This time of year, everyone is talking about purging, decluttering, and cleaning out. I don’t know if it’s the new year, or the empty feeling after putting the Christmas decorations away, but never is there such zeal for organizing and decluttering as there is at the start of a new year. I figured it was a good time to talk about purging your closet and filling it with only the things you love.
Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to curate a wardrobe that meets my needs for almost any occasion without having an overabundance of odds and ends that I never wear. It’s still a work in progress, and I expect it always will be to some extent, but I’m so happy now when I walk into my closet. It’s a great feeling!
If you don’t love your wardrobe, and you wish you did, 2017 can be the year that changes.
How long has it been since you gave your closet a ruthless purge?
I don’t mean just removing a few things you haven’t worn in a few seasons; I mean taking it all out and starting over with only things that you truly love. If you haven’t done this in a few years (or ever), that’s the first step.
I always thought I was good at moving things out at the end of every season and keeping my closet up to date until I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and created a capsule wardrobe last winter. That’s when I realized I was doing it all wrong.
I used to go through my drawers and closet at the end of each season and remove anything that was damaged, out of style, or didn’t fit well, but I didn’t realize how many things were getting overlooked or saved “just in case.” I still had a lot more clothes than I was actually wearing. That’s how you end up with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. Well, that, and by buying things that don’t fit right or don’t go with anything else in your wardrobe.
Marie Kondo’s method was revolutionary to me. She has you take everything out of your closet and drawers — every. last. thing. And then go through them one by one, trying them on if you haven’t worn them this season, and asking yourself if each piece sparks joy. If not, it goes buh-bye.
It sounds hokey, but there’s a big difference between, “Eh, it’s okay. I might want it some day,” and “I love this; I want to put it on and wear it right now.”
That made all the difference for me.
Once you ruthlessly purge your closet and get rid of all the stuff you don’t wear and don’t love, you can start to rebuild your wardrobe into one you will love to wear.
If you feel like you have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear, start by purging your closet with the process below. Only the items that fit and make you happy will go back into your closet, and then you can rebuild from there. You may end up with 5 pieces or 55; the number doesn’t matter, as long as every piece is one you would love to put on and wear right now.
I recommend doing this when you have a good bit of time to spend. You don’t want to be rushed. Also, you will be trying on a lot of clothes, so I like to do this when I am fixed up and feeling good about how I look. I think it’s easier to get a good gauge of how something looks on when I have some makeup on and my hair done. Also, I don’t recommend doing this after a big meal when you’re feeling bloated. Choose a time when you feel good, you look good, and you have a few hours to dedicate to the project.
Here’s the process.
How to Ruthlessly Purge Your Closet
Step 1: Empty out your closet.
Yes. Take everything out, down to the bare walls. Do NOT skip this step. Taking everything out at once is first step to style clarity.
Try on anything you haven’t worn recently — yes, even that special occasion dress you’ve been saving for 5 years “just in case.” Before I did this, I had no idea how much stuff I was keeping “just in case”, and I was shocked at how many of my “just in case” pieces didn’t even fit anymore. What a waste of closet space!
Make sure to gather your clothing from all areas of the house — laundry, storage, etc. Don’t skip anything.
Step 2: Sort each item into four piles.
- LOVE IT: If it is appropriate for the current season, and you absolutely love it and want to put it on right this second, hang it back in your closet.
- MAYBE: Is the fit a bit off? The color? Are you keeping it just because it has sentimental value, or because you paid a lot for it and feel guilty getting rid of it? Put it in a box and store it. If you find yourself wishing you had it, you can always go retrieve it. But if you don’t find yourself wanting it before the end of the season, it’s time to donate it and let someone else enjoy it. If you’re not used to purging, this can be hard to do, but I promise you, it is SO freeing!
- HATE IT: Self explanatory. Donate or sell to fund new purchases.
- SEASONAL: If it’s not in season, but you LOVE IT (and I mean LOVE IT), put it in a box and store it so you can add it to your wardrobe when the proper season rolls around.
Okay, a few notes about this step.
Marie Kondo says it is important to touch each piece and consider if it brings you joy. I promise you, this works. Trust your gut. If you don’t feel like putting it on and wearing it right now but are afraid to get rid of it, put it in the MAYBE pile. You can always go back to it, but you don’t want anything you don’t absolutely love in your LOVE IT pile.
If you have a TON of clothes, do this process in groups. All your tops, then all your bottoms, then dresses, shoes, etc.
I realize not everyone has seasonal wardrobes, and that is fine. If you prefer to keep all of your clothes in your closet all year round, go for it. But if you live in an area with distinct seasons as I do, I highly recommend putting away things that are not in season. It’s so much easier to get dressed when you’ve reduced your closet to only truly viable options. Try it once, and see how you like it.
I also realize that some people have a really hard time getting rid of things they’ve bought that they feel are still in good shape, even if they don’t fit properly or make them happy. If that is you, I say this with love: Be like Elsa, and LET IT GO. You will feel SO much better, trust me!
Yes, it feels very wasteful to give away perfectly good clothing, and some people have a hard time with the purging process, but I look at it this way. It’s not a waste if it blesses someone who needs it.
If my clothes sit in my closet and rot until they are outdated and full of moth holes, then yes. That’s a waste. However, if I can bring joy to someone today by giving them a bag of like-new clothing that they will wear and enjoy, then I’m all for it.
If you don’t personally know someone who wants your castoffs, there are tons of local organizations that do good work providing clothing to needy women and families in the community where you live. Just find one that resonates with you and haul your stuff over there. As an added bonus, get a receipt, and it’s a tax write-off.
I keep a MAYBE bin in my closet with the things I just can’t bear to part with but don’t think I will wear. I allow myself to go into the bin and retrieve something if I change my mind during the season. This helps with any feelings of remorse over getting rid of perfectly good clothing. I have gone into the MAYBE bin a few times, so I won’t tell you that you will never regret getting rid of something, but I’d rather re-purchase a couple of things than live with a closet full of clothes I never wear.
Step 3: Assess what’s left in your closet.
You may want to live with your clothes for a little while before shopping for new pieces. If you’re struggling to define your personal style, this process will help. Peruse Pinterest, your favorite blogs (ahem) and fashion magazines, and keep track of what styles resonate with you. Pin them to a personal style Pinterest board, or keep a notebook with pages from magazines. Whichever method you prefer is fine, as long as it works for you.
Your goal during this phase is to determine your personal style and what you need to round out your wardrobe. Keep a notebook or a document on your phone with a list of clothing items you need or want, and then when you go shopping, you can shop strategically.
Step 4: Shop.
This last step is an ongoing process, unless you’re creating a capsule wardrobe, in which case you will complete this step and live with it for a season.
Shop for any items you need to complete your wardrobe. Make a list and shop intentionally. Consider your lifestyle. Make sure you have a good ratio of casual clothes to work wear. This varies from person to person and, of course, is based on climate as well.
If this step confounds you or you’re short on time, and you’d like help rebuilding your wardrobe, give Trunk Club a try. It’s a personal shopping service owned and sourced by Nordstrom. You will get a personal shopper who learns your needs and budget, and she will send you a box of 10-15 clothing items to try on in the comfort of your own home. You have 5 days to return what you don’t want; you only pay for what you keep. There is a $25 styling fee that you can apply to anything you keep. It’s a great service, and over time, your stylist really gets to know you. It can save a lot of time and angst.
If you’ve never done a ruthless closet purge like this, I challenge you to try it! Let me know your thoughts.
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