In my early twenties, I loved nothing more than to go shopping (okay, now that I'm in my late twenties, not much has changed). The problem was that I didn't have a lot of money, and I didn't have a plan. If I found something I liked at Forever 21 or H&M, I would buy it. Then I would wear it one time, realize that I hated it on me, and stuck it in the back of my closet. This was also the time that blogs started to become popular, so I kind of was running after the trends I saw on them - think colored jeans, arm parties, and lots of layering.
I never felt secure in these clothes, and I always felt like I had nothing to wear. When I was accepted to medical school, it hit me that in 4 months time, I was going to move 600 miles away, in just my little car. I was not going to drag all those clothes with me to my new home/life. So I started the long closet clean out, and the eventual building up of my closet.
In this multi-post topic of building a cohesive wardrobe, the first, and most important step, is doing a closet clean out. It's also the hardest. It's difficult to get rid of things you've paid money for - it feels like throwing money away. But I promise, once you only have clothes in your closet that you actually like to wear, you will never ever miss those old items again.
So. The following were (and still are!) my guidelines when I clean out my closet. I just did another round of this over the last few weeks while moving, and it really did help narrow down what to keep and what to get rid of. Here is my process:
take everything out of your closet
And ask yourself how you feel about every single item. If you are answers are:
- I like this, and I wear it often
- Great! Put it back into your closet.
- Then ask yourself why do you like it - does that color look great on you? Do you like that particular cut of clothing? Does it mix well with the other colors in your closet? Remember why you like it, and then use those as guidelines later.
- My experience: I found that I really like pop-over tops (like this one from J.Crew that I'm currently considering buying). They are simple, always look put together, and are easily mixed and matched with other items in your closet.
- I like this, but it hasn't fit me in months/years
- Are you planning on being that size any time soon?
- If yes, then either put it into storage. No need in getting rid of something you will wear again once it fits you. Be careful and honest with yourself though!
- If no, then get rid of it or get it tailored. After losing a bit of weight, I wasn't wearing my Boden skirt because it was too big. I love the skirt, but it fell off whenever I tried to wear it. A trip to the tailor means it now fits me correctly again. If tailor won't work for you, then pass it on to a friend, sell it, or donate it.
- Again, think about why you like it so you can eventually replace it with something that does fit you.
- I like this, I just never wear it
- We all have clothes like that in our closet - items we like, but we just like certain other pieces more. There's nothing wrong with them, they fit well, but you just don't wear them.
- Set these aside, and make it a point to try to wear them. I have a hook next to my closet that I use for these items. That way, it's right in front of me, and I force myself to try to wear that item. If after a few days you still haven't found a way you like wearing it, get rid of it. You aren't wearing it, you haven't found a way you enjoy wearing it, so why have it be in your closet?
- I like this, but I'm currently not interested in wearing it, but I may in the future
- First things first - don't let this become a catch-all! This is reserved for a few items in your closet that you love but don't currently have a need for (think special occasion dresses, or a nice pair of pants you don't currently need for work). There's no need to get rid of everything just because you haven't worn it in a specific time frame if you have room to store it. If you know that you will for sure wear it in the future, either put it into a storage box under your bed or whatever, or keep it in the back of your closet.
- My goal in my closet clean out was never to get my closet to be a certain amount of items or something, and so I found that this really helped me when I knew I wasn't wearing it, but I could see myself grabbing for it at some point. I didn't want to get rid of all of my clothes just because they didn't fit into a guideline I made for myself, so this gave me a bit of flexibility with about 10 items.
- I have no feelings about this either way, but I don't really wear it
- Then why is taking up valuable hanger space? Get rid of it, and make room for something you'll love.
- I don't like this, and I have no idea why I've even kept it in my closet all this time
- Before you immediately toss it in the "girl, bye" pile, ask yourself why you don't like it.
- Is it the color? Years ago when I was shopping, and I found a style of shirt/dress I liked, I would purposely buy it in a color I didn't have a lot of in my closet because I thought it would give me a "complete" closet but it really just meant I had a bunch of clothes in colors I didn't like. Now I buy items in about 4 colors - whites/tans, blues, red, and grey/black. Getting dressed is so much easier now because my clothes actually go together.
- Is the style? For me, I realized I never wore any of the cap sleeved tops I had because I hate how they make my arms look. I now insist that any short sleeved shirts or dresses I buy have a full short sleeve, like this pretty lace top from Loft.
put your favorites back in your closet...
...and maybe try out a new way of organizing your clothes. Growing up, my closet was always perfect colored coordinated - all whites together, all greens together, and so on. When I moved for school, I tried organizing my closet by type and then color, and it made such a difference! Now I can see how many short sleeved shirts I have when I'm looking to wear something when it's hot outside, or how many cardigans I have when I want something to cover up with (side note: I only currently have one cardigan - this one from J.Crew Factory, and I reallllllly need a few more since that one is over-worn and starting to show its age. Any suggestions?).
Try out a new way of organizing your clothes to see if it gives you a fresh perspective. Maybe you always hang up your jeans, and now want to try folding them. Or maybe your shoes are always in their original boxes, and now you want to try organizing them so you can see them all at one glance. If after a few weeks you don't like it, try something new, or go back to the way that worked for you! None of this is permanent.
get rid of the items you no longer like or fit you
I had three piles during my recent clean out - the sell, the donate, and the throw away piles.
Because May was a very busy month for me, I choose to sell all my clothes from my recent clean out to ThredUp. They send you a giant bag, you fill it up as much as you want, and then send it back to them (they cover the shipping costs). Then a couple of weeks later, they will email you and tell you what they are choosing to sell. They give you the option of having them send you the remaining clothes back for $12, or you can have them donate the rest at no cost to you. That's the option I chose, since I was just going to donate the clothes anyway. I'm still waiting on my results from my latest bag, but the last time I sold them 4 or 5 items, and they gave me $35 for them, which isn't too bad. Online or in store consignment (like Plato's Closet or Clothes Mentor) is great for more brand name items - think Gap and above. I sent in a few older J.Crew tops I hadn't worn in years, a few Banana Republic dresses, and so on. If the clothes are higher name brands, or were very popular in the past few years, eBay is also a great way to go. Here are a few tips on how to sell clothes on eBay!
Many of my lower end, but still intact clothes, were donated. I just drop them off at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. There was also a program in my area that helps the homeless find jobs, and they always need professional clothes, so I donated my old med school interview suit to them.
I really hesitate throwing away clothes because it feels like such a waste, so the only items that were thrown away were clothes that were torn up to the point that stitches wouldn't help. I think over the past three years, I've only thrown 4 items of clothes away, and three of them were pants that had been worn through the thigh.
Another option is to have a clothing swap with your friends. This was never really an option for me since I only have one friend who is my size, but if you and your girlfriends are all similarly sized, this would be a great option as well. I know Adina does that and always has great success and fun with it.
So that rounds out part one. I was actually going to show you guys a quick update on my closet, but literally as I walked into the room to take the picture, the second bar fell to the ground, so I'll have to leave you in suspense ;) The next few posts in this series will focus on figuring out your style, list making, and shopping strategies.
Any questions or suggestions for us? I'd love to hear them in the comments section :)