Fashion (My Style) · Wardrobe Remix

[The Closet Chronicles] Step One: Systematic Purge-ology

If there is one thing in this world that brings me (temporary) peace of mind, it is the act of purging my life (and storage spaces) of all “things” that clutters.  In the past, I have taken this purging habit to an extreme, where I would give away things in the name of organization and cleanliness only to end up MAJORLY regretting my flippant disposal of certain items.

I’m basically the antithesis of the “Pack Rat”.
I’m definitely not holding my breath for that call 
from TLC’s “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”

Obviously, I’ve never had an issue with getting rid of clutter in my closet.  But along with my zealous need to purge clutter came the equally zealous need to spend even more money trying to replace good pieces I had previously had in my wardrobe and (all to easily) gotten rid of (which, in truth, I liked more than the new replacement piece…*SOB!*).  After many years of facing the consequences of my behavior (and taking all too long to learn from them), I realized that, just as it is unhealthy to hoard and be unwilling to let things go, it’s not good practice to be the polar opposite and throw/give everything away (MY POOR, POOR WALLET!).

So whether you are a hoarder or a squanderer (my term for the opposite of hoarder) of clothing, the first step in building a wardrobe that works for you is to follow a systematic approach to the “purging” process.  The purpose of purging a closet is not simply to create more space (whether you like the space itself or plan to fill it up for more unnecessary new stuff).  It is to rid a wardrobe of those random pieces that you always stare at, but never know what to do with.  It’s not that you “have nothing to wear” on any given day (as you stand before a closet chock full of clothing items).  It’s those darn “I-have-no-idea-what-to-do-with-you” rogue items that keep you from seeing that amazing outfit you so desire and leave you helplessly frozen before the monstrosity that is your closet.

The mission, should we choose to accept it, is to create a closet that works…where we see the pieces turn to outfits in our mind’s eye…where our stylistic creativity can blossom.

…don’t worry…I’m a professional…maybe…not really…(save me)…

How do we become systematic in our purging?  I don’t know about you, but in my case, I always have the following questions running through my head as I consider each piece I have in my closet.

1) Have I worn this in the past four months?  This question is always a great starting point.  If I have not worn an item in my closet for four months (or the appropriate season’s length), it’s time to rethink its place in my wardrobe.  It does not mean I simply get rid of it…it just means I need to take some time to determine WHY I have not worn it in a while (by answering the follow-up questions below).  Hoarders, on the other hand, may need to think less and be willing to toss more.  It’s all relative to how much you own – if you’re closet is already at bare minimum to reasonable amount, take more time with the follow-up questions than.  If you’re closet is full to the point of not being able to make heads or tails of anything, you may not want to take too much time thinking over each item (be a bit more Draconian in your purging).

2) Is the item still wearable (considering condition and size)?  The condition of an article of clothing is one thing that both squanders and hoarders can utilize equally.  If the piece is worn to near translucency (unless it was originally made to be that way), have irreparable holes or tears, or is frayed beyond recognition, it’s time to let it go.  Size is a bit different – in my personal opinion, if your closet is overflowing (into boxes and bins that are crowding you out of your home), it would probably be best to get rid of clothes that do not fit you (size-wise and shape-wise) altogether.  But if you are a squanderer (or someone who’s weight is expected to fluctuate greatly in the near future), it would be wise to consider whether it is a piece in good condition and possibly could fit you and your wardrobe at a later date.  If so, keep it in storage for a while (and if you don’t miss it or use it for a year, get rid of it).

So stylin’…ha ha!

3) Is the item still relevant to today’s fashion trends?  Now this question may not mean that you get rid of an item completely.  After all, trends and fads tend to be cyclical, and will come back (have you noticed a very marked 80’s trend making a resurgence nowadays?).  When styles begin to change and I see some things in my closet being neglected because of it (ah-HAH! going back to the first question), I would gather all of the “out of style” items, lay them out, and pick the ones I wore most/loved the most to store while giving away the rest.  The number of items is completely up to you…but I normally try to stay within the 20-25% mark.

4) Does this item fit my style? – After many many MANY months of trial and error, I have come to define my style as classic, casual, and comfortable.  I tend to go for simple combinations of pieces that can easily fit into multiple outfits (at least five, according to the other style gurus like Kendi of “Kendi Everyday” and Audrey of “Putting Me Together”).  I’m in a stage of life where I gravitate towards more casual-wear, but still need one or two professional options (for work).  But overall, I need my clothes to be comfortable (i.e. keeping my heels to a moderate height, staying away from overly fitted pencil skirts or skin-tight tees, etc).  If there are items in my closet that doesn’t

5) Do I have other similar items I like more than this (repeat items)?  I have to admit I’m very bad about this one.  When I find an article of clothing I’m crazy about, I want to buy it in every single color or pattern available.  While there is no problem with having a few of the same item (in different colors), it’s a completely different thing when there are so many that they start overwhelming the closet.  So I always ask myself things like, “Do I REALLY need all three of these fitted black t-shirts? Can I manage with just one nice denim jacket? I know I love chambray shirts…but three of the same shape/shade?” This is one area where I come ever remotely close to being a hoarder…and have to learn to let go of some multiples and remember that, if the item I love is no longer wearable, I can always go get a replacement…perhaps in a style I love even more when the time comes!

One jacket…four seasons…five styles…it’s a keeper!

6) Do I have any ideas on how to wear this item in the next week?  If after the previous five questions I am still unsure of whether to keep an item or toss it, I force myself to try and style said item to wear that very week.  I begin pulling items I know I am definitely keeping and try to come up with multiple outfits (again, the magic number FIVE) for it.  I’m basically playing dress-up with my wardrobe.  Once the outfits are assembled, I will wear one or two of them that week to see how it feels and whether it works for me.  If it does, the piece stays in my closet.  If not, it goes.  It’s this final step that allows me to be careful with my decisions on what to toss and what to keep.  If it’s something I can work with, why get rid of it only to have an empty hole in my closet I will likely spend more money to fill?  This process can work for hoarders too…except the reason for it is the exact opposite.  If you can’t come up with at least five outfits, get rid of the item – you don’t need it, and therefore need to let it go.  By using the five outfit rule, you are able to pick through and determine exactly which items are the ones that are definite mainstays in the closet and which are just clutter that only keeps you from seeing the true potential of your wardrobe.

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I’m sure there are other questions that can be asked in developing a systematic approach to reducing unnecessary and debilitating clutter from one’s wardrobe.  But with these six questions, I’m usually able to get my closet down to the items I know I will wear and wear well.  The rest is all dross that I need to allow to blow away in the wind, leaving me free to flex my creativity with the wardrobe I have.

[Next on The Closet Chronicles

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