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Downsizing Your Wardrobe? Here’s What to Keep and What to Let Go
1 May

Downsizing Your Wardrobe? Here’s What to Keep and What to Let Go

A lot of people aren’t just spring cleaning, they’re quarantine cleaning. If you find yourself among them, then you might be looking at an overstuffed closet wondering which pieces you should keep, which pieces you should store, and which pieces you should let go. Here’s a guide to help you make those tough decisions – especially helpful if you’ve been experiencing a bad case of decision fatigue.

What to Let Go

Letting go of things – especially if we’ve had them for a long time – can be difficult. I’m a big fan of starting with the hard things first. As you’re sorting through things, here’s a list of things to repurpose, recycle, sell or donate:

  • Anything you haven’t worn in the past two years (You can actually probably let go of anything you haven’t worn in a year). You’re not going to magically start wearing it now.
  • Anything that makes you feel bad when you try it on.
  • Anything you tug at, pull at, or adjust the entire time you’re wearing it.
  • Anything with stains that you haven’t been able to get rid of.
  • Clothes with holes and tears that cannot be repaired.
  • That thing you bought on sale, tried on, found it ill-fitting, and then never returned.
  • Anything where the fabric is starting to wear out.
  • Shoes that give you blisters every time you wear them.
  • Shoes where you put them on, then take them off five minutes later to switch to a different pair.
  • Shoes where the soles are beyond repair.
  • Anything that you’ve been “meaning to fix, have repaired, etc.” for over a year – at this point, you’re not going to do it.
  • The pants for when you might lose weight, when you lost weight, etc. Your wardrobe should fit the person you are now.
  • Anything that makes you make that face in the mirror. You know exactly the face I’m talking about.
  • Anything where you can tell exactly which decade/trend it spawned from
  • Anything for a lifestyle you do not currently have – you can let go of all those things where you bought something in case you might suddenly decide you like to camp because it was on sale or just in case some day you might want to go back to work in a law office.
  • Anything that has a sad/traumatic/distressful memory attached to it

What to Keep

When you’re considering what to keep, anything that goes back in your closet should fit you well, be in good repair, and be a color that suits you. When you walk in your closet, you should feel a sense of joy and excitement. If you’re not feeling that, weed things out until you know that everything in there fits you, is something you like, and is something you can grab and put on and feel like the best version of yourself in.

What Basics Need to Be in Your Closet?

The answer to this question will largely depend upon what your days look like. When it comes to determining what basics you need, first you need to determine what occasions you need clothing for. Take some time to sit down. Over the course of the next season, how many times will you:

  • Go to work in a formal dress environment
  • Need to have a professional appearance
  • Engage in outdoor activities
  • Go on a date
  • Run errands
  • Etc.

For example, it would make no sense to recommend a tailored suit to someone who stays at home with small children and does not have any plans that would involve a need for such a garment in the next 3-6 months. It would equally make very little sense to recommend someone without a gym membership have a basic swimsuit in January in somewhere that has snow.

What basics do need to have in common is that they can be worn in multiple ways and that they are made with quality fabric. You should not have your black slacks come apart at the seam or hem during the season you intend to wear it for (and high-quality slacks will retain their shape for years). I stand by the statement that it’s better to spend $100 once than $10 ten times – both in terms of your own time being valuable and in terms of avoiding unnecessary waste. For any “basic” item, you should purchase the best quality you can afford. Sample basic items include:

  • Button down shirt in a neutral color
  • Neutral slacks – black, khaki, navy, or another color that can go with anything.
  • Blazer in a neutral color
  • Jeans
  • Basic t-shirt
  • Chambray shirt
  • Striped t-shirt
  • Sneakers in a neutral color
  • Dress shoes in a neutral color
  • Outerwear appropriate to your local climate

With just those items, you can already build a number of different outfits. A good rule of thumb before bringing new items into your closet is: it must go with at least 3 items you already own, fit well, and is a color that suits you.

From there, you can start to rebuild your wardrobe in a way to where you won’t have that random shirt that doesn’t match anything in your closet, or the skirt where you have no idea what to wear with it because the one shirt that matched it got stained.

When you declutter ruthlessly and then rebuild your wardrobe based upon the things that you love and that fit you, your confidence flourishes and you don’t have that moment where there’s “nothing to wear.”

Are you decluttering your closet? What items are you keeping?

Ronda Bowen

I have been working as a full-time freelance writer and editor since 2008 when I decided that while I rather enjoyed philosophy, the Ph.D. program I was in was not a good fit for my life goals. Since then, I have published many papers and articles, started two blogs, worked as a senior editor for a magazine, served on the board of a start-up non-profit organization, and walked across fire.