Purging your closet will make you happier
No kidding. Your closet hoards a lot of things, from clothing and accessories, to hand me downs, bargains, and gifts you’ve long since forgotten. Having a jam packed closet can make you feel overwhelmed and bogged down when you’re trying to decide way to wear because all the gems are hidden behind all the mess.
If you want to purge your closet successfully and really get rid of items that are holding you back, this guide will help you break from drowning in all your stuff, to floating gracefully through your “What to wear?” moments.
This post is broken down into several sections feel free to jump to the section that really tackles your need, but if you’re looking to get a great experience, I suggest going through the post top to bottom.
- Why you need to purge your closet
- Starter Tips for a Successful Purge
- The 3 phases of decluttering your closet
- Tips to get you through “Keep or purge” dilemmas
- How to avoid cluttering your closet after your clean it out
The best way to get the most out of your wardrobe clean up is to understand why you have so much stuff in the first place. So, why do we end up with so much stuff? Let’s unpack.
- It was a great deal
Sometimes we confuse savings with value and end up buying things we don’t want or need. I’m guilty of this. The idea of saving $20 on a top can spur me to buy it even though I would normally not look at the top on full price. You can get so hooked on saving money that it becomes hard to actually decipher whether we are buying something because we actually really like it and lucked out, or because it’s simply a great deal.
Fast forward several shopping trips later and you may end up with items we may not like, may not really fit, or work for our lifestyles or your personal style.
But it was a great deal.
The truth is, unless you stop buying things based on price and start judging worth based on value and the happiness an item gives you, you won’t go far and may end up back in the same position few months from now.
- It was on clearance, sale or in style
Similar to spur of the moment great deals, clearance and sales evens can be a big source for cluttering up your wardrobe. I used to stalk clearance racks like crazy. The minute I walked into a store I’d make a beeline for the clearance rack before I looked at anything else. The thrill of looking and finding something great on the rack really motivated me. Sometimes that all I bought, never mind what I actually wen to the store looking for…
At face value, this is a thrifty habit. Spending less money on clothing would only help your wallet right? That was my logic, now, not so much. Truth is this is a terrible way to spend your money, not because you can get things for a steal, but because when you’re riffling through clearance you’re more prone to buy things you will not actually need or wear than you are to buy things you want to keep and that you were looking for.
We have the privilege of being able to get up and wander over to a mall nearby and pick stuff that we may like, and leave with 1 or 2 items without it making a huge difference in our lives.
But we’re still unhappy (especially when trying to find an outfit for a date or event). Instead of solving your problem of finding something to wear, more options can make you feel really overwhelmed, especially when more equates to cheap and poor quality clothing.
In vogue items can also filter in to your wardrobe because they look great on everyone else, and you thought you’d try them. Kudos for being experimental but unless you like something, you should not buy it because it’s on trend.
- It was a gift
Sometimes our friends, lovers, or families get it right and get us the item we want and will use. Other times, not so much. And when that happens there can be feelings of guilt associated with getting rid of that item.
Yes it was a gift, but if you didn’t wear that dress, scarf or bag all of the last 2 years you’re not suddenly going to have a stroke of genius inspiration and start wearing it now. All it will do is take up room and as part as you purge your closet, you’re going to have to part ways..
If you really have a hard time getting rid of gifts, try and think of it a little differently:
- Find treasured things you have form that person and hang on to those instead.
- Find a way to wear the item
- Give it to someone who may love it more than you do
- Donate it to someone in need
- Sell it via eBay
Whatever you do don’t hold onto it if there’s no room for it in your closet.
- It holds a special memory
There are dresses that we will keep a lifetime. But we don’t need to hang on to every piece of clothing we wore to life’s smaller occasions. A dress you wore to graduation does not need to hang in your closet, or an outfit from a memorable trip. Keeping the memories but being able to let go of the possessions is hard since we project so much of what that person or occasion meant to us from that dress. If it its not serving you any useful purpose, then try and dissociate the memory form the item by reminding yourself to love the moment, and the person but not the thing. Remind yourself you are giving it away to allow someone else to make beautiful memories too.
- You spent a lot and you have a hard time giving it up
Cutting your losses can be hard. It’s true in life, and it’s true when it comes to your closet. For instance, I have a hard time letting go of shoes, there is a security in knowing if I ever want to wear those 6 inch heels I can, even though I’m not the girl that wears six-inch heels anymore, and haven’t been for a while. Being honest about who you are, vs. who you were can help free you from clinging on to your clothing of yesteryear.
- You were saving it for a rainy day
Someday, when you loose 10 pounds you will fit into that dress. Or someday when you work up your courage you’ll go out in that outfit. Or better yet, someday when it comes back in style you will rock it. Truth is, focus on the right now. There’s no point hoarding hundreds of items only to have them take up shelf space but not add value to your life. Remind yourself you can’t keep things for a someday, you need to live in the present.
If you haven’t worn something in 1 year, I say it’s safe to let it go. If you haven’t worn it in 2-3 then it’s definitely time to cut the strings.
There is a loss in the money you spent on it but isn’t your time; energy and happiness are worth more?
All of which you loose when you hang on to things that bog you down.
Cleaning out your closet is not just about getting rid of things that no longer fit. It’s about going through and letting go of things. This can be an emotionally and/or mentally draining activity. To do it right, you need to get in the right mindset. Here are some of the things you’ll need.
Pick a free weekend
I like to set aside a weekend where I know I’ll have time and won’t be rushed and really take my time to go through things. It also gets me mentally and emotionally prepared for what can sometimes feel like a series of breakups, as I go form “What was I thinking” to “Honestly, I used to love you, but we’ve grown apart.”
Find peace and quiet
You need time to purge your closet. Try not to schedule it when you have other things, events, and activities going on. Plan it where there will be no interruptions and plan to go through things on your own. Although I find friends encouraging, to truly purge you may need some personal time.
Keep an open mindset
Go into your wardrobe purge with a focus on the end goal, happiness. Keep what makes you happy, and let go have what doesn’t. You’re going to need an open mindset to ask and honestly answer those questions.
Load up on energy
Decluttering your wardrobe can be an exhausting process. Not just because you are sorting through piles of things, but also because it will take mental and emotional effort t let go of things you’ve had for a while and to keep going. For a good experience, do it when you’re not tired, frustrated or hungry, it will make you feel even more drained.
There are 3 phases I repeatedly go through when decluttering my closet. These can span a day, a weekend or several weekend spread apart. I’ve learned that going through each phase really maximizes my clearing out potential.
Phase 1: The easy peasy clean up
When you start your purge you will feel excitement at first, as you will easily get rid of things you never liked. It will feel like a relief. That’s the first round. You may not get rid of too much, or you may get rid of a lot. Either ways it’s easy.
Most people stop there. But that’s what separates a purge from a clean up. After your first stab at clearing out your closet, reward yourself with a break. Sort the pile into what you plan to will give away, throw and (if it appeals to you) sell.
I almost never sell because I don’t have the patience to hang on to something once I’ve made up my mind to get rid of it. But if you can then more power to you!
Phase 2 – Letting go of the excuses
After you’ve had a breather and come back to your closet, you’ll be greeted with items you either love, like, or made an excuse to keep.
In phase 2, we tackle the things you made an excuse to keep. This gets a little harder than the first run because of a link you believe you have with your items.
Go through your closet again an purge things that either:
- You haven’t worn in a while – A good guiding post is items you haven’t worn in the past 1-2 years. Keeping the timeline short will help you limit to items that reflect your current lifestyle.
- Don’t really fit you well – For example if you stretch your hands does the shirt feel really tight? Or is the dress an inch too short? If you feel uncomfortable, you’ll look uncomfortable.
- Aren’t that flattering -It looks good on other people, but on you it can feel a little off
- Clash with your personal style – You like the idea of an item but you rarely wear it because it doesn’t feel like you
- No longer fit your personal style – You wore it to death a few years ago but haven’t worn it much since. (I’m looking at you 6-inch heels).
- You got as a gift, on sale and haven’t worn in a while
Each of these questions may be hard to answer because you will fell like you can and should make excuses. Resist the urge and honestly let things go.
Phase 3 – Pruning and trimming the excess
Once you’ve gone through and cleared the things you don’t like, and the clothing you make excuses for now it’s time too look at your wardrobe and see if there are items that just don’t give you joy.
Famed Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo argues that you should let joy be your guiding post when trying to declutter. So seriously, ask yourself: Does this item give me joy?
It may have made it through the first two cuts, but if it’s not something you love or that makes you feel good, it may be time to let it go.
That’s when you will go through and really address those last clingers and hangers-on that you know you should let go but skipped over with n excuse the first two times. If it doesn’t give you joy, let it go.
Remember why you’re doing this
Visualize the closet and goal you are trying to achieve. Even say a mantra, like for example “I want a simple, clutter-free, closet”, this will help keep your head in the game.
Just because you are clearing out your closet doesn’t mean you can ‘t take breaks. When you feel really drained or emotionally exhausted take a break and come back to it in 15 minutes or a half hour.
Keep separate piles
I usually start with 3, to give to someone I know, to donate, and the maybes. The maybes can be items I’m really on the fence on. Ask yourself if the item you’re looking at gives you joy, if not that’s a good reason to get rid of it.
Don’t second-guess yourself
Go with your instinct. If something went on purge pile. There is a good reason it’s there so follow your instincts and resist the urge to go through and pull it back. You were right the first time, so don’t second-guess yourself.
Play light music or none at all
I’ve done it both ways and it does get taxing when there is no fun music playing. That said you want your focus to be on the process, so if light background music that’s soothing and relaxing puts you in a better mood to purge then follow that.
Don’t let it sit there
Get rid of your piles immediately whether that means taking it to your donation center, putting them up on eBay or giving it away to family and friends.
Listen to your gut
If something should be given away, give it away. Your mind will try and justify it by creating excess but don’t listen. Go with your gut and you’ll know when it’s right or not. Most importantly, remember to keep asking, “Does this bring me joy?”
Ask a friend for help
After you’ve gone through your closet the first few times and really are stuck on letting something go. Ask a friend to weigh in. Put on the item and get their take. They may see something you don’t for example if it’s the wrong color on you, or if you must keep it and need to wear it more because that color, cut, or material looks great on you.
Host a giving party
Have friends come over and sort through your giving away and maybe piles and let them pick what they like. Sometimes it feels better (And easier) if you know the item is going to someone you love who will wear it and enjoy it.
Don’t undo all your hard work by stockpiling unnecessary items again. Be picky and choosy when adding items to keep your wardrobe clutter-free. It may look like your closet is really skim once you are complete but remember these are items that give you joy, and fit your needs and lifestyle. Stock up on wardrobe essentials; figure out your personal style, and shop to match your needs to avoid reverting back to square one.
Here are some additional posts that may help:
Free Guide: 18 Essentials you need in your closet
To build a great closet, you need a great base. Find out what the 15 essential pieces I turn to weekly when getting dressed.