Why is purging our closets always so damned painful.  I think it has a lot to do with something I call The Certainty Factor.

The Certainty Factor is a principle based on variables of knowledge and confidence.  It’s hard to let go of possessions if you don’t know what you’re replacing them with – even if you know that what you’re holding onto could be replaced with something better.  If you don’t have the new and improved yet, why let go what you have?

Now try it out for yourself.  First, find an item lurking in your wardrobe that was once a memorable investment, but you no longer care for.  Looking at this item may give you some pain.  Try as you might, you just can’t bring yourself to wear it.  Maybe it never fit, or it never went with anything, or you had a change of heart about it once you got it home, or you wore it once and got negative feedback about it and buried it in the closet somewhere.  But at the same time, you just can’t bear to part with it.

Why?  The Certainty Factor is why.

You know what you paid for it and you know if you hold on to it, somehow you are retaining its “value” by stockpiling – or mini hording – it in your closet.  How many other items like this do you have?  The reason you can’t let go is because if you do, you don’t know what you’re letting it go for.  At least, by keeping what you know you have, you’re at least certain of the one bad thing you own.

It could also be that your clothes are also outdated, worn out, don’t represent you any more, or that they don’t fit your body [for better or worse].  Fear of change – or of the unknown – is all about Old Certainty and prevents people from advancing to New Certainty.

The “out with the old and in with the new” concept is not easily adapted by people trapped in Old Certainty.  But the important thing to remember is that change is a process and if you want to change, you have to honor where you are in your own process and take it one step at a time.

In the case of my clients who inspired this writing, both definitely want to eliminate items that don’t serve them any longer.  I’m so proud of them.  But instead of emptying out their closets – and leaving them desperately devoid of anything to wear – we came up with short-term solutions so that they can eventually feel more certain about letting go.

In one case, she is now able to let go of a lot of jewelry that wasn’t being worn to begin with, and has seen a whole new way to express her style through updated and contemporary styles that reflect her current personal style.  Until she saw it with her own two eyes, it wouldn’t have been possible for her to move into New Certainty.  I didn’t even have to ask her about the jewelry.  It came from her all on her own.  And I couldn’t have been more proud.

The other client travels constantly for business.  Eliminating her clothes would leave her a bit too much “Up in the Air” and not in a good way.  So we will be able to make changes in stages, and she is excited to be wearing more color [well, any color!] and taking some calculated risk with her developing sense of style.  The exciting thing for her is that she’s now given herself permission to explore what’s possible, and it won’t be long before she’s embracing New Certainty, too.

Where do you fall on the continuum of The Certainty Factor scale?  Are you in Old Certainty [unable to let go], New Certainty [easily able to embrace new style ideas] or somewhere in the middle?  Plot your place and tell me where you are.

Joseph Rosenfeld helps high-profile individuals revitalize, manage, and be secure in their personal visual brand. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.