4 steps to completing the most satisfying closet purge ever

Even Carrie Bradshaw had to clean out her closet, and with summer upon us, it’s not too late to fit in one last spring clean. My closet was by no means ever as impressive as Carrie’s, but I did have an awful lot of clothing that never ended up getting worn. Enter: The purge. By now, you’ve probably heard about this trend of decluttering. Some people view it as minimalism, others as a type of cleansing. Whatever it is, it can seem overwhelming. But being overwhelmed by stuff is what got me curious about all of this in the first place.

As someone who just finished college and moved into her first apartment, I’m no stranger to lugging everything I own from one place to another. With every move, I would inevitably say the same thing: I just have so much stuff. After a while, it started to weigh on me. The idea of having things in my room that I never used made me feel guilty, like I was wasting money and space. I vowed to eliminate all unnecessary things from my life, leaving only high-quality basics that would last me a long time. Let’s just say…it’s a work in progress. For now we can start with the obvious: the closet.

When it comes to our yearly (or, um, every-couple-of-years) closet purge, we all run into that classic problem: pulling out something we never wear and convincing ourselves that we will. That never works, and it’s because we’re doing it backwards. In my experience, decluttering is less about getting rid of the things you don’t like, and more about isolating the things you do. With that in mind, here are four steps for a clutter-proof wardrobe:

Determine your “uniform.”

Think of that outfit you wear that makes you feel good. The one that makes you look in the mirror and smile. What about the outfit makes you so happy? Maybe it’s the material, or the patterns. Whatever it is, jot it down. That’s your “uniform.” That’s the look you want to base everything off of. For me, it was muted colors and simple styles.

Then, dive into your closet and pull out any item that fits under those categories.

Pick out your “exceptions.”

Obviously, if I stuck to my uniform, I’d have a pretty plain wardrobe of grays and blouses. You’re bound to own a few things that you really like that fall outside of your personal norm — and that’s okay! For me, this meant the occasional floral skirt and printed top. I pulled those out and added them to my “uniform” pile.

Hide the rest.

I mean it! Don’t look, don’t rummage. Hide it. You’re not throwing anything out. All your clothes are safe. They’re just hidden from view, preferably under your bed or in a hall closet. You don’t want to stumble across it.

Set a reminder for a few months later. You’ll see why.

After time, get somebody else to donate them. 

Time will pass, and one of two things will happen: One, you’ll realize…hey, I haven’t thought about those clothes in a while. You will have gotten ready every day and not missed the things you stowed out of sight, meaning they weren’t crucial to your wardrobe.

Or two, you’ll do what I did, which was realize a few weeks in that I didn’t have a cropped black sweater and I really needed it for a few outfits. In instances like this, it’s okay to realize you might have been too harsh with some things. Luckily, I went to my hidden pile, pulled out the sweater, and returned to my wardrobe.

Once time has passed and you haven’t dipped into that stash, it’s time to call up a friend or family member to get rid of it. It can’t be you, because once you look at the clothes you’ll start feeling the curiosity or sentimental feelings that stop you from being able to fully purge. Another person has no connection to these clothes, so they can easily donate them and nobody feels a thing.

And there you have it. Your wardrobe is slimmed, and also, better. With these steps you’ll get more use out of your clothing, and only wear the clothing that makes you happy. Your priority should always be how a piece of clothing makes you feel. Looking awesome is just an added bonus!

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