Many, many moons ago, I had a lot of clothes. Lots. I love shopping and keeping up with trends, so I’d wander into clothing stores regularly. I’d keep a steady flow of new things moving into my closet. Much of it was low quality and very trendy. But low quality often means low life-span, and trends are gone in a flash! I’d end up with lots of things that I still loved but had begun to wear out, or things that were still in decent shape but were no longer at the peak of style. I had a packed full closet, but nothing I really liked. Nothing that fit well. Nothing I truly felt good in. Nothing that gave me confidence.
After a while of this, I decided to get rid of all the excess, and keep only the things that I loved, fit well, matched, and were in season. I couldn’t believe the change in perspective! While I had almost nothing left, I loved what I had. I can guarantee that you will also feel better about your clothing after you eliminate the excess in your closet. I encourage you to consider taking an evening and giving it a go. You won’t regret it!
To get started, you need to get rid of a bunch of stuff. It’s time for the minimalist purge.
The Minimalist Purge
First thing, take all of your clothes out of your closet, and dump them all in a huge pile. Every single thing needs to come out. I encourage you to sort through your shoes, handbags, scarves, jewelry, etc. as well, but start with your clothes. This will be a big enough project. The same principles will apply to those areas later.
Pull everything out and start sorting. You are going to sort your clothes into categories. As you start sorting, really just go with your gut – sort according to your initial feelings. Don’t take a long time to evaluate which pile you are putting things in, or you’ll be at it all night long, and you’ll end up keeping everything.
The four piles you are going to divide your clothes into are clothes you will keep, move, give away and throw away. The keep pile is stuff you are going to hang right back up in your closet or put right back in a drawer to wear again. The move pile is stuff that you are going to keep, but you aren’t going to wear at this moment. Things like winter clothes, or maternity stuff. The give away and throw away piles are pretty self explanatory. Pick up each piece, and quickly evaluate which pile it should go into, according to the following criteria. There are 6 criteria you are going to make your decisions based on.
1 – IS IT DAMAGED?
Is it torn, snagged? Faded? Stained? Has it shrunk? Is it pilled? Is it just generally worn out? If it is not in good condition, it needs to go into the throw away pile. If you absolutely love it and it may be repairable, make sure that is still fits all of the following criteria before you keep it. And think about it. Are you really going to fix it? Really? If so, it needs to go directly to your sewing machine. There’s no point in having something hanging in your closet if you can’t ever wear it anyway.
2 – DOES IT FIT?
Does it ride up? Does it roll down? Do your pants give you a major muffin top? Do you always feel uncomfortable because it’s a little short, a little loose, a little tight, a little low? Do you spend the entire day tugging on it so it will stay where it is supposed to be? Maybe it used to fit, but you’ve changed sizes. If ANY of these things apply, it can go into either the move or give away pile. Obviously, women change sizes a lot with pregnancy and postpartum, so you may want to keep some clothes for different phases of life. I know that for me, in addition to the huge change I experience during pregnancy, I need clothes in several different sizes as my shape changes during my baby’s first year. So, if a piece is important for pregnancy or postpartum, and it meets the other criteria, it can go in the move pile. If this does not apply to you, anything that doesn’t fit goes in the give away pile.
Some people feel reluctant to get rid of clothes in another size, because they hope to gain or lose weight and fit it again. This is a very reasonable feeling; it seems like such a waste to get rid of things that could be useful later! As difficult as it may be, I encourage you to let these items go. When you reach your goal, you will be filled with joy when you can shop for exciting new pieces in your new size! You will be eager to try out the fresh colors and styles in stores now. Get rid of the old and allow yourself to enjoy the hard earned confidence boost you will feel from looking good in a few new things.
3 – DOES IT WORK WITH YOUR CURRENT LIFESTYLE?
Do you need it right now? If you are primarily a stay at home mom, maybe you don’t need a ton of silky blouses and pencil skirts hanging in your closet. If you spend much of your time at the office, you probably don’t need dozens of lounge pants in your drawers. Or maybe you don’t need to have your clubbing mini-dresses within reach anymore. You should only keep the things that you need for the way that you REALLY live your life. Be honest with yourself, and think about what you do with your time. If you don’t actually go to the gym when you have free time, you probably don’t need tons of workout clothes. You just need enough to get you between loads of laundry. Just because a piece is still in good condition and it still fits does not mean that you need to have it in your closet. Keep your favorites and let the others go. If it’s not something that you would wear regularly, it goes in the give away pile.
4 – DO YOU LOVE IT?
Do you feel good wearing it? Does it really work with your personal style? I’m not talking about what some hip fashion blogger is wearing right now. I’m talking about you and your style. If you absolutely love that sweatshirt you stole from your husband, and you really, actually wear it all the time, keep it! If you’re a T-shirt and jeans girl, perfect! Do it! Be true to your own style. But don’t keep an item just because it’s new. Don’t keep it because you haven’t worn it much yet. Don’t keep it because it was expensive. The money is spent, you’re not getting it back! There’s no benefit to keeping a piece and feeling bad about it all the time. Definitely don’t keep a piece because it was a gift. You received their good wishes when they gave it to you, and now it’s not doing anyone any good by hanging in your closet making you feel guilty. If you don’t love it, pass it along so someone else can enjoy that gift.
In this category, it’s really important to be ruthless. You may feel bad when you add a piece to the give away pile, but I can tell you from experience, as soon as that piece is gone, you will never think about it again. Free yourself from guilt and allow yourself to whittle your stack down to just the best pieces. The point is to have clothes that you love, that you feel good in, that make you happy and confident. If it doesn’t meet that standard, you don’t have space in your life to keep it!
At this point, you’ve pretty much determined what you’re going to give away and throw away. As you go along you may decide to toss more stuff, but for the most part, you’re ready to evaluate the items you’re keeping.
5- IS IT IN SEASON?
This one is pretty clear. You really don’t need to have a bunch of wool coats within reach when it’s 80 degrees outside, nor do you need breezy tank tops at Christmastime. It’s really easy to end up with a mish-mash of seasons in your closet though, since seasons gradually change. You probably didn’t know it was last time you’d wear that cozy snowflake sweater or your tall boots, so they end up sticking around until summer. But letting things linger out of season means that every day as you dress, your mind will have to consider and eliminate all sorts of items that aren’t realistic options. This is a waste of brainpower. So if it fits all of the other criteria but it’s just out of season, it goes in the move pile. When the seasons change and you are ready to switch out your summer clothes for cozy winter things, you can pull these things out.
6 – DOES IT MATCH?
Almost there! Now you’ve finalized what you’re going to toss. You’ve got a pile of things to give away. You have a pile of things you’re keeping for later. The final step is to review the clothes in your keep pile. Look at all the things you have left and make sure that they match one another. That everything top works with at least one bottom, and vice versa. For maximum flexibility, I aim to have every top match EVERY bottom, but that is not always achievable. Personally, I don’t like to have any pieces that just go with one thing. For example, I avoid having a wildly patterned top that only works with one specific pair of pants, and those pants only work with that top. I feel that this is too limiting. If I am wearing only 30-40 items (including shoes and accessories!), I need to have items that can be mixed and matched as much as possible. You however, can structure your capsule any way you like. I’ve definitely gotten to this point and found that while I totally, totally love a certain piece, it just doesn’t go with anything else at the moment. If it doesn’t match, the reality is, you’re never going to wear it. There’s no point in having something hanging in your closet that you just can’t wear. Put it aside, remember that piece when you are shopping, and wait for a time when you have a better match. You want to keep out only things that you can wear regularly.
Now, you should have 4 completed piles. Good job! Bag up the first pile and put it right in your garbage bin. Get the second pile bagged and ready to give away. Fold up the third pile, and tuck it way back in the back of your closet or under your bed, away from the things you’ll wear on a daily basis. Then look at what you have left. Of all the clothes you had, what do you have that is in good condition, fits well, is in season, works with your lifestyle, you totally love, and matches? I’m willing to bet you don’t have much left. But I’ll also bet, most if not all of those remaining items are things you wear all the time anyway!
Hopefully you’ll feel really good at this point. Every single thing you have, is a piece that you love! You can feel really good every single time you get dressed! You’ve cut out the excess, and you can now focus on building a wardrobe that you really and truly love. This brings us to the final step of your wardrobe overhaul!
FINAL STEP – FILL IN THE GAPS
Now you get to shop! When you look at what you have left, you can probably see that you have some specific needs. Say, you have a few tops that you feel great in, but you only have 2 good bottoms. You have several nice blouses, but let’s be real, you don’t have any comfy everyday shirts.
I know for me, every single autumn I want to wear vests, but I need some plain ole normal long sleeved shirts to go under them. That’s an item on my shopping list every time October rolls around. There is probably a hole in your wardrobe like that too; a specific item or two that you need to make everything work. Now that you can see what you really need, you can shop for those specific things. Keep those items in mind and don’t get sucked into buying things you don’t need. Instead of walking into Marshall’s to see what catches my eye, this October I’ll walk into Marshall’s looking for a shirt that would work with my brown vest. If I don’t see something that meets my standards, I’ll walk out empty handed. Self-control is a muscle, and the more you flex it against good marketing and cute trends, the stronger you will become at sticking to what matters to you. You will get better at saying “no” to things as you do this more often, and trust me. The moment you walk out of the store you will forget about that cute top that was so loudly calling your name.
That’s it! Now you have your capsule wardrobe, and you’re all set to wear on repeat for the next few months and feel great about it!