My Crowded Closet Problem

A person's hands are shown looking through a rack of shirts.

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Somehow, even though I swear I’ve donated enough clothes to fill at least one swimming pool, my closets and drawers feel as overflowing as ever. I still don’t know where to put all my clothes these days, tucking them in various cluttered spots in my room. My goal these past two years has been to cut down my wardrobe where I can, yet I’m not sure if it ever felt as big as this or if I ever felt this kind of bewilderment over how to keep it all organized. I debate whether to buy more clothes hangers or if that’s just giving myself license to fill my closet up even further to the brim.

Why am I here, adrift in this bottomless sea of clothing the depths of which I almost fear to consider? This is no tale of hoarding, nothing so drastic as I may be inclined to make it sound. Yet it’s still a problem, one that’s been bothering me now maybe more than ever.

You see, I love clothes. I think I always have, though I found new levels of appreciation once I had full control over my wardrobe choices. I love putting together an outfit and feeling my best in it. I love getting compliments on that outfit choice, not just from friends and family but also from strangers who have no reason to do so other than genuine love of what I’m wearing (every time it happens it goes right into my daily gratitude journal). Sometimes I even just like looking at my favorite pieces of clothing. There’s a new green and purple striped top (I adore stripes) I bought recently that makes me happy every time I see it. I wouldn’t call myself a shopping addict, I have many strategies to keep my purchases prudent, but there’s an undisputable rush I get each time I find a new perfect piece of clothing for my collection.

And it’s not as if buying clothes isn’t still necessary for me at times. Just recently I’ve had to buy some new jeans after a few pairs I’ve been hanging onto since high school finally gave up the ghost due to a decade-plus of service. And it’s been necessary for me to make sure I have some professional pieces, a part of my wardrobe that will only have to expand if I ever get a job that emphasizes the business part of business casual. Clothes get destroyed if you use them enough, things get thrown out as tastes or measurements change, and new circumstances may require adding a new look to your repertoire. Even so, I can’t ignore the signs that the amount of clothes I own may be excessive.

It’s not bad to have plenty of clothes if you love them like I do. But there’s a limited number of choices a person can have before they get choice paralysis. I’ve read the research and seen the articles. There’s a point at which an overabundance of choices becomes a source of stress instead of excitement. And I know that despite my expansive closet I often find myself defaulting to some tried and true clothing choices. The reality is that there are simply some things that are always going to get used and some things that are almost never going to be. Pushed to the back of my closet or a drawer, it’s no wonder some things end up forgotten in the noise. Do I really need them at that point? Either way, it’s become clear I may have more clothes than I know what to do with.

Even if the abundance of choice isn’t truly overwhelming me with stress though, I can’t deny the very real stress caused by the crowding in my closet, my bursting drawers, and clutter across my room. Ever since I returned from my extended trip to Japan (where I promise I tried to be restrained in my shopping), I have an overpowering awareness of the overflowing state of my wardrobe. Our state of mind is influenced by the space around us, and the disordered state of my room isn’t making me happy.

I do try to regularly find clothes to donate. Like a lot of people, it’s always been my go-to strategy for thinning out my closet. Lately, I’ve considered using some kind of consignment shop service or even selling some of my more valuable pieces, hoping that maybe the thought of making a quick buck could

help make letting go a little easier. And it is hard most of the time, believe me, my wardrobe would already be a lot smaller if it wasn’t. I’ve already long ago exhausted all the easy throw-aways, the ones that took no thought or hesitation. Or at least, not too much. I try to have this rule about not keeping something if I try to convince myself too hard to keep it, though I’m not the best at sticking to it. I find myself second-guessing each decision to ditch something, thinking of how I used to wear it all the time, how I still like it in theory, or if there still might be great outfits I could put together using it. Not that I’ve ever really missed anything I do get rid of, though I always seem to forget that at the moment of choice. I think it’s a natural, if not always helpful, impulse to automatically want to hold onto what might still be useful. It’s why it’s so easy for my mind (and the minds of many others) to fall into that trap.

I worry I’m taking part far too much in the rampant culture of consumerism found in so many parts of the world these days. I know about the landfills full of clothes that will take an eternity to decompose thanks in no small part to the microplastics found in the fibers of many fabrics. It can make it hard to throw clothes away when I know they’re too damaged to donate, worrying I am just adding to an ever-growing problem. Plus, there’s the fact I’ve seen the research that shows new and fun experiences usually are more worthwhile purchases than material objects as they tend to give us a greater amount of happiness.

Even with those thoughts in mind though, I can’t turn my back on my love of fashion. It’s a hobby of sorts, one that I know does make me happy. Just like how dressing our best tends to improve our self-esteem. So, I’m not about to adopt a minimalist wardrobe anytime soon. That’s something I know for a fact about myself. I just want to find a better balance between the joy I find in creating and tweaking my own unique style versus my awareness that a smaller wardrobe is ultimately what’s better for me, and what’s better for the world. I need to learn how to let go of what I don’t need so that I can be even happier with what I choose to keep.


Rachel is a Jewish bisexual autistic woman (she/her) with ADHD in her twenties. She loves writing and can always be found with her nose in a book! Her plan for the future is to earn her Psy. D. in clinical psychology. This interested in psychology started as a way to help her understand people better and to figure out what it was about others I kept not getting. It is also something deeply linked with her self-advocacy. There is a gap in communication between the autistic community and providers, and she want to help bridge it and challenge others to see things from different perspectives.

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