There’s no resisting the urge to purge when the feeling hits. You have to clean your closet immediately! Those clothes are weighing you down and holding you back. You’re ready for a capsule wardrobe. You’re in the mood to make some cash on Poshmark. You’re the new Marie Kondo. You’re…staring at your now-empty closets wishing you hadn’t gotten rid of that jacket or that dress, because you’d really like to wear it right now.
It happens. The urge to purge a good one, helping us keep our homes (relatively) clutter-free and giving you the chance to re-examine your purchases and personal style. However, when you go a little too hard on the giveaway, you can end up regretting letting go of some special pieces and wishing they were back in your wardrobe.
How do you say goodbye to the things you don’t wear anymore without feeling FOMO later on? Is there a way to clean your closet without purger’s remorse? Of course! Pour a glass of wine, get yourself in the right mindset, and let’s get to work!
Get started: Sort everything into piles and start fresh.
First, you need to face the music—er, the closet. Get in there and take everything out, from shoes to sweaters to belts. If you need to FaceTime an impartial friend or family member to help you make the hard decisions, do so. Pour some wine if you need it.
Make Keep, Store, Maybe, Repair, and Rehome piles as you sort through your clothing. Things with sentimental value that you no longer wear should go in the Store pile; my personal rule is one box of clothes to save for every five years. Seasonal or special occasion pieces, like summer dresses or formal ensembles, can be stored in garment bags until you need them. Anything that needs to be tailored, professionally cleaned, or repaired should go in its own pile (more on that later!) and the stuff you truly don’t wear anymore, like that chevron minidress from 2012, should head to the Rehome pile. This will give you a visual explanation of everything in your closet and help you identify any patterns in what you truly love and what doesn’t suit you at this stage of your life, and it will likely inform any future purchases.
Make Keep, Store, Maybe, Repair, and Rehome piles as you sort through your clothing. . . . This will give you a visual explanation of everything in your closet and help you identify any patterns in what you truly love and what doesn’t suit you at this stage of your life, and it will likely inform any future purchases.
Swap out your wardrobe seasonally.
It’s hard to get dressed for a winter workday when you’ve got all your summer sundresses taking up space in the closet. Rotating your clothes with the seasons is a great way to see what you’re actually reaching for and removes extra visual clutter that may be distracting you. If there are items in your newly pared-down closet that don’t get any love, it’s a sign to send them on their way.
Create a visual system in your closet.
Mark hangers with ribbons or stickers and remove them once you’ve worn the piece in question. If there are leftover markers at the end of a certain period of time (say, six months), then you know you’re really not giving those garments the love they deserve, and they can be rehomed.
Be honest with yourself.
We all save items that don’t fit anymore, impulse purchases that just don’t feel right, and super-sale or super-trendy pieces, but part of purging without regrets is looking at each item in your closet with a critical eye. Is that blazer too tight in the arms? Will you really get those trousers hemmed? Are those pumps a tiny bit too small? If you’re not making these aspirational alterations a reality, it’s time to let these pieces go—they’ll find loving homes somewhere else!
Part of purging without regrets is looking at each item in your closet with a critical eye. Is that blazer too tight in the arms? Will you really get those trousers hemmed? . . . If you’re not making these aspirational alterations a reality, it’s time to let these pieces go—they’ll find loving homes somewhere else!
Try reselling on Poshmark or Depop first.
Before you drop a bag at the thrift store, list a few pieces you’re still unsure about on online shopping sites like Poshmark or Depop first. (Instagram Stories works too!) You’ll be able to “think about it,” so to say, for a few days if the items don’t sell. If you find you’re attached to something you listed, back to the closet it goes! You can also do a test run with a particularly understanding friend who won’t mind if you ask for that purple cashmere cardigan back in a few weeks—just make sure to set expectations!
Don’t feel pressured to purge just to do it.
You don’t have to get rid of everything you own! There are no rules when it comes to editing your wardrobe, so if you end up with only two castoffs, great! Yes, it’s tempting to go full Kondo and keep only the things that spark joy, but if everything you own makes you happy, then keep it. You’ll regret getting rid of things you were on the fence about, especially if they brought back happy memories.
When all else fails, Space Bag.
If you’re totally failing at letting things go, don’t worry. Space Bags were invented for this reason. Clean and fold the things you’re on the fence about, then compress them into bags and keep them in the basement, closet, or under your bed. They’ll be waiting for you when you decide to bring them back into rotation, and you’ll be happy you kept that silk horseshoe print Elizabeth & James blouse (speaking from experience).
Kara Nesvig grew up on a sugar beet farm in rural North Dakota and pretended to be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz for about three full years. Things haven’t changed much, except she now lives in an adorable ’20s house in St. Paul with her husband, their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dandelion and many, many pairs of shoes. Kara is a voracious reader, Britney Spears superfan and copywriter — in that order.