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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.