Wardrobe strategies: the psychology of a wardrobe cleanout

Every woman regularly faces having to clean out their wardrobes - sooner or later, for one reason or another, everyone runs out of space :) And even women who genuinely do not have a tendency to hoard tend to find this a hard task. Not only because it takes time, energy and rather a lot of thinking, but also because the decisions on what to get rid of can be very difficult to make, both emotionally and rationally.


Essentially, all we should be doing is weeding out the items that we do not wear. So why is it that we struggle with getting rid of these? It is very useful to think this through as there are many recurring reasons and underlying motives, several of which pinpoint immediately that the piece in question should not be retained.

We don't like to see money we spent going to waste. Especially if the item was expensive [money], or we wore it just once in five years [guilt].

We don't like to let go of memories. That dress you wore for that party 15 years ago that made everyone fall in love with you [ego]? Or that jumper your dear old grannie had knitted you [guilt]?

We don't like to let go of illusions.

Often, we like the idea of certain items more than the items themselves.

Items that are super cool - just not on us: we all have these, may they be leather trousers or oversize blazers, that we just cannot pull off and are unlikely to ever be able to [ego].

Items that don't quite fit or flatter, and likely never will, however much we would like them to: that pencil skirt that would look so good if only it was not too tight every single time you try it on [delusion]; or that dress that clings to even the most expensive pair of tights, whatever youtube hack you try [refusal to accept defeat].

Items that are for an imaginary lifestyle: yes I mean you, glittery heels and all-white suits, or any other items wildly unsuitable for your lifestyle [delusion].

We don't like to let go of potential.

This is the typical 'I haven't been wearing it much but it could/will come in handy one day'. The question is, is this realistic?

First, it could be that the item actually falls into one of the previous three categories - consider this honestly.

If it doesn't, let's examine why we have not been wearing it. We have already established that the piece fits our current shape, looks good on us and suits our lifestyle - so what is wrong? The most frequent reasons tend to be:

Practical reasons, such as:

- The item is not comfortable to wear

- It is a hassle to clean [needs hand-washing; dry-cleaning; ironing, etc]

- It is a hassle to wear [a skirt that always rides up; an angora jumper that sheds fluff, etc]

Temporary reasons, such as: - We have nothing to go with it

- We used to wear it a lot and got tired of it; but may start wearing it again

- It is not often right for the weather where we currently live [but we may move]

False economy:

- It is too precious to wear frequently

Because we settled for good enough:

- It is OK but not perfect (in terms of colour, shape, quality) -- but is unique in our wardrobe so we want to keep it, just in case, until we find a better version of it

Because we are not sure if we like it:

- It is not quite 'us'

- We love some aspects of it [say, the cut] but not others [say, the colour or fabric]

Because we do not actually like it:

- We just don't enjoy wearing it

- We prefer to wear other, similar items


Now that are aware of the reasons we are reluctant to part with items, how do we move on - in a way that we not only don't end up with regrets but grow and learn from the experience?

Items you only keep for nostalgic reasons belong to a museum, not a wardrobe. Take a picture of them, if you want, or turn them into home decoration, but do not keep amongst your clothes.

Anything that is only in your wardrobe to feed your ego, guilt or delusion obviously has to go. You know full well that none of these are things to cultivate, end of. Keep this in mind when shopping too and do not let any of these talk you into buying something again - it will save you a lot of money and energy.

Anything that you do not like or enjoy wearing has no place in your wardrobe. Similarly, items that you cannot be bothered to wear are best to let go of. If you really liked them, you would make the effort to iron them or find a way to deal with the fluff they leave all over your coat [or any other disadvantage they may have].

Money is never a good enough reason to hang on to items you don't wear; in fact, the sooner they stop reminding you of the mistake you made buying them, the better.

To soothe the pain of parting with items that have been expensive, try ebaying as much as you can. You will make some money back, plus it will take so much time and energy that in the end you will be delighted to just take the leftovers to charity, regardless their original cost. [And hopefully you will think more carefully before future purchases.]

Consider if any of the items could be gifted to friends or relatives -- create joy. For the most painful-to-part-with items, make 'what goes around comes around' your mantra [perhaps a bit selfish, but it's the result that matters].

Items that you love the idea of but cannot quite make work for your style, body or lifestyle; or sort of like but not unconditionally - consider if getting them altered could save them. Set yourself a time frame for doing this [nothing too long: a month or two maximum; not a year]; if you haven't done anything within that timeframe, out they go, as clearly they are more hassle than gain. Before you get rid of them, you may want to make notes of what it was that you liked about them, and put these aspects on your shopping list [let's at least learn from them].

If you have clothes you don't wear because you like them too much and want to protect them - stop that pronto. If you love them, wear them. Life is too short for such silliness. [If you still don't wear them, consider that maybe you love the idea more than the items themselves? See the point on ego/delusion.]

Anything that you are not wearing right now but love and have legitimate reasons to think you will still wear in the future [they need shoes to go with, etc] - you need to try and find a way to put them back in rotation asap, and in the meantime, keep a constant eye on whether they continue to have potential as they can quickly go past their sell-by date.

Finally, putting some of the items you are not sure about into a temporary holding space is often a good idea [key note: away from your wardrobe, away from where you can see it - a closed drawer, a box under your bed etc]. More often than not, you forget them and will be able to easily part with them next time around. And if you do think of them, you can still dig them out. But careful - limit your temporary holding space to a drawer; you do not want to end up with two wardrobes : )