is there a new you in your closet?

by rebecca on January 28, 2010

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       Julie Morgenstern helps people find the themes in their life. Once that’s accomplished she helps them shed the stuff that is tying them down.

       She has walked this path herself. She had several boxes living under her dining room table that were holding her back, and once she was willing to let them go, her career catapulted skyward.

       “The stuff in those boxes was my history; my former life,” says Julie. She needed to unburden herself of that anchor before she could freely sail into the next chapter of her life.

       A divorce and a quick entry into life as a single parent shifted her priorities. Suddenly a stable life for her daughter with a good paycheck and predictable hours looked attractive.

       The boxes held her theatre books, the remnants of a marvelous chapter, but one that clearly didn’t mesh well with a daughter who needed a mother in the evenings. “What would I miss tomorrow?” Julie asked herself as she looked at the boxes. It is the question she now asks all her clients.

       The answer was clear and easy. Out of all the stacks, she grabbed two books, one from the production that really broke her open and another that was simply a favorite. She heaved the rest and had room under her dining room table for the first time in years. Into all that space, almost instantly, her business expanded.

       She’d gone from director of dramas to director of lives. Julie Morgenstern had always known how to stage a good play, helping actors find the vulnerability they needed to bring a character forward, now she was simply taking that same skill and applying it directly to the lives people were living. She helped them, with compassion and vision, find their most authentic selves and bring that center stage.

       I’ve moved 9 times since I graduated 26 years ago, and I’ve carried three boxes of clothes to every single one of those houses. I’ve worn these clothes maybe a handful times in those 26 years. I could feel the anchor weight of these boxes and I was grateful to Julie and the help she gave me as I read her words and finally let them go.

       The theme of my life in high school had been innocent idealist. I designed and sewed many of those clothes for myself. Without knowing it, I was giving myself some of my first altared spaces at a pivotal time when it was easy to become lost.

       But, like Julie, as time passed, I became someone new. The theme of my life changed. I was still the same core person, still an idealist, but life had impacted me. No longer was I innocent.

       Julie describes a process she calls S.H.E.D. Separate the treasure. Heave the trash. Embrace your identity, and Drive yourself forward. I most adore the metaphor of shedding my skin because that’s exactly how it felt.

       Like a snake that outgrows its skin and needs to shed one layer in order to move in to a new layer of life, I had to shed my old clothes to find out who I could become. For more than a decade I wore clothes that didn’t fit and barely touched my skin. I didn’t want life impacting me.

       I read Julie’s words about unloading her boxes of theatre books and something connected for me. I went to my closet and asked myself, “What will I miss?” For me, it was the memories. I’d fallen in love with my husband in those threads. But there was not a single outfit I needed to actually keep.

       So, with ritualistic care, I hung them on hangers and took photos of clothes that housed me at a time when I was emerging. Then I gave them all away.

       Moving from one chapter to the next, says Julie, can be an exhilarating process, but it takes bravery, because you’re touching that authentic self. By shedding one’s skin we become more. Like a snake, whose skin is new, that makes us vulnerable, but it also makes us larger.

       “Everyone is terrified of the void,” says Julie about people who keep old stuff littered about their home, office or schedule. “We don’t want to get rid of things because the familiar is comfortable.” But the things surrounding us are obsolete. We need to simply release the pressure by removing the junk.

       “When you detach your identity from your stuff or your schedule you can feel your authentic self.” Julie’s words echoed in my brain as I stood in the dressing room where my daughter and I were shopping. I was trying on a tight pair of jeans. Someone new had entered my body and taken those jeans off the rack.

       I’d been afraid for many, many years that if I let the world truly touch me that my idealism would be threatened. But we cannot be alienated from our most authentic self. Julie’s advice served me well. By getting rid of the stuff, I merely found a deeper version of who I am.

       My new theme is sensual idealist. Where before my idealism was watchful and on the sidelines, now I want life to penetrate my skin. I have found a deeper, far more authentic connection to what is most important to me. Who could have imagined it would be in my closet?

       I want my life touching me. I live with my two children, one a vegetarian and rabid animal rights activist and the other a hunter. The innocent girl in me couldn’t see how these two different souls would ever find a way to be friends. I sometimes acted like a schoolgirl begging for peace between them.

       I got rid of my high-school clothes and, with them, I abandoned a young pattern of thought. Large paradoxes can exist in the midst of deep love. I stopped getting in the middle of my children. Now I easily see two of them as they laugh with each other and share an ipod. Who knew cleaning out my closet would allow me to see what I couldn’t before?

       And that husband, to whom I was so sentimentally attached that I didn’t want to get rid of clothes in which we’d first kissed? He seems to like the look of these new tight jeans. I’m winning all around.     


       What themes and altared spaces are hiding in your closet, on your lists, or on your desk? What are you ready to SHED to become your most authentic self?


Contact Julie Morgenstern at


photo courtesy of Julie Morgenstern Enterprises

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