The Value of a Mid-season Closet Purge

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Many people – myself included – do quarterly closet evaluations and purges. And because changing weather prompts us to reconsider our wardrobes, these activities typically take place as the seasons are beginning to change. Which is fine. Looking at your winter or spring items with fresh eyes after a year of not-wearing them can give you great perspective, and you can often tell at a glance if you’ve outgrown or out-evolved certain pieces.

But there is also a lot to be said for doing your purges mid-season. Including:

You can evaluate in real-time

Some folks can look at a cardigan that’s gone unworn since last season and tell IMMEDIATELY if it’s going to get worn again. But some folks need to experiment for a while and then make a decision. Doing a mid-season purge is helpful because you’ve been living in the season for a while and know what’s getting worn and what’s getting passed-over. If you’re passing over an item that got passed over an awful lot last season, too, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to move on.

You can tease out explanations

Purging at the beginning of the season forces you to make some educated guesses and trust your gut. Sometimes you can look at a pair of pants or a dress and hear this extremely decisive voice in your head saying, “No WAY.” And you listen and you donate and you move on. Without pausing to sit down with that extremely decisive voice and say, “Well, yeah, but why?”

When you purge in the middle of a season instead, those explanations become self-evident. You’re not wearing that pair of pants because they’re too short for heels and too long for flats. You’re not wearing that dress because you have absolutely nothing that works as an outer layer. You know these things because you’ve been dressing within the confines of the season for some time now and have fresh memories. Helpful, no?

You can be ruthless

The beginning of each season holds a little bit of romance. You’re excited for new weather, new clothes to wear, a new you! And this sometimes translates into wardrobe romance and going soft on items that should be ejected without mercy. Mid-season? The romance is gone and replaced by a desire to wear clothes that fit, work, and feel great. Purging now means cutting more chaff.

Whadoyathink? Would you consider shifting to a mid-season purge? What about sticking to the seasonal cycle and adding an evaluative pass once you’re in the thick of it? Could this work for you?

Image courtesy enchantée.

  • Rose

    It’s not a bad idea, particularly if you are prone to trolling sale racks at the end of a season. If a style did/didn’t work then you can adjust your marked-off browse list accordingly. I don’t usually make a wardrobe mistake just once – often I’ll revisit it and repeat! A mis-season analysis can temper that pattern – maybe.

  • Courtney

    This makes a lot of sense. I find it difficult to purge at the transition times because the weather here is so fickle. I can barely figure out which clothes to put away in my “out of season” tubs until the weather is clearly into the new season.

  • Shawna

    I don’t have a large wardrobe but I constantly evaluate it, with little regard for seasons. If there is something I am not wearing I know why, though I may hold onto it a little longer than I should if I really like it on the hanger. I fall for fabric. I even tend to shop that way, scanning the racks for a fabric-colour/print/texture-that catches my eye and appeals. My most common mistake is not holding out for a style that look fantastic on me. My second most common problem is being attracted to a style that doesn’t work on my body. I have recently taken stock and am closer to my best wardrobe than ever before, and getting better at ruthlessly tossing unflattering things. I am even getting better at not buying unflattering things.

  • http://www.askawayblog.com Ellen Ross

    I JUST did this the other week! Great post!
    XO,
    Ellen
    http://www.askawayblog.com

  • jb

    how do you evaluate things that are worn very rarely — like a dresses for weddings? And how about dealing with sweathers that are pilly — any good de-pill devices out there?

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sally

      Good question, jb, and sadly no easy answer. Dresses for weddings and special occasions can be evaluated using three main questions: Does it still fit? Do you still like it? Would you wear it if you had an appropriate event tomorrow? But garments like that can be emotional, positively or negatively, and you kinda have to trust your gut.

      I use a sweater shaver – mine is from Target – for pilly sweaters. Some folks say they’re bad for the fibers, but I’ve absolutely never had any issues. There are also sweater stones for pills.

    • A.B.

      You can also use a cheapo single blaze razor but be careful not to cut the fabric while you’re shaving pills.

    • hannah

      I have no personal experience, but have heard many glowing reviews of the Lily Brush. Supposedly it is much gentler on the garment while still removing pills. Might be worth a shot.

      http://lillybrush.com/

  • http://www.hearthandhomefront.blogspot.com Moira

    I need to try this! I have a much harder time letting go of things in the beginning of a season because those “I might if…” thoughts get me. But right now I could look at my winter clothes and be ruthless because I know exactly what works right now and what doesn’t. Thanks for some inspiration to go clear things out!

  • Roxane

    I like evaluating mid season because I if find something I like, but haven’t been wearing, I can make an effort to build outfits that use it. That gives me a lot of info about what to do with it. If I pledge to work a shirt into rotation and 3 weeks later still haven’t worn it, that’s a good sign it should go.

  • Dee

    I like this idea. I usually PLAN to cull my closet at the beginning of the season and then don’t get to it till weeks or months later. I have to say that I did go thru a lot of my fall and winter clothes and nearly tossed several sweaters into the charity pile earlier this fall, and now I am SO happy I didnt…I am wearing them this winter because the weather is so much colder than last winter (actually colder than the last couple of winters!). These are wool or wool blend cardigans and even some turtlenecks that I had not worn — and I am wearing them this year.

  • Anne

    I did do a second purge the beginning of November and I was able to sell nearly everything at our local Freestyle Clothing Exchange. I’d been hanging onto items because I loved the idea of wearing them rather than the reality of wearing them.

  • Erika

    I do the major purge at change-over of clothing (ie when it starts getting hot or starts getting cold). And everything is up for grabs as it is either put away into storage or hung up for use. Does it fit, does it look good, do I feel good in it, does it work for my life….all the usual parameters.

    But I also purge as I go. Tops that don’t quite make it? They get washed and go straight from the clothes line into the donation bag. Seemed like a good idea but I just don’t do it? Goes from closet to donation bag. Some clothes go to friends, some go to charity bins, some go to a consignment store.

    It’s a continual learning cycle, but I’m feeling better and better about my choices as I go – and very few regrets!

  • LK

    The midwest has had such weird weather in the past 5 years that I basically haven’t gotten rid of anything. This year we went from 70 to 30 in the span of a couple of weeks. I had to skip so many cute outfits because we never did get that nice 70-50 range. It was hot, then it was cold. But we’ve had years where I never wore my sweaters because it didn’t get cold enough. Which is why I have a massive wardrobe that relies on layering. Because you never know what you are going to get out here. In most cases, I purge what doesn’t fit. I rarely get rid of something because I don’t wear it, but it happens if I can’t think of a use for it anymore.

  • Annie

    I just finished my mid-season purge! My friend and I do a “30-for-30″ challenge basically once a season, and after that, I always want to go through my stuff and get rid of stuff that I don’t want. I find that when I restrict the amount of stuff I wear, there are items off that list that I desperately want to wear, and ones that I don’t care about. So after the challenge is over, I go through and get rid of anything that I didn’t miss for that month. I’m a bit fanatic about it actually….

  • Sarah Delacueva

    This post was interesting, because you seem to come at season-change purges from the opposite direction than I do. I usually do a purge when I break seasonal items out of storage, but I am looking hardest at the season that just passed rather than trying to make judgments about the future. I also keep a bin in my closet at all times so I can go ahead and put aside items at the moment I decide they aren’t working. I used to wear an item to work, feel uncomfortable all day long, and then put it back on its hanger. Then I proceeded to wear it again and again, each time hating it and thinking, “this doesn’t work, why don’t I just get rid of it?” Now those things have a place to go and a little bit of a grace period before the next purge in case the right situation for the piece happens to come up.

    • http://www.franticbutfabulous.com Heidi // Frantic But Fabulous

      This is similar to what’s been working for me this season. When I first pulled the winter things out of storage, I immediately set aside the items I didn’t really think I’d be wearing, but didn’t purge them completely yet. This way if I find I do want something later this winter, I don’t go searching for it and wonder where it went!

      And as I’m going along, I’m also paying attention to fit when I put things on for the first time in a season. In doing so, I’ve found a few more items to set aside.

      Should make storing the winter things easier come spring!

  • Leah M.

    Hi Sally,

    This is great advice. I find myself doing this a lot, especially in the Fall and Winter months. It’s much easier to be realistic when it’s the season for wearing those items and you’re still not wearing them for whatever reason. Recently I pushed the items I haven’t been wearing to the front of my closet so that I have to look at them when I get dressed. If I don’t find a way to wear them before the season is over, I’ll get rid of them.