Clean Your Closet: 5 Steps to a Better Wardrobe


A year after first documenting my wardrobe editing process and lessons learned, I’ve just finished a fresh all-seasons closet clean out. And since making a concerted effort to identify my style, create ‘uniforms’ that work well together for cold weather and the warmer months of spring and summer, and be more honest about so-so purchases and bad shopping habits, every cull goes by a little bit quicker, and letting go and shopping smarter has become second nature. If you’re also whittling, grab a cup of coffee and start your own round of super duper strength, five step wardrobe editing with me?


  • KEEP  // Be generous, ruthless, and honest in your edit. Keep what is beautiful, joyful, useful to you.
  • REPAIR  // Separate what needs to be dry-cleaned, repaired, and tailored.
  • REVISIT  // If you’re not sure about something, set it aside for a few weeks before revisiting. Did you wear it? Would you miss it terribly, really? No? Set it free!
  • GIVE AWAY  // Donate pieces to charity, give them to friends or family, or repurpose items into craft projects. Give particularly tattered clothing to animal shelters, where they can be used as bedding and cleaning towels.
  • SELL & TRADE  // I really like Tradesy, and have also had great experiences with eBay, as well as local re-sell and exchange shops.


  • STYLE  // Do I like the color, cut, and fabric on me?
  • CONDITION  // Does it fit and is it in good condition? If not, will I really wear it when it’s tailored or repaired?
  • PRACTICALITY  // Does it match my lifestyle and other pieces in my closet?
  • FEEL GOODS  // Does it give me “the feel goods”? This part is easy to forget, but it’s so important. You won’t often wear what you don’t really like. Let it go to someone who will love it to bits.


  • STATUS  // SOMEDAYS // SENTIMENTS  From time to time I’ll struggle to let go of something that’s rarely worn, unloved, and gathering dust in the back of the closet. Thinking about expense, “someday I’ll wear it”, and nostalgia are the most common reasons why, and checking them with each cull has helped make sure I hang onto pieces for the right reasons. Let go of what’s kept because it’s expensive and popular, was purchased for a life you’re not leading, or vaguely reminds you of a memory or place. And on that note, it’s unbelievably freeing to let go of anything that reminds you of a negative time or place, too.This round I packed a bag of pieces for a friend, who mentioned today she mailed a lot of the items to her cousin – who’d recently lost almost all of her belongings in a fire. Sometimes it’s hard to say what kind of extraordinary new lives that the things you own could lead, and even harder to watch them leave, but stories like this remind me why it’s important to let them go.


Now that your clothes are sorted out, take stock and make two books: SAY YES // SAY NO. To the ‘yes’ guide add colors, prints, materials, cuts and styles kept, adored, and hoped for. Do the same for the ‘no’ guide so you remember what’s leaving and why the next time you shop. You can also add brands, trends, and items you purchase too often or too infrequently. A quick and dirty way to visualize your guidebooks is the mighty Pinterest board.
MY YES SHEET:  COLORS  cream, black, grey, white, nude, navy, light blue, olive //  PRINTS  breton stripe, marled and knit textures, tartan, metals, dark floral, botanical prints  //  MATERIALS  silk, cotton, wool, chambray, linen, cashmere, leather, suede; smart and sport synthetics like faux leather, Tencel, Lycra, SmartWool, recycled athletic polyester //  CUTS & STYLES  bateau, trapeze, v-neck, and crew-neck; slim denim, short and maxi dresses, pencil skirts; chunk-heeled and flat shoes and boots, D’Orsay styles, wedges.
MY NO SHEET:  COLORS & PRINTS  hot colors, saturated bold colors, geometric prints, coppers, lace prints, vertical stripes, paisley, ombre, gingham //  MATERIALS  patent leather and synthetics like polyester, acrylic, nylon, rayon, acetate  //  CUTS & STYLES  turtleneck, strapless, halter, u-necklines; tea-length skirts, stovepipe pants, babydoll tops and dresses; mules, ballerina flats, mid-calf boots //  BAD HABITS  uncomfortable stilettos, pale and bright bottoms, short-sleeve button downs, polos, beach coverups, floral pants, super delicate and complicated strappy sandals.

For Kasey! Fall weather in Atlanta is really temperamental, so for the next few months this is everything needed for both spring/summer and fall/winter temperatures. Separately storing evening dresses, heavy winter coats, and out-of-season shoes makes sure I only “shop” those pieces when it makes sense. Breaking out hanging tops by color and sleeve length has also made it easy to dress with the forecast.


Creating an updated wishlist is your last stop. I always order needs and wants by what I need soonest and by my budget. Last year that meant finally getting a bag I’d wanted for ages (that now doubles as a bike pannier), and this year it’s included some phenomenal thrift finds. It also does me good to remember that proper wardrobe-building takes patience, prioritization, and time.
When I identify a wardrobe gap, I first check back over my current closet to make sure I haven’t skipped over something that could fill the need. Then I like to look around for second-hand options and start to track eBay and sales. All of this is an aim to be a little kinder to our environment, own fewer items that meet more needs, and make the most of my budget. I still feel like there’s so much room to grow in this experiment of working into the idea of more with less – especially when it sits beside my love of art, design, and aesthetics – but tracking this process over the past year has led to a lot of changes in how I approach shopping for clothes and general consumption of products. Patience, prioritization, and time, sweet time.
FALL/WINTER 2014 WISHES:  Hooded long parka or cape in olive for bicycling in the rain. Eyes on eBay for a deal on a , Iva Jean cycling cape, Bobbin wax cotton cape, or // Black riding boots (checked these off last week when I traded clothes for a pair at Buffalo Exchange!) // Merino wool grey sweater to replace my favorite one that’s shrunken too small. Keeping an eye out for second-hand and ) // Jodhpurs to tuck into riding boots (checked these off at a charity shop last weekend!)  The If-I-Find-Thems: Big woolly knitted cream scarf // Black suede wedge booties – current ones nearing replacement // a good pair of Paper bag waist pants. This is my third year on the lookout for a good vintage pair! // . I fell in love with these two years ago and have been watching for a similar thrift pair ever since. 


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