How To Know When To Say Goodbye: Closet Clean-Out

Closet Clean-Out

Moving house is the ideal time to learn to say good-bye. Who wants to sweat and/or pay movers to carry unwanted stuff to your new, freshly emptied out house? If only saying goodbye were easier though . . . .

Here are some closet editing strategies I’ve been using, and that might help you in your next closet clean-out. And please share your own in the comments:

1. Hold your clothing, piece by piece, in strong light, and with your glasses on. Here’s where you’ll find pilling, small holes, or fading that makes the piece less-than-wonderful. I only want to wearing wonderful things, don’t you?


Some pilling can be remedied – good article here.


2. Imagine your style going forward without the piece in question. What if I didn’t own this like-it-but-don’t-love it denim skirt? What would I wear instead? And maybe I need to shop for a just-right denim skirt that I’m excited to wear. Life is short, wear the best clothes.


Loving this sailor-style denim pencil skirt.


3. Ask a trusted friend. I made a pile of not-sure pieces to review with my baby sister. Tees, skirts, and dresses I have worn but not felt great in. Coincidentally(?) my sister is close to my size, so some pieces went happily home with her, and others got donated after an objective critique. Kristie noted that too many of my tops were boxy and oversized, and she was right.

4. I keep these hand-lettered quotes in my closet: “This is not enhancing me as much as it could,” and “This can be easily replaced.” Most clothing is not valuable (exceptions apply, see below) and can be replaced with just a little time and money. The mountain of donated clothing at the thrift where I volunteer reinforces this idea: there are plenty of clothes in the world!


I would absolutely be keeping this vintage Valentino dress if I owned it, which I so do not. Source.


5. Imagine someone else loving it and wearing it with joy. When I saw one of my striped tees on my sister, I thought “She looks so cute wearing that!” and when I wore it, I felt just OK. Maybe your clothes need to find new masters, for the greater joy of everyone.

I still have tons of clothes – over 100 pieces total, not counting underthings and shoes – so I won’t be racing around in my yoga capris every day. How do you make your closet clean-out decisions?

Stay fabulous,


Some pieces are always welcome:

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  1. Fall is around the corner, but for us Florida residents, it’s spring/summer most of the year! However, I try my clothes on usually every month or so and if I feel less than 100% wonderful and in love with them, out they go! Right now there are to many jackets, yes I said jackets, I know I said I live in Florida…..I have a jacket fetish….I need to pair those down this fall/winter and I will, and my sister and nieces love their “Jill Me Downs”.

  2. I regularly clear things out, I have to keep ejecting things to make room for my latest finds! Tastes change, so for me it’s not just about ejecting the worn-out things, but about getting rid of things that don’t fit my lifestyle or personality anymore. And things have to make you FEEL amazing, you’re quite right that life is too short to wear rubbish things. Great tips x

  3. I feel like I have an ongoing closet cleanout going on – I regularly purge things and donate to charities or friends, and then I sold some stuff in a yard sale last month. I try to keep only the things I really love but some vintage pieces end up hanging around longer than they should because I hope to get some $ for them. I just need a larger closet, which would solve everything because then I wouldn’t have to look at my stuff all the time!

  4. I hope your move is going smoothly. Thanks for sharing your closet editing tips. I have been clearing out my closet, too, and especially like the idea of letting things go to find someone who will love them more!

  5. Great advice, Patti! I do this quite regularly as I’ve got a naughty habit of borrowing stuff from the stock room, forgetting to put it back and ending up with 5 dresses on each coat hanger.
    Hope the move’s going well! x

    • If I had your career, Vix, my closets would have to be like ballrooms! You have great discipline. xox

  6. I actually have a sweater shaver. Somebody gave me one as a joke, and I tried it and was amazed. Eventually, the yarn is all shaved away, but nothing is forever. And a pilled sweater would have bitten the dust much sooner.
    I did a closet clean for a friend. She had been hired as an attorney at a big big law firm and needed to look the part. I nixed pieces that had little stains or other flaws. She was devastated. “I love that one!” But it didn’t work for her job. I did convince her to dress up more for going shopping and such–and to wear the gently flawed clothes then.

  7. Another sweater check for both at home and thrifting — hold it up TO a light. Tiny holes may not show up until you’re looking THROUGH the garment. (I have a 90’s Romeo Gigli sweater with ginormous moth holes that I refuse to trash. Somehow, I will repair it.)

    Closet cleanout? Hahahaha. I guess that’s the function of Repair Mountain.
    Does it count that I culled things from my book shelves this weekend?

    One comment about your Valentino wish. The placement of the center of the flower is a bit awkward. IMHO. 😉

    • LOL – I did not notice the placement of the flower. Everyone, look here!! I def think bookshelves count as editing. xo

  8. I try and do a huge closet clean out twice a year. if I kept something thinking I’d wear in in the spring, and its now fall, and the item hasn’t been worn, out it goes. Other times, I simply get tired of things if I’ve had them for a while.

    I also try and rid my closet of stuff I have too much of. I have a “thing” for striped tees and tops. So if I find I have 8 black and white striped tops, i’ll keep maybe the 5 i really like and wear, and get rid of the other 3.

    And sometimes I just get bitten by the decluttering bug, and do a major clean out and purge. And very rarely do I regret anything I’ve gotten rid of. Only a few times.

    • Sounds like a good, sound method, Liz! I too have had few regrets about donating items. xo

      • I put things in the giveaway bag, but don’t giveaway immediately. Now and then I will go back and dig something out. For the most part once it’s gotten as far as the giveaway bag it’s out.

        I do try to keep tabs on what I’m giving away. If I’ve worn something a lot in the past but it’s fallen out of favor I giveaway without any regret, it’s things that never made it into a steady rotation that I try to think about.

        Shoes are my big inefficiency. I try to buy shoes I think will be comfortable but so many of them that seem OK in the store fail me over the longer walk.

        • yes – shoes are getting more challenging! When I find a brand that works I will often re-buy. xo

          • Me too! my friends laugh at me, but if they are comfy AND stylish, I’m buying every color i can.

        • I will admit to having done this as well; my donate bags tend to sit, and every now and again I’ll pull something out after having second thoughts. But i’d say 95% of what goes in gets donated, or as I’ve done for the last year, gets sold online. I’ve done pretty well just selling my own stuff, and thanks to Patti, checked out and just bought a bunch of NWT nice items for next to nothing, and am going to try and sell those and make some $$.

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