I love a good wardrobe declutter as much as the next woman. And with minimal encouragement I'll write a post about it too. In my previous Online Stylist guise, I know for a fact that I wrote at least two or three times on the subject... as any style blogger worth their salt would. I always considered myself first and foremost a style blogger - that's where my blogging roots took hold and style content is very much a first love. I'm not quitting it - it's just not my number one priority in blogging anymore. Maybe it's the life stage I'm in - in fact scrap that, it's definitely the life stage thing, but I want to talk about so many more things besides getting dressed.

Don't get me wrong. Catch me on a good day day and I'll bang on about what we wear for hours - the clothes we put on everyday tell the world something about ourselves on a very personal level. Not only that but I bloody love them! Not much competes with the feeling of pulling a cashmere sweater over your head, sliding your arms into beautiful silk shirt sleeves or slipping your feet into a pair of shoes that make you gasp in the face of their gorgeous simplicity.

But what happens when the majority of the clothes you own start to make you feel uncomfortable? Not just in their quantities but for what some of them stand for and how they came to be in your wardrobe in the first place? In case you think I'm about to reveal a secret life of crime, I didn't steal them. Nor did I sell myself on a street corner in order to pay for them - that would earn me more Marks & Spencer than Mulberry I fear.

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Putting my imaginary criminal former lives aside, let’s skip back to a weekend some months ago when H was busy with her teen social life. And I found myself in the rare position of being able to devote solid blocks of time to my current favourite hobby... decluttering. And this time, I had the dressing room set firmly in my simplifying sights.

By the Saturday evening I had six bin bags to pass on to friends and donate to the village charity shop. A couple of weeks prior to this, two had already gone to another friend. Come Sunday night, I had the equivalent of roughly two more bags. And this was not the first time I'd gone though my wardrobes in the last six months and ended up with a bag or two to donate. Where/how/why the hell did I possess so much stuff and more importantly, why was it making me feel so crap?

Maybe we should wind things back a few years…

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I liken the influencer explosion to a permanently hungry beast that we've all been unwittingly feeding... and it most certainly woke my own appetite for gorging on fashion like never before. It's no secret that I’ve always loved clothes and shoes and so finding myself in a self-made career that talks about them all the livelong day, is it any wonder I became the literal kid in a candy store?

First came gifted pieces, much later sponsored work, and with it, more disposable income to buy things that I'd admired on my fellow bloggers. I lost count of the the number of times I hit "Add To Bag" without stopping to think “Do I like that... or do I just really like that on her?” Before I knew it, I’d accumulated so much that I literally couldn’t see the cashmere in amongst the crazy.

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By the time we set up the spare bedroom as a dressing room, I had a clothing collection that was bursting at the seams. After utilising Patrick’s mathematical skills to figure out exactly how to cram as many cupboards as possible into one room (and several trips to IKEA later), I moved my stuff in and it felt like I’d arrived.

Although to what I’m really not sure.

Maybe I'd seen one too many blogger closet features by that point and was suffering from delusions of the walk-in wardrobe kind. But I loved the dressing room and its contents for the longest time. I’d walk in and open the doors and just stare... and just be with the clothes. You know... much like that fictional, NYC dwelling writer we all know and love.

And then about a year or so ago it all began to make me itch. Not literally. Although I'm fairly sure I possessed more than my fair share of cheap fabric that would induce frequent bouts of scratching and tugging at necklines. Cheap material metaphorical jokes aside, the irritation just wouldn't cease.

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One happy consequence of beginning a new life stage means that the urge to simplify now occupies the majority of my waking thoughts. Most rooms in the house have already been subject to a thorough going-over in round one (there'll be more!) but the room that housed the contents of my wardrobe was screaming at me continually. It was going against the grain of every other minimal habit I'd been quietly nurturing on the sidelines.

It needed to be unravelled and all the clothing that posed the question "Why did you buy this?" needed taking to task. Why wasn’t that pink tulle skirt, bought for the perfect Insta capture moment making me feel better? Why did the faux suede mules in a must-have shade of nude hurt my feet so much that the only thing I could wear them for was one outfit shot? And what about the jumper covered in over-sized paillettes that I'd seen on one of my favourite influencers? Is it any wonder that I felt so so ridiculous at the noise it made when I walked that I never even took the tag off it?

None of these were doing anything to improve my mood. Surprise!

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A feeling of discomfort over how much I owned as the result of an influence purchase was seeping in at an ever increasing rate. Feelings of inadequacy and confusion between who I was and who I might have been trying to become manifested themselves as clothing on hangers in my cupboards. That sounds a tad melodramatic when you read it back but the common human trait of thinking that a purchase will enrich our lives is nothing new. We've been making ourselves "feel better" with a treat for eons.

By the way if you're still reading and at this point, starting to think "Hey Woman... where the hell IS my wardrobe declutter post??"... my bad! I guess the title could've been a little misleading.

Said clothing clutter was getting in the way - not just of getting dressed but of feeling calm and centred. Too much and too many of the wrong choices were taking me away from what I really felt good in. Lo and behold, realisation dawned that buying and wearing the chunky knit that I saw on that aforementioned favourite influencer didn't mean that her success would become mine. Quite the contrary - it just stopped me from being the person I was supposed to be sharing in my own online space. So what to do now the clutter is cleared, the itch has subsided and relative calm has been restored?

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Shopping For Me

Turns out that all the influenced shopping I was doing was hiding the fact that I was lacking a couple of really useful staples here and there. So as and when I decide to move on those, I'll be sticking to my own preset brief and not straying off the path. I'd also like to save for some of them in order to ensure they're better quality pieces. As opposed to getting impatient and ending up substituting them with their fast fashion equivalents that won’t last.

Whilst I was going through the declutter, I constantly referred to Jessica Rose Williams' Capsule Wardrobe workbook to help me figure out what I truly loved. I never thought for one minute that I'd get mine down to thirty items but what I am left with feels right for me for now. And I'm not dismissing the idea of whittling it down to less over time either. A more sustainable wardrobe is a whole other post series of posts so I realise that that dropping in the words "fast fashion" only begins to scratch the surface. But asking "Do I really need this? Or am I just buying it because I'm having a shit day?" feels like a good a place to start as any.

Gifting For The Blog

In terms of what I'm gifted for blog and Instagram content, I've always accepted according to the brands I would buy from and would happily recommend. Moving forward, I think I need to add in the criteria of "Do I need actually this item in my wardrobe right now? Or am I only accepting it for promotional purposes?" If I don't need it, it would be wasteful to accept and I would rather show you something else I already have in the wardrobe, perhaps just styled in another way. For sponsored brand work that involves me being sent items to feature as part of paid for content creation, unless I would wear it again and feel it's lacking in my wardrobe, I'll be requesting returnable samples.

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Space To Create

Having emptied three sets of floor to ceiling cupboards and sworn to operate a one in, one out policy so that I don't suffer with overstuffed wardrobe syndrome again, I plan on having a bit of room redecorate and re-jig soon. I want to incorporate some desk and photography space so I'm currently bouncing around a few ideas in my head. These pictures were taken a couple of years ago for a previous collaboration I worked on for The White Company and they first appeared on my Online Stylist blog. Now most of the clothing you see here has been passed on and only two of the cupboards are left in the room.

When I looked at how much I'd accumulated and examined the reasons behind some of it, I felt a degree of shame and embarrassment and for a nanosecond, debated about putting it down here on the blog. But I'm also aware that I accumulated much of it because of being a blogger and I’m not ashamed of what I do for a living. So I guess this is my confession of a former clothes-a-holic - a cautionary tale if you will, from an influencer who became an influencee.

The responses I got when I shared the declutter "results" on Instagram Stories that weekend, were nothing but supportive. Turns out many of us have bought something because we've seen it on someone else and instantly coveted it... without even questioning if it really is for us. And a few wise women shared some enlightened thoughts on how they feel we're all being influenced and sold to on a continual (and sometimes underhanded) basis too.

My personal view is that the influencer industry, when executed well and with integrity, is still a thing of brilliance. It's allowed numerous people, women in particular, to build themselves a career based on their passions and one that provides them with the flexibility to devote time to the other meaningful facets of their life. However, the tide has been turning for a while now for both influencers and consumers and many are starting to question what and how we promote and also how much we really need to buy. The responsibility lies with all of us to make more sensible and sustainable choices.

ps: Have you guessed who "my favourite influencer" is yet? I still love how she dresses and I consume her content avidly. But I won't be buying 90% of what she wears because it won't look the same on me. Instead I'll continue to admire her and be inspired to execute my own style as well as she executes hers!

Photography: Marlene Lee