Wardrobe Architect: Clean Out Your Closet + New Free Closet Inventory Worksheet

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WA2015-feb

This post is part of the Wardrobe Architect 2015 series, led by Kristen, our patternmaker. Read more about it here and join the fun!

I was so impressed with the progress everyone made with the January challenge! Now that you’ve spent a month thinking about your core style and the silhouettes, it’s time to put that information to good use and clean out your closet!

Strategize

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It might surprise you to learn that I actually have a pretty sparse closet. A few years ago I took no mercy and got rid of everything I wasn’t totally in love with. This left me with a more minimalist closet, but not exactly a “capsule” wardrobe since not many of the pieces coordinated very well, and there were some major gaps that needed to be filled.

It’s been a slow process, but my relentless approach to purging my wardrobe was a huge asset to getting me on my way to building a proper capsule wardrobe, so I want to share my method and tips with you. This could end up being an afternoon project, or a multi-week process for you. I recommend trying to get the majority done in one weekend, and then put the stuff out of your way for a few weeks to make sure you’re okay with your decisions before you toss everything into the donation bin. Remember, until you take it to the charity shop or sell it you can always change your mind; it pays to be discerning from the get-go.

First Pass

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This is the easy part!

Start by establishing a few different areas to toss your rejected garments – I like to have “out”, “mend/alter”, and “sentimental” piles.

Go through your closet and grab anything you actively dislike or never wear and throw it into the “out” pile. Does it make you feel self conscious when you wear it? Do you know red isn’t your color? Get rid of it!

Now go back through and grab everything you love and can’t imagine getting rid of. These are the garments you wear multiple times a month, or they’re your go-to pieces for special occasions. Do not include anything you’re even somewhat unsure about. Now lay those garments out so you can see each piece – this is the beginning of your capsule wardrobe! If you have an item you really love but needs mending you can include it here.

The Maybes

Things start to get a bit more challenging here. It’s likely your closet is more than half full of garments you feel just “meh” about, so it’s important to figure out why you’re unsure about it, and if that’s something that can change.

Print out the the Wardrobe Inventory Worksheets, and then try on each garment and rate it. It can be helpful to have a close friend or family member whose style is somewhat similar to your own to be there for this part of the process to provide some un-emotional feedback.

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Download the whole worksheet here.

Finalize Your Choices

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Here’s where the hard choices get made. Take the surviving “maybes” and lay them out with the “yes” pieces. Do all of the “maybe” garments mesh with all of the yes pieces? Are there redundancies or do some pieces completely clash with the pieces in your capsule wardrobe? Even though those “maybe” garments have come so far in the process consider moving garments to the “out” pile if they’re not working with your most beloved articles of clothing. Anything that survives this round is your final “yes” pile!

Now hang all your remaining “yes” pieces in your closet, organizing your closet however you think is best. I prefer to sort by garment type, but some people like to sort by color, or even outfit. If you have any clothing that isn’t in season right now I recommend putting them into storage so you don’t have to deal with visual clutter of sorting through tank tops during the middle of January and coats in July.

Donate or sell everything in your “out” pile, and make a plan to mend or alter other garments. I’ll talk more soon about strategies for tackling the mending pile, and how to address the new holes in your closet that may have once been filled by lackluster garments.

What to do with Sentimental Items?

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Sentimental garments are a big hang up for a lot of people. You can be attached to a piece of clothing for a variety of reasons – it reminds you of a special event or time in your life, you made it, or it was given to you by someone close to you. Whatever the reason, sometimes you come to the point where you know you don’t want to wear something ever again, but you also don’t want to throw it out

There are a few approaches you can take toward sentimental garments, but the key is to get them out of your closet and away from what you wear on a daily basis. I’m a total sap and have held onto every garment I’ve made in my entire life, no matter how ugly, so my approach is to put everything into storage containers and keep them under my bed.

If you don’t like the idea of actually keeping the items you could take pictures of everything in your sentimental pile before you donate them. You could also consider giving the garments to friends or family members who you know will actually get some use out of them. Sometimes seeing other’s enjoy things we have loved ourselves can be extremely gratifying.

Get Cleaning!

This process can feel very liberating and exciting, or seem extremely daunting and arduous, depending on the current state of your closet. What is one thing you’re looking forward to about cleaning out your closet? What do you think will be your biggest challenge?

Kris Blackmore   —   Designer

Kris is the designer at Colette, and also writes and illustrates our sewing patterns. A graduate of The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), this Texas native worked for a variety of companies in the fashion industry before joining Colette in 2013. On our blog, Kris helps solve your wardrobe woes through the Wardrobe Architect series she writes.

More about our writers

Comments 52

Eleanor gingerthreads.co.za

I kind of did this in a different order! I cleaned out my closet at the beginning of last month to see which gaps I need to fill.
My biggest challenge was realistically looking at what fits my post-pregnancy life and body. But now that it’s done it makes planning future projects MUCH easier.

Saartje meynensoutenboom.blogspot.be

I know what you mean! Nine years after my first pregnancy, I can say I’ve come to terms with my mommy-body, but with 4 pregnancies in those 9 years, my size and shape has been constantly changing. Even now I’m still loosing weight after the last pregnancy, so I keep a pile of pants which I like, but which don’t fit right now. I have discarded all maternity wear and anything that’s become too large, because I’m done with babies! And I only keep stuff I can wear now in sight! Although I do keep my whole wardrobe the whole year. I sometimes use tanks in the winter as an extra layer, and the off-season stuff just naturally migrates to the bottom of my piles anyway.

Peta

This is brilliant, just what I need at the moment – thank you!

Katie Emma instagram.com

I have purged my closet over the last few months, and I’ve found that once I’ve started editing, I can’t stop. I go through periodically and find more things I don’t want or need. I still need to go through my workout clothes and socks though – I realize I only ever pick things from the top, so there is tons of stuff buried in those drawers that I never wear. That will be my goal for the month!

Kristen

I get really into editing as well! The first time I really purged my closet wound up getting rid of 2/3 of my stuff.

Ms. Cleaver mscleaver.com

My biggest issue is getting rid of stuff that I no longer like or is in poor condition, but is something I need until a suitable replacement is found.

I’ve committed to only adding to my closet ethically-made, second-hand, or homemade clothing, but to do so takes more time in making or research to find items and often, money. So in the meantime I’m stuck with worn-out t-shirts, stretched out bras or aging jeans until I have the time/money to replace them. So Ive had to acknowledge to myself that a kinder closet is going to take time.

That said, I just did a big purge of the old t-shirt drawer this past weekend, which is on it’s way to becoming a handy new braided rug!

Kristen

That is tough. Whenever possible I try to get rid of that stuff and just live without it, even if I know I’m going to miss having it. It’s hard, but I’m way more motivated to find the time or search to the ends of the earth for something affordable if I don’t have an alternative.

Last year the only pair of shorts I had all summer were three sizes too large. I absolutely hated them, but I wore them because they were all I had. I wished I just tossed them and figured it out after that because I just kept putting it off and I only just got around to adding them in the donate pile this month.

Riet memadeland.wordpress.com

ha, same here! After decluttering not much is left. My boyfriend bought me bathing suit because he couldn’t handle it that I was wearing something miserable (or not swimming at all) awaiting time to finish a half started swimsuit. I just hope that it frustrates me so much, that I finally start making every piece I need myself!
But, decluttering done, I can spend this month thinking and planning more to make my final pattern list!

nicky

Oh Hi, I’m sure with the wardrobe architect and your clear vision you’ll do it bit by bit. I’m starting to realise this is big adventure we are all on and it may take me longer than I first thought but I want a real change in my relationship with clothes. I cant throw out everything I’d want to but I’m marking out what I want to keep in my final wardrobe with photos and hopefully next January I can ditch some of the old worn out stuff and I’ll somewhere nearer to that slow wardrobe I so want. So wear your ‘olds’ with pride with me till you get there cos we are going SLOW!

Ms. Cleaver mscleaver.com

Slow and Steady wins the race, right?!

Saartje meynensoutenboom.blogspot.be

I totally understand! When trying to have a more ‘intentional’ wardrobe (ethical, home-made, green, …) it seems wrong somehow to start by throwing out stuff that is still ‘wearable’ (even if you need a pretty broad definition of wearable to call some of the stuff in my closet that :-)). I find that giving to charity makes me feel better about getting rid of something. At my thrift shop we can drop off all clothes, even if they are worn, they will sort everything and discarded clothes are recycled (as paper? I don’t know!). I figure that if a charity decides something is no longer fit to be worn by a human being, I shouldn’t feel obliged to wear it, to safe the planet!

And like Kirsten, I will get rid of things I need, to force myself to buy something new.

Riet, I totally relate to the swim suit story. I finally got myself a bikini last year, a day before leaving on holiday to a bungalow with swimming pool, because I was sick and tired of feeling uncomfortable in the swimming pool. Not because of my slightly saggy post-pregnancy body, but because of the rags I wore! Taking care of yourself so you feel good and free to enjoy the swim is OK!

Shannon

I try to throw things I’ve made but no longer wear– or never wore, because they were horrible–into the scrap pile for future repurposing in another project (even if it’s just my very much theoretical “quilting” project).

Kristen

That’s a great idea! I made a tshirt quilt out of my old shirts I didn’t want to get rid of but never wore. It’s nice to have the memories there without feeling like they’re taking up valuable closet space!

Tiffany spiffystitches.ca

Great timing! I was just about to do some spring cleaning on my wardrobe. This list will be super handy!

Melanie

This is such a timely thing for me. I’ve recently moved and so purged my closet big time. Not a lot left. I also got a new job. Actually working at a thrift store, so pretty much my dream job. I had decided earlier this week that I would not add anything to my closet that I didn’t either sew myself or thrift. This gives me the inspiration to go thru and see what I actually NEED>

Diane

The hardest thing to let go of is an image of myself – a much skinnier, better dressed version of me who wears scarves, tuxedo jackets and cute ballet flats with skinny jeans.

I live in the country, with a country lifestyle and manage to wear scarves only a few times a year. It’s hard to get rid of those clothes that represent how you _wish_ you dressed. To make donating items more difficult I used to have a life where I did dress up 5 days a week so I think maybe I’ll need those items again.

Is it cheating to keep them but move them out of the closet?

Robin Hayden

I have this problem too-changes that are either hard to keep pace with, or difficult to adjust to quickly. In my situation, it was a move to the country, from a tropical island to four seasons, then weight loss, “aging” out of certain looks, then weight gain and changes to shape due to menopause. So there are a lot of misses and few hits, but I am going to keep sewing every day until I find my way!

Kristen

My body changed a lot last year (thanks, marathon training!) so I mostly just sewed with knits. They’re much more forgiving of my random +/-10lb fluctuations in weight.

Toni archmom.com

This is my struggle too. If I’m truly honest, I wear workout clothes most of the time, but do I really want a wardrobe of those pieces. We’re also moving in 6+ months to four seasons (from single season Hawaii), so I’m nervous about tossing everything.

I know, I just need to go for it!

Diane

Toni,

I know how you feel. We moved from the low desert (10 months of HOT) to a 4-season climate 6 years ago. Purge your wardrobe of clothes that don’t fit or are too worn/stained. And thin out the multiples of shorts and bathing suits, etc. But – resist the ‘urge to purge’ wildly until you settle into your new climate. It has taken me a long time to figure out which desert clothes are comfortable to wear in my new life. The transition held some surprises which I couldn’t have forseen. Good luck.

Lene Light

Both my daughter (16 months old on Feb. 9th) and I are participating in the Wardrobe Architect. Every few months I purge her chest of drawers and I just did a huge purge two months ago for myself. At the time I knew I wasn’t done, this reminds me that I need to crack open all of the storage boxes and do round two! It’s a good time to do it since February is the cleaning month according to the Roman calendar.
Good luck fellow Architects!!

Mary Kay

It turns out that if you just keep telling yourself: Someone in this town can use this, someone in this town can use this, someone in this town can use this….it’s easier to give stuff away, even things you enjoyed making or wearing in some long ago smaller size or know you won’t ever really remake. I spent a snowed-in weekend cleaning out my closet, and it was a refreshing experience. I likely would not have done so without the inspiration of the Wardrobe Architect (even though I jumped ahead of the February assignment :-). Thank you for keeping me inspired!

Ida lineandsurface.wordpress.com

Early spring cleaning! I’m looking forward to this for several reasons. First, I wouldn’t consider my wardrobe that big, and I don’t buy that much but I’m quite bad at letting things go. There are clothes I like but never really wear. And there are garments that are really old that I don’t use. I’m also moving in a few months and I really want to reduce my amount of belongings until then. Having a conscious capsule wardrobe is very appealing – especially making it myself!

Lisanne

How fascinating – the worksheet doesn’t include any layers ! I feel the cold and wear pullover layers, vests and jackets, all at the same time.

Happily I did my big closet clear out some time ago, so this will be a quiet month for me.

Kristen

You can include those in the “tops” section!

Niamh

My biggest struggle is old t-shirts – I convince myself that the ratty ones can be used for loungewear, or for camping trips or pyjamas, then forget to move them into the appropriate shelf. Half the time I don’t even see the darn things any more, other than to shove them out of the way while I grab a nicer shirt! Hardcore purge time, methinks!

Zoe

I really need to do this, my wardrobe is full of things I don’t wear, including stuff that’s out of season!

I have a lot of things that I keep because I like, but they don’t fit me well – any tips or resources for altering these items so they do fit please? Thanks

Kristen

I was browsing Pinterest and stumbled upon this tutorial for taking in shirts! It depends on how much you’re looking to take it in though.

http://tinyurl.com/kvmqypp

Diane

Zoe, there are a lot of tips on Pinterest to re-make clothes – larger, smaller, shorter, longer or just different looking. Try searching “clothing alteration” – actually once you type in “clothing” Pinterest will offer you a bunch of suggestions. Good luck.

Gerry pbunniep.com

I’m actually not too bad at deciding what I don’t want but the “problem” is that my dearest mother always has to have the last rummage through my discarded pile then attempts to reason with me why “a perfectly good shirt” is thrown out. Maybe I should just take it to the donation box without her.

Saartje meynensoutenboom.blogspot.be

You should read ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo. It has a whole chapter on why you should never let you mother see your discard-pile and why it’s cruel to give hand-me-downs to your little sister! Great book. It’s what got me looking for a more purposeful approach to my wardrobe!

gabriel

this.

Zoe

Thanks Kristen and Diane, I’ve had a quick look and found loads of useful stuff on Pinterest. I’ve found a great tutorial for taking trousers in at the waist, which is one of my biggest problems! I’m definitely going to try that! I’ve got a couple of pairs that need taking in at the sides too.

I think this is going to really help my wardrobe, I am determined now to make the existing clothes that I like fit me better to become clothes I love!

Thanks for your help.

nicky

I had a big clear out in the new year, but I think I will check those things lurking in the background or stuffed in the back of a draw. Rather than take photos of what I’m going to let go of, I think I might take photos of whats left. I’m hoping this will help me build that capsule wardrobe and bridge the great divide between what I actually love to wear and what I pin, emergency buy, and spend hours making and never wear.

Jess wardrobeecology.wordpress.com

After spending January pondering my dream wardrobe & core style, I feel more ready than ever to do a serious closet purge. I’m really looking forward to feeling free to discard things that I admire (nice fabrics, say) but don’t fit my core style anymore. For a long time I’ve been building my wardrobe with nice(r) items from the thrift store, sometimes altering them but more often than not just living with slightly-ill-fitting clothes. After rediscovering my sewing machine this past year I feel like I have so many more options — to make the clothes I really want and not just settling for something that’s on the right track but misses the mark. It’s always been scary for me to truly purge, because what if I regret giving something away when I could have upcycled it? but now I feel like I’ve honed in on my core style (thanks to the worksheets & the additional info on Into Mind) enough to let go. I think my biggest challenge will be that my closet is just a mess of things that need to stored in the one cat-proof zone of my apartment — I’m a little afraid of what will tumble out.

Britney Waite allthingsbritneylee.wordpress.com

I am looking forward to not looking at my closet and feeling like i don’t want to wear any of it. but i’m also TERRIFIED of doing this because i feel like i won’t have any clothes left!! i am just so unhappy with the majority of my clothes that if i am being extremely strict, i don’t know what will be left! but i gotta do it! i know…

Kasia punktyodniesienia.blogspot.com

I love WAChallange! I am so inspired! I think February worksheets are really useful. I made that step a couples months ago and I was sure that now there is nothing to clean :). But I was mistaken, I’ve founded some clothes to eliminate. So thank you so much for inspirations!

Saartje meynensoutenboom.blogspot.be

In ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo, she uses 1 criterion for deciding of something stays or goes, and that’s ‘DOES IT SPARK JOY?’. Basically, you get every single item of clothing out on the floor, take one at the time into your hands and if it sparks joy, you keep it. If not, it goes. I haven’t finished reading the book, but so far she doesn’t give instructions on how to avoid acquiring joyless items in the first place. She claims that if you purge, or rather purify, you wardrobe and home, it changes your mindset in such a way that you’ll be more intentional in what you bring into your home afterwards.

I still think that consciously thinking about and planning a wardrobe capsule will help me construct a wardrobe I love, and reduce the risk of buying joyless items.

Eleanor makingupwithallergies.com

That is a really interesting idea. I will keep that in mind as I go through my wardrobe. I happen to be cleaning out my house too, as I am down-sizing.

Eleanor makingupwithallergies.com

It was funny to see this today, as I have been gearing up to clean out my closet once again. I have been planning to do it, but it just seemed like to big of a job until today. I think that is because I am getting ready to sew again, when I haven’t been able to do it for the past 5-years or so. I have purged a few times over the past few years, as I lost 60 pounds (yeah bariatric surgery!), but this time I gave myself permission to give away the things that I have been keeping because I thought that I might need them (got to be prepared) but really don’t like them.

I am so pleased that have done this. Now I can see what I have in my closet and it doesn’t look like a rat’s nest!

Next up it my dresser. I have lots of old scarves and stuff like that from when my mother passed away, but I never use them. They would be lots of fun to use in the linings of jackets and skirts or a seam binding. So, I am going to pare that down to only the things that I like and use. I can’t wait to get going. :D

Saartje meynensoutenboom.blogspot.be

I made a Wardrobe Architect sketchbook! I documented it, and my first WA*-garment in this post: http://meynensoutenboom.blogspot.be/2015/02/wardrobe-architect-sketchbook.html .

* Yes, I use the words Wardrobe Architect so often nowadays, I started using an abbreviation!

Najah wannabesewingsomething.wordpress.com

I didn’t hesitate on this closet clean out excercise because I’d knew I’d have to deal with the ultimate question: WTF DO I WEAR IN THE MEANTIME?

So, the rest of the month, I’ll be sewing some critical, outfit-completing garments. And, unless I want to change careers (e.g., topless dancer, underwear model), some emergency tops must happen. Stat.

Even with the drama, I’m REALLY digging this challenge. Thanks for resurrecting it.

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Marie Donnelly

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Paige leamouthcarpetcleaners.org.uk

This post is really nice and helpful! I have tons of clothes in my closet, that I don’t wear. I’m running out of place and I’m getting really frustrated by the mess! I don’t like to throw stuff away usually but in this case it is really necessary! Thanks for the tips! The post is really appreciated! Greets, Leamouth Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

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