I keep seeing readers note that they are doing a post-pandemic closet purge — particularly their work wardrobes — so let’s discuss. What are you getting rid of? What are you keeping? Are you getting rid of things because things no longer fit (gained or lost weight, body shape changed) or because your lifestyle has changed?
For my $.02, I remember seeing people in the first 6 months of the pandemic talking about how they got rid of 90% of their workwear, which seemed extreme to me. But then, I tend to be a hoarder — when I look at my closet to declutter it my question is not “does it spark joy” but “would it spark joy if I found this on a thrift store rack”? Which, admittedly, is probably the wrong question if you don’t want a cluttered closet.
(I do kind of have a clothes purgatory — a pile where things go that are probably going out the door, but that get a second review before it’s time to make the donation — and it’s helped in some way because it’s less stressful to put it in the pile.)
With the caveat that I’m a horrible declutterer, the things I would get rid of are:
- clothes that are overly trendy – look at the shape of the sleeves, the lapels, and the shoulders more than the colors, in my opinion (unless you’ve had your colors done and you now know those colors aren’t good for you!) — a lot of denim may fit into this category, sadly! It’s ok to keep things if you love them, even if they are trendy
- clothes that have never fit properly, would only fit properly if you lost the elusive 5 pounds, or required squeezing into significant shapewear
- clothes that are too worn or damaged and were your “backup” clothes for whatever purpose…
I’d seriously question these kinds of clothes:
- clothes you’re holding onto for sentimental reasons — particularly big items like coats. I recently went through a spare bedroom in my parents’ house and found about 15 coats that my mother and grandmother had worn — many were “WOW” moments because I recognized them from pictures or marveled at the designs, but a lot of them had rips or tears in lining or buttons missing, and none fit me or my mother. So I took pictures of many, kept maybe 3 of the coats that seemed particularly well preserved and cool, and instantly made about 4′ of space in the closet.
- large numbers of clothes for situations that are now limited. Another example: many people go through a phase in your 20s/30s where it seems like you’re going to weddings and showers all the time, requiring fun cocktail dresses all the time… but at a certain point those weddings and showers peter out. Do you need 15 wedding guest dresses? Probably not… so I’d strongly reconsider which ones to keep. This is where I’d look at your workwear collection – how many sheath dresses do you need? I’d keep 3-4 but if you have many more than that, strongly question why.
- clothes you’re hanging onto because of the tag alone. I’ll admit I do this (again, I stink at decluttering) — I’m keeping things like the Celine skirt, the Armani pants, the Max Mara blazer… but I haven’t fit into that Celine skirt in 10 years. (Hope springs eternal!)
Things I’d keep
- Basics you can dress up or down – for example, simple t-shirts and sweaters that flatter you
- Pieces that make great layering pieces, such as colorful blouses
- undergarments like slips and camisoles (mostly because they don’t take up a lot of space, and you will reach for them one day and realize they’re gone…)
Those are my best tips on what and how I’d declutter. But let’s hear from you guys — what are you purging from your closets? Are you doing so because of fit issues or because your lifestyle has changed? (After a big purge, how have you changed your shopping habits, if you have?)
Stock photo via Stencil.
I did a giant purge of party dresses for exactly this reason. I had like 30(!) I’d accumulated over the ~15 years I’d been going to engagement parties and weddings and the kind of corporate glam events that no longer exist. Managed to narrow it down to 6 versatile classics that I’m keeping (afternoon formal, evening formal, each for hot / cold weather, more or less revealing depending on audience).
Workwear, I haven’t bought anything new since scooping up a few super-bargains in 2020. Suiting is next up on my hit list- I think I should really only keep my one most-current suit and donate the rest.
I had time to go through everything and got rid of anything that was too worn or had never really fit right. I also got rid of my high heels, keeping my mid height and low heels.
I got rid of high heels as well as things that don’t fit me due to lockdown weight gain. I assume if I lose the weight, I can go shopping for new things! Otherwise the clothes were just making me feel bad. I’ve also moved more towards pants for work and less to skirts etc (or maybe that’s just because it’s winter here).
I like to call it the “once and future closet” because my weight can yoyo and it’s obnoxious to have to repurchase everything when my size changes.
I gained a few pounds during the pandemic, lost them with a strict diet and a lot of exercise, and gained them again. I decluttered everything that doesn’t fit me well, because life is too short to be a a continuous diet. I didn’t get rid of any of my shoes, I like to have many different options. I never had much cocktail dresses etc., I prefer pieces that are more versatile. A pencil skirt and silk blouse in a beautiful colour will do for me.
Got rid of all the too small things. I had lost a lot of weight 10 years ago and gained it back but kept the clothing. No more! Got rid of all my dress heels – I cannot wear them anymore. Am still working remotely – will likely be going in to office 1 day a week starting in the Fall – but my office (academia) has always been very business casual. Trying not to buy anything, trying to figure out what I’ll wear to the office. I changed the way I did closets – I use 2 (half the walk-in and one of the guest rooms) and traditionally changed for cold/hot seasons. Now I have “daily” wear in my walk-in, with “work” and dressy clothing as well as super-cold-weather stuff in the guest room. (I’m in NC so don’t need all the stuff from when I lived in colder places, except for vacations so I do want to keep – cold weather technical clothing isn’t cheap!) I thought about trying to get down to just one closet but I don’t want to. Don’t need the guest room closet space so (for now) I’m keeping the extra clothing….
I do a wardrobe audit twice a year, every time I do a season swap, so doing one all-encompassing ‘post-pandemic purge’ would be pointless for me. I will be pulling out the fall and winter stuff around the second week of august so I can try on everything and decide what I’m keeping or not, and then writing my shopping list.
I periodically cull my wardrobe so I don’t do big clean outs. However, I have brought a lot of stuff to goodwill over the last year. It is a combination of not being able to purge during COVID, my body changing as I have gotten older over the last few years, and things no longer feeling in style or me. I don’t feel bad about getting rid of stuff, though, because I wear my clothes for years.
I do plan to donate all my pointy-toed high heels in the fall and will keep a couple of lower heeled shoes just in case. However, I doubt I will ever go back to wearing high heels again. Even before COVID I had been moving away from wearing them as they were not great for an attorney on the go – I felt hobbled.
I have been reluctant to purge blazers, even if I don’t like them or don’t think they are stylish anymore, because it has been hard to find replacements. I prefer to keep work clothing that fits until I can find a suitable replacement as I don’t want to be left with nothing to wear. The stores seem to be getting more work clothes now but it still isn’t great and the colors they are showing now are yuck (brown, yellow, and other warm earth tones that look terrible on me).
I changed jobs and moved in Jan 2022, so cleaning out the closet had multiple purposes. Things I should have tossed: older bras. Like many here I gained the “quarantine 15” and held on to about 10 bras in different sizes… I was able to donate some, and will end up tossing the rest. I kept blazers, trousers, and work blouses in smaller sizes with the hope I’ll get back into them. I’ve given myself until the end of this year when I plan to try on everything, and re-evaluate what to donate/toss. What I’m glad I sold/donated: too-small jeans. It’s so easy for me to find new pairs and styles that flatter my slightly rounder physique.