Cleaning out the wardrobe

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Bunny Bunny
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Cleaning out the wardrobe

Does anyone have a rule of thumb for cleaning out closets.  I have heard plenty about purging items that you haven't warn for a year but I'm more curious about a formula for how many outfits we really need.  If anyone gets that organized.  I have way too much for my own needs and want to stick to a specific plan once I can weed through these bins and piles of clothes so I stay away from over-consuming.  What is your take of saving things for when the come back in style?  I'm sure that question will get laughs!
Stephanie Stephanie
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

I know I use the rule of 1 year or it gets thrown out.  I think Bea has said her family owns 7 shirts each, or something like that, but I haven't been able to set a number for myself yet.  I think everyone has such different needs in regard to clothes, that it's hard to pick a number for everyone to stick to.  

I find if I get rid of anything that I make excuses for not wearing (out of style, don't like the color or fit anymore, etc.), then it clears out my closet pretty well, and I don't have to feel bad about my large amount of unworn clothing.
Marrena Lindberg Marrena Lindberg
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

This post was updated on .
I'm the opposite of Bea--I have no sense of style or fashion.  I do up an Excel spreadsheet for each season and keep it in my closet.  I work at a 9-5 desk job and like looking professional, so I wear rather formal office wear.  I do up a list for two weeks, and pretty much every two weeks I will always wear the same exact outfit.  I work mostly with men, so they don't notice.

For example, my winter wardrobe consists of a black washable suit with skirt, with matching black slacks, a dry clean nicer skirt suit in a taupe (my only dry cleaning), a charcoal gray skirt, a navy twinset, a more casual black cotton sweater, a more formal black sweater with inset collar and cuffs (polka dot sheer fabric), two two-piece stretch velvet dresses (that can do double duty for more formal occasions), and three tops (one more casual for casual Fridays).  I wear the slacks on Fridays and one Wednesday, otherwise I wear skirts.  The more casual black cotton knit sweater works for Fridays with the slacks and is more formal on a Monday with the charcoal skirt.  With a spreadsheet I don't repeat during the two weeks, and know exactly what goes together best and no thought is involved before my morning caffeine.  In addition I have a more casual pair of stretch chinos and two more casual sweaters for the weekend when I am out and about, and I have some sweats for at home doing dirty chores and I have my gym clothes.

Because the pieces are basic classics and I have no sense of fashion, I just wear them year after year and replace them as they wear out.  I buy quality so they last for years.  I get variety with the change of the seasons.

My waste vice is pantyhose and stockings!  I heard that I can recycle them by sending them for oil cleanup, I should start doing that.  I try to buy tights in the winter, they last longer, and in the spring and fall wear support hose because they are more durable, and in the summer go barelegged.

Suzanne Suzanne
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I tend to hold on to my favorite clothes as long as possible, long after their "expiration" date! I just took a fifteen year old white cotton and polyester skirt to Goodwill with great sadness, but the fabric is limp, it has a stain that I cannot remove, and although I've gained no weight since I bought it, my shape has changed so the waist is too snug. One of the reasons I wait so long to recycle a garment is that I personally have found it increasingly difficult to find quality, durable, and attractively classic clothing either new or pre-owned, and I hold on to what I have for fear of not finding adequate replacements. Marrena seems to have this challenge under control and, if it is appropriate for brand names to be shared, I would love more information about her wardrobe sources. I would embrace Bea's more streamlined approach to wardrobes if I could be assured of a reliable source or sources for the type of timeless clothing that I like. In the meantime, my pre-owned clothing has been largely pre-owned by me!
noodlez89 noodlez89
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

In reply to this post by Bunny
I think its a balance between your local climate, your profession, how often you rewear your clothes and how often you do laundry.

Marrena Lindberg Marrena Lindberg
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

In reply to this post by Suzanne
@Suzanne--I hope it's okay to post brands.  I'm plus size, another reason why I buy new instead of thrift shops, hard to find my size at thrift shops.  For my one dry clean suit and professional washable tops, I usually buy Talbots--the fabric and make are superior there.  Of course use common sense on fabric, one suit I bought the fabric was a delicate crepe and got runs in it like stockings, very stupid of me.  JCPenney's is the place to go for washable suits.  They have a line called Worthington that holds up well in the wash, very durable, and you can buy the suit as separates so as to get skirt/slacks/jacket.  Lands End used to have a great washable durable suit selection, but they've cut back now and only have casual separates for the most part.

Being plus size and a mom, on the weekends I like very durable and active clothes that I can move around in easily.  I get my weekend pants and gym clothes from Junonia, very good with fabric and make.  Casual weekend tops I get as gifts or I thrift on those.  I've been losing weight recently which throws my wardrobe groove out of whack (belts are my friend), but I am very much hoping to lose enough weight to be able to shop for my weekend and gym clothes from Patagonia--I like everything about the company.

And yes I know that Talbots and JCPenney's are both very unstylish, but I am unstylish myself so it works for me.  :)
Wrennerd Wrennerd
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

In reply to this post by Bunny
Bunny -- I recently reorganized my closet with WonderHangers. NOT for their advertised purpose of making more space in your closet but because they hold exactly five items each. I actually had plenty of space, but I wanted a way to visualize how many of each item I had, so I did not buy more of things I already had plenty of, and to force me to get rid of items I had too many of. I figured I did not need more than five of any one thing. So in my winter wardrobe, I have five of each of the following: dress slacks, long-sleeve tops, sweaters, dresses, jackets, denim, and sweatshirts. For the work week, I start at the top of the slacks/tops/sweaters hangers and work my way down, with the odd dress thrown in for variety. (I should explain: since I stick to neutral bottom colors and mostly solid tops, almost everything matches everything else. My workplace is "dress casual.")
Flour Girl Flour Girl
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

This is my current method of purging.  I am doing the hanger test for hanging clothes - turn all your hangers backwards and then as you wear things, put them back in the right way.  For folded clothes, I put a piece of cardstock on top of each pile.  Then, as I wear something it will go on top of the card.  At the end of a year, anything that is not hanging the correct way or sitting on top of the cardstock will be given to Goodwill.  If you don't have cardstock, this will put your unwanted junkmail to good use for at least a year. :)
BeverlyB BeverlyB
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

In reply to this post by Stephanie
Forget trends wear what works best for you. Designers intentionally modify styles/colors to excite you to buy new.  Anything old can be worn now as vintage. If it looked great before, it should look great now, right?  

It was really hard to clean out my closet.  I tried over and over again did the take it out-put it back.  I've keep only the best for my look, coloring, fit, quality and got rid of the rest.  I have fewer, but better options. I think I look more polished now.  I carry myself with confidence, I decided on my style.

Storage, living square footage these have a cost to you both in time and money.  My closet is cleaner, neater there's less stuff.

There is one area left, shoes.  I'm think I'll take pics and see if I can sell online.  Any ideas?
BeverlyB BeverlyB
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

In reply to this post by Stephanie
Forget trends wear what works best for you. Designers intentionally modify styles/colors to excite you to buy new.  Anything old can be worn now as vintage. If it looked great before, it should look great now, right?  

It was really hard to clean out my closet.  I tried over and over again did the take it out-put it back.  I've keep only the best for my look, coloring, fit, quality and got rid of the rest.  I have fewer, but better options. I think I look more polished now.  I carry myself with confidence, I decided on my style.

Storage, living square footage these have a cost to you both in time and money.  My closet is cleaner, neater there's less stuff.

There is one area left, shoes.  I'm think I'll take pics and see if I can sell online.  Any ideas?
uthessa uthessa
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

Here is what I did:

I have toddlers and they do use more clothes that most people between messes and inevitble tears and disappearances of items.  They have a total of 2 weeks worth of clothing.  I do laundry every saturday and sunday and they always seem to end up with almost all their clother used up.  I think this was a good call seeing as they still have "accidents", especially my 3 yr old who just really got the concept of being potty trained. They each have 3 pairs pf shoes. Rain boots, flip flops and tennis shoes. That's it. However, my oldest (He's 4) has a pair of hand me down cleets for baseball.  Those will be passed down to his brother so on and so forth.

As for my husband and I it was by far simpler. We each have a total of 8 days worth of outfits.  only 2 pairs of jeans each, 8 everyday shirts and 2 dress outfits.  One for winter and one for warmer weather.  I have 6 pairs of shoes he has 6 as well.  This does not include our work clothes. I am a chef and have 3 coats and pants and 1 pair of slip resistant EARTHware shoes. He has his Hendrick uniforms that they take care of.  It took me a long time to get down to this and finally realize I do wear the same things over and over because they are comfortable and what I like the best on me.  I took all the extra clothes that no one on my family or friends circle wanted and donated them to Goodwill in the large brown paper lawn and leaf bags.  I had 8 full of warddrobe thing we didn't miss! All the boys' extra went to once upon anchild for other children who needed things at a good price too.  The best part was my oldest was so helpful and figured out why I am doing this and tells his daddy these things for for people who dont have shoes! Innocent kids are so wonderful!
Inspire your own creativity
Sandra Sandra
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

In reply to this post by Bunny
Bunny, instead of saving things in the closet until they come back in style, why not have it updated and tailored so you can keep on wearing it now?

I was able to save a pair of jeans from the "dated" pile by having the hem taken up and the leg opening slimmed. It turned out to be much less expensive than buying a new pair of jeans, and I didn't have to worry about "breaking in" a new pair.
Steph. Steph.
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

Hi All.  I am new here and have been taking baby steps in the kitchen (doing pretty well as I live in SoCal and there are some pretty good bulk shopping and farmer's market options).

The closet is another story.  I hope Bea does more on this.  I go into my closet, full of clothes, and never find anything I like to wear or feel looks good on me.  I tend to wear the same black pants to work constantly and wear jeans or yoga pants on the weekends.  I know the first step is to lose about 10 pounds, but that is not going well at the moment as I am a stress eater.  :(  I wonder how Bea makes things with (gasp) BUTTER and CHEESE and stays so tiny?  I have noticed that most of her clothes are black and that would make a lot of things easier.

Any thoughts or encouragement?

PS.  Took a VERY small bag of trash out for pickup this morning!  :)
Steph. Steph.
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Well I do not know how I missed this posting but it is GREAT:

http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com/2010/04/zero-waste-closet.html

Most of my questions have been answered.  I straightened out the closet late yesterday and created a huge bag of clothing to donate, including many high quality pieces that someone else can now enjoy.  That feels good.  :)  

And working on the diet angle again.  I saved some old favorites that are a tiny bit small, so hopefully I will be able to shop my own closet once these extra pounds are off!
Wrennerd Wrennerd
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Capsule Wardrobes

Somewhere (I thought it was in this forum, but now I can't locate it), someone brought up the term "capsule wardrobe," which immediately sent me off on a Google search to figure out what that meant. The first slide in the following slideshow is the best graphic I found to represent it, and is a perfect model for a limited wardrobe with maximum possibilities, provided that it fits with the sort of clothing you're expected to wear. I printed it out and am keeping it near my closet as inspiration for (further) purging...

http://www.mycapsulewardrobe.com/page9.htm

daslael daslael
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

In reply to this post by Bunny
I was able to get rid of a ton of stuff by switching my thinking. So, instead of thinking about each item: "do I need this? want it?" I, instead, thought - hmm, of all these clothes here which do I love and wear? I took those out of the closet and just donated the rest wihtout looking at them individually.
Now if I can work on the 'refuse' part and stop acquiring clothes I'll be set!!
Alina Alina
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Re: Capsule Wardrobes

In reply to this post by Wrennerd
Hi there,
About how to organize the closet, I did a lot of reading and research... the one and only truly useful guide I found is by Diana Pemberton Sikes. She also talks about capsules.
The idea behind it is to have a wardrobe that suits your needs and your lifestyle. It's one thing to work in an office, to be required to wear stiff suits and a completely different thing to be a stay at home mother, let's say.
I learned a lot from this book.
And while I do periodically edit my wardrobe, donate items that no longer fit me, turn to rags old pajamas etc, I took a whole different approach to shopping. Now I actually plan my wardrobe.
There were things I wanted to donate, but while planning, I realized I can actually wear them in other combination, that would make other things work. All this without going out and buy something else.

Bea, you mentioned an excell file in one of your articles. I would really like to hear more about it. How do you actually plan your wardrobe?
Alexa Benedetti Alexa Benedetti
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

In reply to this post by Bunny
To start, pay attention to what colors you're drawn to. Which colors are the ones you like to wear the most? Which colors are the ones you don't like to wear?

Next, which items of clothing do you wear over and over? Is it because of how they feel? Is it the fit? Is it the color? Does the item not fit in with your lifestyle?

Last, which pairs of shoes do you always wear? Which bag? Which belt? Which accessories just always sit there looking sad? Why are you using each of these items all the time? Or why not? Again, use the same questions from above.

So, now you know which items of clothing are the ones your always wear/wear the most. And you know which colors you like to wear. You also know which shoes, bags, belts, etc you always used.

Now, go through your closet. Don't keep things that are too small, they usually can't be altered. Don't keep anything with stains, rips, tears, stuck zippers or buttons that can't be easily (and cheaply) fixed. Don't keep anything that has lost its shape. If a garment is to big, can it be taken in? If not, that's out too.

Before tossing sweaters or any other knit that pills, try taking a comb to them. For larger knits/weaves (like tweed) a normal comb works. For smaller knits, like nice sweaters or even t-shirts, a lice comb is best. Don't comb the fabric itself, comb over the fabric catching the pills and snarls. Now, for any unraveling threads/snags in the knit, with a needle or toothpick, poke them back through to the inside of the garment. Pull the excess thread through. If the thread is long enough, it should stay in place nicely, if it's too short and might poke back through, use a small amount of clear nail polish to "glue" it to the inside of the garment. After all that, does the knit look respectable again, or does it still look ratty? Obviously, if it looks bad, out it goes.

For stained clothes, if your really like them and they're in otherwise good condition. Try dying them, black works best. Liquid black dye is cheap to buy and easy to use. Just throw everything you want into the washing machine and follow the dye instructions. ++DON'T forget to run the empty washer once with soap  before using it again or the next load will be dyed too.++

You've gone through everything, you've determined if it fits or not, if it is still in good condition or in easily repairable condition.

This is really the cleaning out stage, before you were getting rid of the junk in your closet. Remember how I asked you to pay attention to what you actually use? Put that aside for later.

Ok, of all these items left, they fit, they're in good shape, etc. Why don't you wear them frequently? Are the special occasion? Do they not fit into your lifestyle? Are they sentimental? Are they just in a color you don't like? (this can be fixed, they can be dyed darker) For special occasion wear, set aside a few favorite items and keep them. For seasonal wear you don't use frequently (ie cold weather clothing and you live in a hot climate or vice versa) will you use them again? And if so, will you want to use them again? Do you have too much of this type of clothing for a climate you don't live in? Keep only what you need of this "extreme" weather clothing. For everything else, if they can't be altered (either through color, fit, decoration, etc) to suit your taste, they're out too.

Go back to that pile of clothing you set aside earlier, the pile of all the items you wear all the time. Make a list of these items, the cut, the fabric, the color. In the future, only buy items of clothing that are similar to those on this list. Boring I know, but you KNOW these are clothes you will like and most importantly actually wear.

Look at what is left. Is this enough to get you through your usual washing schedule, whether that's multiple times a week or only a few times a month? If you do laundry less often, is it possible to adapt to running it more frequently? If not go shopping, buy just enough to meet your laundry schedule.

BUT....

If you go shopping, remember that list you made of clothes you like.

Apply this principle to shoes, purse, bags, wallets, etc.

For me, this has led to buying things in multiple. I know I'm going to wear a short sleeved button down shirt. I know I'm going to wear cap sleeved t-shirts with low scoop necks. When I find a style I like, I buy multiples of the exact same garment in several colors/patterns, but only in colors/patterns I know I'll wear. For me, this means white, navy, royal blue, black, grey, red, hunter green, cream, stripes and dots any other color/pattern just won't get worn. Obviously, not every item will come in all these colors, but probably in three or four. Wait, three or four, aren't we trying to reduce? Yes, but I only go shopping a few times a year, like Bea, and by then my tops are usually worn out (I'm a really bad stainer, especially grease stains that just won't come out, what can I say, I love olive oil), so I'm replacing not adding.


Like Bea says, when replacing garments, go for quality. And for suits, nice skirts and dress pants, thrift stores are best, especially hospice shops and other stores that predominantly get donations from the deceased (read elderly) because they tend to have really old high quality wool items that cost a fortune today (think $250+), but which you can get in the $10-40 range. And really nice wool skirts, jackets and pants are nearly impossible to destroy, easy to alter, etc.

But won't I be boring with so many repeated items in my wardrobe?
NO!
First, people won't really notice. No really, they won't. People notice dirty, torn, worn garments. People notice ill fitting garments. People notice extreme garments. People don't really notice repeated garments. I've never had anyone mention it to me (even in high school when people are going through their mean years). Instead, what people will notice, is that you have a consistent personal style (even for those of you who claim to have no style) and will think you and you're clothing are tastefully simple.

As for saving clothes because they might come back in style. Yes they might, but usually with an updated look on that style which makes the clothes still look dated. So in the end, not worth the wasted closet space.

A long  answer I know, but I hope that helps.



zoebird zoebird
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

this does have a lot of variations based on how you live and work.

i'm lucky in that i am a professional yoga teacher. but, i don't necessarily like a "sporty" look -- which some yoga teachers do -- or an ethnic/indian look (again, some). I like a more classic, tailored look, but I hate changing my clothes all the time.

So, I took a page from dancers.

I usually wear:

1 bra-in tank;
1 calf-length yoga tight;
1 long-sleeve T or sweater (or both when it is cold)

1 outer wear
1 pashmina scarf

1 shoes

This is what I own:

Tights are black (5 of these)
Tanks are black (5 of these)

Skirts are grey (1), dark grey (1), and denim (1)

Jeans (2 pair)

Wrap Dress is purple (1)

Shirts are light blue (1), kelly green(1), purple(1), black (1), and bright pink/raspberry (1).

Sweaters are lavender (1), light blue (1), dark green (1), grey (1), and fawn/beige (1).

Shoes (3 pair): Vibrams are grey/black with pink accents (between the toes); gum boots/wellies are black with grey trim; dress shoes are grey/black, t-strap, spectator-styled wedge heels.

I also have two fleeces -- a raspberry hoodie and a blue pull over.

For outer wear I have: 1 white/ivory trench rain coat; 1 black winter jacket (fitted, hip length); 1 black vest (fitted, hip length), 1 sky-blue wool pea coat (hip length), and 1 denim Jacket.

I have 5 pashminas.

I have 3 pieces of jewelry that I wear at all times (nostril stud, septum crescent, wedding ring); I have 3 watches (all gifts); 3 necklaces; 3 rings; and 4 bracelets.

I like to keep it really, really simple.
Wendy Wendy
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Re: Cleaning out the wardrobe

In reply to this post by Bunny
I struggle with this more than most women. I live in a highly changeable climate, with significantly different weather throughout the year, with day-to-day variations in any season (yesterday it was +6 then -10 Celsius). I also have a career that has two distinct patterns- outdoors for physical and dirty work, and in-office for professional productive work. Both environments need seasonal clothing options. So, I have a lot of clothing. My seasonal lifestyle also includes a lot of indoor and outdoor recreation with specific clothing needs. Formal and informal, and I pack for travel at minimum once a week. How I control the chaos is being very tuned into what works for me. I know that I am not a "bottoms" person, I am very happy repeating a pair of jeans for a week. So I don't have many bottoms.
Essentially, my closet system is "active," "needs changes", (i.e. alteration, fixing) and "inactive."
I have one bin for summer-only items and one for winter-only items, these are inactive.
I do not keep sentimental items that aren't active or inactive.
I keep every item that bring me joy to look at and wear.
I dye the colour of the items I have been holding on to as favorites, but don't match with my current taste. If that doesn't revive their place in the rotation, then they go. The items needing change live in a cloth organizer bin.
I also love one-item outfits (sundresses) and avoid unnecessary layering.
I give awkward, unusual, super-trendy (patent cargo pants?), and ill-fitting items more than one chance. I try, but the rule is the have to work without buying new items to go with them, or they are sent on to someone else. My girlfriends and I have a clothing swap party every couple of months, and I find it easier to part with items (not because they are sentimental but because they are still active) when I think about how happy someone else would be to get it. These trendy items come into my life this way too.
A good lesson came from being the child of a hoarder, and that is there is no reason to hold on to something EVER because it has "value." Stuff is stuff and if it isn't "active" in your life (or soon to be due to weather) then it goes. I have only ever regretted giving away one item of clothing, and that isn't so bad at all.
Also, I never wear black which complicates the idea of "capsule" or simplicity quite a bit. Capsule is possible, just more inventive!
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