Whether you’ve actually read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” binged its Netflix counterpart, or merely found yourself inundated by nonstop chatter about Marie Kondo, chances are you’ve given a passing thought to decluttering recently.
The catharsis that comes with cleaning is concrete yet fantasy-like. A spotless kitchen is a pleasant space, but perhaps more powerfully, it’s the affirmation that you’re the kind of person who could maintain such a thing. Throwing things away, especially en masse, can feel like buying a plane ticket to somewhere warm and starting over.
But if you’re thinking of purging your wardrobe, you should consider exercising a little caution. Donating everything to Goodwill might feel good initially, but it could leave you with a dysfunctional closet and probably won’t address the clutter’s root cause.
“I guess you can compare it to a fad diet,” said Anuschka Rees, author of “The Curated Closet.” “You make these quick burst reactions and you try to quickly fix a big problem that accumulated over multiple years.”
Just as there are healthy alternatives to fad diets, there are ways to effectively shrink your wardrobe. Here are some pointers from the experts on how to do just that.
PUT DOWN THE TRASH BAG
Before you throw awayanything, Rees recommends inventorying your closet.
“I would start by looking at what clothes in my closet do I like already,” she said. “Why do I like them? And how does that group of clothes differ from clothes that I never wear?”
Once you’ve completed your research, start making cuts. Feel free to toss anything you haven’t worn in the last year or special occasion pieces. Be more careful when it comes to necessities, like work pants or bras. And remember: You don’t have to get rid of everything that’s bugging you in one go. A little patience will save your wardrobe and your wallet.
“The problem a lot of people have is they get on this detox frenzy,” Rees said. “In the end, they barely have anything in their closet. And then they’re like, ‘Oh [expletive], I need something to wear!’ and they try to fill those gaps as fast as possible. And unless they have a huge budget, they’ll obviously end up filling it with clothes that are [cheaper]. More importantly, by trying to fill those gaps fast, they don’t think about each purchase all that much.”
Your closet is like a garden. It’ll look better with regular weeding and gradual changes.
Finally, if you’re really unsure about tossing something, try a trial separation. Store it somewhere you won’t see it, then see how you feel about it a few months later.
GET A GAME PLAN
Now it’s time to strategize. Take what you learned during your inventory and begin imagining what your ideal wardrobe would look like.
First, consider your routine. Start planning around your actual life, not your fantasy life.
“When I was a student in London . . . I would buy a lot of clothes for parties or going to the beach,” Rees said. “It’s nicer to buy those types of clothes for occasions you look forward to . . . but I didn’t have anything to wear for my day-to-day life, going to [university], going to work.”
With that in mind, make a list of things you don’t own enough of. Then, add items you wanted to throw away but can’t afford to replace yet. These are your top priorities.
For style inspiration, Rees recommends looking inward and outward.
“What are the pieces you always reach for, and why? Is it the style, the fabric, the fit, the color? That’s already a style,” she said. “Then secondly, what types of clothes [are you] drawn to on other people?”
BUY LESS, BUY BETTER
When you’re ready to start adding new items, take your time. It’s important to make sure the pieces you’re bringing home are things you love completely.
“We kind of prepare to make concessions,” Rees said. “Women are kind of raised with the idea that discomfort is the price they have to pay for being chic or put together. [Ask yourself]: Do I like the piece? Does it fit? Is it comfortable?”
Refusing to compromise is frustrating at times, but it’s worth waiting until you find the right piece.
Thoroughly restructuring your wardrobe could take months or years depending on finances and what you’re starting with, but persistence never goes out of style.Jenni Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniRTodd.