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What to keep & What to toss in a closet detox

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

I'm a big believer in the mantra: clean space, clear mind. I always feel lighter and freer when I know where things are, and everything has it's place. (I'm an Enneagram 1, so this is no surprise!) And my closet is no exception to this rule. At the beginning of the year, I seem to be really motivated to do major cleaning and organizing and decluttering, especially now that I have kids and my house gets even fuller after a flood of toys and Christmas gifts invade our house!

A closet detox gives me a chance to re-discover what I have in my closet that brings joy, and permission to toss (or donate!) what no longer serves me.

I harness this desire for organization and order to also assess what's in my closet and give it a little TLC. It gives me a chance to re-discover what I have in my closet that brings joy, and permission to toss (or donate!) what no longer serves me. The added bonus is that when I clean out my closet, I have a much better idea of what I may need to add in the coming season or year to round out my wardrobe.

Whether you're feeling in the detox mood or not, do yourself a favor, and give yourself a fresh start by dedicating some time this month to clear out and clean out that closet!

But where do you even start? And, how do you gain the motivation to get started?

If you haven't touched your closet in a while, chances are it's a complete mess. I get it... it can be completely overwhelming and daunting to even get started. If you're in this boat, try starting small and work in chunks. One day, commit to going through your jeans, for example. Maybe you only give yourself 15 minutes to do it and then stop. Try on every pair so you can see how it fits your body and how you feel when you put it on. Then, go through tops. Then skirts, and sweaters, and pants, and shoes, and so on. Once you get started, I guarantee you'll gain momentum and may actually be anxious and excited to dive into the next thing!

Now that we have you IN your closet, you may be wondering, "How do I decide what stays and what goes?"

The goal with a closet detox is to be completely honest with yourself. Ask yourself, "How does wearing this item make me feel?"

Today I'm sharing my favorite questions to ask as I'm going through my closet to help me determine what should stay and what should go. Keep in mind that as you detox your closet, the goal is to be completely honest with yourself. Allow yourself to get into a feeling state as you try pieces on. How does it make you feel? What is your gut reaction? If it's not a good feeling, then learn to trust that.

Remember, brain science shows that when we put things on our bodies that we feel good in, our brain activates and sends good chemicals throughout our body, which has a major impact on our mood, productivity, personality, interactions with others, and so much more. And when we put on something we don't feel good in, our brain activates and sends bad chemicals throughout our body, increasing chances of anxiety and depression. So yea, let's work towards keeping only the things that make us feel good and joyful!

Here are my favorite questions to ask during a closet detox:

Does it fit?

This is a big one and a great fact-based place to start. If it doesn't fit and you love it, you can (and should!) tailor it. A tailor should be in your style toolbox, ladies, and if not, find one! It’s rare that clothes will fit you perfectly off the rack. If it doesn't fit and you don't love it, then it's got to go.

Do I love it?

Not just like it.... Love it! I’m a big advocate of loving everything that’s in your closet. Even that basic white t-shirt or a little black cami. Why settle if it makes you feel frumpy or lumpy or dumpy? Now is the time to get really honest with yourself and into that feeling state that I mentioned before. No blowing smoke up your skirt or convincing yourself that you can deal with it! If you are finding that you need some extra help, phone a friend (or better yet, a stylist!)

Have I worn it in the last year?

I love this question because it's so indicative of whether you actually love an item or not. If it's been sitting in your closet for an entire year and you haven't touched it (and it's not a piece that's like a little black dress or black blazer that you just keep forever and ever), then it may be time for it to go. Consider this a warning sign. There is probably a reason why you haven't worn it! Honesty is key here. Now, you may need to consider that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. There may be work clothes or going out clothes that haven't been touched. If you love those items, they fit and you know you will wear them once we begin going out in the world again, then keep them.

Do my clothes fit my current lifestyle?

I know it’s been a weird year, so 2020 may not be the best measure of your normal lifestyle. Even so, it’s important to assess if your clothes match your lifestyle. Do you have lots of fancy clothes, but nothing for everyday casual wear? Or, do you only own leggings and sweats, and feel frazzled when you have to dress up for a work or social event or date night? This might be a sign that you love to buy a certain type of clothes, but you’re not in touch with the reality of what your life actually demands from your clothes. Just because you haven’t gone out at all in 2020 doesn’t mean you need to trash all you LBD’s, or completely shift your wardrobe to exclusively loungewear. Keep your favorite items, and have some balance!

Do I have a lot of the same type of item?

Again here, I’m going to ask you to get really honest. Look at your closet objectively. Do you have 20 black sweaters in there, but you don't have a single neutral colored one or a brighter color? Do you have all basics, but nothing interesting to spice up your outfits? Or, do you only have interesting, unique, fun pieces and no basics? The key here is to round out your wardrobe. Find the holes and fill them! The more balance you have between fun/interesting/unique pieces + basic pieces, the easier it will be for you to create outfits. This is the key to having a usable and mixable wardrobe!

Two additional tips to make this process even easier:

1. Try a quarterly detox (or twice a year at the least!)

To make this process a little easier every year, try doing a closet detox more than once a year. I love to do it quarterly, at the start of each season. This timing makes sense especially here in the Midwest where we have big weather changes each season. At the start of each season, I naturally start to pull out new things in my wardrobe, so it's a great time for me to assess what I have in there before adding more to the mix. If quarterly is too much for you, try twice a year. I suggest just before the spring and fall seasons, as those tend to be major transition points for your wardrobe.

2. Ask for help

If after starting your closet detox, you still have questions about what works and what doesn't, phone a friend (or preferably, a stylist!) Part of my services include working with women to edit their wardrobe, and then creating a checklist of what they need to add to the mix to round out their wardrobe. Having a partner in style who is experienced in this area and will hep you determine what works and what doesn't work is so valuable and will make the process go more quickly. Schedule a free 30-minute style consultation with me to get started!

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