Spring is a time for cleaning switching over closets making it the perfect time for a closet purge. I wish I could say that an effective closet clean-out is as simple as asking yourself whether or not something sparks joy, but unfortunately, it isn’t. Sorry, Marie Kondo. It’s far more complex than that. While I do agree that anything you decide to keep should feel like it belongs there but not everything that should stay needs to be joy-inducing. To me, the idea of all clothing needing to spark joy would be like saying we should only eat indulgent foods. Sometimes we need to make decisions not because we like that decision but because it’s the smart thing to do. Additionally, managing a wardrobe strategically can’t be achieved if we think solely about the joy that every piece brings. Simply, it’s just not enough. I also don’t believe that everything should be tossed in one fell swoop as Marie Kondo does. As I have spoken about before, not everyone has the budget to just refill their wardrobes after a drastic measure like ditching it. Anyway, this post wasn’t meant to disparage the tenets of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which has some really great points, consider this post as some other things to consider when figuring out whether to keep or toss an item.
KEEP OR TOSS? EVALUATING WHAT SHOULD STAY AND WHAT SHOULD GO
The next time you are giving your closet a purge, here are questions you can ask yourself to help you evaluate if you should keep or toss it.
Does this send the message I want to send when I wear it?
The clothing we wear communicates regardless of whether or not that is our intention. To understand what your wardrobe communicates, ask yourself what you feel when you wear something. Clothing communication has more to do with how we perceive ourselves in our clothing than how another person perceives us. Therefore, even if an item is the “right thing” or something that is acceptable, if you don’t that feeling when you wear it or you feel like you are wearing a costume, it should go.
Is it flattering?
This should go without saying, you want the clothing to be flattering. You want the fit to be right, the colors to be good and the textures and patterns to be right. If you need help you can read more on prints and textures. Before you ditch it, make sure that tailoring won’t fix the issue. And, of course, ask yourself if it is even realistic that you will even bother to go and get the item tailored.
Is there something else in my closet that does the same thing and I prefer wearing?
This is a question I ask clients all the time when they are questioning whether they should keep something. Often clients have something that could stay but also have something they prefer more and will always grab before the item in question. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to keep it. You will never wear the item you feel mediocre about over a piece you love more.
Is it replaceable?
It’s a different conversation when a client is considering getting rid of something that is a novelty and something that is basic. If a client wants to get rid of a little black dress, for example, I will say to them, “It’s not it’s the last black dress that exists in the world.” It helps put it into perspective in terms of letting go. If clothing is easy to replace for something better, keeping an item that is just so-so doesn’t make sense.
Of course, this doesn’t mean to hang on to novelty things that aren’t easy to replace but this strategy is good for easy to replace items that are easily replaced, This leads me to my next question you can ask yourself.
Should it go on life support?
Life support is a strategy, not a crutch, and should be used as such. As I said, few people have the budget to ditch everything all at once which makes putting something in life support until you can find something that does a better job. You can do this with both your basics and novelty items when you want to give yourself a bit more time to find the right thing. It takes the pressure off and gives you time to find what you need. However, this strategy should not be used to hang onto things that really should go. You don’t necessarily want to impose a time limit on yourself but you also want to be realistic in that you are actively looking for something to replace the item that’s on its last legs.
Should I give it a season?
When a client is on the fence about letting something go, particularly if it is off-season from the season they are entering, we will give it one more season to see if they will wear it with the rule that if they don’t it goes.
Can I do better?
I say it to clients all the time, “we can do better.” What that means is it’s passable but it’s not the best. It’s not uncommon to hang onto things when you’re frustrated by how difficult shopping is how challenging it is to find clothing to fit your body, but you don’t have to settle. You can do better.
Am I a few lbs. away from fitting into it or do I need a come to Jesus moment?
Are your closets stuffed with multiple sizes? With the fluctuation in weight most women experience, this is an incredibly common occurrence. It can be a tricky one to manage because the solution isn’t clear-cut. It’s personal. Some clients ditch everything that is out of their current size range while others prefer a tight range of sizes. The goal of keeping a range should be realistic. Are you actively working on reducing your weight? Are you keeping size 4 items but are currently a size 12 or are you size 10 and have a realistic range of a few size 8’s and 12’s in your closet? And despite the hope to be in the smaller sizes you own, you should still run each piece through the list of questions I have outlined here because even if you will fit into something one day, it doesn’t mean it should stay.
Is my attachment to this piece realistic?
We all keep things in our closets for a variety of reasons and if the recent limited on Netflix, Worn Stories, has taught us anything, it’s that clothing can be deeply personal and meaningful. So while I’m not opposed to keeping a few special items, take time to consider if the reasons you are hanging on to something not realistic or worse, are keeping you from moving on with your life. It may sound strange to say that keeping clothing keeps us stuck, but I have seen this happen quite a few times. Either due to sentimentality, a stronghold on the past, the fear of change, not believing in your worth, or the fear of being vulnerable, people sometimes keep clothing hanging around for purely psychological reasons. Your clothing and what you choose to hold on to speaks volumes about what is going on within.
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Oh boy, “Can I do better?” is definitely where the rubber is going to meet the road in my closet.
It’s often a sobering question.