Purging Your Closet is Easy

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Set aside at least half a day for the task. Longer if you’ve got a large and varied wardrobe. Make sure you’ll be focused and uninterrupted.
  2. Force yourself to examine and evaluate every single garment, accessory, and pair of shoes you own. If you have any doubts about an item, try it on. If you’re still unsure, try it on in the context of a full outfit.
  3. Donate anything that you hate, that doesn’t fit, or that doesn’t align with your style or style priorities.

That’s it. Seriously.

And yet, purging our closets can be downright PAINFUL. Clothing is imbued with emotion, linked to events and feelings from the past. Clothing is tied strongly to our feelings about our bodies, our professional lives, our stylistic fluctuations. The steps themselves are simple, but the process is inevitably challenging.

When was the last time you purged your closet? Was it a breeze? If not, what roadblocks did you hit? How did you navigate around them?

Image via weheartit.

  • http://skywalkerbeth.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth Anderson

    I did this about 2 months ago. I think I came up with 12 items to donate. However, I could and should have had another 12 I bet. Nonetheless it is a good start. I also found a few things buried that really should have a new life. A beige Jones New York “blazer”. A periwinkle blouse – no shoulder pads, so it’s timeless. More scarves. Why not?

  • http://catspajamas-dogstuxedos.blogspot.com/ coffeeaddict

    The simple mechanics of the purging couldn’t be easier. After all we all know what’s in our closets (at least a vague idea), what fits and what doesn’t (again the ballpark) and the potential discards.
    It’s the emotianal part that ruins any and all sincere attemts to throw out anything that doesn’t fit anymore.
    And here comes: oh I wore this on our second date, this little clutch accompanied me on a trip to Italy and I have such fond memory of that time, etc. And don’t even get me started on the ‘as soon as I loose 10 pounds, this will fit perfectly!’

    • http://enbouton.blogspot.com Frankincensy

      If it’s any use, I’ve set aside part of a drawer for clothes I’m only keeping for sentimental reasons. I think as long as you have the space and can avoid the temptation to keep *everything*, it’s fine keeping a few things for the sake of the memories associated with them.

      • http://arinn.com arinn

        i have part of a drawer for sentimental clothing, too, but i’m about to do a long-distance move and am seriously questioning the need. i’m feeling a purge coming on!

      • PHX Mama

        If it’s any consolation, I *finally* got rid of the “memory bin” this weekend — the dress I taught my first class in, the dress I was wearing when I met my husband — The clothes were 15-20 years old (sigh) and I knew that I would never wear them. But I was holding on to them for memory’s sake. They sat in the memory bin for about 5 years — and one day (last Friday!) I decided it was time for them to go….and it was fine (a little sad, but fine). The memories are in your head, not in a bin in the closet. :)

  • http://eekachinski.blogspot.com eek

    yes, it sounds simpler than it is…i have been away from 95% of my closet for the last 2 months…it’s going to be fun going back :)

  • http://artistwithoutamuse.blogspot.com/ B

    “Donate anything that you hate, that doesn’t fit, that’s ruined, or that doesn’t align with your style or style priorities.”

    Yes to all except “ruined”. Throw ruined out. If you can’t fix it, if there are stains, if it is beyond redemption, just throw it out, or cut it up and sell it on ebay for quilters. Poor people and thrifters don’t want to sift through ruined stuff.

  • http://whenharrymetsalad.com Megan

    I did the closet purge last weekend, and got rid of at least 50% of my stuff. I actually tried everything on, even if I thought it was a keeper.

    If I didn’t like it, it went in the no pile. If I liked it in the abstract but didn’t like wearing it, it went in the no pile. If I spent a lot of money on it but hadn’t worn it in years and couldn’t see myself wearing it anytime in the future, it went in the no pile. If I loved it at 25 but felt silly in it at 35, it went in the no pile. That pile was pretty big by the end of the afternoon.

    It felt great, and having less to choose from has really simplified the daily what-should-I-wear? dilemma.

    Another tip: ask a friend to help. Friends aren’t emotionally invested in your clothes and a good friend can be honest about when it’s time to let something go.

  • http://willamettestar.com crackerjackheart

    You are missing the step of having a good and honest friend there with you. When doing this I will often waver on an item and my friend will point out how unflattering it really is and then it’s suddenly quite easy to get rid of!

  • http://twitter.com/bydaiyami daiyami

    I’ve found that taking a picture of clothing before I jettison it helps a LOT. I can keep the emotions and memories but scrap the clothing. I’ve also refashioned a few things where I really liked the fabric into gift bags or scarves (that I do use/wear), although moving clothing from the closet to the refashion pile is not much of a step forward.

    • http://circafashion.com cca.

      i like this taking a picture of the item for memories.

      • GingerR

        I have a cute little notebook I bought someplace and I note things I’ve gotten rid of in that.

        It’s helpful to go through that now and then so you can discern any patterns about things that don’t work out.

        Like the heels and cocktail party dress that never got worn. Funny since I hate heels and don’t drink!

      • Jennifer

        Yes, I do the picture thing when a favorite pair of shoes die. :(

        I also refashion . . . recently I cut several inches off a pretty tan suede-ish skirt to take it from floor length to knee length. And I converted a favorite pair of jeans from high school (where the inner thigh had desintegrated) into a denim skirt.

  • http://www.relatablestyle.blogspot.com Relatable Style

    To be honest, I love purging my closet! I mean, there’s room for new stuff afterwards and the old things are going towards a good cause, so what’s not to love? But I don’t follow special rules like “If you haven’t worn it for one year, toss it”, because I usually buy things when I like them and not when I need them. So, items can indeed sit in my closet for years and then suddenly turn into my favorite thing! Ha, indeed I wore a pair of pants yesterday for the second time, and I bought them then years ago! See: 10 year old pants! And since it’s spring and flared pants are back in rage now, I guess they’ll see the daylight a lot more from now on.

    I do have to admit though, I got rid of a perfect winter coat last year, because I thought it wasn’t my color. Turns out, it was perfect indeed. *sigh*

  • birdmommy

    Thanks for the great post!
    One tiny thing… you say donate it if it’s ruined. If it’s ruined to the point of not being wearable, then please don’t donate it unless your local charity has a ‘rag bin’ or something similar. Many charities are only set up for wearable garments – they have to pay to sort, store and ship unusable items either to landfills or to businesses that buy clothing for making rags or pulp.

  • http://www.thewardrobeworkshop.com/blog Ketura, The Wardrobe Workshop

    You are so right that is THAT simple, and THAT hard. People hire image consultants/stylists because they just can’t quite go it alone. (A trusted friend as a good alternative.) I like to focus on how great it feels to have a closet filled with clothes you LOVE and that love you back! :-)

  • http://megthegrand.blogspot.com Meg

    I have found the easiest way to purge my closet is to host a clothing swap. I hosted one this past weekend actually, and I found myself getting rid of things that I knew would look great on my friends. It was easier to part with objects when I thought about how great Jessica looks in this color, or how Stephanie had been looking for a pencil skirt.

  • http://www.befabulousdaily.us Cynthia

    I purged some over the Christmas holidays. But not enough. My main obstacle to getting rid of things is “but you could still USE that”. Even if I don’t like it. Even though I know that I will not still use it if I don’t like it. I need to be more ruthless.

  • http://one-girl-vs-world.blogspot.com/ Laurel

    I purge my closet once every six months and I just passed one of the milestones. I’ve currently got two garbage bags of clothes waiting to go to the Goodwill right now. Most of the clothes are stuff that was given to me or stuff that I unpacked with my Spring and Summer clothes and decided I no longer wanted. It is always a refreshing experience for me! Sometimes there are pieces that I’m unsure about, so I pack them away. I do have a separate closet for costume pieces, so sometimes pieces get put away in there.

    • Claire

      Haaaa! I also have a “costume chest” for certain things that don’t belong in the main closet but are too fun/unique to get rid of! Comes in verrry handy…. even my husband has taken many an item from this pile for costuming :)

      • Barb

        What a fun idea! I wish I had thought of this before getting rid of the ridiculous never worn silver shiny disco tube top, lol!!

  • http://midwesternmodernmomma.blogspot.com Jen

    I purged last summer while on break from work. It wasn’t bad because I was shedding pounds, gaining a new wardrobe, and tossing tons of post-baby stuff. I organized the heck out of that closet too! Almost one year later though, I can see a need to do this again in the summer because while I thought I did a good job, I kept many items that I didn’t wear at all this year and haven’t in years prior to now. There are some things I’ll never part with (lovely cashmere sweater I got for a steal, Doc Martens I wore to every concert from 1996-2003, the bowling shirt my husband bought me as a “gift”, my grandmother’s gowns). But the blouses that will never button properly over my bust-those must go. I always talk to myself as I purge…rationalizing my way over the roadblocks. I find that when I am done I feel so much better, which helps me to finally give things away. Plus, it makes room for so much more!

  • poodletail

    Today’s my day to purge the closet in prep for selling our place. Wish me luck, Sal.

  • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

    Ah, indeed – do not donate anything that’s well and truly ruined. When I thrift, I often find stained or torn items that I’m perfectly willing to work around or mend myself, but something that is messed up beyond repair should be recycled in other ways.

    Will change the post text. Thanks!

  • Denise

    I purge twice a year, spring and fall. Technically, it’s not just purging: I pack away my off-season clothing (I live in the Twin Cities like you, Sal) so I see only what I’m able to wear in my closet. I’m one of those people that prefers fewer choices rather than many. As a bonus, I feel like I get “new” clothes twice a year! (I’m sort of sad, aren’t I?). Seriously, I reexamine everything I own when I unpack/pack it, and I usually end up getting rid of a few things quite easily.

    • SarahN

      I do exactly what Denise does. Winter is so long here in the Northeast that I literally forget what summer clothes I have. Then it really is like having new clothes each season! I just unpacked some summer stuff over the weekend, reunited with my white jeans and yellow silk skirt, and purged some older tops and shorts that I know I won’t wear. Over the years, keeping to this schedule has made me much less emotionally attached to my clothes. As soon as something stops working for me, I get rid of it. I can easily donate and consign with no hesitation now, because I know that I can go out tomorrow and find something I love just as much.

  • http://www.stepalica.blogspot.com AnaJan

    I purge my clothes several times a year, usually at the end of season. I usually give it to my friends and family, depending on their taste, age and size. Since most of the clothes I have is self made, I’m emotionally attached to every single piece in my closet. So, I figured a way to purge the clothes without feeling sad about it – I give it to the people who’ll definitely wear it, and I make sure they try the clothes before taking them home. Maybe it’s silly, but I want my perfectly good clothes to have a real second life :).

  • http://www.misfitsvintage.com/ Sarah

    I have added a fourth step to the process. After the first three steps, I hold the item up and look in the mirror and ask myself “Do I feel fabulous in this item?”. That can often be a deal breaker and helps so much in reminding me that I deserve to feel fabulous all the time – not just in ‘special occasion’ clothes.

    Sarah xxx

  • Miss T

    I read something last year about clothing — like everything else — having “chi”, and that the chi of a garment or accessory can diminish, making it an “energy drain” to the rest of the wardrobe, and even the wearer itself. As someone who has benefitted from acupuncture, this oddly made sense to me, and turned out to be a very definitive way for me to evaluate whether something in my wardrobe should go or stay. When I evaluate it for its energy, its very obvious to me if its vibrant, alive, and has potential, or whether it’s more or less finished, energy-wise. I have no idea whether the energy drain is permanent and whether the garment’s future owner will have the same sense of it when I donate it, but I think the important thing is that an energetic evaluation keeps the clothing moving and moving in the right direction, hopefully to everyone’s benefit.

    • http://www.tumblingtruth.tumblr.com Karla

      This is the most helpful comment I’ve found on this subject – thank you! Off I go, purge ahoy!

  • http://enbouton.blogspot.com Frankincensy

    I’m 21, so my height, weight and shape have shifted dramatically over the last decade, leaving me with a lot of clothes that don’t fit. I do periodic closet purges and don’t find it too hard, but my weakness is knowing what to do with clothes that were given to me or bought for me. These clothes often end up languishing unworn for years because I feel guilty about donating gifts, or feel as if the clothes aren’t really mine to give away.

  • Natalie

    Thanks for this post, Sal. The last time I purged my closet was a year and a half ago, just before a big cross-country move. I had a very difficult time letting anything go, as I was simultaneously purging all of my belongings and preparing to leave all my friends and family behind. Now that I’ve settled in at my new home, I think I’ll try another closet purge. This time around the urge to hang onto that dress I haven’t worn in 4 years won’t be quite so strong.

  • http://weirdinedgewise.blogspot.com ONEWEIRDWORD

    I found two lovely jackets at the Salvation Army a few weeks ago – a slim black one and a dark, dark, 3-button brown one. I’d been looking and looking for both – and the only reason I found them is because of great people like all you guys who purge your closets. When I get rid of stuff (and I’ve been working hard at decluttering this year), I think of the person who will happily find the thing I no longer want – but it’s a treasure to her!

  • http://dashingeccentric.blogspot.com/ tiny junco

    angie at fashionmeblog has just finished a truly ruthless edit of her closet – she’s down to 13 pieces!!! she has 3-4 posts about the process, talking about her emotions, her criteria, where she wants to go from here. Very interesting and honest and truly amazing! steph
    http://fashionmeblog.blogspot.com/

  • Miranda

    I find that planning a clothing-swap with my girlfriends is the best motivation for an honest closet-purge. There’s something helpful/comforting about knowing that those pieces will go to good homes, and that I’ll even get to see them remixed into wardrobes and onto bodies different than mine. It gives them new life!

  • http://theblissfulacademic.blogspot.com Amber

    I have such a hard time letting go of items in my closet. I can talk myself into keeping things I haven’t worn in years. I have gotten better recently, mostly because I am running out of room in my closet. Now I just have to accept that I need to lose old clothes in order to make room for the awesome new stuff I buy.

  • http://twobirdsboutique.blogspot.com/ two birds

    i do this a lot. sadly, it’s because i shop too much and am constantly buying new stuff. so, i need (yes, small minneapolis closets) to get rid of stuff to make room for more. it’s never easy, but i have to do it!

  • http://hilltopstar.blogspot.com christine

    My roommate had me help with a closet purge one time. My job was to sit on the bed drinking tea and give a yes or a no to every item of clothing she tried on. If I was undecided she would set it aside and try it on again, and I would have to give my verdict. She allowed herself only three vetoes. By the end of the afternoon had thinned her closet out by half. She also actually updated her wardrobe because all the new stuff was at the front of the closet instead of at the back. I was even able to help her put together outfits so she had a better idea of how to wear her “new” wardrobe. I now do the same thing.

    Bottom line: Purging your closet is a lot more fun with a friend whose style sense you trust and her eyes will be kinder and more non-sensical than yours. :)

  • http://scrapandrun.blogspot.com/ Colleen

    My problem is that I won’t get rid of a single thing unless I try it on AND take my picture in it. Sometimes this is very time consuming. I tend to do areas of my closet each time I do it. (I then post about it on my blog or at least upload the pics to my picasa. I was going to find an example but for some reason the internet connection is super slow right now and searing my blog is not easy.)

  • http://sevenxsix.wordpress.com Audri

    The Friends of MS call me regularly for donations. I lost 65 pounds in the last year so I always had something to give them when they called every 4-8 weeks. It is a tad harder now that I am just 15 pounds to goal. However, I am approaching my husbands side of the closet and I know for every item I bring in the house, I “should” take one out. I have 2 kitchen trash bags full of clothes for pickup tomorrow. I may regret a few items in there, but I am sure I will find something better in future shopping trips. (something that fits better and makes me feel less frumpy)

  • http://www.megwetch.blogspot.com Dawn

    Sally, I just purged my closet this weekend! I had so many clothes I thought I might fit into again and just decided to get rid of it and when/if I lose a little weight, I’ll just buy something new. Went through drawers too. Ended up with 3 huge garbage bags to donate and 1 trash bag. Feels good.

  • http://www.daisyoftheflinthills.blogspot.com Kitty

    I used two new thought processes to finally purge my closet into a place a love to go!

    The first was Carol Tuttle’s Dress Your Truth where I took the plunge and pulled all of the black out of my closet. Instant lightness! And gone was 3/4 of my closet – “necessary” pieces that I truly never felt happy in.

    The second part was spending more time in thrift stores where I would see that same blouse I had been angonizing over (should I keep it, its a nice blouse, who gets rid of a perfectly nice white blouse?) and there it was on the thrift store rack for 99 cents. My brain space was being wasted on multiple 99 cent decisions! If later I decide I really needed it – I will just buy it back!

  • http://mashiki0603.livejournal.com/ Maria

    I certainly vote for doing it with a friend! Several weeks ago one of my friends helped me to purge, and my other friend has asked me to help her with purging as well. I found that that when I remember how much I paid for the item (sometimes good memory is a curse :) and it wasn’t cheap, it is really hard for me to part with it, even if it doesn’t suit me that well (guess, somehow I feel that I didn’t get my money’s worth), so another reason for me to enjoy thrifting – easy come, easy go :)

  • http://www.thedollsong.blogspot.com dollsong

    I find it really hard to purge my closet. I recently did and ended up donating two overflowing bags of clothing and shoes to a friend who is close to my size. She doesn’t shop much for herself and it was nice to hear that she really liked the clothes. I asked that she take the items she didn’t like to Goodwill.

    The rest of the purge ended up in the trash (the truly useless stuff) or in a small bag of “I don’t know what to do with this right now” clothes. When that bag gets full, I will do a closet purge again.

    I usually find myself a little sad to be losing clothes, but then I think about how much joy thrift store shopping brings me and how I want to take part in that circle of sharing and recycling. Also, what I lose in clothing quantity is always made up for by feeling so much better about what I see in my closet each day.

  • http://spoilsofwear.blogspot.com/ Jill

    It really is painful. I have do it in stages, usually with every seasonal wardrobe rotation (just started on Spring!). I really stuggle with keeping bigger and smaller sizes – the ‘what if?’ really tempts me to hold on to things I shouldn’t.

    • Dee

      Boy, I can relate to most of what has been said. I find it somewhat painful to purge, I mainly think about how much I paid for an item and shouldn’t I get more wear from it before I give it away. I did recently take to the resale shop/Goodwill 60 pieces from my closet. Mostly “novelty” jackets that were such the rage, (since they are not so much in style anymore it was easier to part with them.) I still have much purging to do. I use the philosopy, I heard a few years ago, when deciding whether to keep (or buy) something: 1. Do I love it? 2. Does it flatter me? 3. Does it fit my lifestyle? If I dont get 3 “yesses” out it goes….

  • Nadia

    Just finished purging my closet – first time after my pregnancy. It turned out it was full of clothes too big or too small for new me. Also my preferences and likes shifted a lot, I simply dont want half of the remaining clothes. So I ended up with a nice capsule wardrobe of timeless classics and few selected fun pieces. Best thing about the purge – now I have plenty of free space for new clothes, yay!

  • http://corpgoth.blogspot.com/ Trystan

    I find it easier to do mini-purges whenever I buy a couple new things than to do one big purge. Basically, if I buy a new pair of shoes, I try to purge one pair of shoes. It doesn’t always go one-to-one tho — what’s most common is that if I have made a big shopping spree (say, bought a bunch of tops), I empty out all my drawers full of tops, sort thru them, decide which ones are redundant / haven’t been worn / worn out & unrepairable (or good for DIYing!), & toss out as many as I have bought new.

    I try to keep a certain amount of equilibrium in my wardrobe. Basically, bec. there’s only so much space available :-)

  • http://fashionableacademics.blogspot.com/ La Historiadora de Moda

    I purged this past summer when I moved. I gave away lots to friends and donated yet more still. I still have plenty of underutilized garments and accessories, but I am getting better about being less of a packrat and hoarder of clothing.

  • http://maytheweed.blogspot.com Maythe

    Thanks for the post and all the useful comments :) I need to have a purge too and am thinking about moving to putting away out of season clothes so my wardrobe can feel less crammed. I love giving clothes to friends they’ll fit/suit better. I had a grey corset style top with big floaty sleeves I loved but it didn’t fit and grey is not my colour, so I gave it to a beautiful friend who looks fantastic in grey and she looks stunning in it. I’m also going to have an ‘on probation’ section I think and if an item’s still ‘on probation’ come next season change over then it’s gone.

  • Lydia

    I just purged my closet a few days ago — this took about four or five hours (I purged down to the last sock and pair of tights). The toughest aspect of purging my closet is definately the sentimental items — I have a cute storage box (above the closet) for the special items that represent emotional attachments for me, and I don’t let go of the questionable items until I am ready.

    I try on most items when I purge, and the second toughest task is to let go of clothing that never really ‘took off.’ Someone mentioned the idea of ‘chi’ and I call those clothes that lost thier lustre or don’t work ‘a moment in time.’ This sounds lengthy, but what I mean is that they worked during a vacation, during a tough time, during a time I hung out with so and so — but now, they no longer are part of the landscape of my life. I have to let go of them to move forward. It is funny that I name some of my clothes, and even my husband knows what I mean — I have ‘adventure’ skirt, and ‘London skirt,’ as well as my ‘stripey argument dress’ (we always argue when I wear it). When I told my husband I placed ‘ginham’ skirt in the goodwill pile he said — don’t get rid of ginham — I love that one — so I took it out of the pile, and I have it hanging in the closet once again.

    That brings me to the last point about purging — you sometimes have to re-purge, and go back and reclaim items from that giveaway pile. This makes the process less harsh and more friendly. Sometimes, you are just not ready to part with an item, and it should wait for the next purge. All in all though, after the massive cleanout I just had, (I was so proud I showed my mum each drawer and re-hung items), I feel a sense of accomlishment. It feels great to freshen up the wardrobe, and buy some new things. Now, I am ready to purge the make up and creams — sigh.

    • GingerR

      I don’t give things away immediately after removing them from my active closet. They sit a few months. Now and then I will go back and get something out.

      Generally most things stay in the bag and move onto new homes.

  • http://tallgirlblogging.wordpress.com Allison

    I purge my closet pretty regularly. I used to have a bad habit of replacing worn out items, but then never getting rid of the worn out item! I have teeny tiny closets and not much storage space, so I rotate and purge at least twice a season!

  • http://mrsdragon.net MrsDragon

    I am in constant purge mode. Whenever I notice I’m not wearing something, or actively trying it on and being unhappy with it, I move it to the “trial” section of my closet. If it moves that means it was worn. If not, it’s on the short list during my next actual purge. That also gives me time to emotionally let go, if that is the issue. If it’s a matter of wear or irreparable damage, I pull it as soon as I notice it.

    I’ve also found that taking photos of my emotionally attached pieces helps me say goodbye. I still have something to remember it by without actually having it. (And how often do I look at those pictures? Never. But it gets it in the giveaway bag).

  • Megan Leigh

    My husband is the encouraging force behind all my closet purges. I’m a bit of a pack rat and have a hard time throwing/donating anything of mine. But I’ve found a loophole in that before I take any boxes to Goodwill, I check with my sister if she wants anything. I’ve done this so many times, that nearly everytime I see her, she’s wearing at least one item of clothing that was once mine! Plus, if I ever want something back, I know where to find it!

    What makes having to do purges worse for me, I work in retail, so I’m always buying something new. I almost always end up donating something that still has tags on it. Not good!

  • pope suburban

    It’s been a year or so since I last went through my closet, but I’ll probably be needing to do it again before a move soon. I don’t mind doing it, because I hate having too much stuff around. My big thing is that I don’t have a lot of money, so if something still fits and is in good condition, I worry that I will need it and not be able to replace it. This is mostly true of my work clothes, which I bought while working for a law firm and which might be too dressy for other offices. The “might” and the not knowing where I will end up keep that stuff around, but I sure wish they didn’t.

  • http://www.femininebravery.com/ Charlie, Feminine Bravery

    I REALLY should do this more often! We might be moving in a month, and there’s actually a lot more space where we’re going, so I am lucky enough to have space for my things and then it will be lovely to be able to see what’s inside the closet without taking half of it out first. ;) there are lots of things I should get rid off though…

  • Rebecca

    Sal, I usually love your posts, but today you lost me at “Set aside half a day…uninterrupted.” I have two small kids and my husband works at home and I haven’t had an uninterrupted HOUR at home in four years. Any advice for folks like me who HAVE to do it in small pieces?

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Yes! Go by category – do summer tops one day, winter tops another, summer skirts, winter skirts, etc. If you can, do the WHOLE category at once because you need to get into a groove. And take notes about what you’re giving away or discoveries you make so that when you come back to the task, you’ll have a memory-jogger.

      • rb

        HI Rebecca,
        I do a closet purge twice a year and I have two small (ish, now) kids as well. What I do in advance is make sure all my hangers are pointing the same way. Then every day for a couple of weeks, after I wear an item, I put it back on the hanger facing the other way. When I go to purge a few weeks later, the un-turned hangers give me a clue about what I need to first consider getting rid of.

        During those couple of weeks, while I’m turning hangers, if I wear something I didn’t love, before I take it off at the end of the day I consider why I didn’t love it (bad fit, out of style, worn out, etc) and if I can’t fix why, it never makes its way back into the closet.

  • http://whomovedmybirkin.blogspot.com Cristina

    I got rid of a ton of clothes before my son was born that I thought I would never fit in again. It still upsets me 4 years later that some of my favorite pieces are gone! I recently got rid of another bunch of clothes, just because the style was not something I was intrested in anymore. I always try to donate, I never do the consignment thing. The clothes I recently weeded out are still in bags in my sun poarch in case I change my mind. I have pulled a few things out, but the rest are going to get donated hopefully before the end of the week!

  • Kate K

    After I donate something, I will always get the donated clothing version of “Phantom Limb Syndrome.” I donated a TON of clothes last year, clothes that I was sure I no longer wanted to wear and didn’t need to have around, and yet, every few weeks, I’m still hunting for a shirt or a sweater until I realize that I donated it. This speaks volumes about either my lack of closet organization or my forgetfulness. Or both.

  • Darlene

    I’m actually working on a closet purge now, and it is really hard. Not because items have sentimental value, but because most of my clothing is SO old, in poor condition, shrunken, or literally falling apart. If I got rid of everything that doesn’t look good on me, I’d be left with very little — in particular, I’d have no pants! Shopping for pants that fit my small waist, big thighs, and long waist and legs is a nightmare even when funds aren’t limited, as they are now for me.

    Maybe I will hold off on the pants purging until it’s consistently above freezing out so I can make do with skirts!

    • - Tessa

      I have “dancer’s thighs” from my stationery bike and rely on these: Tribella (Steinmart or Palais Royal) for dress pants. But try on EVERY SINGLE pair – they vary HUGELY in length and waist circumference even within the same size. I wear the short ones with flats and then have my dry cleaner let down the hem and wear the larger ones with heels. Old Navy’s sweetheart cut works well for jeans. Neither brands are “dream pants” but both are affordable and are the best I have found so far.

  • rb

    I have posted before about closet purges here, I think, but here goes –
    I live in a 100 year old house with the accompanying 100 year old (small!) closets. Sometimes when my closet gets overstuffed, which it does, I think about how people lived in 1911, with 3 or 4 every day dresses and maybe 1 or 2 “good” dresses, and I feel really envious.

    My closet gets stuffed over the course of a season with not only new purchases, but also items that have migrated from my drawers into my closet, shoes that are not put away correctly on their racks, bags that hold items I’m intending to take to the cleaners, gifts I’m hiding from family members, and even items I’ve shoved in there the night before the cleaning lady comes! So when the seaons change, I have a lot more to purge than clothing. :)

    I’ve adoped the reverse-hanger trick I posted above in response to another comment after reading about it somewhere on the internet, and it has really helped. Right now, I’m ready to dry clean my two wool coats and put them away until about November, along with two or three really heavy weight jackets/cardigans that just look too warm for springy-looking weather, despite the fact that it is not really any warmer outside. Those will go in the hall closet until fall, along with a couple of skirts – black wool flannel and chocolate brown wool flannel – which I don’t really consider year-round weights. I also have one skirt that is shorter than I’m comfortable wearing without tights, so it will be stored as well. The other bottoms stay in the closet.

    Before I add anything back into the closet, I take a look at what’s left and see whether i’ve worn it recently (hanger trick) and if I haven’t, why not? This is when I try on things and make myself decide the hard things, like
    and I rotate in my lighter weigh toppers from last year – cotton cardigans, linen jackets, and sleeveless blouses to wear underneath.

  • http://howtoloveyourreflection.com Dianne M. Daniels

    Wonderful advice – I agree with most of what’s been said here…I know how difficult it can be to let go of those old clothes! I’m a trained image consultant and help my clients with this all the time. One of my “rules” is that if the garment hasn’t been worn in a year (also mentioned above) and it’s an ‘orphan’ – won’t ‘go with’ at least two other things in the closet – then it’s time to donate it to someone else via the goodwill or a consignment shop.

    I recently donated an formal, floor-length gown in great condition to a local ‘prom project’ for a girl who couldn’t afford a dress; I’ve donated business clothes to a women’s transitional shelter so that residents will have ‘office ready’ clothing when that call comes about the job they need to support their families; I’ve also given clothes away at weight loss surgery support group meetings (I have a lap band) – my “outgrown” larger sizes are sometimes another woman’s goal size – at least temporarily. I feel so much LIGHTER when I’m done!

  • Nadine

    I did this a couple of weeks ago. I’m really good at getting rid of the barely-worn items – it’s binning the adored and worn-to-death seriously manky pieces that breaks my heart . .

  • Jenny in NC

    All of my clothes (all seasons) fit in 3 feet of closet space. I’ve always been a minimalist, so I have no problem getting rid of clothes. (Same thing goes with all of my possessions-I don’t have very many. My dream is to live in one of those tiny houses.) I have a very small, very carefully chosen wardrobe. Sometimes I wonder why I’m reading a blog like yours, for people who love to experiment with clothes! I guess I love clothes in my own monochromatic, simple way. And I enjoy seeing what you come up with, Sally.

  • SE

    I was glad to see you didn’t go with the “if you haven’t worn it in a year, toss it” recommendation. I think it’s one of those arbitrary, sounds sensible type of rule, but it doesn’t always fit with how we live today. As I commented on the Coffee Talk site, my sudden enthusiasm to get my style back sent me on a mad closet purge, and I followed the “if you haven’t worn it in a year, toss.” But while some of those clothes should have gone, many others went just because I hadn’t developed my style and the ability to put together outfits. The fact that I’m on a budget and can’t afford to run out and replace some of those pieces just makes it all the more frustrating. For those of us who are anemic shoppers, closet purging needs to happen very, very thoughtfully. And maybe with a holding area.

  • ES

    I absolutely love purging my closet – and anyone else’s who will let me. I pretty much do it on a continual basis – if I try something on and hate it, I let it be, then try it on again a few weeks later. If I still hate it, away it goes! I’ve probably given away quite a few items that I shouldn’t have in the long run (I am currently down to one belt) – but it always feels so good to get rid of stuff. I routinely purge my parents’ closets when I visit as well – last time, we gave a away a trashbag full of stuff, plus another trashbag to throw out (my dad had a lot of “yard work” clothes).

  • Cyn

    Personally, I am thrilled that I do not “over purge”. I kept several suits, favorite jeans/pants/shirts as I gained weight over the years. Some of these I have had since the late 70’s. I lost 80+ pounds last year, and now I am wearing these clothes again! You can’t imagine what it feels like to wear my Levis 501 shrink to fit jeans from high school/college (late 70s and early 80s). They were always my favorite style and the modern ones just are not the same. That said, I am definitely purging all the clothes that are now too big. I have given some to friends and relatives, donated others, and trashed others.

  • http://www.fashionistastyle1.blogspot.com Londyn

    I do this at least 4 times a year. I love it! It’s actually fun for me :)

    I love that at the end of the process I know that I will have only things I love (and fit into) in my closet. It also forces me to get to the seamstress when I’ve been putting it off too long.

  • the Viking Diva

    This variation on the “haven’t worn it in a year” rule works better for me because sometimes things do go in and out of my favor for long periods of time: Can I make an outfit with it THIS WEEK?

    If I can’t – out it goes. Works especially well for those items that don’t seem to flip my switch but stay in the closet because “nothing is really wrong with it”.

  • http://sewing4myself.blogspot.com/ Brenna

    I love purging. I try to do it once a season. If I don’t wear it, it goes to charity. The only sticky ones are the handmade garments from mom. I can’t give them away. They are too personal, even if they are 10 years old, out of style, and don’t fit me. My MOM made them. Ah well.

  • http://keepwarm-daniellabella.blogspot.com/ Danielle

    Once upon a time I moved back from 2 years in England to find a stuffed closet that no longer fit my body, my style, or my image of myself. I took pictures of the items I loved the most and then pack 11 enormous garbage bags and took them to our local women’s shelter. It was so freeing!

  • http://the-new-professional.blogspot.com Angeline

    I purge a little at a time all year long…maybe 10 pieces at a time (does that even count as purging?). I think that makes it easier. There have been times where I’ve wondered “where’s that top I’d like to wear today” only to remember I gave it away months ago, but usually, I don’t miss it at all. Which reminds me, I should purge (my closet) again soon.

  • http://www.sheilaephemera.blogspot.com Sheila

    I last purged a couple of weeks ago – and it was a big one (I got rid of about 25 pairs of shoes, for example).

    I just go through and pull out anything that I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth from (be that 1 wear for a thrifted item or 10 wears from an old favourite). I ask myself, “Will I miss this?” and if the answer is no, it’s gone. Sometimes, if I’m hanging onto something for sentimental reasons (like the dresses I bought in NYC with my mom), I think of how awesome it will feel to pass these on to a good home, where someone will wear them and love them.

    My friends get first dibs, then I take bags to two local consignment places, and then charity gets the rest. And then I have all that room in my closet for more shopping!

  • http://fashionmeblog.blogspot.com Angie

    I couldn’t agree more.I’ve had a purge recently and it was so freeing. What I kept is what I really liked and suddenly I got a glimpse of my true style ,of how I really love to look! My true style was hidden by lots ans lots of clothes I could barely see it and feel it!

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  • http://tinyglimpses.blogspot.com Meg

    I was born into a family of thrifters, so we were always getting new (to us) clothes, so my mum and I often donated our old items to the womens’ shelter down the street. Taking a garbage bag full of clothes over there always made me feel very good.

    However, now that I’m a recent grad who can’t afford constant thrifting, I have to be careful not to get purge-crazy and end up with a tiny closet! I’m a firm believer in the “holding area” concept – in my case, a garbage bag in a corner of my bedroom. I’ll leave things there until the bag gets full, take one last look to make sure I don’t miss any items, and then cart them over to the Sally Ann. :)

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  • Mrs.M in MI

    I have a miniscule 1920’s closet and a miniscule 1920’s bedroom so I have to be very careful about the size of my wardrobe.

    I purge my wardrobe twice a year, when I switch from winter to summer clothes and vice versa. I enforce one strict rule: if I did not wear a particular item that season, it has to go. I consider items I wore once or twice, but usually they go, too. No exceptions.

    My other trick is to have a (small) special box for unwearable but sentimental clothes. This gets them out of my closet, but I don’t have to throw them away.

  • Rachel

    Maybe it’s just me, but the hardest part about purging a closet is being able to afford to replenish it. I’m 23 and I don’t have tons of clothes– four pairs of jeans, a few pairs of slacks, maybe thirty blouses/ t shirts. I keep clothes because I can’t afford to replace them, not because they are sentimental!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Absolutely! There’s no reason to purge if you’ll be getting rid of things that are still in use and needed. In that case, you could do a “one in, one out” policy. If you’ve got a black cardigan that’s threadbare or ill-fitting, don’t get rid of it until you can afford to replace it with a better one.

  • Aileen

    I have lots of t-shirts from various events and groups that I’ve been a part of. Many of them have sentimental value so I was thinking about turning them into a blanket/quilt. Has anyone done this? Any tips, tricks, or tutorials?

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  • Liz

    @ AILEEN….Making t-shirt blanket from existing t-shirts are fun and rewarding. There are many ways and techniques. Just google “How to make a t-shirt quilt. The trick is cut each block the same, but allow for the seam allowance for sewing the blocks together, and Don’t stretch it. If you quilt it’s easy. either put the blocks of the t-shirts together, then when that is complete, put on a backing. New Sheets are a great backing. also think about what you want for the batting. if no batting is what you want, then you can back it with Fleece… Hope this helps…… I am in the middle of making more Jean quilts

  • carla

    I read somewhere…. here? the best idea yet- sort everything into a “keep” and a “maybe” pile. I did this and was able to donate/trash/sell/ get rid of the entire “maybe” pile at the end of the day… it seemed easier emotionally somehow….

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