Nothing feels better than the relief and openness you feel after a closet purge.  It’s like a huge weight has been lifted your space is no longer occupied with things that you no longer need or wear.  As you confidently get rid of that last donation bag, you’re sure that you won’t miss any of it.  Or will you?

Earlier this year I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I loved the process so much I even blogged about it.  Since doing my own big purge, my drawers have never been neater and I have definitely been more mindful about what I put in my closet.  However, as I moved my wardrobe from the summer season to fall and winter, I noticed that my overzealous enthusiasm to purge left me with just about nothing for fall.  And seeing it’s a lot quicker, not to mention cheaper, to purge than it is to rebuild, I found myself longing for some pieces I purged from my closet.  Yet, was I really longing for what I got rid of?  I’m not so sure.   I decided to blog about this today because I am sure I’m not the only own who has found themselves with closet purge regret.

How to Deal with Closet Purge Regret

#1- Remind yourself why you got rid of it the first time

Every time I found myself with closet purge regret, I was quick to remind myself that there was a reason I got rid of what I did.  As the saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  Have you ever spent time in the company of someone you found particularly irritating or annoying and been thrilled to have the opportunity to spend some time away from them?   After a much needed respite, it’s easy to forget how aggravating they were …until you spend time with them and are reminded, yet again, why you avoided them the first time.  This brings me to my next point.

#2- What were the redeeming qualities of what you parted with?

Consider that it might not be the exact piece you are longing for but something similar that will work better for you.  I will give you an example.  I purchased a basic long sleeve v-neck ivory blouse last fall.  I really looked forward to it being a basic for much of the season.  However, when I put it on the first time it wrinkled badly and was much more sheer than I originally thought it was.  As a result, I didn’t wear it nearly as often as I imagined I would.  Regardless of my dissatisfaction, months after getting rid of it I found myself longing for it.  At first I was kicking myself for giving it away but then reminded myself why I got rid of it in the first place.

There was a reason you bought something even if it went on the closet purge donate pile.   Instead of just parting with these items, ask yourself if there was anything about these pieces that you were hoping they were going to solve in your wardrobe.  No, they may no have not been the winners but there were some wardrobe solutions you were looking for in these pieces that you were hoping they were going to solve.

Instead of doing a closet purge mindlessly, look at each piece you are getting rid of and ask yourself two questions:

  • What was I hoping to get out of buying this piece?
  • Why did it fail?

While the piece may have failed the need is still be there.  Using my ivory blouse as an example, I recognized that I was hoping to have a versatile, easy to wear silky looking blouse that I wear as a basic.  It failed because it wrinkled too much, making it more work than it was worth and wasn’t as flattering as I thought it would be because of the sheerness.   As I look to find a replacement, I will now be more cognizant of finding the right one that doesn’t have the qualities of the one I purged.

#3- Purge by season

There are pros and cons to purging by season.  The pros are that you can be much more aware of your needs if you purge clothing for the season you are currently in.  When I did my big closet purge it was a hot summer day.  The last thing on my mind were sweaters and cold weather clothing, making it much easier to just let stuff go.  However, the cons of doing this is why I was left with two sweaters and hardly anything to wear once fall arrived.  I felt totally unprepared and much more regretful.  Yet, despite this, I am still glad I purged all at once.  Personally, I am glad I was ruthless, but this may not be the answer for everyone.

For me, shopping is easy.  I am in the stores constantly and see clothing test driven on tons of clients before I even make time to shop for myself.  When I am ready to hit the stores, I am such a well-oiled machine that I can get my season’s essentials bought and done in under an hour.  Yet, for most people, this isn’t a reality.  Half the reason why women hire me is because they lack the ability to shop with any efficiency.  So to leave a woman with a scant amount in their wardrobes and then ask them to fend for themselves can be difficult.  This is why shopping so often happens immediately after I help them with  closet purge.  For you, seasonal purging may be a smarter approach because you will be in a much better headset to be more discerning of what you let go of.  However, I will warn you, this may also cause you to be less ruthless with your purge and hold things you shouldn’t.  Yet, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

#4- Life support it

This brings me to my next point, to “life support it” as I tell my clients.  Let’s be real for a minute, few women have the bank accounts to torch their wardrobe and build it back immediately.   For many, this has to be a much slower process simply due to budgeting.  This is why I tell my clients to put certain clothing items on life support, which means to be clear of what in your closet will go once you find a suitable replacement.  The item is on life support until we officially pull the plug.

But let me be clear on what life support isn’t.  Life supporting isn’t a crutch to keep things around that really should go.  I don’t want this to suddenly become a hoarder’s favorite word because it can get all to easy to continually say, “Oh I will just life support this” and then forget about it.

Also be clear that life supporting something doesn’t just mean you have to find the exact better version of what you have on deck to eventually part with.  It can also mean to hold onto something until you have refreshed your closet enough that you don’t need to keep something mediocre but acceptable around.  This is also something I do with my clients.  It takes time to build a wardrobe back, even with my help.  During that in-between phase, I don’t want my clients with absolutely nothing to wear.

#5- Force yourself to get creative

Despite noticing myself having pangs of closet purge regret, what I did appreciate about having less was it forced me to get more creative with my wardrobe.  I found myself having no choice but to wear things more often in different ways.  Not surprisingly, I also found how little I actually needed to buy this fall.  The truth is, regret or not, you were likely not wearing much of what you got rid of.  In fact, the next time you find yourself with pangs of anxiety about parting with things, I want you to box those items up, tuck them away somewhere it’s not easy to get at them and then see quickly you forget you even owned them.  As I often tell clients who panic after I clear out much of their wardrobe, “I didn’t get rid of your clothes, I got rid of your false sense of security.”

If building back your wardrobe feels like a big, daunting expense, think in small creative ways.  Instead of a whole new wardrobe, are there small pieces you can add, like a few scarves, a new pair of shoes, some jewelry, for example, to your wardrobe to change up what’s left in your closet?  Also consider building back with basics first.  Basics are much easier to wear in versatile, mix-and-match ways than very novelty driven clothing is.

#6- How to deal with size fluctuation regret

Lastly, It’s not uncommon to have a closet full of clothing that ranges in size.  I am reminded of one of my best friends who had this going on in her closet.  For years, she held on to this short, pleated plaid skirt, I affectionately started to call the Milli Vanilli skirt because the 90’s was the last time she fit into it.  It being years later, I tried hopelessly to convince her to let it go, reminding her that should she ever be able to fit into it again she won’t wear it anyway because it was long out of style.  Her response to me was that she dreamed of the day that she could fit into it, if anything, to say she could.   After that she would trash it.

While I can try to coerce you to part with some of your clothes from when you were fat or thin, I’d be harsh and insensitive if I did.  I remember one of the many times I have lost a ton of weight and gave all my pants away only to wish I had them after I gained.  So this is what I am going to say: make the choice that works for you and your reality.  If you feel it imperative that you hold on to a variety of sizes, at least try to keep only your current sizes in the closet you wear most often.  If it is a matter of a few pounds that you can be entrusted to lose because you have done it before, then, okay.  However, if you are now a size 16 and are keeping your size 4 jeans in your closet for someday, maybe, then, girl, we need to talk.  Losing multiple sizes does not happen overnight and if it does it’s unhealthy and you’ll probably shoot back up to a larger weight in no time.  Plus, the likelihood that those size 4 jeans will be the pair you will want to wear for the day you finally work off the weight is slim (no pun intended).

Closet purge regret isn’t uncommon and totally natural as we let go.  Instead of getting stuck in the paralysis of what-ifs if you do get rid of things you might wind up needing, trust yourself to know that there is a reason you want to get rid of it.