Spring Cleaning: Wardrobe Detox

Spring Cleaning: How to Detox your Wardrobe
Spring Cleaning: How to Detox your Wardrobe

Traditionally, spring cleaning was meant to rid a house of its wintery layer and prepare it for spring. I don't own a house, but I do own a closet, and the principle is the same: you can't put your new spring clothes into a jam-packed closet full of knits, tights and other cold-weather items, right?

Along with a seasonal turnover, now is a good time to do a general big edit and purge your closet of everything that's only wasting space. I have to confess, I love the editing process. I think my wardrobe should be a reflection of my style and my aesthetic judgment. Every item that I don't really like or that just doesn't look good on me, is tainting that reflection a little bit, and throwing it out feels like a detox.

Once you've detoxified your closet, you might be left with a lot less clothes, but at least they will be things you truly love and want to wear; and you can gradually add more of what you like. You will also have a much better picture of what you own and never feel like your closet is full but you still have nothing to wear. Psychologically, the satisfaction we get from getting rid of stuff makes total sense. Things in excess, even seemingly trivial ones like clothes, are burdensome and stress us out. This effect is amplified for people who are into fashion and see it as a means of self-expression: for us a closet filled with clothes that aren't our style is literally restraining our ability to express ourselves. So, less is more. Or more is more. It's fine if your closet is close to bursting, as long as everything in there reflects your style.

Wardrobe editing is an ongoing job. We all make some bad shopping choices from time to time,  items need to be replaced and our taste might evolve, so even if you have a perfect closet now you will have to edit it every few months to keep it free of style-toxins :)

Since I'm a bit of a wardrobe editing addict, I wanted to share my method with you in case you are looking for some tips. If you haven't done this in a while, I'd suggest reserving an afternoon to go through your entire closet, but once you do this regularly, about an hour every 3-4 months will be all you need. You can also split the detox into little increments and e.g. tackle your pants/skirts one day, tops the next and accessories another day.

Step 1

Clean up the area around your closet, because it will get messy and your clothes will probably touch the floor. Put on something that you can take off and put on quickly as you are about to try on lots of clothes.

Step 2

Get some trash bags, three storage bags/boxes and some post-its. Label the boxes with 'Give away/Sell', 'Maybe' and "Alter/Customise".

Step 3

Pick a category (like jeans or dresses) and put every item belonging to that category on the floor or on your bed. Now comes the fun part/hard part: examine every single item, perhaps try it on and then put it in one of these places:

  • Trash bags - Toss anything that is ripped or stained, super dirty or too worn to give to anyone.
  • Giveaway/Sell box - Collect anything that you never wear, doesn't fit or you just don't like anymore in this box. Be absolutely honest. If you haven't worn an item in the last year, you will probably never wear it again. If you have multiple very similar items, like five white tank tops, consider whether you need them all (at one point I owned 13 pairs of opaque black tights :)).
  • Maybe box- If an item fits and is in good condition, but you cannot decide whether you like it or not, put it in the 'Maybe' box. This category is like a trial separation. You can put the box under your bed for a while and see whether you really miss an item in there. Chances are you will forget about them and you can throw them out or give them away after a few months.
  • Alter/Customise box - Put all items that you like but that don't fit you quite right in this box, to have it tailored. Of course, only do this if the cost of getting it tailored is less than buying another size (or if it's a question of shape rather than sizing), not if it's just a plain H&M top for 6 £ that's a bit too big. Also, keep an eye out for things that you don't like, but that might make good DIY candidates, e.g. jeans can be turned into shorts, tees can be dyed, etc.. Put items that require a simple repair job, like hemming or replacing a button in this box as well.
  • Back in your closet - Anything that you love and wear a lot deserves to go back into your closet. This also includes any clothes that are a necessity in your wardrobe (like a black blazer for work/ a nude bra or some plain blue jeans) but that either don't fit right anymore or are simply worn out. Take your post-its and note down all items that need to be replaced asap. For now they may stay in your closet but only until you buy a newer version. Stick the post-it on your closet door.

Step 4

Repeat step 3 with every item category in your wardrobe. Don't forget your underwear, leg wear and accessories.

Do this right after the editing process

  • Throw away the thrash bags before you change your mind.
  • Put your maybe box away for storage.
  • Write down all items that need to be replaced on your to-do list.
  • Organise the clothes that you are keeping in your closet and note down any obvious holes in your wardrobe (read: things you need to buy).

Do this within the next few days

  • Decide what to do with the items in the give away/sell box: If an item is in very good condition, consider selling it on ebay or to consignment stores. If you know a friend who might like the item, give it to them, and take everything else to a charity.
  • Deal with the alter/customise items: Take designated items to the tailor. For the rest, buy materials (fabric dye, sequins, whatever your DIY plans need), get out your sewing kit and start repairing/customizing.
  • Plan additions to your "purified" wardrobe