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Wardrobe Clean Out Time

You may have been putting wardrobe clean out time off for weeks, months or years. Many of us keep clothes and accessories that we no longer wear for a whole variety of reasons.

Now, armed with knowledge about your best colors and styles it's the perfect time to do a wardrobe clearout. Clear out the old, unflattering, worn-out or never worn items to make way for a more functional wardrobe.

There are several approaches to wardrobe cleaning. The one you favor will depend upon the amount of time you have put aside, how strong your motivation, how many closets you have to clear out and how much you agonize over each item.

Do you understand the fundamental elements of style?

If you don't know your best colors and styles yet first take a look at how to determine your best color and then look at how to determine your body shape and face shape to work out your best colors and styles and then return here.

I suggest the following approach because it allows you to stop the process at any time and resume at another time, with the least amount of wasted effort. This way if you need to stop the process for some reason you should at least have identified some garments to cull. So you can use this approach for a one session clearout or for a multi-phase one.

2-Pass Wardrobe Clearout

Wardrobe clearout overview

In the first pass you will quickly go through each item in your wardrobe placing it into one of 6 categories (more on what these are below)...

  • Keepers
  • Keepers, need altering or mending
  • Maybes
  • Sell
  • Giveaways
  • Throwaways

In the second pass you re-visit the maybes and do a more detailed assessment of each item.

How long to allow?

2 hours for an "average" sized wardrobe. Although this will depend upon how side-tracked you get with memories and trying on.

How often?

Ideally every fashion season, that is twice a year. At the beginning of the Spring/Summer season and the beginning of the Fall/Winter season.  At least every two years.

It's good to feel prepared for the new season and to understand how you will achieve or incorporate any of the new season's looks you wish to adopt.

The more frequently you do a clearout the faster and easier it will become.

You will need...

  • Ideally a minimum of 2 hours available

  • 5-10 large bags such as trash bags (bin liners)

  • 5 x cards/paper (minimum size half letter or A4 size) plus 1 x marker pen. Label the cards: Changes, Maybes, Sell, Giveaways, Throwaways

  • Your flow seasonal color swatch, or a good idea of the colors that suit you

  • Your style portfolio or shopping guide, or a good idea of the styles that suit your body shape

  • Full length mirror

  • Wear your best supporting underwear

  • Hair styled

  • Makeup on

  • Bunch of safety pins

Wardrobe Clean Out Time 1st Pass

In the first pass remove items one at a time from your closet and quickly assess each one. Don't spend too long doing this. Don't try anything on in this pass, for instance. Just do a quick pass through your wardrobe clothes and accessories and place in one of the 6 piles as described below.

Anything that isn't a wardrobe item should be removed and put in a pile to be re-located to a more appropriate storage location at the end of the session.

Items to assess

Remember to review all your wardrobe clothes and accessories in all the closets and storage locations you may have. This includes...

  • Coats
  • Jackets
  • Trousers and Pants
  • Skirts
  • Shorts
  • Dresses
  • Tops
  • Underwear
  • Shoes
  • Bags
  • Jewellry
  • Glasses
  • Scarves
  • Belts

If you do have more than one closet start with the one you currently wear the most clothes from.

Assess each item by asking yourself these questions...

  • Is it flattering on my body shape? -- Is it's silhouette flattering for my vertical and horizontal body types? Are there any internal design lines or patterns that make it less flattering for you? For example, trousers and skirts with a border print have an "eyes-down" effect. This is not ideal for short people or if you want to look taller and slimmer.

  • How well does it fit? -- Is it too tight or too baggy? Is it worth altering?

  • Is it in good condition? -- Is this a much loved and worn item that has seen better days? If it has started to look faded or baggy it belongs in the throwaways pile. However, it may also be a candidate for copying. If it is, don't put it back in your closet. Put it in an action pile. However, if you don't copy it within a month you're probably unlikely to do so, so throw it out.

  • Is it in my color? -- This is particularly important for garments in the "vital V" -- the V-shaped area formed between your shoulders and the center of your chest. For items outside this area you will have more mix-and-match choices if they are in your color range. However, if the garment is flattering for your body shape and in good condition then it's a keeper.

What should you do if a garment is not in your color or style, but it is in good condition and you can't currently afford to replace it?

If it's the color that's wrong you may be able to minimise the wrong color in the "vital V" area. For example, wear a scarf in your color over a coat, jacket or blouse.

However, it's best not to compromise on an unflattering style. If it can't be altered to be more flattering. Can you swap it with a friend for a similar, more flattering item? Can you sell it to fund the re-purchase of the same type of item in a better style for you?

Categorize each item as one these 6 categories...


  • Keepers -- these are garments and accessories in your color and whose style suits your body shape. They are in good condition and repair and their fit is perfect. They are in harmony with your personality and lifestyle.

    Place these items on (or, in the case of footwear, near) your bed.

  • Keepers, need mending or altering -- these are also garments in good condition in your color and whose style suits your body shape. However, they need altering in some way to be a perfect fit. For example a hem needs to be taken up, or the waist needs altering to fit perfectly. Or they need mending, for example a button needs to be re-attached or a fallen hem needs fixing.

    Place these in one of the bags with the To be Mended or Altered label.

    Don't put these items back into your closet until they have been altered or repaired. Otherwise it may never happen and you may as well sell them or give them away since they will be unworn anyway!

  • Maybes -- These are garments and accessories that...
    • Are stained
    • You're not 100% sure of their shape, fit, color, personality fit, lifestyle fit
    • You like in theory, but don't wear

    Place these items in the maybes pile. Since this is likely to be one of the larger piles and you will be re-visiting it, there's no need to put into a bag, unless it helps you keep the pile separate from the others.

    If there's something that should be in the throw out pile that you absolutely can't bear to part with put it in the maybes pile in this first pass.

  • Sell -- These are items that are in good condition, but their style or color are not right for you, or you never wear because you don't like them or they no longer fit your personality or lifestyle or they are too young for you now. Or are very out-of-date. They are most likely designer label. Try selling through eBay or through a pre-loved clothing consignment store.

    Place these items in a bag by the sell label.

  • Giveaways -- these are garments that are...
    • Too small or large and not worth altering
    • Hopelessly out-of-date
    • Not worn for 3 years or more
    • No longer fit your lifestyle or personality
    • Not a flattering style for you
    • Not in your colors and not easy to disguise
    • Fail the maybes, but too good to throwaway and not good enough to sell

    Place these items in a bag by the giveaways label.

  • Throwaways -- garments and accessories that are...
    • Worn-out, torn and stained beyond repair
    • And items that fail all the other categories.

    Place these items in a bag near the throwaways label.

Remember to do this 1st pass assessment on your underwear, shoes, bags, jewellery, belts etc as well as your clothes.

Now clean your closet!

When you've finished the 1st pass assessment of each item and your closet is entirely empty dust, polish and vacuum the space all ready to accept your neatly organized keepers.

Wardrobe Clean Out Time 2nd Pass

In the second pass re-visit the...

  • Maybes -- try on garments and work out what it is that's wrong. Would it work better if it was altered? If it's the wrong color can you add a scarf or necklace to make it work? Re-assess each item and either put it in...
    • Your closet, if it's a keeper
    • The alterations pile
    • The sell pile
    • The giveaways pile, or
    • The throwaways pile

    Hide clothes you cannot bear to let go of, but should not wear. Put them in a bag with a sticker on with a date 6 months in the future. Put the date in your diary. On the date take them to a charity store or throw the bag away without opening it.

  • Keepers -- re-assess each garment. If you haven't worn it for a while, try it on. Is it as flattering as you thought? Is it still a good fit?

    If it's still a keeper and it's suitable for the current season put it back into your now clean closet.

    Organize your clothes by garment type. That is, put all coats together, all jackets together, all pants together and so on. Within each garment type group by color. This will come in useful in the next step of auditing your wardrobe and planning your mix-and-match items.

    Put off-season clothes in another closet or other storage, such as a garment box or old suitcase. This gives you a clearer view of what you have to wear this season and gives more space for remaining clothes, allowing them to breathe and get less crushed. Some garments are more definitely only one season, such as heavy coats and light summer dresses. Leave trans-seasonal clothing readily accessible in your current closet.

  • Keepers, need mending or altering -- try on and mark what needs altering or mending with safety pins. Make sure you mend them or take them for alterations this week otherwise it may never happen!

  • Sell and/or giveaway -- make sure these bags don't make it back into your closet. Put up for sale or give-away these garments in the next week!

  • Throwaways -- Put the throwaway bag or bags in the trash now!

Phew! Well done!

You're now ready for the next step... after wardrobe cleanout time comes auditing and planning in preparation for shopping.

Take control of your shopping!

If you're like many of my clients, you're not good at shopping! Some signs of a poor shopper include...

  • Ending up with "orphans" -- items that don't go with anything else in your wardrobe
  • Finding something that will sort of do, then buying it in every color available!
  • Buying something, but never wearing it (the price tag is still on). What a waste of money!

These types of problems occur when you don't have a wardrobe or shopping plan. 

Jill Chivers, of Shop Your Wardrobe, shows you how to take control of your shopping. Sign up to her blog and receive her free ebooks: "Are you Addicted to Shopping?" and "12 Keys to Conscious Shopping".

>See my review of Jill's Conscious Shopping Mini-Course

Style Makeover Resources

If you need help finding your best colors and styles you will find help here...

>> Finding your best colors

>> Assessing your body shape to determine your best clothing styles

>> Assessing your face shape to determine your best hairstyles, eyeglasses, makeup, earrings and hats


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jane liddelow

"Your style makeover may require a few tweaks or a total re-think. Using a mix of science and art I show you how to discover your style and look great every day.

Hi, I'm Jane Liddelow, the Personal Image Consultant and Stylist responsible for this site. Find out more about me here."

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