The Best Trick to Purge Your Closet + 6 Questions to Help You Purge

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I have been working hard to reduce and remove the amount of excess stuff in our house in order to improve my life, especially as a mother. One of the big areas I’ve been working on is my own clothing. Throughout the process of purging my clothes, I have found the best trick to purge your closet.

First, a little background:

I am a stay at home mom, and have been for the last 6 years. In some ways this makes it easier to deal with my clothing. I don’t need work clothes and casual clothes. I can wear what is comfortable and what I like. However, one of the big struggles for me, and I know a lot of other stay at home moms too, is becoming stuck in a rut of stay at home mom style. There are endless amounts of jokes and parodies about moms in yoga pants and dirty t-shirts for a reason!

It’s easy to fall in to a style rut as a mom, especially with babies and small children. You’re tired and rarely getting a full night of sleep. Just getting a few minutes to shower can be a luxury. You spend your days changing diapers, being spit up on, feeding babies and kids, wiping sticky hands and snotty noses, etc. And it’s all on repeat for 16 hours a day.

It becomes easy to quit paying attention to what you’re wearing. As long as the majority of the people in your house look somewhat presentable, it’s a win! You stop wearing anything too nice because it’ll probably get a stain within 5 minutes of putting it on. And definitely no sense in wearing something uncomfortable!

Look Good, Feel Better

But I am a firm believer in the idea of “look good, feel better”. When I look dumpy and frumpy in my clothes, that’s the way I feel. But if I am wearing an outfit I look good in, I feel better too.

When my daughter was around a year old, I wasn’t feeling happy with the way I was dressing. I decided I wanted to get out of that rut, and start dressing nicer.

So what did I do? Started amassing a new wardrobe of clothes of course! I still wanted to feel comfortable, but I also wanted to feel good about the way I looked. I thought the only way to do that was to have more options in my closet to choose from.

Fast forward a couple of years. I had a closet full of clothes, some I felt good in, some I didn’t. But deciding what to wear in the morning was not always a fun process. I had to weed through a bunch of stuff I didn’t love, or wasn’t comfortable, only to end up wearing the same handful of outfits most days.

The Best Trick to Purge Your Closet + 6 Questions to Help You Purge

Purging But Not Making Progress

I had already been minimizing the stuff in our house for the last couple of years. But I had never made much headway in my closet. When I first started decluttering, I did a massive purge of my closet, getting rid of multiple big garbage bags full of clothes. I honestly felt embarrassed about how much clothing I owned. But even after I was done, my closet was still just as full as ever!

A lot of the stuff was still new or barely worn, so I felt guilty about getting rid of it. In my quest to make my wardrobe more stylish, I often purchased cheap or ill-fitting clothing, just because it was on sale, or it fit my idea of what I should have in my closet. I also thought the more options the better to make sure I wasn’t falling into a “mom style rut” again.

The Idea of a Capsule Wardrobe

In the last couple of months I discovered the concept of capsule wardrobes. The idea of a capsule wardrobe is that you have fewer items of clothes but you love them all and they all look great on you. There are other things that some people include in their definition of a capsule wardrobe, like choosing higher quality items, or having everything be able to mix and match, or even limiting it to a certain number of items.

What really stood out for me was that you had fewer items, but loved them all. Everything in your closet were your absolute favourite clothes and you got rid of everything else. This is how I wanted my wardrobe to be. Only my favourites, nothing else.

I am never someone who jumps into a new idea very quickly, I prefer to think about something for a while before committing. The idea of a capsule wardrobe appealed to me, but I was having a hard time taking the leap and ruthlessly purging my closet. I continued to slowly weed out my wardrobe, getting rid of a few things here or there. But not seeing much change.

Finding My Style

I would never describe myself as someone who is super stylish, but I am feeling good about the way I dress now. My style evolved and improved. I found a new “mom uniform”. One that I felt comfortable in but still stylish. It mostly consisted of skinny jeans, a longer loose-fitting top, a cardigan and a pretty necklace or scarf to finish it off.

I knew what I liked, but I was struggling to get rid of the excess. My closet still felt too full. I knew I had a bunch of stuff in there that I didn’t wear. But I couldn’t quite figure out how to get rid of the stuff I didn’t love and only have the clothes I love and feel great in hanging in my closet.

The Best Trick to Purge your Closet

One day I heard a tip that became my best trick to purge your closet. The tip was to try each item on, rather than just looking at each piece of clothing on the hanger. I decided I’d give it a try, even though I didn’t think it would make much of a difference.

Boy was I wrong! Let me tell you, trying everything on was a game changer! Trying each item on and honestly assessing how it looks and feels is the best trick to purge your closet and get rid of things you don’t love or wear.

The Best Trick to Purge Your Closet + 6 Questions to Help You Purge

**Be sure to sign up at the bottom of this post to get your FREE printable guide to help you purge your closet and create a wardrobe you love!**

6 Questions to Help You Purge When Trying Everything On

Over the course of several days (because my kids didn’t have the patience for me to do it all at once!) I tried on everything I owned. Paying special attention to the things I didn’t wear very often. As I tried each thing on, I asked myself:

1. Does it fit?

I only wanted to keep clothes that fit me right at that moment. My shape and size had changed after having our babies, and I wanted to make sure what I kept fit me nicely now. Anything too big or too small, or not fitting my new shape, didn’t belong in my closet.

*If you are in a position where your weight might change, you may want to keep some larger or smaller clothes. However, I suggest being very selective with what you keep. Keep only your absolute favourite pieces that you will love to wear again. If you’re planning to lose weight for example, you’ll probably want to treat yourself to a few new pieces to celebrate. Don’t hold on to anything you don’t love or is just ok. Only keep what you know you’ll love.*

2. Is it damaged, stained or needs repair?

Anything damaged beyond repair or stained needs to go. Damaged or stained items didn’t make me look or feel good. And that was my whole mission, to only keep what made me look and feel good.

If you have items that need repairing, like hemming or replacing a button, give yourself a deadline to do the repair or have it repaired. Put a reminder in your phone, and if the item isn’t repaired by the deadline, get rid of it. So often we have the best intentions to get repairs done, but they never happen. If you really loved and wore the item, repairing it would be a priority. If you can’t be bothered to repair it, that’s a good sign that you can let the item go.

3. Do I feel good in it? Is it comfortable?

I only wanted to keep things that felt good and felt comfortable as soon as I put them on. I tried to notice if I automatically pulled down the hem, pulled up the neck line, etc. Things that required constant adjustment needed to go. Anything that only felt ok needed to go too. Sometimes I liked the way an item looked, but I didn’t like the fit or the feel of the material. If it didn’t feel great as soon as I put it on, I didn’t want it in my closet because I knew I’d rarely choose to wear it.

4. Do I look good in it? Does the color and style flatter me?

I tried to look objectively at myself in the mirror and let go of what I thought I knew about the way the item looked on me. Sometimes it was surprising to see something I thought I liked, really didn’t look that great. Some things looked out of style, had lost their shape or just didn’t fit my body or tastes anymore.

Looking carefully at the color was also important. I started to learn what colors work for my colouring, and which ones don’t.

It can be helpful to take pictures of yourself in your clothes to get a more objective view. Or invite over a friend who you can trust to be completely honest with you.

The Best Trick to Purge Your Closet + 6 Questions to Help You Purge

5. When was the last time I wore it?

If I couldn’t remember the last time I wore it, it was time to let it go. Or if I hadn’t worn it in the last year, I got rid of it too. I only wanted to keep what I loved and wore regularly.

I had items that fit, were in good condition, felt good and looked good, but I still didn’t wear. Most of these were things I had loved and worn a lot. But I was just sick of them. That’s ok! I got my use and money out of the item. Now it was time to donate it so someone else could wear and love it.

6. Would I be happy to wear it for the rest of the day?

This was the final test, to catch anything that slipped through the previous questions. Sometimes I had a hard time admitting that it was time to let something go. I would be attached to an item for whatever reason (cost, what it said about me, sentimental reasons, etc.).

Asking myself if I would be happy in it for the rest of day really made me think hard if it passed the test to be in my closet. If I thought I should keep an item, but couldn’t wait to take it off for whatever reason, obviously it does not belong in my closet!

The Results

It was crazy how many things I tried on and didn’t even like! Trying on each piece of clothing in my wardrobe changed everything for me. I no longer just passed over things that I thought I liked and looked good in, but actually never wore. It forced me to think about each item. And I got rid of a ton of clothes.

If you’re in the process of cleaning out your closet, I highly recommend trying every, single thing on. Then see if it passes the test of the 6 questions above. It is an eye opening experience, and a great way to weed out the clothes you don’t need in your closet.

Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

I have recently taken this a step further and created my own capsule wardrobe. I made my capsule wardrobe on February 1. Because I often have a hard time committing to new ideas, I told myself I would try it for the month of February and see how it goes. But I don’t think I’ll ever go back!

I absolutely LOVE having a capsule wardrobe. It makes deciding what to wear in the morning a breeze. My closet has so much breathing room in it. Sometimes I go and stand in my closet just to gaze lovingly at all the empty space!

I will share the exact process I took to create my capsule wardrobe. In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to start trying on each item of clothing you own. Use the 6 questions above to discover if you REALLY love it.

Getting rid of the things that you don’t truly love or wear is the first step to creating an intentional wardrobe. One that flatters your body and your life. And makes getting dressed in the morning fun!

Do you usually try on each thing in your closet when purging your clothes? Try it and let me know how it goes! Did it surprise you how much you were ready to let go of?

**Be sure to sign up below to get your FREE printable guide to help you purge your closet and create a wardrobe you love!**

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24 Comments

  1. I’d love to see a picture of your closet for inspiration! I can’t even picture what an edited down version of mine would look like. I have so many sections… casual work, dressier work, dressy, casual, work out, then my lazy day stuff… SO MANY CLOTHES.

    1. I have pictures coming! I’m planning to do a post showing exactly what’s in my capsule wardrobe and what my closet looks like now. Watch for those in the next couple of weeks!
      Since I’m a stay at home mom, that does make things easier because I don’t need work clothes and casual clothes. I currently have 40 pieces in my wardrobe. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you actually see all the different combinations you can make with that number, it is surprising!

  2. Great post! I used some of these techniques when I thinned my wardrobe down, but didn’t even think to try everything on- what a great idea! Mine is starting to build back up, and I’m definitely going to use your “try everything on” idea!

    1. Good question! Because this was my first capsule wardrobe, I didn’t want to make it too difficult for myself or take the fun out of trying a new challenge. So I decided to only include the tops and bottoms I wear on a daily basis in my 40 items. For me this includes, jeans, leggings, sweaters, t-shirts and tanks. I decided NOT to include: shoes, outwear (jackets, gloves, hats, etc.), workout clothes (things I ONLY wear to workout in, not just comfy lounge clothes), undergarments (bras, underwear, socks and tanks/camisoles that I ONLY wear under something, never on their own), pajamas, accessories (jewelry and scarves), swimwear and formal clothes.

      I did this to make it easier and take baby steps to reducing my wardrobe 😉 Now that I’ve had a capsule wardrobe for a couple of months, I realize that 40 items is still a lot of clothes for me. For my next capsule I am going to try and include shoes, outwear and accessories in the 40 item limit and see how that goes. The important thing to remember is to make your capsule work for YOU. It’s not about the number of items, and if I have more or less than 40 items I’m not going to stress. The point is to challenge yourself to live with less to see if it makes your life better. The number isn’t as important as the intention behind it.

      Next week’s post is the exact process I took to create my capsule wardrobe. And I also have a post in the works that shows exactly what is in my capsule wardrobe. Hopefully those posts will give you a better idea of what my capsule wardrobe actually looks like. Thanks for reading and let me know if you have anymore questions!

  3. I’ve read numerous articles about minimalism, simplifying, and the capsule wardrobe. Melissa’s article about trying everything on and asking the 6 questions is so powerful! I knew when I read the 12 reasons people keep things that don’t work that Melissa was saying something new and that I had found the inspiration I needed to tackle my closet. I. had. no. idea. Between yesterday and today, I have freed up 55 hangars. 55! And one under-bed storage box. I am nowhere near a capsule wardrobe and probably won’t ever get down to one. I am not a hoarder, and don’t think of myself as a clothes horse. I was keeping things for “some day” keeping things for different weights, and keeping things recently purchased that didn’t work, but not wanting to waste the money. Melissa nailed my problem and I knew it! I love seeing AIR between my garments hanging in the closet and I love knowing that whatever I pick to wear, it is now WAY more likely to be enjoyable to wear and will look great and feel comfortable. May I speak for the partially converted? I am currently keeping about 10 pieces to wear if I reach my (reasonably attainable) weight goal. Please don’t judge me! These are things that are made well and look great on my slimmer self. I placed them off to the side, and I retain the option of tossing them later. Even though I didn’t go all the way, what I did was radical and made a HUGE difference. So if you are uncertain, I encourage you, just purge something! It feels awesome. Planning on tackling more drawers, and shoes in the near future.

    1. Wow!! Thanks you so much for sharing your experience. It sounds like you are making amazing progress. 55 hangers and a storage box purged is awesome, way to go!! I’m so glad you are finding my posts inspiring and helpful. I absolutely love hearing that they inspired you to take action and that you are already experiencing the benefits of less!

      I think keeping 10 pieces of clothing you love for when you reach your weight goal is great. It’s not too many things, just the well made pieces you would love to wear again. I think that’s perfect!

      I am so happy to hear about the purging you’ve done. Keep me posted as you continue on your drawers and shoes! Thanks you for your kind comment, it totally made my day! Thank you so much and thanks for reading!

  4. Thank-you so much for the info! I find myself in this situation and want to get rid of “weighty” clothes. It is a weight I want lifted off me. Its such a agonizing thing to try to pick something out in the morning. I’ve gained weight, so not being happy with that just adds to the weight. But I do agree, if I like what I’m wearing I am happier with myself and stop beating myself up so much and see there is a way I can feel good at this weight and then work on losing some. All about perspective when you don’t have a bunch of stuff cluttering the view!

    1. Yes, I agree. If you don’t feel good in your clothes or have a closet full of things that you don’t feel good in, it can make getting dressed difficult and make you feel bad. It’s amazing how great letting go of the stuff no longer serving you can feel! I love what you said about how your perspective can change when you remove the clutter. So true! Thanks for reading!

  5. I had my teenage daughter help me complete a successful purge of my closet. She watched me take each thing out of my closet and hold it up and her face said it all. When I got to something I felt sentimental about, she delivered the perfect motivation to purge it by saying, “Do you want to look like your mother?” 🙂 She made me be far more ruthless than I would have been alone, and her choices were pretty spot on. I only overruled a few of her decisions. It’s been a few years and I need to enlist her help again!

  6. I am starting a remodel project soon. I started to stress about how to store all my “stuff” while the project was in process. I cruised Pinterest for the best garage storage ideas, how to strategically stack more under my bed, and reorganizing my closet to fit more. One day it just hit me, “all this stuff is causing stress, just get rid of it!” I started on stuff I hardly look at, the shoes I don’t wear, the clothes I still don’t like, DVDs, books, home décor, and the list goes on. I have weeded through a lot of clothes but I have given myself a deadline. Once June 10th comes, if it doesn’t fit, I won’t keep it. If it fits, I better love it or it is going. Until then, I keep getting rid of more stuff; yesterday was 5 Rubbermaid boxes of fabric. If I haven’t sewn any of it for 7 years, it isn’t going to happen. I have taken pictures of sentimental things, given things to my kids, and donated a lot. I am feeling lighter and lighter by the day. I haven’t missed one thing that I’ve parted with. I can’t wait for June 10th. When I need inspiration I read blogs like yours, I watch Tedx videos, then get moving. Get it out of my house. I do have one question, this is a struggle for me. One of my best friends gave me a beautiful set of crystal wine glasses (I do like wine), but they don’t fit in any of my cabinets (they are tall). I have to keep them in the box and store them, which isn’t convenient for use. I love the glasses but wouldn’t mind passing them on if I didn’t think she would be crushed when she came to visit and I told her the wine glasses were gone. Any ideas?

    1. Sorry for my late response Tracey, we were away for a day and then had family visiting, I apologize for the delay!

      It sounds like you are making fantastic progress in your house. Your story is so inspiring. You are really living proof of the freedom that comes from getting rid of things you no longer love or need in your life. Thank you so much for sharing!

      As far as the wine glasses go, my opinion is that if the glasses aren’t working in your home and are bringing you more stress than joy, I would let them go. I believe when someone gives a gift, you are under no obligation to keep it forever. They gave it to you to show you they love you. You thanked them and appreciated the gift. But if the time has come that the gift is no longer used, or loved or just doesn’t work for your life, you can let it go guilt free knowing it was given with love and that love was appreciated. I know I would feel bad if I gave someone a gift and later found out they were keeping it simply out of obligation or guilt. I would want them to feel free to do whatever they wanted with the gift, including passing it on if it no longer served them.

      Another option is to explain to your friend how the glasses don’t fit in your cupboards and how it makes it difficult to use them as a result. I’m sure she would understand why you wanted to get rid of them. And you could even offer them to her if she wanted to take them.

      However, I think you wouldn’t even need to mention getting rid of the glasses specifically to your friend, unless you want to. You could share the changes you’re making with all of your decluttering and minimizing work and tell her what a positive impact it’s had on your life. But you wouldn’t need to go in to specifics about what you’ve gotten rid of if you don’t want to. It’s your home, your life and your stuff. You are doing some amazing work to transform your home and the stuff inside of it. Keep that in mind and remember what you want to achieve by decluttering your home to help guide your decisions.

      I hope this helps! Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with! Thank you for reading and for sharing your inspiring story!

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