things with a Pulse

I love my family and friends. I love my pets. They are long term loves that define me and will be with me forever. And then there are shorter term loves which are equally important to the human condition: we fall in love with a gorgeous sunset, a baby or a puppy we meet on a street. Maybe we fall in love with a piece of music, or drink in the beauty of a flower or tree, or a colour.

There is often much to admire about clothing: the fabric, the colour, the workmanship, and yes, some of  those will be works of art, one of a kind items to be treasured.

If and when those stray into your life – wonderful! To seek it out and make it your goal can cause dissatisfaction and anxiety. I want to keep my energy more for loving people and less for loving things.

I would like to reduce my attachments to things. I appreciate what I have, but it is often a source of anxiety when it is lost or misplaced and I recognize that not owning them would free up my energy to love my life, and not my things.

Fitting This in with Real Life

It is late December as I am writing this, and chances are pretty good that you are about to receive some new items of clothing or jewellery. Giving and receiving will probably not end – and I am not sure it needs to. We need people to create and those to purchase, and everyone who creates wants to sell –  including writers who introduce us to new ideas.

But we can be more discerning. Just because a writer says something, doesn’t mean it is true. It is worth stepping back frequently for a bit of sanity and clarity, and to realize that even if you try to avoid them, we can’t easily escape a continual barrage of marketing messages which are aimed at producing dissatisfaction – that we are worth it to have the very best.

The rebellion is in acknowledging that joy from things is fleeting: the real joy comes from cultivating relationships with family, friends and even people you encounter during your day, from seeing beauty in nature, in reading uplifting words, and seeing other people’s creation and interpretations of this life.

We can do this without getting caught up in the craziness of the marketing messages.

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