Clothing is imbued with emotion, steeped in memory, and parting with it can be downright painful. As rewarding as it feels to jettison long-languishing items, it can be stressful to part with pants that will never fit again, gifts from long-lost loves, expensive duds you never wore.
I’m not gonna tell you to invite your girlfriends over, open a bottle of wine, and make a party of it. You certainly can, but for many women, closet purges are extremely personal and most effective when undertaken alone.
Regardless of whether you tackle the task on your own or with help, promise me you’ll make time for it. Real time. Do not purge your closet in between other tasks over the course of a month. Set aside a full weekend day, hire a sitter, banish everyone. It sounds like overkill, but you will not regret carving out the space and time for this task. Promise.
Start with your neglected, underutilized, languishing items
Try them on. Yes, all of them. Including shoes and accessories. Yes, I know it’s going to take ages. Remember, you’ve got all day. Try them on in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror.
If an item never fit in the first place, donate it
You should begin dressing for your Today Body as soon as possible. Clothing that never worked with your figure damages your body image. Donate it to a worthy cause.
If an item shames you for your body shape or shopping habits, sell it
If an item has negative associations, recouping your losses can soften the parting blow. Consign, sell on eBay, or find some other way to make a few of your bucks back.
If an item’s value is emotional, store it or document it
You can keep the shredded jeans from your carefree days in high school, but you don’t need to store them in your active closet. If you can’t bear to part with them, find an obliging corner of your basement. If you don’t have much storage space, photograph or journal about the item before you send it along to a new home.
If it is damaged, repair it
Some items are neglected because they’re broken. Replace buttons, have shoes resoled, take ill-fitting items to the tailor.
If you love it but don’t know how to wear it, display it prominently
Many items remain neglected simply because they’re hidden from view. Move challenging items to the front of the closet so you can see them.
Don’t feel obliged to jettison everything that is currently too big or small for you
Bodies fluctuate. Many women’s bodies fluctuate on a monthly basis and having some size options on hand can be incredibly helpful.
But consider these two important things before deciding to hang onto any article of clothing that doesn’t fit your Today Body:
Are you being honest?
It makes sense to hang on to jeans a size or two away from your current size in case of weight changes. But beyond that may be pushing reason. While you may return to a previous size someday, remember that you can replace virtually all clothing. You should donate items that are far smaller or larger than you are now. Letting them go can help you accept your body and move toward loving it.
Are you hurt by their presence?
Memories of other body shapes and sizes can be painful for a multitude of reasons. Any items of clothing that prompt feelings of disappointment, shame, or self-loathing don’t belong in your closet, or in your house. Find them new homes for those pieces and focus on the clothing that inspires, beautifies, and energizes you.
Now that you’ve sussed out your least-worn items, let’s move on to your most-worn pieces. Try them on. Yes, all of them. Now ask yourself:
What is their relationship to your current style?
Some frequently worn items may fit into your current style but feel stale or tired. Consider jettisoning those or placing them into storage until you’ve made more decisions about where your style is headed. Keep anything that feels classic or quintessentially “you.”
Do they make you look good and feel good?
Ideal garments will work with your body. That means they’ll highlight your favorite attributes without causing you acute discomfort. Items that feel great but look awful should be reserved for sick days. Items that look great but feel awful should be ejected from your closet.
Some garments will fall more on the “look good” or “feel good” side of the fence, of course, and that’s fine. But always consider your compromises. Carefully.
If they’re keepers, do they need repair or replacement?
Wardrobe staples are among the items most likely to show wear and tear. How are yours holding up? If they are items that you know will endure beyond any style revisions, make sure they’re in good shape.
That probably took a while. If you were as thorough as you should’ve been, you’ve just tried on and evaluated everything in your closet. If you’re on the brink of exhaustion, call it a day. If you’ve got any energy left, take a moment to evaluate your closet itself, including organization and storage.
Your wardrobe should be clean and organized. No piles on the floor, no wads in the corner. Do what you can to keep everything tidy, as it will keep your clothes in wearable shape for longer.
Make sure your clothing, shoes, and accessories are visible and safely stored. Again, you won’t wear what you can’t see. Do your best to create a wardrobe space with few hidden corners.
Eyeball your available storage for future purchases. You will, eventually, go shopping. Do you have room for any new items? If not, can you reconfigure your current storage?
Now feel free to collapse into an exhausted heap. You’ve earned it.
Do you actively purge your closet or wardrobe? Any tips to share?