There are many reasons to get rid of things in your closet. Perhaps you moved into a home with a smaller closet, perhaps your partner moved in with you, but keeping with a metaphor I’ve used in the past about your closet being a garden, I’m going to assume the primary reason for cleaning your closet is, what I think, is the most fun one: to buy more things. You have to weed your garden to make space for new, desirable things to grow. You can’t buy new things and your personal style cannot grow if your closet is crowded, full of things that you aren’t going to wear for various reasons.
In addition to the obvious fact that you simply lack space for new things, a crowded, unorganized closet carries other problems. If your closet is crowded and things are stacked on top of each other and packed so tightly that items disappear between others, you can’t see the totality of your closet so you gravitate to things that you’re familiar and comfortable with, particularly if you’re in a rush. When this happens you end up wearing the same clothes repetitively, thereby failing to fulfill the potential of your wardrobe and ultimately wasting money as many of your clothes sit idle and unused. So in an attempt to save you from this vicious trap and help you free up space that you can subsequently fill with new pieces, I’ve assembled a few quick tips to help you decide what needs to go.
1) Things That Are Damaged
Do I really need to say this? Get torn and damaged clothes out of your closet. No, you can’t continue to wear the sweater with the hole in the back if you cover it with a blazer. No, you can’t hide the stain on those chinos (how did that even get there?!). Some items can be repaired, and, indeed, it is a part of maintenance. For example, dress shirts are sold with extra buttons for a reason. Don’t toss a good shirt in the trash because you ripped off a button. But holes, stains, conspicuous tears and rips are deal breakers. They must go.
2) Things That Don’t Fit
Clothes that once fit (or maybe never fit) end up not fitting for a variety of reasons. We lose weight, we gain weight. Clothes shrink (if you’re unfortunate enough to have washed them improperly), and cuts and shapes go out of style leaving you with an awkward boxy sports jacket in a modern, slim fit world. So the golden rule here is if they can’t be tailored, they have to go (and items that are too small almost certainly have to go). If you aren’t going to immediately take the to a tailor, they have to go. You cannot hold onto clothes that don’t fit under the assumption or with the hope that you will lose or gain weight. Dress the body you have now and get rid of the things that don’t help you do that.
3) Things That Are Out of Style
This is slightly related to my last point about cuts and fits falling out of favor, but this is much broader. Fashion is cyclical, but don’t pack away those square toed Stacy Adams dress shoes waiting for them to come back. Unless you have fantasies of packing your outdated clothing away in the attic and your kid one day finding them and wearing them to school and being praised as a vintage fashion icon, get rid of things that are out of style. This includes, but is not limited to, the aforementioned square toed dress shoes, any form of gator skinned shoes, wide ties, and bulky dress shirts. Throw them out and replace them with some cap-toed oxfords, a pair of colorful drivers, medium-skinny ties, and fitted dress shirts.
4) Things That You’ve Evolved Past
The appendix is called a vestigial organ. It’s an organ that is no longer necessary for healthy bodily function because our bodies have evolved past the need for it. It does nothing, but we haven’t evolved past the physical presence of the organ even though we can surgically remove it if necessary. Style is similar. Personal style doesn’t stagnate, it’s a process of perpetual growth and change. It’s evolution. Our style moves forward and leaves things that we formerlly enjoyed or needed behind, and those items can become toxic when you don’t remove them. Yes, that brown leather jacket still fits, but now the navy wool coat has taken all of its wear time and you don’t really like the style of the brown anymore. Don’t hang on to things just because you used to love them. You have one appendix. You don’t need any more.
Now, my friends, go out and clear out those closets! (What you do with them is up to you. Goodwill, Salvation Army, a friend, trash. Each has its strengths and weakness. Most likely, you’ll use some combination of disposal methods.)