How cleaning out my wardrobe helped heal my relationship with my body


Making peace with my clothing.

I’ve never been very good at minimalism. It’s a fact I’ve been trying to avoid for years, pushing myself into annual ‘spring cleaning sessions’ that end up with me looking through old photos on the floor, wondering why I ever entertained the idea of throwing out my broken film camera. If Marie Kondo taught me anything (there wasn’t much that stuck, clearly) it’s that I’m in possession of a few too many items that ‘spark joy’.

It started when I was a kid, wide-eyed and visiting my grandma’s weathered Texas farmhouse for the first time. Her living room was an archive of ornaments – hand-woven silk tapestries, stacks of delicate blue and white china, and souvenirs from her time in South Korea – a colourful shrine to the rich experiences of her life. Some pieces were passed down from her mother and a handful have made it to the cabinets of our family home in Queensland. I come from a long line of women who just really love stuff.

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It’s a really privileged problem to have, owning too many items that bring happy nostalgia. It wasn’t a problem at all, actually – until it came to my wardrobe. Instead of making me feel good, I was clutching onto the pieces that no longer fit ‘just in case’. It became a warped waiting game, each outgrown outfit bringing a pang of sadness every time I opened my cupboard.

Like a lot of people (60 per cent of adult women and 40 per cent of men, to be specific), I’ve experienced periods of feeling dissatisfied with my body – and for me, this progressed into a long history of body dysmorphia and eating disorders. I’ve spoken about my experiences and the abundant joys of ED recovery here before and while I’m better than I’ve ever been, negative self-talk is still an issue I deal with every day. 

Our bodies naturally fluctuate throughout our lives, responding to different life events – illness, trauma, a global pandemic – and mine has taken a battering. I was underdeveloped and relatively pre-pubescent until the age of almost 20 when I finally started providing myself with the nourishment I’d been so desperately deprived of. With this came natural and much-needed weight gain, causing me to eventually outgrow the majority of my clothing. 

It was a strange, slow lack of control and every piece I no longer fit into felt like a little loss (melodramatic, I know). So I’d put it on a plastic hanger or fold it up neatly, pushing it to the corner of my wardrobe that holds a musty backpack and a secondhand tankini I swore would be “super Y2K”. 

While I knew I’d likely never be that size again, something inside of me couldn’t let it go. My boobs, for instance, tripled in size – but I insisted on wearing an A cup until my housemate politely alerted me that my entire left breast had fallen out while on Brunswick Street. As the wonderful Amy Clark wrote in her piece on the same topic, “Three boxes full of clothes that don’t fit now, but might ‘one day’. Before that, they were under my bed in flat storage containers I’d wheel out and open up whenever I felt like taking a gamble on my self-esteem”.

So why keep torturing ourselves? Why keep clinging onto a portion of our wardrobes that makes us feel inadequate? I asked myself these questions as I started this year’s spring clean, a mission that – as I said – usually does more harm than good. This time was different. I flung open my wardrobe doors as the ‘forbidden section’ of clothing glared at me, daring me to try and contort my body to fit into them one last time. 

I chose to not engage in my routine act of body image masochism and instead, started stacking everything in a cardboard box. Nothing in this collection was remotely Depop-worthy (trust and believe) and as my shelves began to empty, I felt a sense of relief I’ve evidently been waiting on for five years.

It happened quickly – I figured it would be less painful that way – and I allowed no deliberation (honestly, I’d suggest avoiding reselling because it tends to drag out the process). The clothing that brought me so much anguish is in a better place now and my wardrobe is once again the haven it should be – because I deserve it. Marie Kondo would be proud.

To read more on body image and our wardrobes, head here.

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