This article is about eliminating things from your life that are preventing you from living authentically. I’ve reinvented myself several times throughout my life. I belong to the camp of “if you don’t like something, change it.” I admire women who discover themselves early on and live a well-defined life, but for some reason, that has never suited me. Although, in middle-age, I’m discovering that I’m more like I was 20-30 years ago; I think I had it figured out then, but life took some surprising twists and turns, and I was ever-ready to follow whatever path my life led me on. It took me on some interesting adventures! One thing has remained constant throughout my life: my love of vintage and antique things. My mother said I was born old, as if I came from another era. I’ve always been drawn to history and the past, and often have an inexplicable affinity for things I have never experienced. I also have always had a VERY overactive imagination. I fall for things and styles and eras HARD, and it often leads me to changes in my life, because I want to bring them in.
My houses have always been furnished with old furniture, decor and curtains. It made sense, because of my love of the past. I rarely purchase brand-new items; I am a thrift and antique store queen. New things just don’t appeal to me. That has also never changed. I have always relished being different from other people, and that is another aspect of my life that remains a constant. But with age, things change. Now, all I want is a brand-new oven that actually WORKS. I am tired of “putting up with” vintage appliances and certain shabby things.
I used to be a hardcore vintage-wearing person. I wore vintage clothes and accessories everyday. That has changed, for a number of reasons. I don’t like being pigeonholed. I don’t like rules. Vintage clothing has gotten so popular of late that there is a certain faction of people who look down on those who don’t go full-throttle with it. I’m kind of over dresses that split when I reach for something (I mean, bless that dress’s little heart…it’s been around for 60 years…it’s time to let it rest!).
I started to feel like I was wearing someone else’s interpretation of me, which is just not acceptable. Have you ever felt that way? Just not right in your own skin? If you have, it’s time to think about changing!
First off, let me say that I am preaching to myself here, too. I am on the verge of finally being my true self. It is time for me to follow this advice, too. Let’s do this!
Who’s the real you?
This is an important question to ask yourself. And if you aren’t being the real you, this is something to listen to. I believe, at middle-age, my inner-life is constantly knocking on the door and telling me to relax and embrace the REAL ME. And with all my life’s experiences, I feel that I know who she is, and I am giving her full license to be her true, authentic self.
Living an authentic life
Being true to yourself is absolutely the best gift you can ever give yourself. Throughout our lives, we are subject to judgment from many sources: peers, advertising, magazines, society, culture, upbringing, family, and even partners/spouses. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we’re doing something because we really like it, and that may be true; other times, we are falling into the trap of presenting ourselves in certain ways because we want to gain acceptance. Sometimes we do things we don’t really like because we want approval. Wanting this approval is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but the reasons behind it can be nefarious, and are worth thinking about. The beauty of reaching middle age is that you have gathered so much wisdom at this point, and you can put that wisdom to good use by building your life the exact way you want it to be. And the ultimate gift is this: when you allow yourself to live your most authentic life, you will absolutely glow and revel in happiness.
Being unhappy with the way things are
Are you happy with your life? If you are, then you’re doing great! But if you’re not, you can take steps to change it. Action is the first step to living an authentic life. Analyze the aspects of your life that you aren’t happy with, and think about ways to get started changing that, because above all, you deserve to be happy…and when you present yourself authentically to the world, your inner happiness quotient will skyrocket: whether you get approval from society or not. Because let’s face it, darlings: we don’t have time to worry about what other people think of us. We’ve made it this far, and frankly, we don’t care two figs what people think, right?
“There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself.” — Diana Vreeland
Getting stuck in ruts
Being STUCK is a terrible feeling..of worrying that you have no options. Of not being happy and not knowing where to begin. Of accepting an unhappy situation because you don’t know how to change it, or that you’re too comfortable and it’s too late. It is NEVER, ever too late! An important first step is ridding yourself of clothes, accessories, and things that are no longer serving you, so that you have more room in your life for things that do! Getting rid of stuff opens your world to embrace new things.
How to get started
Reinventing yourself is not always easy, but it is almost always worth it.
STEP ONE: Style
Style is not fashion; style is how you present yourself to the world. If you’re not feeling your style lately, change it! The most logical place to begin is with a wholesale reorganization of your closet.
- Take a look in your closet. You know there’s a bunch of crap in there you are NEVER going to wear, and it’s just taking up space in your life and preventing you from being your best self.
- Get five large boxes, and write on them with markers. One box for donations, one box for sell, one box for trash, one box for “unsure”, and one box for “memories”. The “unsure” box will come in handy, because you can think about it later. Warning: you should be HONEST with yourself about this process. Maybe even invite a trusted friend over, have some wine, and get the hard truth about the stuff in your closet. If something doesn’t fit anymore, it is 100% a candidate for being kicked out of your closet. Things that no longer fit are a MUST GO. Look at each item in your closet and think hard about whether you want this thing in your life anymore. “I might wear it someday” is a red flag. If you haven’t worn an item in 2 or more years, that’s a really good rule of thumb for discarding it.
- Donations: anything that is good, usable condition and could be donated to a resale shop.
- Sell: Some clothes/accessories, especially designer or vintage, can bring some dough! And you can use this to fund other clothes/accessories that are authentically you!
- Trash: Things that are torn, dirty, stretched out, need mending, and cannot be donated. RE: Mending: We all have a few things in our closet that we’re going to get mended/repaired. Be real: these things are never going to be mended. You’ve had them in a mend pile for years. Time for them to go!
- Unsure: These are things that you’re on the fence about. Toss them in there, and go through them later when you can really think long and hard about them.
- Memories: We all have these things, too; the items that trigger memories, good or bad. We keep these things like keepsakes. These are the hardest things to get rid of. You hold a dress or sweater or a fabulous pair of heels and the memories come flooding back. Example: a few years ago I sold the dress that I wore on my first date with my husband. I didn’t think twice about it at the time, and later I regretted selling it. BUT…I have pictures of me in the dress, and our first date, and that’s really all I need! Plus: it didn’t fit me anymore 🙁 — so someone else is enjoying it now and making new memories in it. I’m good with that!
- Have a clothing swap: Invite some friends over, have some wine and snacks, and swap your stuff! Someone else might find joy in clothes/accessories that are not longer serving your authentic self!
STEP 2: Your Home
Is your home a happy place? Is it a sanctuary for you from daily life? If the answer is no, it’s time to evaluate that. Sometimes, extenuating circumstances prevent this from happening: spouses and children, for example, or perhaps you’re a caretaker for a relative. Spouses can be very particular about how the house looks. Compromise is important. If you can’t make major changes in your home because of extenuating circumstances, there are still small things you can do to change.
- Have one space that is all yours: even if it’s a bathroom or a corner. Everyone needs one space that is just for you, and where you are boss. I have my own bathroom, and it is the one space in the whole house that is 100% me. It’s painted pink and it’s my little sanctuary! I love spending time in there (sounds weird, but I have a bathtub and that’s where epic, happy bubble baths take place and I escape from everything for ME time). This dedicated space will be different for everyone, but it’s very important to find that spot.
- Evaluate your stuff. Similar to the closet purge steps above, analyze your home and space. Create boxes for eliminating things from your life that are unusable/broken, can be resold, or just need to be discarded. This goes for knick-knacks and tschotchkes, kitchen stuff (utensils, pots and pans, dishes), wall art, paintings, etc. Go deep. Get rid of torn towels, sheets and blankets (these can be donated to animal shelters, who always need/appreciate such items). For example, my husband and I have a massive lifetime collection of objects that we are about to liquidate, and we are going to use the proceeds to create more space for our true love: cooking. It’s going to be glorious to rid ourselves of this collection that is just taking up space in our lives and open ourselves to what we really enjoy.
- Have a swap night with friends! You might not want/need this stuff anymore, but someone else might!
STEP 3: Activities
Are you doing things you enjoy? Maybe you always wanted to learn how to dance, or learn a new language, or read more. DO IT! Even if it’s something you will do alone. There are a lot of things I like to do that my husband doesn’t; even though we love doing things together, and that is always my #1 goal because I adore spending time with him, I still need to do these things, because I enjoy them and want more of them in my life.
Seriously evaluate things that you do on a regular basis; if there are things you don’t truly enjoy anymore, ask yourself why you’re still doing it. A personal example: years ago, I was going out to nightclubs to see live music all the time. I had reached a point where I wasn’t really enjoying it, but I kept on doing it. I put my foot down one day and just stopped. I haven’t missed it since! As we age, we end up doing things out of habit. This is not a good reason to keep doing something. If you aren’t really enjoying it, stop. Obviously, I’m not talking about responsibilities and things that we must do; I mean, I hate paying bills, but I can’t exactly stop doing that!
Resolve to only do things that that bring you joy. Learn to say no and conquer your fear of missing out (we have an article about that!). Do things that are in line with your true, authentic self.
Life is short. Too short to not be true to yourself.
Get going, little flower! It’s time to blossom!
Share your thoughts about reinventing yourself in the comments!
by Stacie Herndon
Stacie is a writer, graphic designer, and web developer. Legend has it that she was born old. She has always loved outrageous older ladies, often befriending them over people her own age. She is a devoted Francophile, loves a good Sauvignon Blanc and can mix a mean cocktail. She will have red hair until the day she departs this earth.