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Overwhelmed with Clothes After Gastric Bypass

Posted Feb 27 2010 7:20am
In the early months after surgery, you'll find that you will be overwhelmed with clothes.  Clothes that are too big and clothes that don't fit yet (either packed away from your skinnier days or donations from friends and family).  You'll stand in front of your closet searching for anything that fits... just one thing, please!  It's frustrating and exciting and amazing all at the same time.  


You honestly will not believe how FAST you shrink out of clothes after surgery. Something will fit you one day and be clown pants on you the next day.  You'll buy something new and it'll only fit for 2 weeks.  It's a good problem to have, but it's also frustrating and overwhelming. You thought this was going to be the exciting part so you feel bad for being frustrated.  LOL!  But it's normal.  And I'm here to help!

So as you're faced with moutains of clothes (yes, literally mountains!) you need a system to get it all organized.  Here's the system I used.

Get a BUNCH of boxes. Big ones with 4 or 5 of them being all the same size and a bunch of other boxes or big trash bags. Block out a solid 3 or 4 hours on your schedule to devote to this process.  Get help if you can.  Once you're set up.... now let the sorting begin!


Pull everything out of the closet and dresser drawers. Yes EVERYthing. You might need to move to the living room or some place with lots of floor space if you don't have room in the bedroom. 


Start putting clothes into piles by size. 20's, 18's, 16's, etc. Do the same with the S, M, L, XL stuff too. ( here's a chart if you don't know which size goes with which). Stuff that's too big for you doesn't need to be sorted... just put all those in one huge pile off to the side.  No need to be neat about this right now -- just stand in one spot and pitch each size into its own pile across the room. 


Now... let's say you're in size 18/20. So put that size back into your closet. But first try stuff on if you have any doubt that it might be too big.  Pitch any item that's too big into pile of "too big" stuff. Only put back into the closet or dress what actually fits you right now.


Leave the 16's for now and skip down to the 14's, 12's, 10's, etc. In those big same-sized boxes you're going to pack one size of clothes for each box. Write on the side of the box which size is going into it, then fold everything in that size pile and pack it away. If you come across anything that you don't really like the looks of (out of date style, color you don't like, etc.) - put that into the "too big" pile too.  Once you have your boxes packed, put the smallest size clothing box on the bottom of the pile, then continue piling each larger size box on top.  (That gives you easy access to your next clothing size when you're ready for a wardrobe change.)


Ok. Back to the size 16's. You might be surprised to find that some of those 16's actually fit right now. So try that stuff on too. Any 16's that fit go to the closet. Any 16's that "almost" fit and will probably fit within the next couple weeks... can also go in the closet so you don't forget about them until it's too late (believe me, this happens a lot!). All the rest of the 16's that don't fit yet, pack them in a box and add that box to the top of the pile.


Now it's time to tackle that pile of clothes that don't fit any longer or were rejected based on their style.

FIRST you need to record every stitch of clothing that's in that pile. The easiest way to do this is to sort this big pile into smaller piles by type of clothing. Jeans, Slacks, shorts, skirts, blouses, sweaters, etc. Then count how many of each thing is in each pile and write it down.


After you're done counting you can pack all this stuf up into the leftover boxes and garbage bags. Then take these things IMMEDIATELY to your car so it's out of the house. Next trip to town you'll drop this off at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army or the Women's Shelter.  Get a receipt for your donation.

That last directive sounds pretty simple right?  Just pack up your wardrobe and donate it.  Sure, it sounds easy on paper (computer screen) -- but this first donation might be the hardest one of all.  We have an emotional attachment to those clothes.  We're afraid to get rid of larger clothes... just in case.  We've been through so many diet successes only to gain weight back that we've come to expect it's going to always be that way and we'll need those big clothes again.  BUT - this time it's different.  WLS is different than all those failed diets.  And we're not going to need those big clothes ever again. 

HARDER THAN IT SOUNDS - This little act of donation can be an enormous emotional step that is going to take some strength and faith to accomplish. It's a lot harder than it sounds like it'll be.  Don't feel silly for these emotions - it's normal and a lot of us go through the same thing.  But I promise you, when it's done and you are rid of those clothes, you're going to have this sense of freedom you never expected. And the next time you have a load of clothes to donate, it's easier and even something you'll look forward to because you know how good it feels to unburden yourself from those ties. (Plus whenever you stop at Goodwill to donate some boxes, it's like a permission slip to go in and buy a few new things to add to your wardrobe.)


Ok... donation boxes are in the trunk (or already to the charity), now it's time to make some new clothing-fund money!  Go to It's Deductible -- it's a website where you can keep track of your charitable donations. They have various categories of donation items so you can keep track of everything you donate throughout the year (household stuff, clothing, cash, etc.). Set up a free account and then start recording the things on your list and watch your tally grow. This website is tied to Turbo Tax, but you don't have to file your taxes with TT for the website to work. You can print a report of your donations and take it to your accountant with the rest of your tax stuff.  If you file taxes with Turbo Tax it uses the info to automatically populate the forms you need to file for itemized donations.  Any annual donation over $500 needs to be itemized. Some people just do a flat rate per bag of clothes, but I find that you get double or triple the value if you take the time to record what individual items are actually donated. (Note:  You may want to take pictures of your piles of clothes and boxes in case you need proof of your donation in the event of an IRS audit - plus it's fun to look back and see the mountains of clothes!)

That first year after my surgery when I got rid of my entire wardrobe --- just from my clothing donation alone I got an extra $800 in my refund check from Uncle Sam. $800 goes a long way toward a new wardrobe, huh?


Alternatives --- Of course, there are alternatives you might consider rather than donating  to charity and that's up to you.  Some people sell their clothes on Ebay or Craig's List and do well with the effort.  Or you could try a yard sale.  I actually did the yard sale thing that first summer after surgery and sold a lot of my clothes. I made about $200 - but that $200 cost me about 3 weeks of pricing and prepping clothes for the sale, then a long 3-day weekend sitting in a lawn chair with my family manning the sale (not a great hourly wage, huh?).  Yard sales are a huge amount of work for not much payoff.  And when I realized that Uncle Sam paid me about twice what I was selling my clothes for I decided not to do the family yard sale the following summer.   You could also give clothes away to other bariatric patients coming behind you or participate in a clothing swap with a group of other people (support groups often do this).  The decision is yours, of course... but I've found that donating the boxes immediately and getting that stuff out of my house is the best form of therapy and it pays for itself at income tax refund time.


MAINTAINING THE HABIT -- you need to keep doing this as you grow out of sizes. But it won't be as huge as this first time. When you go to your closet and notice something is too big, don't put it back in the closet. Start a new donation box (keep a notebook next to it to keep track of what items you put in there) and when that box is full, it needs to be taken immediately to the car for your next trip to town. When you remove that box, make sure you've got another empty box to put in its place so the routine continues. And when it's time to open a new box in a new size -- Oh Boy! -- it's like Christmas morning and SO much fun.


By the way, when I was shopping at Goodwill during that time of rapid size changes, I'd buy whatever I liked in whatever size I thought I'd eventually get into. So if I saw a killer blouse in a size 12 that was on sale, I'd buy it and add it to my size 12 box. That way when you realize all your clothes are too big, you've alraedy got new stuff waiting for you in the next box.

As a side note.... it is seriously the most surreal experience to be shopping at your local Goodwill store and notice your own "too big" clothes hanging on the rack for sale.  First time it happened to me, I took a picture of it.  It used to be one of my favorite jackets.  


Have fun!
~Pam

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