Getting Rid of Clothes That Don’t Fit: Do They Hurt Body Image?

BodyImage CleaningOutCloset ClothesThatDon Shame

Getting rid of clothes that don’t fit and the extra body image issues they cause is a huge topic for many of my readers. For this reason, I decided to UPDATE this post from 2016 and record a podcast episode on the topic you can listen to here!

I’ve been working on a coaching client on this topic and here’s the point she’s come to. (I’m using her words with permission:

Really, I had to get past the lie that getting rid of the skinny clothes meant I was resigning to wearing fat clothes for the rest of my life. That losing this extra weight was never going to happen because these clothes would no longer be there to motivate me. Which in reality, they never really did. They just took up real estate in the closet and gathered dust.


Here’s why I think you need to get the shame out of your closet too.


Last week I preformed a seasonal ritual. I call it the Semi-Annual Swapping Out of the Seasonal Clothing.

Every year when I’m certain that Spring has sprung and my need for sweaters and fleece-lined leggings has passed, I carry a 200 pound (only a slight exaggeration) plastic tub of clothing up the stairs and begin the process of replacing the cold weather garments with the warm weather ones.

But, every year during this exercise a strange thing happens.

I hang up dresses that I know don’t fit me and fold into the drawer shorts with a number inside that’s way too low for my current weight class.

I think to myself, “I’m sure I’ll lose a few pounds this summer, then it will fit.” Or, “I can’t get rid of this! What if I do change sizes? Then, I’ll need clothes to wear. I’m saving money.”

You likely know what happens next. Every Fall, I’ll put those same clothes away in the plastic tub, only to repeat the same insanity next Spring.
At some level, it’s insanity.
Clothing has a strange power over me. I hesitate to part with certain garments for two main reasons: 1) sentimental attachment or 2) the number on the little tag stitched inside. Combine them and you’ve defined a piece of clothing that could potentially hang in my closet…forever.

So, I keep the clothes that don’t fit. All of them. That ridiculously small-sized cocktail dress that I fit in for one formal night (and one night, only) before pregnancy wreaked havoc on my hips. The skirts that only fit during the breastfeeding-weight-loss-buzz but haven’t zipped in the 9 years since. The jeans that no longer button, and the t-shirts that looked cute when I was 28 but now require a stretching ritual to reach all the way to my waist.

I hang on to them because they each have their own story of past glory. But now they jeer at me. They tell me I’ve gone from accepted to awkward, like the once cool kid who no longer fits in. They dangle there, forever, as a reminder that I’m not good enough.

“Hahaha…You’ll never fit in me again…”
They taunt and shame me.
My clothes make me feel fat. They tell me I’m not good enough.

Most of us think about being ashamed only when naked. But, I believe, we often overlook the shame induced by our closets. We let a two centimeters high number printed onto a one inch wide tag dictate our value. And we allow the size of that cute outfit from a bygone era play the dictator in our current state of contentment.

I polled some of my readers to see if I was the only one holding on to clothes that don’t fit. Guess what I found out: Most of us are! We are staring at closets full of clothing in the wrong size, every. single. day. And, we feel guilty about that.

Friends, I think this is something we need to change. ASAP.

I’ve come up with three rules. Not to be all stiff about it, but to help us stand a little firmer in our fight against closet shame.

Here are the three ways to get shame out of the closet:
Rule One: Clean It Out to Shut it Up.
Have you ever heard that old cheer, “Two, Four, Six, Eight…Who Do We Appreciate?” I’m not sure of how the second verse actually goes, but for me it sounds like this: “Ten, Twelve, Fourteen, Sixteen…I’ll never keep my closet clean.”

Most women have a wide enough variety of sizes hanging in their closet to open a second hand store. In the last ten years–from my wedding day through four pregnancies– I’ve worn seven different sizes. Seven! Guess which ones are the hardest to get rid of? Yes, that’s right…the smallest ones. I “appreciate” those lower numbers. Too much.

Here’s my encouragement: Rid your closet of the extremes. Stay within one size of what you are wearing right now, today, and get rid of the rest. If you are currently on a weight loss journey, undergoing medical treatment, or if you just had a baby then keep some of the smaller sized items, up to three sizes away, only. (Even on an aggressive weight loss plan losing three sizes in one season is a lot.)

Don’t do the “keep the smallest size as motivation” trick! The size of whatever “motivational garment” hanging there will more likely cause discouragement than incentive. Plus, after you lose the weight it may not fit the same way it used to anyway. (Stuff moves! Nothing fits me the way it did pre-baby, even on those days when I weigh what I did back then!)

Another rule of thumb: If it hasn’t fit you in more than a year (and you weren’t pregnant or within one year postpartum) then be like Elsa and just let it go! Seriously.

I know all of your excuses for hanging on. I use them too. But, try a clean sweep. Then, when that little summer dress from your glory days shouts, “Hey fatty, you aren’t as cute as you were that summer!” shut it up by ripping it off the hanger and giving it away. 
Pin to share with a friend or remind yourself later!Rule Two: Only Buy Clothing That Fits
Are you a “shopping optimist?” I am sometimes. She’s the person who finds the cute item on the clearance rack that will fit “perfectly” five-to-fifteen pounds from now. If you are a shopping optimist too, let me encourage you to stop. This is a tremendous waste of money and a great shame inducer. Buy clothing that fits you now. Not ten pounds from now.

No matter what size you are wearing today, there are great clothing options out there that look nice. So don’t punish yourself by not allowing yourself to spend money on clothing in your current size! I’ve done this, post-babies especially. Let me assure you, this is a mind game that doesn’t work. It keeps you trapped and depressed and, once again, shamed.

Instead, buy some clothing that you like and feel good in, and then, should your size change, go do the same thing all over. I’m not suggesting you shop at Neiman Marcus and spend a thousand dollars through this process. Rather, let me encourage you that even with $50 at Target or on the TJ Maxx (or Marshall’s both my faves) clearance rack, you can get a few great pieces to get you through a season in whatever size you wear, today. And, friend, that’s okay, no matter what size it is!

Here’s why…
Rule Three: Release the Shame. That Tag Doesn’t Determine Your Value.
We recently watched the Wizard of Oz. The part that I love is when the wizard is exposed as just an average man, speaking into a voice amplifier behind the curtain. He shouts, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” to cover for his lack of actual power.
If you were in France or Spain your size 12 would be a 44/46. Do you think we Americans may think size matters too much?
Friends, pay no attention to the number on the tag. It’s just a number. Though its voice may be loud and dominant. It may sound like it has authority, but it doesn’t. A size is only a size. A number. A metric by which they cut clothing.

But, it’s not the metric. God’s scales don’t work like ours do. He doesn’t use that number to define your value. God doesn’t love those who wear a size two any more than those who wear a size twenty-two. In fact, he loves you beyond (what you) measure. And, he has a much greater plan for your life than you fitting back into your size six high school jeans.

I pray that you’ll believe that. Your worth, your infinite value, is found in the sacrifice that Jesus paid for you. Derive your value from him, not a number, not a label, not a nostalgic piece of clothing that no longer fits like it once did.

If you have a garment you like to wear but feel ashamed because of the size on the tag, then cut the tag out. Get rid of it. You don’t really need it anyway after you leave the store. So, stop the shame from tempting you with discouragement every time you get dressed.

One reader replied to yesterday’s Facebook post with this: “Easily fifty percent (of my closet doesn’t fit). I have work to do. Not on me, the closet.”

I thought this was awesome.

Friend, you are not the problem, but your clothes may be. The good news is, you can do something to change that. Immediately.
Start your journey to a comparison free life! Take the FREE body image quiz here:

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You may also enjoy this posts: What to do when NONE of your clothes spark joy and this podcast episode featuring Dana from a Slob Comes Clean.

Like this? Check out Compared to Who the book! Available on Amazon and where Christian books are sold!
#BodyImage #CleaningOutCloset #ClothesThatDon'tFit #BodyImage #Shame
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