It’s amazing how much emotion is wrapped up in our clothes. We get attached to things because of who gave them to us or the exotic country we bought them or the 10-pound skinnier girl who used to fit in them. That’s what makes closet purging such an incredibly difficult process… we have to continually let go, over and over again.
I’ll admit that I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tiding Up, last year and truly adored it. While my aesthetic is far from minimalist, there were a lot of really good ideas for how we can both physically and emotionally get our homes, and thus our minds, in order.
There were two really big gems in there for me – the first is, only keep things that spark joy. That means, even if a beloved cardigan was your favorite back in 2010, but now your style is more polished than hipster, it no longer represents who you are and is more nostalgic than truly pleasurable.
The other advice I loved is identifying that an object’s purpose in your life is not always obvious – for example, if you purchase a pair of shoes but only wear them twice and realize they give you horrible blisters, there’s no point in leaving them in your closet for two years. Recognize that their purpose was to teach you how to shop for quality heels or that a certain type or brand of shoe just isn’t for you, and then let them go.
Anyways, while the emotional aspect of purging your closet can be challenging, there are a few helpful questions you can ask yourself as you purge your closet:
1. Does it bring me joy to wear this?
As I mentioned above, this is one of Marie Kongo’s most famous and valuable lessons. Keeping clothes that don’t bring you joy are just cluttering up your closet and bringing you down. This could be as extreme as an ex-boyfriend’s t-shirt or as mild as a frumpy skirt you paid too much for. If you’re not sure what brings you joy, find your favorite piece in your closet, and spend a minute studying it. Then, go compare other items of clothing to that one.
2. Does it fit?
A few years ago, I got a beautiful pencil skirt from JCrew on sale. I maybe wore it once, and then I gained a few pounds, and now I can barely fit into it. Despite the fact I cannot and do not wear it, I’m so reluctant to give it up even though I now know I probably will not weigh 125 again any time soon, and it’s just taking up space. So whether it’s an item you wasted money on or a beloved top that just doesn’t look the same on you now as when you were 19, bite the bullet and toss it.
3. Have I worn this in the last year?
Unless an item of clothing was ridiculously hidden, chances are if you haven’t worn an item in a year, there’s a reason. Either it doesn’t bring you joy, it doesn’t fit, whatever. Don’t hold onto clothing out of misplaced sentimentality or by convincing yourself that one day you might change your mind and wear it. A year is a long time. If it’s gone unused that long, just accept the facts.
4. Does this still represent my style?
My style has changed a lot over the years, from goth to hippie to literary preppy to my current cosy boho. The truth is, I have a couple of dresses and cardigans from my previous fashion eras that I’m just not interested in wearing any more because they don’t feel like they represent me. Accept that you change as time passes and that having a wardrobe that matches who you are now is what matters most.
5. Is it still in good condition? If not, can I fix it and do I want to?
I’m so guilty for holding onto jackets with broken buttons or pants that are too long without doing anything about it. I make a pile to take it to the tailor, but somehow I rarely actually go. Today is the day to really ask yourself – is this item no longer in good condition, and if not, is it worth the time and money to salvage it? If you decide to fix it, then be proactive about going to the tailor this week. No excuses.
6. Does it fit my current lifestyle?
Just like my style has changed, so has my lifestyle. In 2011, I graduated from college and started at my marketing agency, so even though the dress requirements were quite casual, I had to top wearing spaghetti straps and purchase some nice button ups. Now that I’m working from home full time, I spend almost every day in distressed jeans, a tee, and a slouchy cardigan. Since I know I’ll almost never need those office clothes again, it’s time to do a through sweep and get rid of everything but my very favorite items.
7. Do I own too many clothes identical to this?
I have a penchant for dark gray sweaters. There’s just only so many gray sweaters that one woman needs, even if I wear them constantly. In my next closet clean-out, I’ll probably get rid of my least favorite, because I’m probably not wearing it much anyways.
8. Is it comfortable?
Life is too short for clothes that squeeze your middrift when you sit or give you terrible blisters.
9. Would I purchase this item now? If I moved across the country, would I bring this item with me?
These questions are a good way to gauge how much value an old piece of clothing has to you today. Try to look at it objectively and imagine seeing it hanging on a rack in your favorite store. Would it jump out at you or would you keep walking? Is it worth $10 or $20 or $50 to you? Or would it be worth the trouble of packing up in a box and shipping far away, should you move? If the answer is no, then scrap it.
How often do you clean out your closet? Any favorite tricks that you employ?