The Questions That Helped Me Purge 75% of My Clothes

posted by Andrea | 08/20/2014

closet-purge

Last week, Dave and I went through all our clothes (closet and dresser) and purged – sort of a grown-up version of getting organized for back-to-school :)

Dave donated 3 grocery bags of clothing he no longer wanted and trashed a few items that were definitely past their prime. I gave a small bag of clothes to my sister, donated 2 grocery bags stuffed full, and have 3 larger bags of stuff to bring to a consignment store (yes, I will donate anything that doesn’t sell).

All together, that means 9 stuffed-full bags of clothing left our closet and dressers last week AND we transferred all our shoes to the new mudroom.

Boy, does our closet feel clutter-free!

our closet purge

Here’s a break-down of the closet’s layout.

closet layout

We now have 2 totally empty shelves, a mostly empty top shelf (you can’t see it in the pictures) and a completely empty floor.

Yes, it feels great! 

 

In case you forgot, THIS is what our closet looked like back in May (before I returned all my borrowed maternity clothes). SO MUCH STUFF!! 

Not only did I return (and remove) all my maternity clothes, I also quickly purged anything I knew I wouldn’t wear even after I lost my baby weight.

I ended up with a much more organized closet (see photo below) — but I still felt like I was hanging onto clothes I rarely wore… not to mention all the clothing I never really loved or felt super comfortable wearing. Plus Dave never went through his stuff.

So since I’m always harping on you guys to purge anything you don’t need, use, want, or love, I finally decided that enough was enough and I simply HAD to pare my closet down to the absolute bare necessities.

AHHHH — room to breathe!

our closet purge

I did not do this to prove anything to myself or to anyone else. I did it because it was taking me FOREVER to decide what to wear every day, I felt like I hated everything in my closet, and I ended up wearing the same few pieces over and over again.

Can anyone relate?

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I actually was NOT planning to do any more closet purging this summer. However, last week, I met with a personal stylist who helped me see my clothes in a whole new way (funny what an outside perspective can do!)

She asked me a bunch of questions like:

  • what is your favorite type of clothing to wear?
  • what is your favorite shirt, pants, sweater, etc.?
  • why do you think you like those particular items?
  • what do you like about your body and want to accentuate?
  • what would you prefer to cover up?
  • what do you wear around the house? when you go out? to church? to the grocery store?

And after only a few minutes of thinking through these questions, I was already starting to realize why I wasn’t wearing SO many of my clothes.

I realized that I wear jeans, jean shorts, or black yoga pants almost 100% of the time. So if a shirt doesn’t look good with jeans or jean shorts, I shouldn’t buy it. This realization liberated me to purge all my other non-jean pants (besides 2 pairs of dress pants for church) and almost all my shirts that didn’t look great with jeans.

I realized I almost only wear cotton or a cotton/spandex mix because I CANNOT stand any non-stretchy, non-breathable fabrics. So again, I felt free to purge anything in my wardrobe that wasn’t cotton or spandex.

I realized that although I used to wear sun dresses and cute skirts all the time in the spring and summer, I no longer wear them now that I’m chasing kids around all day. I only needed to keep a couple dresses and skirts.

I realized that I often wear the same things over and over again, and I’m OK with that. I stay home most days and do laundry regularly so this works for me — and it means that only having 10-12 nice shirts is plenty for me.

I realized I actually had quite of a few nice items of clothing and really only needed some select pieces to tie everything together and make my old stuff seem new and fresh again.

I realized that I was hanging on to so many unloved pieces of clothing because I felt I couldn’t get by with less.

I realized that my body shape is different than it was even 2 years ago and my clothes aren’t going to fit me the same way. It’s OK to purge items that are still nice, new, and that I used to love just because I don’t feel great in them anymore.

This might all sound overly detailed and overly obvious to many of you. Yes, I did know most of this before; however, it wasn’t until I had someone in my bedroom going through my closet with me that I actually put it all together and realized there was no point cluttering up my closet with anything I didn’t love or feel fabulous wearing.

It felt SO great to purge my closet of everything I didn’t love and everything I didn’t feel great wearing. 

our closet purge

Since meeting with the personal stylist last week and purging much of my closet, I’ve done a little online shopping and purchased a few new items (all from ThredUp.com) that are on their way to my house right now.

I’m also going shopping with the stylist tomorrow morning to pick out a few things we couldn’t find online — but I’m not even overwhelmed with the thought of navigating my way through the mall :)

I”m armed with a VERY short list of a few specific items I need/want to add to my closet — and I know I don’t need anything more.

I’ll be sharing more about working with the stylist (as well as my new outfits) in a future post. But I’m just so excited about getting my closet pared down that I just had to share!

I know many of you have contacted me over the years asking about tips and tricks to organize your closet. For me, I think it always comes back to really asking yourself what you LOVE to wear and feel great in. Those are the pieces you’re going to wear — and you probably won’t miss everything else!

So the next time you start to weed through your clothing, ask yourself some of the questions above… and more importantly, ask yourself what clothes you LOVE to wear and what clothes you feel great wearing. If you honestly answer those questions, you should have no trouble purging much of the rest.

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39 comments

  1. Michele Daggar

    08/20/2014

    Andrea,

    I can’t believe this is your post for today! I was lying in bed thinking about packing for a beach vacation we’re going on soon. The thought of going through my clothes was stressing me out completely! I own way too many items of clothing.

    I’m going to go through my closet when I’m done typing this because you’ve made me realize I can purge so much unused stuff! Off the top of my head I know I have at least 3 different fleece jackets, but I really one wear one of them.

    Thanks for the inspiration, I can’t wait to get started!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    happy purging Michele — and have a nice vacation too!

    [Reply]

  2. Leanne

    08/20/2014

    I loved all those questions!!
    for my 44th birthday…I gave myself the gift of style and a planned wardrobe…. I got rid of all the mom frumpy wear and bought shirts and jeans that were stylish, affordable (kids can ruin our clothes)! and could be worn a variety of ways… I’ve pretty much finished shopping for the basics– except for a great bag…. and am now just browsing accessories or pops of color and a “pulled together look….
    I gave myself the base colors of navy and gray and went from there!
    can’t wait to see pics of the outfits you have!
    have you heard the concept of a capsule wardrobe? I love it!!
    have a blessed day!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    That sounds great! I’ve never heard of a capsule wardrobe — but I think I can imagine what it might be!
    At this point, I can’t go too crazy buying new clothes because we are planning to have more children at some point… so I don’t want to buy an entirely new wardrobe only to get pregnant again… but just starting the process by purging, consolidating, and adding select pieces to my current wardrobe feels amazing!

    [Reply]

  3. Melissa

    08/20/2014

    I love this post! Lately I’ve been purging my clothes slowly but surely. I’ve held onto them for so long because I’ve felt so much guilt for buying these clothes in the first place. Most of them are brand new with tags, all bought very cheaply since I’m a huge sales shopper. But still cluttering my mind and physical space. So I’m posting them all to ebay. It’s been quite a process, and I know I should just get rid of them and be free. But as a stay-at-home mom right now, it is a way for me to make back the money that I put into the clothes and to be free of all the guilt. I have about one hundred (YES!! I know, it’s ridiculous!) items posted now, and I have more piles to post and I have more to go through.

    I have two questions for you……
    1) Do you keep wool clothing stored somewhere else besides your closet to protect from moths? Or are all your winter clothes pictured, too? I have one bin under my bed with winter items and I’d love to incorporate it into my closet.
    2) Do you have any dressers in your bedroom? Or are all your clothes in your closet? I have two dressers and I would love to ultimately get everything into my closet. Or maybe get a small dresser for my closet for pajamas, underwear, etc. I just love the thought of a really minimal room.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Melissa,
    wow, sounds like you’ve really been in “purge mode” lately! I think it’s great that you’re selling things on Ebay, however I would strongly encourage you to allow yourself to simply pack everything up and donate it if you ever start to feel overwhelmed by the whole selling process (or if things aren’t selling). I realize you have some quilt, but until you fully remove all those items from your home, the guilt will always be there, staring right at you.

    To answer you questions:
    1. Nope, ALL our clothing is in our closet and we’ve never once had a problem with moths or bugs.
    2. Yes, we have dressers for socks, underwear, pajamas, and “grubby clothes” we wear for working outside, painting, house projects, etc.

    I love the look of our shabby dressers in our bedroom, so I would leave them there even if they were empty :) However, if you like the minimalist look — that’s definitely something to work towards are you declutter.

    Good luck!

    [Reply]

  4. Debbie

    08/20/2014

    Thank you for the ideas/self-questions on how to start purging. I have a lot of clothes too that I feel I should keep. My business suits are still around just in case my current work requires it one day, or God forbid I have to go for a future job interview, or start working for a company that requires professional dress code. I have evening wear that are worn once or twice a year that I switch wearing just so people don’t remember I wore it last year. Then living in an area with 4 seasons I have a variety of clothing for each season. These are my reasons for having difficulty purging. I would get rid of maybe 6 shirts but never to the extent that you have. I think I still will have a hard time but will continue to try.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Debbie, I totally understand where you are coming from — but I truly do think that if you honestly answer some of the questions in this post, you could enjoy a much less clutter closet. We live in Michigan so we also have 4 seasons of clothing (all in our one closet) and we have dressy clothing for church, weddings, etc.

    What is the worst thing that could possibly happen if you simply purged everything you mentioned that you’re not wearing? Maybe, at an unspecified future time, you could potentially need to re-buy something — but in the mean time, you’ll enjoy a clutter-free closet. I’d say that’s a gamble I’m willing to take :)

    [Reply]

    Debbie Reply:

    Very true, Andrea! The worst thing would be that I need to buy a new outfit to replace the purged one. What about the sentimental ties to the clothing? Just thinking about getting rid of my business suits that I wore during my previous jobs kinda makes me sad. It has a lot of good memories of my career experience. Do you have ideas on how to purge that? :-)

    [Reply]

    Janis Reply:

    Debbie….I can totally relate to your practicality and sentimentality regarding business wear….After I retired, I kept beautiful business suits and career-wear (most were Christmas and birthday gifts from my husband and I, too, had happy work-related memories of the clothing) thinking that I would wear them for church or other events or if I had to re-enter the workforce unexpectedly…..after 2-3 years of not touching them, I finally let go and donated all to an organization that helps women and children – knowing how much they would help someone who really needed outfits to interview and wear to work right now! My motive was to free up space and simply move on, but also I realized that, despite some outfits being timeless, styles change, materials change, the workplace has changed… Consider keeping just a couple of classic outfits in case your situation changes to where you need that style of clothing….and then update with new when it is necessary and you are able to. A new career experience is a fresh start after all….and you will hold your good memories in your heart forever!

    [Reply]

    Debbie Reply:

    Janis, thank you for the advice. It makes sense what you shared. Will start purging away.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Debbie — I’m not the person to ask about “sentimental” anything, because I would say “get rid of it”. I’ve seen WAY too many people holding on to WAY too much sentimental stuff over the years. I see how much stress those sentimental things cause them, so I’ve vowed not to hold onto clutter simply for sentimental reasons.

    Your clothing does not hold any memories — the memories will be there with or without the clothes. To me, it sounds like these work clothes definitely need to go. If you happen to get another job where you absolutely must where a suit, I’m certain you’ll be able to find a deal on another one. In the mean time, you’ll enjoy all that extra closet space and probably help a bunch of others who need business clothing right now.

    [Reply]

    Debbie Reply:

    Thanks Andrea. Ya I know I’m a weird one for attaching memories to clothing. Glad to be reminded memories will be there even if they’re gone. Janis’ experience helps to remind me too that by getting rid of most of them it would help others in need.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    you’re not “weird” Debbie — it’s actually very normal for many people. I’m just able to see it from the outside and realize how much stress it can cause people. i

    [Reply]

  5. Dawn Kaestner

    08/20/2014

    Great post! All of the clothes I own wouldn’t even fill up nine bags–just not worth my storage space. I really enjoyed the wardrobe questions too–great reminders to make smart choices.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Dawn — and just to clarify, the 9 grocery bags were for both Dave and I from our close and our dresser (Dave purged a ton of T-shirts), and they were the smaller plastic grocery bags (not trash bags).

    Anyway, it does feel great to have all that extra weight out of our bedroom!

    [Reply]

  6. Rose

    08/20/2014

    Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!

    Please tell us where you purchased those shelf dividers….

    Love them!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Rose… they are from Amazon.com :)

    [Reply]

  7. Dianne@Baking4Six

    08/20/2014

    Hello –

    This is a great post and useful for just about anyone I’d say (children, teens, adults – single, married etc…) For those that may fee like they can’t afford a stylist or would rather budget their money elsewhere – I’d like to add this. When I organize p(actually “purge” – since the main reasons areas need to be organized is due to an accumulation) – I, personally, am much more productive when I involve someone else (my spouse, my child). I am able to let go, get rid of, donate many more items this way and much quicker. This thought came to me when you mentioned that “you already knew all this”, but it was helpful to have the stylist assist you. So, I got to thinking, yes – from my experience it is helpful to have another body offer assistance. AND – thought that I would share that while I personally think a stylist is a great idea – that maybe some people would think this article doesn’t pertain to them since they don’t have a stylist but more people may know someone that is willing to help them out :)

    I also found a lot of local sites on FB for selling items (similar to craigslist, but much quicker) and a FB site that gives things away for free (similar to freecycle, but there’s always places to donate as well). This is a great time of year to get rid of clothes with “back-to-school” and the changing season.

    [Reply]

  8. Debbie

    08/20/2014

    Great post! I hope you include links for your new clothes or tell us where you purchased them.

    [Reply]

  9. Audrey

    08/20/2014

    Once saw that someone asked themselves, if they saw each item of clothing in the store (and didn’t already own it) would they buy it.. Good question….

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Audrey, was this question posed recently? Because I just posted this on my facebook a few weeks ago — and yes, I also ask myself this question when deciding if I should purge or hang onto an item of clothing :)

    [Reply]

  10. Heather @ My Overflowing Cup

    08/20/2014

    I love this post because I struggle from being stressed with the amount of clutter that I have, yet, because of our income lately, I also fear purging too much in the event I may need it some day and not be able to replace it if I get rid of it. However, I am realizing that if I never wear things and don’t even like them, they probably need to go. Thank you for being such an encouragement to us. Your closet looks great!

    [Reply]

  11. Shawn-Dell

    08/20/2014

    I love your posts about your minimalist wardrobe. I have been purging quite a bit lately but need to streamline it even more. Those are great questions to ask yourself as you are going through the process! Thanks so much and God bless!!!!

    [Reply]

  12. Karen

    08/20/2014

    I have been waiting for this post!!! Thanks

    [Reply]

  13. Michele

    08/20/2014

    Purged a huge garbage bag full of stuff from my closet today and am all geared up to go through the boys’ things tomorrow. Thanks for the inspiration!

    [Reply]

  14. Karen

    08/20/2014

    I just wrote a post about clearing the clutter. After seeing your post I realize I HAVE A LOT of work ahead of me. Honesty is the best policy. Your post is inspiring, thanks.
    http://fairiesmarket.blogspot.com/

    [Reply]

  15. Kate @ The Beautiful Useful Project

    08/21/2014

    I LOVE seeing the empty shelves! It must be an amazing feeling to get all of those bags of stuff you don’t use out of the house.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes Kate — it feels great!

    [Reply]

  16. Heather

    08/21/2014

    Great post! I’m currently struggling with a huge wardrobe – after a pregnancy and some health issues, I think my wardrobe spans about 5 sizes! Just grabbed a trash bag to start on my closet. Thank you for your inspiring writing!

    [Reply]

  17. Katie

    08/21/2014

    that has to feel so great! good for you, and I’m eager to see what new things you bought!

    [Reply]

  18. Tammy

    08/21/2014

    Just curious where you found your personal stylist. I don’t live in MI, but I’d love to have someone help me with my wardrobe.

    [Reply]

  19. Elise @frugalfarmwife.com

    08/27/2014

    Oh wow, I feel liberated just reading this! :) It’s like a light bulb suddenly went on in my head when you said you were free to purge anything that didn’t go with jeans/short/yoga pants.

    I’ve been frustrated with my inability to keep a semi-minimal, versatile wardrobe for so long, this is making me think that I need to pick one type of item (like pants or skirts) and build the rest (blouses/accessories) around it. Hmmmm…..

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Elise! It was kind of a “lightbulb moment” for me too!

    [Reply]

  20. Maggie

    08/31/2014

    Wow! I did something similar very recently to my closet and it was seriously the most liberating feeling ever! I got rid of about 2/3 of my clothes. I realized I was holding onto things that were 3-5 years old but because i spent a lot of money on them I felt terrible giving them away. So inwould make up an excuse to keep them trying to convince myself that i will wear it.
    I am similar in nature, i tend to wear the same clothes over and over . I have my favorites too (especially after a baby) which are mainly leggins and well I was only able to find one pair of jeans since i had my daughter that I felt comfortable wearing. I will be following to see what your wardrobe will look like. I really want to do all my clothes shopping online but i am afraid to buy stuff without trying it on. How do you go about that?

    [Reply]

  21. Lori

    08/31/2014

    Hi Andrea!

    Another great post! A question-How do you navigate around “thred Up?” I mean, lots of choices and seems overwhelming in order to find exactly what I am looking for. Any hints? Can’t wait to see your new additions to your closet and so proud of you for going to the mall! LOL

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Lori — I LOVE ThredUp!
    It is a little overwhelming with so many selections, but it’s also really easy to narrow it down by exactly what you’re looking for. I simply use the various search tools in the left side bar. I choose my size, the type of clothing I’m looking for (tops), then the sub category (long sleeve tops). I always search for “low price to high price” so the cheapest items show up first… and sometimes I’ll even choose specific brands or colors if I’m looking for something very specific.

    I’ve found some amazing bargains on awesome used clothing. Hope you do too!

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:

    Thanks for your quick response! One more question…Are there any specific brands you have found to be more durable, consistent quality,better made than others at ThredUp? Things are made so much cheaper now, I wondered if there are specific brands you tend to prefer when searching the site?

    Love the blog!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    My favorite brands are definitely J.Crew, Ann Taylor, and Banana Republic. I’d never spend my money in their expensive stores, but their used clothing fits me so well — and the price is right :)

    [Reply]

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