Simplify Your Wardrobe: Tips for Purging Your Closet

One of the questions I get asked more than anything is how purge my clothes. I shared a little bit about the process here, but that was pretty early on in my capsule journey, so I wanted to add some things that have helped me along the way.

The process

Empty out your closet/drawers.

This is the most essential step. As soon as I started emptying everything out and piling it all up at once it totally changed my approach to purging. It doesn’t seem like it would make a difference, but instead of selecting which items to purge it becomes selecting which items deserve a spot in your wardrobe. Changing to that mindset always helps me be a little more picky about what I let in. Just the way it should be.

Clear away all of the definite nos.

First, address the obvious nos. The items that don’t fit, are uncomfortable, haven’t left their hanger in years, are ripped or stained, or that just aren’t ‘you’ anymore. Let them go. If they’re in good shape, send them off to donation center or consider selling them on eBay, Poshmark, or Thred Up.

Separate out all of the things that are definite yeses.

Now go back through and pull out everything that you could never live without. The items you love (and I mean LOVE). The jeans that fit like a glove, your favorite boots, the sweater you throw on that always feels and looks great. Fold them up nicely and set those aside. They’re keepers.

Now, the hard part…everything in-between.

Inevitable, it seems most of my items fall in the dreaded in-between. I really like them, but I’m not sure it’s love. They fit and are comfy and look good, but I don’t know that they’re essential. I don’t actually like wearing this, but it was so much money. These are the hardest ones to decide. Here are a few strategies I have for the ‘maybes’.

Try them on.

I have found that a lot of times when I try something on and really focus on how it feels I find I am able to let them go. Don’t just try it on for fit. Try it on to really feel it. Any tugging, adjusting, itchiness, questionable fit, hard-to-style, items are out. The more I wear clothes that I feel great in, the easier it is to identify the ones that I don’t. Personally, it took some practice to be able to tell the difference between “it fits and I like it” and “I love it and am excited every time I wear it.”

Does it fit your ‘style’ or ‘style goals’?

I think most of us have an idea of how we’d like to look, whether it’s an image we want to portray or from inspiration we’ve gathered in magazines, on pinterest, or elsewhere. Keep these style goals in mind. Will this item fit those goals? If you love the laid back, casual, cool vibe, do the multiple gingham check button-down shirts for layering under sweaters fit that? (asking for a friend)

Do you have something similar that you like to wear better?

Often, we keep the maybes ‘just in case’ we need them. What is the ‘just in case’ scenario? Think about the items you love to wear, is there something else that you could wear for the same occasion that you like better? If yes, let it go. Or, are you keeping multiple items? Choose your one or two favorites and let the rest go. For me, realizing that I was keeping a lot of items for some possible future occasion and discovering that I plenty of options that I could wear for that occasion (that I love to wear) gave me permission to let a lot more go.

baby steps to starting ethical fashion

So what if you just can’t let it go?

Trial purge.

Any time I struggle with letting something go, but also recognize that I never really wear it I pack it up and send it to the basement. I have a box (used to be many boxes) down there of maybes.

As time goes on, I usually realize…

a) I haven’t missed the item(s) at all and I’m totally ok letting it go.

b) I have plenty and even though I like the items(s) I like my leaned out closet even better.

c) I really don’t like this item(s) and am not sure why it was a maybe in the first place.

d) it’s something I’ve been missing and I want it back.

Sell it.

One of my biggest struggles when I was going through bigger purges in the beginning of my capsule journey was the wasted money. I knew I didn’t need all of those clothes, but I thought of all the money that was piled up on the floor. One thing that really helped was listing my items on Poshmark or eBay or sending them into Thred Up. Selling my ‘maybes’ made it easier to let them go. It is definitely time consuming, but I just posted a little each weekend and over time made quite a bit of money back, which is what I’ve used to buy some of my new investment pieces.

Let go of past cost. 

On the other hand, I read a tip in Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that helped me with my purging process. Realize that the cost on the item is already spent, so hanging on to it but not wearing it isn’t recouping any of that cost. Instead it’s a reminder. It’s costing you more in energy to keep trying on and casting off an item that you really don’t want to wear. Give it a positive twist, think of passing it along to someone who will love it and be able to put it to good use. Not to mention, the tax deductions from donations are pretty generous.

Give yourself time. 

Don’t get down on yourself if your quest to cut your wardrobe in half only results in a purge of 20 items. Or 10. Enjoy the little bit of space that you have created and then go through another round in another month or two. My closet clean out goes in waves. Sometimes I struggle to part with things, but then I find two months later when I still haven’t worn it, I’m a little more ready to accept that I can let it go.

Slow down your consumption.

A big part of keeping a lean wardrobe is not continually adding to it. I still have my fair share of additions each season, but I don’t find myself coming home with new clearance rack hauls each weekend and re-filling up the space I had just emptied. Wear the items you love over and over again and get the most out of them.

I hope that helps! What is your favorite closet clean out strategy or success story?


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    1. The dump everything out step is definitely key. It helps to start putting things back into an empty space. Bonus points for if you clean, like actually clean, your closet before putting things back. So much dust you don’t normally see!!

      1. Talia,
        It’s amazing how much that one step changes the game. It was truly a shock to first see all of my clothes in one huge mess on my floor. Wow!! It also was a shock to see how dusty the baseboards were 🙂


    1. Right now I’m really strugging with my style vs. my style goals. A lot of items in my closet reflect who I wish I was (trendy, sophosticated, silks, dresses) but what I end up wearing is completely different (tees and jeans most days). I’m having a hard time giving up that image and those items. It’s so tough to maintain a streamlined closet!

      1. Cassi,
        Why is what you wear different from what you wish you wore? I wonder if you couldn’t merge the 2 worlds? I’d love to hear more!

        1. Two reasons, mainly. The first is that I have a 5 month old who still routinely throws up on me so wearing any difficult to clean fabrics is a definite no-no. And then I think, if I’m going to have spit-up on me, what’s the point of wearing anything nice? The second reason is that I’m a creature of habit and have always valued comfort over style. When in doubt (or in a rush or in zombie mode after a sleepless night) I grab jeans and whatever t-shirt is clean.

          So I guess I need to find comfortable clothes that look dressy and sophisticated! Any ideas??

          1. I definitely understand that. I think a great pair of jeans can look amazing with a tee. I know I love my raw silk tops from Jamie and the Jones or Two Fold as an ‘up-styled’ version of a tee. The texture and drape make them feel a little more special. They are also machine-washable. Or even a great pair of boots or other shoes can elevate the jeans and tee look.

            I feel like I used to dress a little more like what I saw and liked on pinterest, but I was never comfortable in it. I’m definitely more of a jeans and tee or sweater type person and it’s better for making items work on weekends and at work. I have tried the past year to buy more unique tees and sweaters with some texture or an interesting cut that feels more styled.

    1. Love this! Thanks for sharing! All of this was helpful, especially the part about multiples and a trial purge.

      1. Chelsea,
        I hope you found a helpful tip! I have always been one to find a top I like and buy it in multiples, even if they weren’t my favorite color. A lot of my closet clutter was just too many similar items, so once I accepted I just didn’t need them all it made a huge difference.

        Thanks for reading along,


      Great job–love your tips–they are great ones! I think the HARDEST thing is accepting that my style has shifted in the past few years, which has made a bunch of my wardrobe items (Insert Gingham Shirt Quote here) defunct…but still fit, still comfy, still in great shape….just not quite my “style” anymore….

      1. Ophelia,
        Yes! I had 4 or 5 of them that I found at a thrift store. And, while it was cute on others, it never felt like ‘me’. Once I accepted that it was much easier to say good-bye to them.

        I also feel like my style has evolved in the past couple of years as I’ve focused more on thinning out my wardrobe. Like you, those are my hardest items to purge because I can’t help but wonder if it will shift back at some point.

        Hope you’re having a great week so far,

    1. This is a great list for decluttering wardrobes. The one area I usually struggle with is the maybe pile. I have implemented the trial purge with pretty good success, for me however there are items that even the trial purge doesn’t work on. When I have an item that I am having trouble letting go of I put it back in my closet and give myself a time frame in which I have to wear it. As I wear the item I pay close attention to how I feel in it. After wearing the item I am almost always very clear if it is a keeper or not. I don’t implement this very often any more now that my wardrobe is down to essentially all items that I love but when my closet was overflowing this helped immensely.

      1. Heidie,
        It is really powerful to really pay attention to how an items feels when you wear it. I think I used to just focus on how it looked, but once I changed my mindset I realized I had a lot of clothes that I didn’t actually love wearing even if they looked ok

        Thanks for your addition to the post. Setting a time frame is a great ‘rule’ to implement for those items that are hard to let go, but that you also don’t wear.

        Hope you’re having a great week,

    1. Paige, this is such an awesome, helpful post. Thank you!! I’ve struggled with paring down the size of my wardrobe for literally ages, and your tips are really comprehensive. Where I get tripped up most is in keeping things for “just in case”, and not being able to part with multiples. I so admire your ability and advice to choose the BEST in each category, and just let all the others go. I wouldn’t say I’m a hoarder, but I sometimes feel like there’s something wrong with me that I have to keep so much stuff that I just don’t wear (i.e., there’s this one really pretty deep lilac colored cardigan I have that looks great on me but I just never seem to put it on for some reason, yet I can’t bring myself to part with it.) I think your idea of putting things away in a bag somewhere else is a good one which I’m going to try, but I would have to jettison the bag after several months WITHOUT looking inside, otherwise I know that I would just go through it and talk myself into keeping most of it.
      I think I also put too much sentimental value on things like concert t-shirts and old cozy pajamas. Whatever, I’m going to keep trying. Thanks for the inspiration!, and have a wonderful rest of the week.

      1. Holly,
        I think the maybes are really hard when they fit and look good. Why is it that you don’t wear the cardigan?

        Every now and then I do pull things out of my trial purge box right as I’m about to let them go, but I’ve found that the more empty my closet it, the more empty I want it!

        I appreciate your kind words. Keep me posted,

    1. Your blog has helped me SO much over the past year. I was a shopaholic (seriously), and I’ve learned to really think about what I’m adding to my wardrobe and what it’s time to part ways with. Thank you for another super helpful post!

      1. Kristen,
        Recovering shopaholic here too. It was literally my only hobby – bargain shopping. It feels so good to be able to pass things up and realize that the ‘shoppers high’ wears off quickly and isn’t worth it in the long run.

        Thank you for taking the time to comment and read along,

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