Three Easy Steps to Clean Out Your Closet and Define Your Style
October 23, 2015 | Kathryn Kellogg
Last Updated on April 2, 2020
I wore one shirt for seven days in a row, and guess what?
No one noticed.
Really, I mean no one even cared. Which is amazing; because, my whole life I’ve been led to believe wearing the same thing in the same week was taboo. And, heaven forbid you wear the same dress to two different events.
These are all messages the fashion industry has bombarded us with. They want you to feel as though your outfit is outdated the moment after you wear it.
Fast fashion has fed us so many lies. They have pioneered 52 “micro-seasons” to constantly pump out new inventory; so, we’re constantly looking for the newest hottest trend.
Places like Forever 21 and H&M receive new items anywhere from every day to twice a week. If you haven’t watched the documentary the True Cost, I highly recommend it.
It really highlights the unethical practice of fast fashion and how it’s damaging the planet. It is the most polluted industry next to the meat industry.
And, most of the clothes we wear are plastic, and when they’re washed tiny plastic particles the size of micro-plankton migrate into the water system and into the ocean where fish gobble them up. Then you get the pleasure of feasting upon them at your next seafood dinner.
In the 1940’s the average woman had 9 outfits. In the 60’s people on average attained 10 pieces of new clothing a year. Now, each person receives roughly 70 new garments a year!
Our closets are packed and yet we still face the dilemma of nothing to wear. It’s all shoddily made garbage that never quite fits or looks right.
So, what can we do about this? How do we tame our abundance?
1. Define your style
Right now, I want you to picture your five favorite pieces of clothing. This can be anything from your brand-new pumps to the green crushed velvet dress your mom bought you for your second grade piano recital.
Put the timer on for 60 seconds and go.
1. Yellow Shirt Dress 2. Luggage Tan Loafers 3. Navy Blue Pleated Skirt 4. Silk Tunic 5. High Waisted Trouser Jeans
2. Now why did you like them? Do you have a pattern?
Most of my clothing is preppy and polished with an occasional edgy flare. It’s a little bit of 1950’s meets 1970’s.
I like things to be high waisted; because, I have the longest torso known to mankind and I like my legs to look longer. I have a large rear and a skinny waist, so I like my skirts and dresses to cinch in and breeze over my hips.
For the same reason I like tunics: they hit right below the widest parts of your thighs making you look slimmer.
This is my pattern, and how I base my wardrobe. Now that you know your parameters, this will help you when shopping or cleaning out.
Ask yourself: DOES THIS FIT MY CORE STYLE? This will help eliminate unnecessary purchases and keep your wardrobe from overflowing.
3. Separate into two piles.
Pull everything out of your closet, drawers, coat closets, dryer, everywhere and anywhere. Dump it all on the floor. ALL. OF. IT!
Pick up each piece and ask yourself, “Do I love it?” If you’re on the fence, “Does this fit my core style?” If you’re still on the fence put it in a box to be placed out of sight.
If you don’t think about it in a week or two, donate it. Everything else should be separated into two piles. I love it or donate it.
You should, now, be left with pieces that
make you feel genuinely happy.
I have done this three times, and I’m finally starting to feel like my closet is really coming together.
Here’s my Capsule Wardrobe for Fall and Winter. My Yellow dress is not weather appropriate for the coming season so it is missing, but you will find it in my spring and summer capsule for sure.
I’m not entirely sure a capsule wardrobe is for me. There are three shirts I LOVE, but are in drawer out of sight because they don’t fit into this desired scheme.
I may be a rebel and break them out. I feel like a capsule is slightly inhibiting, and the whole point of this is to be left with clothes you love.
After the next six months, we’ll see how I feel. Have you tried a capsule? Did it work for you?
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I really need to work on #3. My closet is overdue for a cleaning!
You feel so liberated once you do it. I’ve found it’s becoming almost addicting to purge. It’s great though. You’ll really find the core of what you love! And that’s what it’s all about. Living with what you love, what you need, and nothing more.
Your capsule wardrobe is great! I’ve found that it really helps to ask myself, "What will I wear this with?" before I buy something. If I have to buy new shoes and a jacket just to wear this dress I want, it’s probably not meant to be!
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However, when you have a problem, and I had a problem, you’ll find that you always have stuff to wear with everything. So, I kept accumulating. I had over 200 dresses at one point and that doesn’t include the 60+ semi and formals I had. I went to a lot of events, but not enough to justify that. I had to have a new dress for each event; because, you know. Photographers of the society page might catch me in the same thing twice.
The word capsule doesn’t work for me (I just don’t like it). I’ve separated my wardrobe into fall/winter, and spring/summer. The opposite season lives in my suitcase until it’s time. My spring/summer focuses on navy blue and white, and my fall/winter focuses on black, turquoise, and pink. I like this right now. My entire wardrobe doesn’t fit in a suitcase, but the clothes for the season (barely) do. I have some items to add and replace, and some to donate, but this system is good for me right now. I like putting the clothes away and having a new wardrobe in six months. I don’t see them in between, and so I get excited to wear them when I open the suitcase.
When I’m not sure about something, I either keep wearing it so I can gauge how I feel in it, or I hide it in a random spot. When I’m ready, it can be donated. Specified time lengths don’t work for me. I need to be ready to let it go. Sometimes, giving it to a charity (domestic violence shelter) helps me let it go because those women need it WAY more than I do.
I started working on a wardrobe at the beginning of summer. I was going to have four – one for each season – but I also pared down to two since I am in a cold climate and we really only have two seasons 🙂 I also chose blue and white for summer (so easy and classic). My fall and winter will be black, white, grey and creams. I pretty much have five work outfits that can be mixed and matched. It is so easy to get ready in morning and laundry has become much easier as well!
I love your color combos! Both are so classy. Sometimes I feel it’d be easier to have work clothes and not-work clothes. But, our office is casual enough to not wear suits, but not casual enough for t-shirts. So, everything is a tiny in between. I’m sure I’ll nail it with a little more practice.
Yes! Navy blue and white is my favorite color combo! I choose that for napkins with bright orange ones for accent which is my favorite color. Donating it to someone who needs it makes it much easier. I’d been driving around with some "maybe’s" in my trunk. At work someone from a local charity was in, and we do work for them all the time. They were saying how badly they needed clothes from my age range. At that moment I was completely ready to let the box go.
This is a smart idea. I feel like my style has come a long way in the last couple of years and I find myself wanting to purge and redefine. I’m definitely one of those people who gets nostalgic over clothes though and I definitely have to cut that out. I have things in my closet I haven’t worn in YEARS, yet they stay there. What a waste!
Ah! Yes the struggle of the sentimental minimalist. I have been there. Here’s the trick. You need to honor the piece before you let it go. I know it sounds strange. But, thank it for it’s time, thank it for your memories. You’ll feel so much better saying goodbye.
I really need to go through my clothes and get rid of some! My drawers don’t close!
Oh no! Haha, your room will feel happier and you’ll feel so much happier once your drawers close.
Love this post! I think it’s so important to define your style. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought something just because it was "on trend," but it didn’t really fit my style at all. They always end up lonely in my closet and getting thrown out eventually. Defining your style helps you make the decision if something is right for you before you bring it home. Thanks for sharing your tips!
Yes! Or I’m out shopping with friends, and they say, "Oh, that looks so cute!" So, you buy it, wear it once, and you never wear it again.
I’m with you on this! A few years ago I started transitioning from disposable clothing to high quality and have a more defined style and not spend so much each season.
It sounds like your wardrobe is beautiful and refined! You reminded me, I left our the most important part. In the future to look for sustainable brands or clothing that will last.
I love this post, Kayhryn! I recently minimized my closet (again, but for the last time)! I cut it down to 111 items grouped into 11 groups of 10+ one extra pair of shabby sneakers just in case :-). Your post makes me want to photograph all my clothes and lay them out like you did. I did not separate by seasons, but the 111 items are for the whole year, all occasions, head to toe. I like how you have the capsules for each season though. The current one looks great! Fun project and fun post!
Thank you so much! And – Wow! Awesome job! My goal is to get down to a 75 piece year round wardrobe. Most of my clothes are 8+ years old. Once they start to fade, I’m sure I’ll have no problem. But, for now – too many sentimental pieces I love. Haha. One day. One day.
I’ve been trying to do this for so long, but I always fail at parting with clothes that remind me of someone or something.. I never wear them (they don’t fit or they don’t look good anymore) but don’t want to give them away 🙁
Yes! I have always struggled with this too! What helped me was to thank them. Marie Kondo talks about it in her book. But, telling them thank you and kind of throwing them a going away party. I know that sounds silly, but that’s what helped me let go.
I am in the process of this too, trying to donate items or selling it on eBay/Depop. It is so difficult for someone who loves fashion – but hates the idea of ‘fast fashion.’
I have always been conscious of wardrobe staples and basics to stock up on and invest in, but sorting out a wardrobe which includes my teenage self’s ‘fast fashion’ addiction is difficult.
I am veering towards a rather monochromatic wardrobe at the moment, making it easier to sort out clothes to keep! But I agree – sorting out clothes a few times may be required before I can fully consider it my personal capsule wardrobe.
I fully understand everything you just said. You just iterated my life. Lol. I never wore a lot of black until recently – and I am loving it. Who knew!? Monochrome 100%
I love this post! Such great tips to build a more sustainable closet which, surprisingly to many, will usually result in a more refined and satisfactory personal style!
I’ve tried creating capsule collections but i’ve found they don’t really work for me. Just like you, i had pieces from the summer side of the closet that i was missing.
Declutering definitely gets better with time. The biggest problem i have right now is that i have a bunch of bags full with clothes that i’ve posted online to sell. But they’ve been lying around for a few months. I just haven’t managed to decide to just give them away for free yet…
I’m too impatient to sell anything. I find giving it away is more gratifying and easier. I like to hook up with an actual charity rather than just donating to goodwill. They are always looking for young adult clothes. I have been so immensely blessed, and I like to give back where I can. Donating clothes, for me, is a great way. You might want to take some of them to a consignment shop? I’m much more likely to buy if I can try them on. You could still make commission off of the clothes, and you’d have less work to do!