August 14, 2012

This weekend, I started to tackle one of the biggest items on my 30 before 30 list, #12. Cleaning out my closet keeps falling to the bottom of my to-do list, not just because it's a huge undertaking but also because of the emotional battle I knew it would be.

For the last three years, I've struggled with my weight and ballooned and decreased in size on and off due to Celiac disease. I have finally hit my stride in the last year to where I've lost quite a bit of weight, kept it off, with only 30 or so pounds to go to be at my ideal weight. That said, the clothes in my closet harbor a lot of feelings. Things I wore when I was big and not feeling like myself. Things I bought hoping to make myself feel better that still have tags attached and were never worn. Things that I spent too much money on, looking for some sort of version of myself to present to others.

Quite honestly, I bought things that at the time I couldn't afford. But I thought, if the first impression of people is that I'm overweight but that I own nice things and have great taste, maybe they would think more highly of me than I felt about myself.

This is a dangerous trap.

It took me reading "Live More, Want Less" to make the connection between my emotions and my buying habits. Then it took a re-read to actually stop purchasing. Even three months ago, I couldn't really open my closet without feeling some sort of guilt, seeing things unworn or that didn't suit me.

I decided before my 30th birthday that this would change. My goal is to go into that year as certain of myself as ever. I've quit purchasing cheap, throwaway fashion and now try to only purchase things I really need, or that are pieces that will last me several years. And I'm trying not to buy too much at all, knowing that losing the last bit of weight is my final goal.

Since cleaning out your closets can be incredibly hard if you don't know where to start, I used the following strategy. Keep reading for tips.

Do not start this project on a weeknight at 6:00 PM thinking you can finish. You won't. I started this on a Friday night and finished late on a Sunday evening. Some good advice:

- Make sure you're well rested. You'll need the energy!

- Eat a proper breakfast. No one makes sane decisions when hungry.

- Shower, fix your hair, and put on a bit of makeup. You want to look like your usual self when you're trying on items from your closet.

Are you ready? Here we go!

[ 1 ] Pull everything out.
Yes, everything. Every single thing in your closet needs to be scrutinized. I mean from your scarves, jewelry, workout clothes, tights to workout gear. If it's in your closet, it deserves to be examined. Lay everything out on your bed in will make sorting easier. Tops on one side, pants on another, skirts in another corner, jewelry in the center. You get the idea.

[ 2 ] Create bins for sell, donate, alter and a safe pile for things you plan on keeping.
You'll use these as you sort through your items and will appreciate making sure you don't toss something that you wanted to keep. I like to use separate color labels or bins so I keep this straight.

[ 3 ] Do a quick scan to look for things you haven't worn in 6 months.
These are the first things you should examine. If you haven't worn it in that amount of time, chances are you either don't need it, it doesn't fit, or it was never right for you in the first place. Put these in a separate stack.

[ 4 ] Try on those items first.
It's worth a quick look to see if any of these items you've pulled aside could be altered for a better look, or mixed in to new season's trends. If the alteration is going to be more expensive than the item cost, toss it aside. You should only spend money on altering pieces that are not replaceable for the cost of the alteration.

[ 5 ] Start with pants.
Why pants? I think they're the thing that most of us hold on to, hoping they'll fit. It's easy to make a lot of progress in a fast amount of time when you start with pants, in my opinion. Be ruthless. If you're thinking you might lose weight to fit into those too-tight jeans, ask yourself if by the time you lose the weight will they still be in style? Or would you just rather celebrate the weight loss by purchasing yourself a fun new pair? In most cases, they should go.

[ 6 ] Continue with the rest of the clothing items.
Ask yourself the following as you make your way through the items, trying them all on:

Do I really like this? Is it my style?

Most of us tend to hold on to things long after a trend has passed, and if it's not your taste or style anymore, sell or donate it.

Does it fit? If not can it be altered?

If it's too big, consider taking it in if the cost of the alteration makes sense for the item. If it's too small, see number five. Will you really want this if you lose five pounds?

What can I wear this with in my closet? Where will I wear it?

Very rarely does it make sense to own things that only go with one other thing in your closet. The exception? Party clothes like cocktail dresses. I try to make sure that each item I own can be mixed with at least five other items to create several outfits. A highly versatile closet is your best friend, and you'll always have something to wear if you stick to this strategy.

This is also a good time to ask yourself where you will wear these items. If you own something that's only appropriate for tea with the Queen, or spring break in Mexico, is it worth keeping? Will it still be in style when that occasion rolls around? Use your best judgement, as you likely already know the answer.

[ 7 ] Do not, do not, do not think about the money you've spent on these items.
This was a very hard part to conquer for me. Obviously, I spent money on things that I didn't need or that didn't suit me. It's over and done with, and you can't do anything about it. Do not tie an emotional dollar to your items. If you do, you will hang on to unnecessary things, and you're missing the point of the purge.

[ 8 ] When you're finished, take the donate things away immediately.
Out of sight, out of mind. If you leave these things hanging around too long, you'll second guess your decisions and start going through them. If you can't take them away, put them in a dark box or bag and place them in your trunk until you can get to the donation center.

[ 9 ] Address items you plan to sell.
This weekend, I experimented with using Poshmark. It's an iPhone app that allows you to take photos of your items, list them, and put them up for sale. So far, I've had very good luck. Within a couple of hours of listing items, I had already sold five of them. Price your items competitively and be willing to negotiate. If you're planning on getting rid of the item, selling it for $25 when you wanted $30 still makes sense. Think of all of the things you could do with that money once it's in your bank account! If you're interested in shopping my closet (or just taking a peek) browse what I have listed.

[ Also, if you want to download the app, enter the following code at sign up: HPECX and you'll get a $5 credit to use towards shopping on the app. Disclosure, I will get one too, but's free money! Why not try it out? ]

[ 10 ] Put things back in your closet in a way that makes sense.
Check back Thursday for part two of the "Conquer Your Closet" series for my tips on organizing your closet.

Have you ever been caught in the trap of emotional buying? What are your best closet cleaning tips?



  1. Thanks so much for this post! I found your blog through one of your "travel in a carry-on" posts and couldn't stop reading. I've been in need of a good closet purge for a LONG time and this post finally got me to do it! The stuff I was most resistant to (actually taking my ENTIRE wardrobe out? you must be joking!) was the stuff that helped the most.

    I also wanted to say thanks for the tip about Poshmark -- I just signed up with your referral code and started following you :) I'm readingredhead.

  2. Thanks Alison! I love that book, I go back and reread it once a year to get my focus back.

  3. I am so glad you found the post helpful!! I hope you love Poshmark - thanks for letting me know your username so I can follow you back!

  4. I love that I found your blog through Poshmark. I just started using this app this week and its marvelous. I love how I found this post right when I needed it. i too am in the middle of purging my closet. I have also been a yoyo for a while now, up and down. I made the decision to stop punishing myself by buying things in hopes of one day them fitting me. Its so emotional! Well anyway your blog is amazing! Thank you for helping us all with your tip on simplifying my closet. My username on PoshMark is @hzlnebula . Thanks again @Lauren | Seventeenth & Irving


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