Following Up on Closet Personality Types

Before I delve into today’s post, I’d like to share something with you.  Recently, Imogen Lamport of “Inside Out Style Blog” asked me to do a post for her “Stylish Thoughts” series.  Well, my guest post went live on Monday!  Click here to check it out

Today’s post is a follow-up to last month’s article titled, “What is Your Closet Personality Type?”  As a reminder, that article was based upon a video from Bridgette Raes on the five basic closet personalities.  In my post, I presented an overview of the various types and shared some personal thoughts and experiences with each type.

At the end of my post, I mentioned that Bridgette had offered to answer questions from readers of “Recovering Shopaholic” on the topic of closet personalities.  I’m pleased to say that Bridgette outdid herself in her responses!  She was very comprehensive and I’m excited to share more of her style psychology wisdom with you today.

Closet Personality Types

Do you know how to deal with your closet personality type?

The words below (other than the questions, of course) are all Bridgette’s; I just did some basic editing and formatting.  I hope you enjoy learning more about this very interesting topic.  Thanks to all of those who posed their questions in the comments section of the original post or through private email messages to me.  For the sake of clarity and brevity, I have re-worded some of the questions, but the essence remains.

Question #1 – Why do the five closet personalities have such negative connotations? 

There is a saying, “How you do one thing you do everything.”  How the Closet Personalities are best seen is as a reflection of how most people do life, in general, not just how clothing is managed, meaning that it quite often is a direct reflection of other things going on in your life or how you approach life in general.  These issues can be temporary due to a recent trauma or life-long; it all depends on the individual.  It’s not all that different to why a person might emotionally eat or self-sabotage, although these are usually symptoms of greater issue.

The issue, not the symptom, should be addressed in order to deal with it and the closet can be a light way of just noticing personal issues that someone may be struggling with.  A diet won’t help an emotional eater overcome her issues with food, as an analogy.  The emotional eater has greater success when she takes the time to understand and learn the reasons behind the symptoms.  The same is true for the symptoms of a closet.  If I deal with a sentimentalist, for example, I am curious as to what is going on and why that person can’t let go, what happened to them, and why are they so emotionally attached?

I had a great experience with a “Sentimentalist” once that really delved into why this woman couldn’t let go of a pair of Chanel earrings (read the story in this blog post).  The difficulty with letting go of the earrings had nothing to do with the actual item, but rather a much more complex issue of her fear of the unknown and the future.  She felt sadness about her life and a memory, attached to the earrings, reminded her of a time when she was happy.  Therefore, the closet personalities aren’t necessarily negative but a great way to see psychological issues that can go pretty deep or can also be much lighter.

In some respects, once you are a certain personality you always are, just like an alcoholic is always an alcoholic, just sober or in recovery.  There is nothing wrong with this; it’s about building awareness around your propensity for certain behaviors and building practices or putting actions in place to manage it.

For example, I am part “Devaluist” and I need to always be aware that this is my tendency.  I need to be extra-mindful that, especially in times of stress, I will put self-care on the backburner, so I need to take extra steps to making sure I am doing what’s necessary to keep myself “in check.”  However, I’ve also become incredibly accepting of my personality type.  This is not to say that I indulge it purposefully, but I do accept it and know that I may need to be a little more mindful.

Conversely, I’m really not a sentimentalist.  I could go through my closet with a garbage bag tomorrow and donate most of it without a care in the world.  Therefore, this is why closet personalities, if you identify them in yourself, should not be seen as a bad thing. Instead, they can be a wonderful guide towards building awareness and creating practices that are specific to a particular way of doing things that may no longer be serving you.

Question #2 – “Do all people fit into at least one of the closet personality types?”

No, I don’t think everyone fits into at least one of the personality types.  There have been some clients who don’t show any of the personality types at all, while with others it’s so obvious that it practically smacks me in the face the second I meet them.  For me, having these different personality types on hand has always been helpful as a professional because once I see a type in a client, I know how to approach how I work with them.

I don’t think it’s as important to put a label on yourself as it is important to notice if any of the types resonate for you.  If there is a pang of truth in a closet personality type, then it is worth exploring further.  If none of them resonate, then it’s not necessary to force the issue.  Really, the personality types are just guideposts and something to consider and explore.

Question #3 – Is it common for people to change closet personality types over the course of their lifetimes?  

It’s a good question and I’m sure some people can change personality types over their lifetime or a new personality type can be added over time.  Life is not a “straight shot” and often we have things that happen to us where we create new coping mechanisms.  For example, a woman who has children may suddenly find that she puts herself last, or a woman may suffer a trauma and notice that she suddenly can’t let go of her clothes or starts using shopping to cope with the sadness or anxiety.

There really isn’t a black and white answer to this because we all live such different lives and cope differently.  Some personality types can become ingrained from early in life, like the child who was raised by “Pauper” parents and has to work a bit harder to overcome this miserly view on the world, or the child who was raised by a mother who was all about appearances and ingrained in her children that their value was solely based on what they looked like (“Identifier”).  Regardless of whether it is a recent situation or a lifelong one that someone has been struggling with, the power is always in the individual’s hands as to whether she wants to overcome it or be victimized by it.

Question #4 –  Do men also exhibit these same five closet personality types? 

This is something I really can’t answer because I don’t work with men and don’t have enough experience to speak to this question.  I think they probably have their own set of closet personality types, some that overlap with those of women and others that are totally unique to their gender.  Men and woman are raised so differently, it would be my guess that the differences would be pretty great.

Question #5 – What advice do you have for those who see themselves in one of the five closet personality types and want to change?  

The only way to evolve out of something is through awareness – knowing what your tendencies are and building awareness around them – and then creating practices that support change. The biggest part is allowing yourself to feel the pangs of anxiety and fear when you no longer use your closet personality type as a coping mechanism, because often this is what all the Closet Personalities are, coping mechanisms.

It is also important to point out that there can be varying degrees of each personality type within a given individual.  A personality type at a low level can almost be funny and lighthearted, whereas a high-level personality type can be very extreme and unhealthy and sometimes even require professional help.  I’ve dealt with vicious “Hoarders,” for example, who I have seen change before my eyes into angry, crying, and defensive people at the simple suggestion to donate a bag of clothing.  On the other hand, a person with mild hoarding tendencies can really laugh at their behavior, see it for what it is, and let go despite the fact that it makes them uncomfortable.  In addition, some people are just ready to change, while others aren’t.   So specifically speaking about each personality type should be exercised with caution because it all depends on the extremity and how ready a person is to change.

Here are some tips on each personality type:

“The Pauper”

Because the “Pauper” can struggle with investing in oneself, it would be interesting to look at all other areas of life to see where this person may or may not also struggle with this mindset.  Paupers can be very distrustful of the world and feel that there isn’t enough out there for them, or they may have a scarcity mentality about life.  Often they grab what they can for a “deal” or get really “cheap” because they don’t believe in the abundance of the universe. They may not understand that life waxes and wanes, so they are often fearful of what will happen if they aren’t in control.

A Pauper who has built enough awareness around these tendencies can slowly evolve out by noticing her knee-jerk reaction to investing money on herself.  At first, just taking the time to notice will be all she can handle if her personality type is extreme.  Next, one of the symptoms being the closet, I’d do a little “exposure therapy” with such a client.  I’d work her through the concept of investing in herself and help her see the value in a piece that may be a bit more expensive but which she will wear often.

I want to be clear, however, that being mindful with spending doesn’t mean “cheapness” and overcoming Pauper tendencies does not mean that one should abandon responsibility.  It’s just important for a Pauper to see that she tends to spend a lot of small amounts on things that won’t bring her as much value as something worthy of investing in will.  What a Pauper often neglects to see is the greater value in an investment piece that she will wear “into the ground” over a cheap piece that she buys because it was on sale but never wears.

“The Hoarder”

Again, it all depends on how extreme a personality type is.  “Hoarders” like having things around them, which can be fine if it is managed healthily.  A love for shopping or having shopping as a favorite pastime can be just fine unless the Hoarder finds she can’t leave a store without buying something or she develops hoarding tendencies as a means of coping.

I was raised by a Hoarder and that’s part of the reason I am not one.  It would “kill” me as a child that my mother couldn’t leave a store without browsing.  I can’t handle sales racks because I spent most of my childhood at my mom’s knees, staring at the hems of clothing.  My mother knows that she needs to watch herself because when the going gets tough, she often uses shopping as a form of unhealthy therapy.

What I often have to do with Hoarders is encourage them to use the “input/output rule,” where they let go of one item when they bring home something similar.  What I also do when they have too much duplication in their wardrobe is make them cull things down to a quarter of the original number.  So if they have 12 white t-shirts, I have them keep three and donate the rest.  Hoarders usually can’t do this on their own, but their input to output ratio can be incredibly skewed, which is why they have so much stuff.

Those who are Hoarders on an unhealthy level find way too much pleasure in acquiring new things, and they often start to come up with the wackiest stories about why they need to purchase something.  Seriously, a very unhealthy Hoarder can justify every single purchase and will fight tooth and nail to keep each thing they own…while buying more.

“The Sentimentalist”

Being sentimental is fine until it creates a block to moving forward in life.  I support being sentimental; it means we have a heart.  A healthy “Sentimentalist” can be a lovely person to be around.  These people  are “feelers;” they cherish and appreciate things and people mean a lot to them, as do experiences.  Yet, an unhealthy Sentimentalist can be a very unwell one.

What I do with Sentimentalists is slowly ease out the things from their closet.  Taking things away from a Sentimentalist too quickly can throw them into a tailspin and it really won’t solve anything.  Often what I have to do is create a “transitional space” for their items that should go but which they can’t let go of.

I once worked with a Sentimentalist who was so anxious about letting go that the compromise was to take about a dozen hefty bags of clothes and keep them in her parent’s basement for a year.  The compromise was that after a year’s time, if she didn’t go back and collect any of those items, she would finally donate them.  I’m not sure if she ever did, but for her, this was progress.

For a severe Sentimentalist, the best suggestion I make is that they slowly ease things out of their lives and allow themselves the time to process the loss.  For a Sentimentalist who is severe, the loss of an item can feel like a death.

“The Devaluist”

Being a Devaluist as my most extreme personality type, I can speak to what I do to help myself.  I know that I have a propensity towards chaos.  For some reason, I can never have a completely cleaned out handbag; there is always some build-up of receipts, wrappers, etc., in my bag.  My dry cleaning piles up easily and I just never seem to have a handle on the small parts of life.  I’m too “big picture” in my thinking.

My family has a name for this called “Disorderly Order.”  On the one hand, I’ve become very accepting of the fact that my brain is a little ADD, that I’m not a smaller picture person, and that with the bad comes the good.  Yet I am also incredibly creative, perceptive, and intuitive.  So, I don’t have the most organized purse?  This seems like a small price to pay.  However, when I am stressed, overwhelmed, or not taking care of myself, I notice that my personality type gets out of hand.  To find balance, I work extra hard to put the small minutiae that I don’t manage well naturally on a schedule, like having set days I do things like get a manicure or drop off my laundry (or having a steamer vs. an iron because I will never iron).

To help herself succeed, a Devaluist needs to create an organizational system that works for the way her brain works and realize that the “little things” are as important as the bigger picture. Devaluists can also have a propensity towards co-dependence and they often either “people please” or get really good at solving other people’s problems.  At an extreme level, Devaluists need to learn how to put more focus on themselves.  A great book I recommend for Devaluists is Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melodie Beattie.

“The Identifier”

Again, at a healthy level, being an “Identifier” can just mean that you’re someone who takes pleasure in looking good.  On an unhealthy and extreme level, this can be a really dangerous personality type.  People who have constant or serious plastic surgery would probably fall into this category.

When the tendency is at an unhealthy level, Identifiers are hard to change because they tend to be the shallow and ridiculously insecure.  Their self-esteem is like a “house of cards,” so it is hard to really get deep with a severe Identifier because they are so fragile and can get very defensive.  Remember, often why a severe Identifier is so concerned with outer appearances is because deep inside, they don’t think they are worth much.  So you have to be careful and let them find their own way.

But there is nothing wrong with being a mild Identifier.  Identifiers just have to watch that their interest with their outer appearance doesn’t turn into an obsession.   Oddly, I am a Devaluist/Identifier mixture, which seems like an odd combo.  But an Identifier’s best trait is an ability to show the world what they want it to see, so it’s not as weird as it sounds.  I may have a gorgeous purse, for example, but it’s got a ton of chaos inside of it.

Question #6 – I feel that the sentimental aspects of our clothing can make us appreciate what we have more so that hopefully we’ll feel less compelled to constantly buy more.  What are your thoughts on this?

I totally agree with this.  In fact, I basically said the same exact thing in my video.  I am not suggesting we be heartless in any way or refuse ourselves the pleasure and comfort of keeping sentimental items around us.  Again, it’s about extremes and I go back to my post about the Chanel earrings.  For this woman, being a sentimentalist had completely stalled her life.  That wasn’t healthy.

There is nothing wrong with any of the closet personality types, as long as they are kept in check.  Nobody will ever attain perfection.  It’s more about learning and accepting who we are, changing what we want to change, learning to cope with what we can’t…what is that whole Alcoholics Anonymous line?  Yea, that.

Question #7 – I fought my Pauper/Hoarder/Identifier inclinations by latching on to the personality and style of dressing of a fictional character, Cayce Pollard.  Which closet personality type is Cayce?  Is she  still an Identifier, but is being identified through a lack of labelling?

Wow, what a fascinating character!  It’s hard to pigeonhole her, but her style reminds me of a scene from the 90’s movie, “Singles,” where Campbell Scott’s character goes on and on about not having “an act” (to which Kyra Sedgwick’s character replied, “I think that, a) you have an act and, b) not having an act is your act.”).  Cayce Pollard is such an extreme example of style aversion in that she has carved out such a strong style as a result of her aversion.  It’s like everything she is trying to avoid, she has created.  It’s hard to categorize her because she is so anti-fashion but, yes, I’d probably put her in the “Identifier” category if I had to choose one.  I’d also seriously wonder about her mental well-being.  She’s got a ton more going on than just a closet personality type.  😉

Regarding the person who asked this question, I applaud her approach in the sense that she sort of pulled back completely, assessed herself, and then built back in a healthier manner.  For some, this is the way to go about it, burn it down and start over, learn from past mistakes, and over time find a healthy balance again.

In Closing

Many thanks to Bridgette for taking so much time and care in answering our questions!  Bridgette’s passion for what she does and thoroughness in her writing are two of the reasons I love her blog so much.  I hope you all learned as much as I did from this post and my earlier post on closet personality types.

Hopefully, Bridgette’s tips for the various types will help those of you who wish to make a shift in the way you approach your closet.   As a primary “Hoarder” type, I intend to take on Bridgette’s tips for paring things down and preventing closet clutter from building up once again.  If you have more insights to share on your closet personality types or this topic in general, please share in the comments section.   I enjoy reading the different perspectives we all have on this very interesting and important topic.

27 thoughts on “Following Up on Closet Personality Types

  1. I am glad you made this post, Debbie–because the first time you identified the five types I couldn’t really see myself in any of them at this point in my evolution. In the past I was a mild combination of pauper/hoarder/sentimentalist — but far overriding these characteristics for me was a lack of understanding about what styles really were flattering to me + the desire to have too many colors represented in my closet. Of these, I’d say the need for lots of colors was the main reason for my burgeoning closet. Once I identified a more limited color palette (which has made life and dressing more enjoyable) and selected more flattering silhouettes/proportions–it was so easy, that I was able to whip my wardrobe into shape over the course of a few months and I’ve never looked back.

    Once I went through this metamorphosis, I can no longer accurately classify myself in any of the 5 types. I no longer strictly purchase items on sale, instead I purchase the right garment the first time, based on a list that identifies what I want to add for the season. For example, my list for spring /summer 2014 is quite small: a pair of black linen crop pants to replace an older style (which I will buy at jjill, full price), a pair of teal crop pants (but only if I can locate the right teal), black wedge sandals, black flat sandals, and either nude or soft pewter metallic or taupe-grey flat sandals. As a perk, if I find some tomato-red leather ballet flats or sandals, that is also a consideration. Oh, and a white linen big shirt. That’s it.

    In January, I allocated 150.00/month for clothing thinking it was going to be impossible. To my surprise, in January I spent 35.00, in February 50.00, and in March, 75.00. I am kind of amazed at myself, but now that I have my wardrobe in order, I have lost about 90% of my interest in shopping, and it’s easier to get dressed. No more bad outfit days (now its bad hair days!)

    All my life I’ve been addicted to handbags–another area I’ve managed to cure myself. I identified the best style handbag for my lifestyle instead of trying every style under the sun–and now I have 3 main work bags per season: a black, a neutral mid tone (taupe), and a color (tomato red). I carry a large double handle tote style for everyday, and for casual outings I find that vintage Coach cross body bags in excellent condition from the 1990’s are in plentiful supply online and I have 3 Murphy bags from the Willis bag series: black, brown and dark green. I am still looking for one in Coach’s iconic red leather, but I am patient…

    • So glad to see you back commenting, Deby! I know your life is busy, but I always like when you chime in to the discussion. I think that a desire for tons of color had a large impact on my closet getting over-stuffed, too. Like you, I am much happier with my wardrobe since I’ve worked on refining my color palette. It makes it easier to shop, too, as I can skip over large sections of stores and only look at “my colors.”

      I think the fact that you no longer fit into the 5 closet personalities is a symptom of your growth. I am becoming less and less of a hoarder these days and my pauper tendencies have decreased as well. I think we became aware of where our problems lied and have taken steps to turn things around. Big congrats on your amazing progress and the fact that you are spending less and feeling just fine with purchasing full price items! It’s also great that you have streamlined your handbag wardrobe. A colored bag is on my list for this year, as I can see how it would add a lot to my wardrobe. All of my existing bags are either black or pewter, so I’m hoping to find a cobalt, green, or burgundy bag soon. I’d be open to red, too!

      • Yes, it’s our busy time–spring trade show season– from the end of the holidays through the beginning of April! I read the posts daily but don’t have time to comment often!

        My recommendation for you is a cobalt bag because you are so fond of that color, it will be a good color pop with the rest of your clothing (probably more so than green), and because it’s so popular now, you will find a good selection across many brands.

        It’s been a major step for me to buy one full price item that is “just right” instead of a bunch of runners up that I waste time and gas returning to the stores! But this was when shopping was more of a sport!

      • Glad to know you’re reading the posts. Comment when you can… Best of luck with your busy season!

        Thanks for your tip on the cobalt bag. I hope you’re right that it will be easy to find. I will keep you posted. Congrats on buying one “just right” full-price item. Being able to do that has been a breakthrough for me, too. I generally bought a lot of “runners up” (love that term) like you did. We’re both learning and making lots of progress!

  2. Debbie, I loved your interview in the “Stylish Thoughts” series.

    And this piece here is equally outstanding. I agree with Deby in that I’m glad you revisited this topic. Also, the need for lots of colors was the main reason for my burgeoning closet as well. Along with my fondness for handbags, which I now keep to a minimum. And after reading your post I can now see that I’m a Devaluist/Identifier mixture. In times of extreme stress I also have a tendency to abandon self care, and I must always keep this in check. As an Identifier, I care a great deal about the quality of the clothes and shoes I wear and the handbag I carry. But I was never comfortable back in the days when I owned too much. Also, I prefer quality pieces that do not carry a bold label that can be easily seen. Much of the time however this proves to be difficult. I want the people I know and meet to see me and get to know me as a person first, and I want my clothes, shoes, handbag and jewelry to compliment who I am, define my style and personality, but not speak for me.

    I too have lost about 90% of my interest in shopping, and it’s easier to get dressed and I’m perfectly happy with my smaller collection of clothes and shoes that I enjoy wearing regularly. I also have a very small budget this days for clothes, hair cuts and makeup, because my income has been greatly reduced. But it does not bother me near as much as I thought it would. This is another wonderful outcropping of Project 333 and a tribute to all of the good things I’ve learned from reading your blog Debbie, and from the wealth of readers comments.

    • Glad you liked this and the “Stylish Thoughts” post, Terra. I think the value in the closet personalities discuss is to help us become more aware of ourselves and our tendencies. You seem to be very aware of what works best for you and where you might slip under times of high stress. I know this awareness comes from a long period of exploration and discovery and that Project 333 played a large role for you. I’m glad this blog and community have also been influential for you! I am well on my way as well. I can’t say I’ve lost 90% of my interest in shopping like you and Deby, but it doesn’t consume me like it used to, either. I’m still working on defining my style, but I now know that buying large quantities of garments hinders that process rather than helps it. I’m working to be more deliberate and to curb my “Hoarder” tendencies! Congrats on how far you’ve come!

  3. I can’t seem to find myself in any of these types as it applies to my closet… I’m definitely a sentimentalist in other areas of my life, especially regarding things that belonged to my mother & grandmother (jewelry, Christmas ornaments, a few decorative items) and DEFINITELY when it comes to things that belong to my grown sons, particularly toys that they played with a lot and I enjoyed with them. But not my clothes. I have no sentimental attachment to things I wear.

    There was a time I would have considered myself in the pauper and/or devaluist categories and maybe even a minor hoarder. As a single parent with young kids, I spent most of my money on their needs and made do with what I had. I couldn’t justify spending much money on my clothes, as money was very tight and their needs were more important to me. Consequently, I would buy cheap clothes and hang on to whatever I had as long as I could use it. I had no real sense of my own style and just bought basic items as needed and kept them as long as possible.

    I then went through a period of buying more than I needed, trying to find things that I liked that fit my style. I didn’t know what my style was, so I was never quite satisfied with what I had, especially for trips & business travel. It took awhile to figure out what I liked, what fit me well, what was comfortable and what I enjoyed wearing. A lot of clothes came & went during that period and I felt guilty about getting rid of things I should not have purchased in the first place.

    Now, I have more than enough clothing, but it is nearly all things that I use and mostly things that I enjoy. I know what I like and what looks good on me, and I don’t vary much from my favorite styles & colors.

    I’m still culling things on a regular basis as they become worn or I realize I’m not using them. I have no problem letting go of things I don’t like or use. I’m willing to spend more for quality items and definitely prefer less items of higher quality. I am still careful with my budget and buy the items I like on sale or discount. I seldom see things that I want badly enough to pay full price for them, other than my favorite jeans, which are seldom discounted.

    I think I finally have a healthy relationship with my clothing & closet. I’m satisfied with what I have, so I don’t do nearly as much shopping. I keep a list of a few items that I need to fill in the gaps. I still like to read blogs & books on decluttering, to encourage myself to keep cutting back on things I don’t need, both in my wardrobe & my house, because I like having less things to deal with and take care of. So where do I fit in? Is there a category for mostly recovered shopaholics?

    • Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Diane. I think it’s fine that you no longer identify with any of the closet personality types. Bridgette even says that not everyone fits into these types but that they provide a place to look and a way to increase self-awareness. You seem quite self-aware and I applaud you for the progress you’ve made. You truly seem like you have come full circle and now are very far along in your recovery. Having a healthy relationship with our clothes and our closets is the end point where we all would like to reach. There may not be a defined closet personality for “recovered shopaholics” (or whatever the category might be), but you are in an enviable position and should feel quite proud of yourself for how far you’ve come!

  4. I loves your interview on Imogen’s blog, Debbie and think you look great in stripes! Thank you also for mentioning my blog.

    This post is very thought provoking. When I read the first installment on the closet types I thought I was a sentimentalist and didn’t identify at ALL with the devaluer. Yet the description in this post is making me reconsider this, and see that personality type in other areas of my life – I definitely struggle to have a handle on the small details of life, and have the tendency to be very messy. This is reflected in my wardrobe more than my dressing – I (think) I look well-put together when I leave the house, but you can be sure that my makeup is all over my dresser, two discarded outfits are lying on my bed and the things that need handwashing are piling up. It frustrates me that I can’t seem to prevent chaos from building up.

    Also, while I might not devalue my appearance, I certainly put myself last in other ways – I very rarely allow myself to take time off or relax, and feel guilty if I do so. It’s interesting though that this hasn’t translated into my dressing, because as Bridgette says, it is often the case that “How you do one thing you do everything.”

    I feel like I’ve rambled in a confused sort of a way here, but I guess that just shows that this has opened up a new way of thinking for me, so thanks

    • You have made an interesting point about being a devaluer that I’d not considered before. While I focus a great deal of time and thought putting together outfits–I have still devalued my appearance to the point of shying away from being photographed because I’m self-conscious about my appearance above the neck. No matter how beautifully I may be dressed, I still feel “less than good looking” almost all the time. I have a short neck and very broad jawline, which I am self conscious about, and this is a level of devaluing that has nothing to do with my wardrobe. I don’t choose lesser clothing the way a true devaluer might. I choose the best clothing and accessories available to me in an attempt to deflect attention away from my less than attractive facial proportions. No matter where I go, I don’t consider myself truly attractive because I imagine others are noticing my neck and jawline first when they see me! Sometimes I look in the mirror after I’ve dressed for the day and think “why bother? Everyone can see you are not really all that attractive in the face,” but then I tell myself I cannot collapse into such a pity party. I am always reminded of a comment a photographer friend once made to me when I asked why he never wanted to take my picture– he replied that my face ” simply wasn’t interesting enough”. This man is a good friend, and he was only being truthful from an aesthetic standpoint– but it sure stung at the time! Just wanted to share this alternative view of what “devaluing” means.

      • Deby, I can strongly identify, but with a slight twist. No matter how beautifully I may be dressed, more often lately I still feel “less than good looking” almost all the time because I have begun to age a great deal recently. Sometimes after getting ready for the day I look at my reflection and think why bother. But like you I won’t allow the pity party. I just tell myself that this is my face, very wrinkled now, and I also remind myself that this is a young as I will ever be or look, and to enjoy it, because I won’t last forever. And so what if I look old because on the inside I feel great. I have not given up and am growing to accept the new me. But my skin makes me sad because even though I wear sunscreen and see my dermatologist regularly the damage was done, and age is taking its course. And I have days when I allow work and life stress send me into a devaluing, and although I take care of all of the details, I forget to take good care of myself and bring enough play and relaxation and idle time into my life. No wonder I have begun to look old! This is my alternative view of what “devaluing” means. And it’s good to be reminded to value myself highly, treat myself kind, the same as I would for a dear friend.

      • Terra, perhaps you should look into having your dermatologist give you a facial peel followed up by a retinol product to use daily.

      • Deby, I have, and it worked wonders. But now that I’m in my 60s the wrinkles have begun to set in. At first it didn’t bother me, but they have begun to deepen and if I take after the other women in my family I know that the creases will begin to form next. I come from a long line of women who because very wrinkled in older age. Good eye care products and face creams are my best friend and it is the one area I won’t scrimp on. But there is something about the good that comes from being open and honest. Since I admitted this in public, I’ve begun to soften and let go of my sadness about it, and I have made up my mind to take as good of care of my skin as possible, and feel good about myself, even if I do end up having a face like a road map like my great grandmother did.

      • Deby, I have, and it worked wonders. But now that I’m in my 60s the wrinkles have begun to set in. At first it didn’t bother me, but they have begun to deepen and if I take after the other women in my family I know that the creases will begin to form next. I come from a long line of women who because very wrinkled in older age. Good eye care products and face creams are my best friend and it is the one area I won’t scrimp on. But there is something about the good that comes from being open and honest. Since I admitted this in public, I’ve begun to soften and let go of my sadness about it, and I have made up my mind to take as good of care of my skin as possible, and feel good about myself, even if I do end up having a face like a road map like my great grandmother did.

    • Hi Emma,

      Nope, not rambling at all. You’re a Devaluist for sure. Welcome to the club! I suffer from all the same traits. One of the reasons I wear my hair short is I can only manage to bother giving 5 minutes to my hair…no matter what length it is. So, with short hair I always look good but with long hair I always looked like crap. I seriously don’t know how people stay on top of the little details.

    • I love the discussion here and I’m so glad that Bridgette decided to chime in. I wish I could be more of a Devaluist sometimes in terms of my appearance, as I veer too much to the other side. Almost everything about me is high-maintenance – hair, make-up, clothes… It may not always look like it, but it takes a long time for me to put myself together. I think a lot of it for me stems from insecurity (the “Identifier” in me). I think I have to look perfect because I am so far from perfect in so many other ways. That said, I can also identify with what Deby and Terra wrote. I get the “why bother?” feeling sometimes, too. I think that I try so hard to look good and it’s just never good enough because my hair is falling out and splitting and sometimes when I’m not feeling well (a lot of the time these days…), I look old and tired. I also obsess about the size of my hips and thighs relative to the rest of my body (that’s my area of discontent, like Deby’s neck and jawline).

      I’m sure that others don’t see us the way we see ourselves. I know that when I worked with wardrobe clients, many of them would zero in to their negative areas, but I would look at their whole being and often never even notice the “flaws” they would point out. Even if I did notice them, they usually weren’t nearly as horrible as they thought. We are so very often our harshest critics by far. Of course, I think we can feel better about ourselves when we take steps to look our best, but such efforts can also be taken too far (i.e. extreme plastic surgery, as Bridgette mentioned). It’s hard to find a happy medium sometimes. I know that I wish I could feel more “free” about my appearance. I still believe that can happen for me at some point…

      • Debbie,
        I seriously believe we all have to lighten up a bit and accept ourselves for what we are, which is NOT perfect! If we could be as kind to ourselves as we are to other people, we’d be a lot happier and better off.

        I’ve finally come to (mostly) accept myself with my flaws and my good points, physically, emotionally and in other ways. I would never be as critical of my friends or family as I used to be of myself~ Getting older is a fact of life, and the only way to avoid it is to die young, which certainly would not be my choice.

        Given the fact that I’m not getting any younger, this is probably the best I’m going to look and feel, barring any major surgery, which I’m not planning. So I’ve made a decision to accept that I don’t look as young as I used to, and do what I can to look my best each day without stressing over it. I spent years obsessing about the size of my thighs, and now I look at them and think it’s really not that bad! I wish I’d appreciated my looks more when I was younger, so I don’t want to waste any more time… I might as well enjoy the way I look now!

        I take care of myself, eat well, exercise, get enough sleep, cut & color my hair, moisturize my skin & wear sunscreen, put on fairly minimal makeup and dress nicely. Yes, I’m getting wrinkles (I have the neck & jawline issues) and my arms are not as tight as they once were, but I look as good as possible for my age, without going to extremes.

        Truly, no one else is really that critical of us~ everyone is busy worrying about their own looks! And if someone is critical… well, that’s not a person I want to have in my life. I don’t really care what strangers think, as long as I’m happy with myself.

        I hope you’ll join me in being more kind to yourself! You are a lovely woman and you should do your best to accept and enjoy yourself as you are~

      • Very well said, Diane! It is challenging to accept our aging bodies and faces, especially in today’s youth and appearance-obsessed society. But you are right in that aging is better than the alternative! I would like to age gracefully and be kinder to myself. It is something I work on every day. I wish I would have enjoyed my younger body more than I did, but I don’t want to continue to make the same mistakes with my middle-aged body. I may not be perfect, but I am perfectly fine just as I am, as we all are! Thanks so much for your kind and much-needed words.

  5. A very insightful post. Learning that I am a sentimentalist and a hoarder explains why I always take so long to do a closet purge. I will purchase many items that are very similar in color/style (hoarder) and then take a long time to purge them because I feel bad to purge an item that is in good shape because it cost hard earned money (sentimentalist). It wasn’t until the past few months, that I gave myself permission to hold onto items I am not wearing, and set a time frame for each bag of clothes. Now when I am in a store and default to hoarding (wanting to purchase say yet another white shirt) I think about the extra white shirts on hold at home that are waiting to be used. And I think about the white shirt I am wearing often, and how long it is taking to wear it out and replace with an item on hold. This gets me to put the ‘new’ item back on the rack in the store.

    I also finally figured out how much clothing I ‘need’ on a weekly/monthly basis (I slowly added items to my closet for a month, repeating pieces as often as I was comfortable doing so). Seeing all the excess sitting in bags in another closet, really hammered home just how much extra I have and is going unworn. So now when I want to ‘shop’ for something new, I reach for one of the hold items. It is taking a long time to wear out clothes compared to how often I used to add them to my closet. Seeing how slowly I am ‘using up my clothes’ is really making me pause with adding anything new. And I am taking my time purging pieces. Eventually I see an item enough times that I am tired of it, or my style preferences have changes, and I am ready to purge it to another home. It may be taking a while, but a slow purge is working better for me, because I am not getting stressed and emotional that pieces cost money and I am just ‘giving’ them away.

    • I am very similar to you in terms of closet purges, Lisa. It’s definitely worked better for me to let go of things slowly. In the past, I would get rid of a ton of stuff at once, feel anxious about it, and then rush out to buy more not long afterwards. Taking my time has helped me to reduce the overall size of my wardrobe (which is still too large but much better). I never thought this made me a “sentimentalist,” but maybe there’s more of that in me than I thought… The method you are using with your clothes seems to be working very well for you. Most of us don’t really take the time to consider what we really need. Want is often a much larger portion of the equation…

      • I agree, for myself ‘want’ has been the number 1 driver for the bulk of my purchases. As I’ve been moving along with hubby’s closet challenge, I’ve realized how many of the items in my closet were ‘want’ purchases. Easily 80% or more. And that’s a big reason why I kept shopping, I never felt ‘put together.’ These past few months my outfits have felt much more cohesive.

        I’ve only been reading your blog for a short time, but I wanted to comment about the idea to purchase two pieces a month. I had actually purchased 4 at the beginning of March right before I found your blog. Since then I haven’t purchased anything. But boy have I wanted too! And oddly enough, everything I’ve wanted to purchase, the ‘want’ feeling hasn’t lasted. I even had some sweaters I was stalking for a month or more, that are now on sale, and while they are now within my budget, now I realize, they don’t fit into my working closet.

        I’ve also been working on a wish list for my two items for April. One item has been constant so far (jeans, go figure) and the other item has changed every few days. Since I am slowly pulling items from the ’boutique’ (or holding zone) as I build my spring/summer wardrobe for the first time with the DH challenge, I haven’t really figured out where my ‘needs’ are yet. So of course, my wants are going to keep changing, as I figure out what my working closet looks like for spring/summer. Thanks again for a great suggestion, it’s working quite well for me thus far.

      • One thing that’s helped me with the “wants” is to use the “power pause” and wait at least a few hours (if not a few days or more) before I buy something. Like you, I find that the wants tend to dissipate after a while. I think my reason for continuing to shop is the same as yours – not feeling put together enough. I still feel that way, but not as often. Paring things down has helped me to hone my style and has made it easier to get dressed and feel put together. Buying less has been very helpful for me. I don’t have a monthly item limit now, just a yearly one, but it causes me to really think about whether it’s prudent to buy the item I’m considering. Since I bought too much during February, I’m really slowing things down now. I may implement a monthly limit again, but I’m trying out the yearly limit to see if I can make it work. Time will tell…

  6. I am inspired! I am aedalry in the process of changing my closet to reflect the real me. I started by removing everything that didn’t fit or was worn and tattered, I just didn’t wear, and I didn’t like. The next step for me was discovering which colors look best on me (through David’s book The Color of Style) and asking girl and guy friends what styles look best on me. I haven’t actually counted how many items I have left and I have no idea if simply 20 items is something I could manage but the 10-50 club sounds agreeable. Onward and upward for a more simplified life! Thank you!

    • Glad you found this post inspiring, Satoshi. Sounds like you’re on the right track. I’ve heard good things about “The Color of Style,” but haven’t read it yet. Best wishes to you in further simplifying your wardrobe and your life!

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