5 Tips to Help You Spring Clean Your Closet Now

April 5, 2013

The other day I was looking through my closet thinking about what I would keep and what I would get rid of as the change of season approaches. Of course, here in New England, we never know what kind of winter we will have and so sometimes I don’t get to wear something as much as I thought I would because the weather was either colder, warmer, snowier or icier than usual.

As I reviewed my wardrobe one piece stood out to me: a brown casual, safari-style jacket that I have had for many years. It’s still in good shape, but I found myself putting it on and taking it off a couple times too many this winter. So, I stopped to analyze it since I don’t like things taking up space in my closet that don’t make me happy. And, like most of us, I am reluctant to let something go until I know why I won’t wear it anymore.

One look in the mirror gave me my answer. The color is just muted enough that it no longer works with my hair, which is slightly more bright and intense red than it used to be. While the style is useful, I don’t feel great in it now, and, although it is useful, that alone is never a reason to keep something. So, it is going away.

As the seasons converge, it is the perfect time to reevaluate items from both seasons. As you review your winter wardrobe, it is fresh in your mind what you wore and what never saw the light of day. The questions below will help you determine if it is worth storing an item until next year or if you need to bid it a fond farewell now. The same thing is true as you unpack your spring and summer wardrobe. Do you look at something and think, “Oh, yay, I had forgotten about this and can’t wait for the weather to get warm enough so I can wear it.” Or, do you look at it and think, “Wow, I still have this thing?” Hang the “oh, yay” one in your closet straight away. Keep the other one handy as you refer to the 5 steps below to determine whether it finds a home along side the “oh, yay” item or heads to the nearest consignment store, donation center or trash barrel.

1. Does the color look great on you? “Well, it goes with everything” (that’s usually our answer to black or gray) doesn’t cut it, nor does…my mother gave it to me, or…everyone is wearing this color. None of those things matters unless the color also looks great on you. Why settle for a color that’s just ho-hum (or worse!) when you can have a closet full of colors that make you sparkle? If it isn’t a great color on you, let it go.

2. Does it fit you right now? So much can change in one season and our weight is one of those things that can fluctuate widely within just a few short months. If it doesn’t fit, you can keep it (as long as you can say yes to the other questions, of course), but do not put it in your working closet. Storm it away for now. Or, if the fit issue can easily be remedied by a trip to the tailor, then add it to the tailoring pile (you do have a tailor, right?).

3. Is it in good repair? It is so easy to toss something into the out-of-season closet or storage unit figuring you’ll think about it when the temperatures dip or soar again, but now is the moment of truth. Has this item seen better days? Is it pilled, frayed, stained or thread-bare? If so (be honest), it goes. Yes, even if it was your favorite. If that’s the case, it’s actually a good thing. It means you got your money’s worth out of it and now it is time for it to retire and make room for something fresh and new to take its place.

4. Is it comfortable? You know you won’t wear it if it isn’t, and yet it is so easy to keep something thinking we might need it sometime when, in our hearts, we know that we will always find something we feel better in rather than wear something uncomfortable and spend the entire time longing to take it off! If it isn’t comfortable, it goes.

5. Can you make a complete outfit out of it? If you recently “retired” the only item that made this garment into a complete outfit, then it’s time to reflect on its value to your wardrobe. Will you easily be able to create a new outfit with it or is it one of those things that you will drag around from store to store looking for a match? If the latter is true, thank it for its past contribution to your wardrobe and pass it along. And, if it has been sitting in your closet with the tags still on it because you can’t find something that will go with it, first check to see if it passes the test of the other four questions. If it does, then give it one last chance to find something to go with it. If, within the next week, you do not find a suitable companion for it and it is still sitting in your closet, consign it or give it away. You won’t believe how relieved you will be to let that energy go. You will no longer be reminded that you spent money on something you can’t wear or put pressure on yourself to spend valuable time trying to make it work or wearing it in a combination that doesn’t make you happy.

Are you ready for the final test? This is crucial and should really be the first thing you ask yourself: Do you love it? So, why do I have it last? Because I also know from past experience that until we go through the exercise above, it is way too easy to think you love something until you put it to the test. Lydia is a perfect example of that.

When I was in Lydia’s closet with her, she pulled out a dress that she had had for years and said, this stays, it is a long-time favorite and I love it. Okay, great. I asked her she minded if I asked a few questions about it. She agreed and so I asked her when she had last worn it. That’s when the story began. She hadn’t actually worn it in about three years because it was a tad tight–and had been for all that time. Ooops, that’s #2.

She had also recently started coloring her hair and when she put the rose colored dress on it clashed with the auburn highlights she had added to cover the hints of gray in her naturally brown hair. Until she put it on she hadn’t realized that the color made her complexion look a little ruddy and the color felt dull rather than soft and pretty as it had originally. With the first two questions being answered with a resounding no, that was enough to make her realize (with no further promptly from me) that it needed to be in the give-away pile, but the clincher was when she realized there was a stain at the waist band that clearly had been there for a while and was likely not coming out.

At first she felt sad, but then she remembered how wonderful she had felt in that dress for many seasons and she was fine with letting it go.

These five questions (plus the bonus question) will help you identify and remove from your closet the items that are no longer serving you. While I know this exercise can feel a bit scary, it will also feel liberating. No more pressure to wearing something you can’t or do not want to. Of course, these questions also raise more questions. What if it passes all those tests and you still don’t wear it? Then, it is time to get my book, That’s So You! or go to your local bookstore and ask them to order it.

That’s So You! helps you identify many more reasons why things aren’t working for you and gives you answers to questions you don’t even know you have right now. There is an entire chapter on Tapping Into Your Inner Beauty followed by Taming Your Closet and Real-Life Fashion Advice. Those are just three of the nine chapters that help you create a look you love with beauty, style and grace.

The bottom line is that you can have a wardrobe you feel great in. Take a moment now to begin your spring cleaning process and feel lighter and refreshed as you step into the warmer weather.

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