Minimalist Wardrobe: Closet Purge Tips

Minimalist Wardrobe: Closet Purge TipsI have always had the tendency to collect things; knickknacks, buttons, clothes. If it was interesting, bizarre, slightly cute… I had to keep it. And when it came to clothes, I loved having options. A lot of options. Being an avid thrifter made it easy to accumulate an excessive amount of things.

A couple years ago I picked up a pair of new sandals at a rummage sale for $1. They were cute and fit well, I tossed them in my closet with my ever-growing strappy sandal collection. At the beginning of last summer, I found them amongst the clutter and started wearing them. One day towards the end of the summer, I looked down at my bare feet and saw the outline of the sandal that the sun had etched into my skin. Those were the only sandals I had worn all summer. Every day. Why do I have a pile of sandals in my closet that haven’t been used in the last 12 months. Or the last 3 years…

I started thinking seriously about what I have versus what I actually use. I thought about the pair of black booties that I wore every day last winter (and most of this winter as well) and the black jeans I bought last year that I’ve worn at least 50% of the days since I bought them. Seriously. So why is my closet full of so many things? Things I don’t wear. Things I don’t like.
Minimalist Wardrobe: Closet Purge Tips Every morning I was standing in front of a jam-packed closet every day crying that I didn’t have anything to wear. All to end up wearing one of the same outfits I always wear. So I started, slowly, to clear things out. I would go through everything and get rid of anything I could bear to part with. And then a week or month later, I would do the same. And I’m continuing to. There were times when I would get rid of 15 garbage bags and times when there would only be 1 or 2 bags. And now I walk into my clean, organized closet and I don’t miss the clothes at all. I can breathe. Mornings are easier because, although I don’t have as many options – they’re all options that I love. And I’ve come to terms with wearing the same outfit over and over when that means you get to wear only your favorite clothes. Especially ones you look dang fine in. 😉

A lot of people have been working with capsule wardrobes recently and I think it’s a great model to get you inspired. I’m not sure I could commit to such a small number and I’m sure everyone has a different number that will work perfect for them. So I’m just going to share what has worked for me so far.
Minimalist Wardrobe: Closet Purge Tips A few tips/thoughts to help you through the closet purge:

ONE. Take everything out of your closet and dressers. Everything.

TWO. Go through every single piece and ask yourself these questions:
Is it in good condition?
Have I worn it in the last 12 months?
Does it fit well?
Last, (and probably most important) do I love it? Does it make me feel great whenever I wear it?

THREE. Get some big boxes or bags.
Anything that didn’t have a yes answer to all of the previous questions must be separated into one of these categories…
Trash. Stained shirts, ripped pants, old undies… Just let go of them already, folks.
Donate. This pile should be the largest. Fill it and get them out of the house quickly.
Sell. For items that don’t make the cut when you ask the previous questions but they were expensive or you never got around to wearing it. Feel free to sell them, but make sure you sell them ASAP. And don’t try to sell everything – a lot of things just need to be donated.
Undecided. If you can’t decide on some items, try putting them in a box away in the garage or attic. Anything that you haven’t pulled out to wear in three months, (keeping seasons in mind, of course) donate it!
Save. It’s okay to save a few sentimental things. But only a few. Your kids probably won’t want everything you own. (Or at least I keep trying to convince myself of that.) Is there a good story with the item… is it rare… keep it. Just limit yourself.

FOUR. Repeat. Each time the pile that you actually love should get smaller until you’re left with a collection that you truly love and makes you feel and look great!
Minimalist Wardrobe: Closet Purge Tips Once you’ve gone through a few cycles of this, you’ll realize the things that you really wear a lot and any key items you’re missing from your wardrobe. Now you can start thinking about adding a few pieces but keep these things in mind:

Only buy things that you LOVE. Don’t buy something you like. Buy things that you love and that love you back (i.e. make you look and feel good.) I go into Salvation Army often now, try on entire cart’s worth of clothing, and leave empty-handed. Whereas before I used to buy things because I knew it would fit me – but rarely did they end up fitting me well.
-Speaking of which, try everything on. Don’t go shopping if you aren’t willing to try things on at the store. It is a hassle, but it will save you time and money in the end.
Buy items that are versatile. I’m sure you can tell what your major color schemes are at this point – buy things that will work with a few different pieces you already have in your wardrobe.
Replace items. Yes, at the beginning you might need to keep a few things you don’t love but you do need. Occasionally I need plain white tee and I had one that fit a bit awkwardly so I didn’t wear it too often but  I let it stay until I found a perfect white tee a few months later and I ditched the old one. Same with a black and white striped shirt. When you find a version that fits you better, replace your old one. A good way to do this is to limit the number of hangers you have in your closet and then stick with that amount – when something new comes in, something old goes out.
Invest in quality. I’m slowly learning this because I’m a cheapskate at heart. But I’m realizing that it’s better to buy one pair of amazing fitting jeans for a higher price than to go through 10 pairs of $5 Salvation Army jeans that never fit just right.Minimalist Wardrobe: Closet Purge TipsWhat are your thoughts on a minimal wardrobe? Does your closet need a serious clean out?

xo. Caitlin

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  • Monday, March 2, 2015 - 11:48 am

    Clara - I really need to do this!! so I shouldn’t ask, but i’ll do anyway… where are theses booties and that watch from? They are so lovely!ReplyCancel

    • Monday, March 2, 2015 - 1:06 pm

      Caitlin McGrath - I got the booties on sale at Target last month for $8 and the watch is from Fossil.ReplyCancel

      • Sunday, March 22, 2015 - 12:51 am

        Elaina - i just cleaned out my shoes today and i still have about 25 pairs including sneakers and slippers- not great but down from over 100. It is a work in process. I love those boots of yours there though. Great find at 8 dollarsReplyCancel

  • Monday, March 2, 2015 - 12:31 pm

    veraisworking - Oh, lovely post. I did a wardrobe clean out a few months ago but it is now looking again as messy as often. Thanks so much for all those thoughts and tips you have just given, you reminded that having a clean wardrobe is much better and I should get hand on as soon as possible! Have a wonderful week,
    Vera

    http://theflashwindow.weebly.comReplyCancel

  • Monday, March 2, 2015 - 1:47 pm

    gemma - I really recognize myself in this story… I think it’s a great idea to do it a few times over. I donated a big pile of clothing a while ago, and maybe I should go through it again.ReplyCancel

  • Monday, March 2, 2015 - 3:04 pm

    dianna - Yes, a thousand times YES! I did this recently and couldn’t be happier. It began with the want/need to minimize. Opening the closet and seeing a ton of things I don’t wear. Also playing a roll was the simple fact that my style has changed a bit. I had to just take the plunge, empty everything and I kid you not, I put back less than half of what I started with. It DOES require a shopping trip, but in a good way. Just need to replace some basics!ReplyCancel

  • Monday, March 2, 2015 - 4:42 pm

    Kaylin - AMEN! I fully approve of this post! I used to stock up on “meh” clothing because I thought quantity over quality was the way to go verses the other way round. Oh silly me. It’s nice being on the other side of that and having a smaller, yet cooler closetReplyCancel

  • Monday, March 2, 2015 - 5:24 pm

    Jessica - I love this. I really need to do the same thing. I love that light grey sweater, is it new?ReplyCancel

    • Monday, March 2, 2015 - 8:34 pm

      Caitlin McGrath - It’s actually a thrift find. Definitely one of my favorites though!ReplyCancel

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 12:44 pm

    kittenhood - Getting rid of stuff is so hard, because I’m also the type that gets sentimental about stuff. Won’t my kids be sad I gave away this perfectly cute dress? I try to throw out some things every season, when I take everything out from my closet and find lots of things I had forgotten about.ReplyCancel

  • Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 2:37 pm

    Natasha - This is exactly what I have been going through! I’m taking it slowly to make sure I don’t regret anything and to make sure what I wear. I pack away my out of season clothes twice a year and every time I do that I have been getting rid of so many things. Last time I gave a lot of things one more chance, but I haven’t worn most of those things so they’re going out with the next batch. I also started watching minimalist videos in Youtube while I fold laundry and it’s really inspirational and not as extreme as the idea I had of minimalism.ReplyCancel

  • Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 11:17 am

    wildheart collective (@wildheart_co) - These are great tips! Really got me thinking about my closet and the serious need to toss about half of it. It really is so funny the amount of stuff we collect, but only wear maybe once a year.

    xo, wild heartReplyCancel

  • Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 6:55 pm

    Cari - This is great; I actually did this today, and I’ve really trimmed down on my wardrobe! Thank you for great tips & guidelines!ReplyCancel

  • Friday, March 6, 2015 - 5:52 pm

    Andrea Hunter - I love your minimalist style. I started reading about capsule wardrobes in the fall and it really helped with decluttering my closet and winter shopping. Time to think about it again…spring is just around the corner, right? 😉ReplyCancel

  • Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 4:19 pm

    lizbethjoy - great advice! I never throw away old panties but I need too! I am sure I still have some from high school that I never wear. Time to throw those old ones away!ReplyCancel

  • Thursday, July 2, 2015 - 4:24 am

    Valentina - Thank you so much! I’m just starting to re-build my wardrobe after pregnancy and your advice here really keeps me going…ReplyCancel

  • Friday, October 2, 2015 - 5:13 pm

    Julie Smith - I finally found my true style so I have to revamp my wardrobe so bad! Thank you for the post xx

    Julie
    http://www.theladyfairer.blogspot.comReplyCancel

  • Monday, October 12, 2015 - 6:17 am

    Diane Marie - FIFTEEN garbage bags?! Man, you had a lot of clothes to start with. Thanks for the post – has made me decide to re-assess the outfits I go back to again and again just to check the color and style to figure out what it is about them I love – and maybe see if I can find more of the same to pad out the “missing links” in my closet.ReplyCancel

  • Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 11:16 am

    Marissa - What a great post. I am working toward a minimalist wardrobe for myself and with many of my clients. It’s a process, but creates so much space in your life!ReplyCancel

  • Wednesday, January 13, 2016 - 10:02 pm

    Angel marquez - Wow i really love this article i learned a lot! Thanks so much!ReplyCancel

  • Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 5:49 pm

    Rebecca - I am a big time saver of clothes. There are things in my closet I haven’t worn in years, most of them for the fact that I tell myself “one day you’ll fit into them and you’ll be so glad you kept them around”! I’m even guilty of buying things that are too small for me because I love them and I think it’ll motivate me to lose weight to be able to wear them. But truthfully, it’s doing more harm than good, like a promise I keep breaking to myself.. Don’t I know that if I lost the amount of weight I wanted to, I’d want a whole new wardrobe anyways?! Its like I make myself believe I’ll never buy clothes again if I lose weight.. Well, looks like I’ve stared the demon in the face.. Time to purge..ReplyCancel

    • Thursday, January 21, 2016 - 10:37 am

      Caitlin McGrath - Yes! It’s so hard to convince myself that I won’t need all of these things but a week after they’re all out of the house, I feel so much more free!ReplyCancel

  • Tuesday, January 26, 2016 - 6:25 am

    Meg - So with you on this! I donated 3/4s of my wardrobe and I am so glad I did. Although there are still a couple of bits I need to actually sell.ReplyCancel

  • Thursday, January 28, 2016 - 9:19 am

    Amanda Wines - Love these tips except for the tossing in the bin part. We as Americans toss over 65 pounds of clothing per person each year. Cut it into rags and you can even make crafts like necklaces from used shirts! Love the booties btw! 😊ReplyCancel

  • Sunday, February 7, 2016 - 9:59 am

    Adrianna - Hi Caitlin!

    Sorry that I’m posting this so late, but your article just recently popped up on my Pinterest feed and I’ve been thinking about starting my capsule wardrobe. I have a lot of my essentials here with me at college so I already know what I wear and don’t wear, and what my style is.

    I was wondering, where do you buy your clothes, especially the gray sweaters that you have pictured here on the post? My style is a range of mostly neutrals and black, whites, grays, and I usually add a pop of color using my accessories (a colorful scarf or bag or a pair of shoes, sometimes), and I really like those sweaters you have folded in the photos.

    Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Monday, February 8, 2016 - 4:56 pm

      Caitlin McGrath - Thank you so much! Some of my favorite tops I have are from Everlane – I like their Cotton V and the Ryan Long Sleeve. These high-rise black skinnies have been my go-to this winter. I also have had a lot of luck finding affordable tops and sweaters at Old Navy and Forever 21. But really, most of what I own are things I’ve found from spending hours at Salvation Army searching the racks for good quality, minimal clothing – like both sweaters in the post!ReplyCancel

  • Monday, February 8, 2016 - 4:25 pm

    Stephanie Tanner - Thanks so much for your post! I really enjoyed it an it gave me a lot of great ideas! I am just starting out my own business and blog and one of my focuses is on living simply. Thanks again!ReplyCancel

  • Thursday, March 3, 2016 - 2:05 pm

    Annalise - can you tell me what brand those black booties are? I have been searching for a pair just like that!

    p.s. I love you post!ReplyCancel

    • Monday, March 7, 2016 - 11:12 am

      Caitlin McGrath - Thank you! I got them from Target a few years ago!ReplyCancel

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