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Closet Refresh - In w/the New; Out w/the Old. (Yikes!)

by Shirley Gustafson
(Rockville, MD USA)

Hi Jane. I am 60, 5'9", 170 lb and have spent the last year gradually aligning my new, age-appropriate, clothing purchases to my season (spring) and post-menopausal body.

Now I have twice the clothes and am having a hard time letting go of the old stuff. Lots of excuses (I like the fabric, cut, non-palette color, memories of younger days, guilt about getting rid of gifts from ex (now deceased) husband or ex-mother-in-law (also deceased) whom I loved both dearly), etc. Any suggestions that won't put me into shock? ­čśę Thanks. (BTW, I have 5 closets of clothes. )

Jane's answer...Shirley, thanks for asking this question. I suspect quite a few readers would like to solve this problem.

Firstly, well done for going through the process of re-assessing and creating a wardrobe that works for who you are now. (You mention aligning your new look to your coloring and shape, I hope you also love your new look?)

But goodness, you could do with a serious audit of your wardrobe. Even if you do many different types of activities (each requiring very different clothing), and even if you like a lot of variety, 5 closets full of clothes would be overwhelming for most people. And I get the feeling you only wear a small percentage of your total wardrobe?

Letting go

Getting rid of any form of clutter can be very cathartic and even life changing, freeing you from old ruts and allowing new things (including new people and experiences) to come into your life. As Marie Kondo wrote in "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying" exploring the reasons you're holding onto items you no longer love or need can reveal a pattern of where you are (or have been) in your life. Marie simplifies the reasons to: attachment to the past; fear of the future; or both.

The key to letting go of wardrobe items that no longer serve you is to ask of each item:
  • Do I love it? -- Only keep clothes you love that reflect who you are now. It's easy to rationalize why you should keep an item, but use your emotion to answer this question. Marie Kondo suggests that when you touch an item you'll immediately know if it sparks joy. (The only exception to the 'love it' question is for layering pieces such as camisoles and sleeved-tees, but make sure you at least like their fabric and color.)

  • Does it fit? -- Does it physically fit and flatter you, or can it be altered to fit? Is it appropriate for your current lifestyle?

  • Is it in good condition? -- Can it be repaired? Throw out items that are beyond repair.

Only keep items you love, that are in good condition, that flatter your shape and are appropriate for your lifestyle. Repair or alter items that need it before they go back into your closet.

Yes, it can be difficult to let go of some things, but the mental and physical space created are truly worth the effort. When you can actually see what you have you are more likely to wear more of what you have. And you'll be able to find wardrobe items so much faster!


Use this article to help you sort your wardrobe items.

For older items where...
  • You still like the fabric and cut -- for each item work out if you can use it with your new items to create a new outfit. If it's still flattering, in good condition and you love it can be brought up-to-date by using it in a new way? For example: a dress or skirt that's too short may still look good when combined with leggings, jeggings, or slim fitting pants; a sleeveless dress or top may work when layered with a light-weight top with sleeves underneath, or a fine cardigan over the top (send me photos of a few favorites if you'd like me to show you specific styling ideas)

  • Its color isn't in your color swatch -- please realize a color doesn't need to be an exact match to one in your color swatch to look good on you. As long as it looks as if it 'belongs' then it should still be flattering on you. Use an 'artists' squint' to see if the color(s) of the garment fits in, or not.

    Also, there are a number of universal colors that look good on most people and may not be in your color swatch. These are colors that are not too dark, too light, too clear, too muted, too warm or too cool.

    The most important place to wear the correct colors is on your top half, so if pants are not in your best color it's not quite so important, as long as you have some tops that work with them.

    Having said that, if you absolutely love the color and everything else about the item works then wear it and enjoy it anyway!

  • You have a strong sentimental attachment...
    • Acknowledge the memories the item evokes, but realize you're discarding the item, not the memories and get rid of it, or

    • Re-purpose the item, for example, use the fabric for something such as a cushion cover, or create a 3D picture using the item and hang it on the wall.

    • Of course you could move the item out of your wardrobe closet and store it in some form of archiving area. However, that is just moving the problem to another area of your home that you'll need to deal with later, so maybe not such a great idea.

  • You feel guilty because it was a gift or you spent a lot of money on it and haven't worn it (or not enough to get your money's worth from it) -- realize that the item is not doing you any favors by being in your closet. It's making you feel guilty every time you see it and yet it just doesn't work for you. Acknowledge the intent of the gift and who gave it, but get rid of it. Or forgive yourself the mistake of buying something that didn't work. Then either give the item to a friend who will appreciate it, or to a charity shop, or try and sell it.

For items you'd really like to get rid of, but still don't feel able to quite let go of yet, put them in a plastic garbage bin liner. Label with a date 6 months in the future and put the date in your online or desk diary. If you haven't missed the items in that time get rid of the bag on that date without opening it up again.

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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.

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