I’ve read a lot of tips about clothes purging and decluttering that suggest sorting items into three piles: Keep, Donate, and Sell. I tried this when I began my wardrobe simplification project, but it didn’t work for me. I am just not good at letting things go on the spot like that. Also, my bigger goal is to find and develop my own personal style.
The process that I created is a bit slower and more methodical. If you are not ready to get rid of all of those clothes you love but can’t fit in to, or those cute dresses you wore that one summer you had like 150 weddings to go to, or those super sophisticated pencil skirts that somehow make you feel classy AND sexy (but you only wear once a year), and you also have room to store a bunch of extra clothes, maybe this method will work for you. I hope it will.
I want to begin by warning you: this is going to be a lot more work than the sort-and-be-done method I mentioned previously. But I feel that it is more effective (for me anyway) because it builds sorting and purging into a routine rather than making it a onetime effort.
Why is this better? First of all, I feel that doing one big closet clean-out can set you up to be susceptible to a big wardrobe splurge later on. If you WANT to splurge on a bunch of new wardrobe items, that’s great! Then the other way is totally for you! But if you are looking to really foster your own style and grow away from highly trendy fast fashion that leaves you “out of style” every couple of months, then this may be appropriate for you.
Let’s start by clarifying that this is obviously not the only way to declutter your closet and your wardrobe. This method is NOT for everyone.
- have tried the sort-and-be-done method before, only to end up getting rid of a few items;
- have clothing items you just can’t bear to part with, even though you haven’t worn them in a year or two; and
- want to grow beyond a highly trendy fast fashion style and develop your own long-lasting personal style
then this method might work for you.
- just want to pare down your wardrobe because you have too much stuff you don’t like or wear;
- plan to shop for new wardrobe items to add back into your closet in the near future; and
- enjoy the ever changing and always-exciting-and-new trends of fast-fashion;
then this is probably NOT a good fit.
When I sat down to write this, my plan was for everything to be in one post. But it just got to be way too long and I didn’t want you to take one look at go “too long, not interested!” or for you to be overwhelmed. So I am breaking it down into two three FOUR posts. Each post will explain one aspect of this method.
Today, I’m going to give you the big picture – my overall approach to a simplified wardrobe. In Part Two, I will explain the first sorting method, in Part Three the second sorting method, and in Part Four I’ll explain how purging becomes built into a routine that slowly and intentionally simplifies your wardrobe and eventually keeps it that way.
“There’s little point in owning the latest bag or dress if you can’t find it in your closet when you’re getting dressed. A clean, well-organized wardrobe—instead of a confusing, jumbled mess of clothes and accessories—means you’ll maximize all your sartorial purchases, and come up with polished, carefully considered outfits even on hectic mornings.” – Tiffany Tse for Who What Wear
Here are the basics of my method:
- I only keep one season’s wardrobe in my closet at a time.
- I have a limit on the number of hangers/items of clothing I allow in my closet.
- I do not count outerwear, shoes, socks, undergarments, or accessories toward my limit.
- I change out the wardrobe in my closet every three months to coincide with the seasons.
- When I do that seasonal wardrobe change out, I do another sort/purge.
- I also have clothes in drawers, but these are clothes I generally don’t wear on a typical day. They are clothes I LIKE to wear, like sweats, yoga pants, old T-shirts; but I am trying to actually dress presentable every day (but that is for another post!!). Every morning when I get dressed, I make myself choose something from the closet. Drawer clothes are only for lounging, exercising, or doing dirty work (yard work, cleaning, etc.).
This is why it works for me:
- When my closet is jamb-packed with clothes, I ironically have a greater feeling of having nothing to wear. This is largely because my clothes are so smashed in that I can’t spread them out and really look at what I’ve got in my closet.
- Having a limit on the number of clothing items allowed in my closet makes that space prime real estate. I’m not just going to let any old thing in there. This makes me much more cognizant of what I purchase or choose to make part of my wardrobe. (For more on why I care about this, read this post).
- Changing things out with the seasons gives me a feeling of renewal and makes my “old” clothes that were packed up feel new again. It is almost like going shopping in my own bedroom. (Funny thing – this works with my kids and their toys too!)
- I can hang onto things I am not sure about getting rid of.
A few other notes:
- I am working to simplify my wardrobe, but I am not working toward a minimalist wardrobe.
- I ultimately want to cultivate a personal style that transcends “Fast Fashion” trends that cycle every couple of months.
- This is a long process intentionally. This is for those of us who cannot just do a quick sort and dump half our wardrobe in an attempt to simplify or declutter. It is designed to allow you to learn what you like and don’t like about your CURRENT wardrobe and make purging decisions based on what you learn.
- This is an evolving process. Don’t get too hung up “rules”. Think of these more as guidelines and make it work for YOU. For example, maybe you live in a region that doesn’t have four distinct seasons. You can modify the guidelines to fit your needs. Although, I would still encourage a 3 month cycle, because I think cycling items in and out of your closet keeps it fresh and helps you continue to feel as if you have “new” things to wear without going out and buying new clothes all the time.
Getting started can be intimidating, so I’m going to share with you step-by-step how I’ve done it. Tomorrow I’m going to share Part Two, which will describe how to sort your clothes for seasonal wardrobes. Part Three will give you the process I use for sorting the rest of your clothes once you’ve got your seasonal wardrobe selected. Finally, Part Four will explain how you can build this process into a routine that will help you work toward a simplified wardrobe.
Quick links to the rest of this series:
Linked up at Living Well Spending Less.