Twice a year (spring and fall) I survey my closet. I haul everything out, pile it on the bed in our spare room, and give it the once-over. If I will wear it this season, it goes on my list as “still wearable”, and then back in my closet. If I think I won’t wear it this season, but it still fits, and is a classic that I might wear down the road, I store it.  If it doesn’t fit into either category, I then decide if I will consign the piece to earn a little cash, or give it away. I’ve been doing this for years. Then I make a list of what I need, or want, to buy for that season.

Closet Cleanse...Who Benefits When We Tidy Up?
My “little book,” wherein I keep my lists: what I already own, what I own but won’t be wearing this season, and what I need/want to buy new.

I’m sure you’ve heard about Marie Kondo and her book on how to declutter your closet and your life. Some of my friends have read Kondo’s book and swear by it. I saved this article back when I was still subscribing to Chloe Malle, who is a cutie, decides what items in her closet do and do not “spark joy,” and does some serious tidying up with Marie Kondo herself.  Decluttering is big these days. Really big.

And Kondo’s book seems to have given rise to a plethora of on-line advice on  “decluttering“, “cleansing,” or “detoxing” your closet. There are more 7-step, or 10-step, or 11-step programs to get organized “than you can shake a stick at”… to use my grandmother’s expression. And who benefits from all this tidying? According to this article by Lauren Sherman on the blog, second hand clothing and consignment stores as well as charity organizations like Goodwill are benefiting big time from the closet clean-up craze. Well, now. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it? Spread the joy around, I say… pun intended.

Back when I was still working, decluttering, detoxing, closet cleansing… whatever… was important for me because I needed to be able to see easily what was in my closet, in order to decide what I might wear each day. And I needed to make room in my very small closet, in our very small house, for anything new I might buy.

My wardrobe is less extensive these days, more finely edited you might say. With less need for business wear. And more need for jeans and comfortable, but still polished, tops and jackets. But I still do my seasonal organization thing. I made my lists back in March. Here’s a few things that did not make the cut to either keep or store. I hate to give up that black and white DVF dress, but it felt too short when I wore it last year and I know it will just languish in the closet this year. Time to let someone else cherish it, I think. The other things…well, a bit too tight, a bit too short… and a bit too annoying. That Burberry shirt is cute and in really good shape, but it pulls across the middle. Cardinal sin to bring attention to one’s middle-age middle. So it’s going.

Closet Cleanse... Who Benefits When We Tidy Up?
My consignment items…so far.

Once the purging decisions were made I went shopping. This white, collarless, silk Equipment shirt was one of my purchases. I love the sixties-style, flower design. All the colours: navy, soft pink, coral, lilac and khaki in the design. The two pockets on the chest that you can’t see very well, here. The slim cut and the length which is perfect for me. Great with my Paige high-rise skinnies, and my Stan Smith Adidas.

Closet Cleanse... Who Benefits When We Tidy Up?
And with my Twiggy suede jacket. Perfect for making the drive to Prescott to have lunch with  my sister.
          Closet Cleanse... Who Benefits When We Tidy Up?
See how long the shirt is in the back? Makes a short jacket and tight skinny jeans a bit more age appropriate. You’ll laugh. But when I was taking this shot, I was smiling for the camera. Can you tell?
Closet Cleanse... Who Benefits When We Tidy Up?
Later that day, I swapped out the Twiggy jacket for this wardrobe workhorse from last year, my Helmut Lang black blazer, for a Friday night dinner with my book club. We read the memoir The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer and Susan Dworkin and we all agreed it was not great literature, but definitely well worth reading. I finished it in two days; it was riveting.
          Closet Cleanse... Who Benefits When We Tidy Up?
So my closet has been reorganized for spring 2016. I’ve done my shopping, and purchased a couple of new pieces. The Equipment shirt, for one, and a dress that you’ll no doubt be seeing in the near future. I’ve purged, detoxed, and decluttered. I have a bag to take to my friend Fiona’s consignment store The Frock Exchange. Don’t you love that name? I also have a bag that I’ll be donating to Dress for Success, which I think is such a wonderful charity.
So who benefits when I tidy up? Well, I do of course. I love a well-edited, tidy closet…. makes me smile with happiness. And I do again, because I may earn some cash from my consigned items. And Fiona does, too. Because without all us purgers where would she get her stock? And hopefully some woman I’ll never meet, who needs a nice blouse or a jacket to wear to a job interview, so she can get back to work, and get her life on track, and who has visited Dress for Success for assistance will also benefit. And that makes me smile too. So there, you see… I benefit again.
Getting organized. Who knew it was so beneficial?
Are you a serial closet organizer? What do you do with the stuff you’ve purged in your clear-out?


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34 thoughts on “Closet Cleanse… Who Benefits When We Tidy Up?”

  1. Hi Sue, love your new shirt, very pretty pattern. I tend to give my cast-offs, both clothing and household goods, to either Value Village or the Salvation Army (I like to think of the good karma). I have both of Marie Kondo's books, but I do find the second one a little more kooky, all that talking to inanimate objects. However, the illustrations are nice and I find both books quite motivating.

    1. Thanks, Patricia. I give to the Salvation Army as well. But not to Value Village…mostly because I was told it's owned by Walmart. In the article/video from Chloe Malle seemed to feel a little silly to be verbally thanking her clothes before she shipped them off.

    1. Thanks for hosting the link-up Patti. I laugh when I see that my anal tendencies to be organized are now the latest in closet cool:)

  2. I'm nowhere near as organised as you are, but I've been moving closer to a well-edited, decently organised closet over the last year, mainly by not shopping as much and by the whole process of getting ready for a move. I'm dreading this next stage, over the next week or so, because I'm going to have to put my clothes into the moving boxes, and since we'll be living in a small transitional space (500 sf!) while we search for our next home, I'm going to have to decide to put some stuff in storage. Not only am I nervous about putting all the cashmere and merino away for a few months in a dark place that I don't get to guard (Moths! I don't even trust winter storage in my own care, never mind someone else's!), but how can I be sure I'll have, say, all the shoes I want. I mean, I might want some of my boots over the summer, no?
    On the other hand, this will obviously force me to think very carefully about what it really takes to dress "well enough" for most occasions, and at least by the time I've got through a couple of months sharing a small closet with my guy, whatever we end up in our new place will seem luxurious, and perhaps I'll even have developed some good new habits. And I'll definitely have handled every single garment, à la Konmar directions, although I may not have waited for the joy-sparking to happen (or not) before moving it to its next destination. . .
    And I did chuckle at your Smiling photo, but should refrain from commenting lest I say something "cheeky." Oh dear. . . 😉

    1. It used to make me a bit miffed that women with whom I worked (and sometimes even friends) always smiled at my "over thinking" over clothes. But now I trot out, not names but, qualifications when I mention bloggers like you and Lisa and Sue/Une Femme who do the same. I'll say something like… the lady who is a university prof who loves Vince as much as me. And what I really mean is…"See. Even smart people with PhDs care about clothes." So nice to live amidst kindred spirits, even on-line.
      I don't envy you your culling, at this stage. What to pack, what to keep out. You may indeed want a pair of boots. I would too. Keep one cool weather outfit complete with boots, maybe? One dressy for the opera. Pretend you and Pater are going on vacation? Yet you don't have to live out of a suitcase. Or carry-on. Good luck. And when you have time… it will make a great blog post.

    2. This gave me a chuckle. Hand up in full disclosure: another PhD here (Brit Lit) who loves clothes, loves organizing her closet à la Kondo (was doing so B.K. (Before Kondo), and really really really loves Vince clothing!

      On another note, I see Chloe Malle inherited her mother's great deadpan delivery! What a fun video. Thanks for sharing that. 🙂 -Catbird Farm

  3. Yes , I do have periodic clear outs but I'm not as disciplined as you . I tend to do it when the mood takes me . I usually pass a few things on to my youngest sister . Last time we were on holiday she had one of my ex handbags & it felt good to see it being used again . I have passed on treasures to teenagers who raved about my ' vintage stuff 'but they are all grown now .The rest goes to charity shops , as we call them , RSPCA for the lower value stuff ( as they never put a high price on anything ) & OXFAM for the expensive , as they research the value & price accordingly – they get criticized for being greedy but I don't think something bought originally for serious money should be sold for a few pounds . We do claim tax relief on the OXFAM donations but I don't sell anything . There are a few items in a suitcase that I can't ever see coming back into fashion but I love them & you never know – Might crop those purple linen flares for Italy this summer….
    Wendy – now on a Scottish island in a heatwave

    1. I'm sad that I now have no nieces who can wear my cast-offs. The last one who might be my size has eschewed girly things. And I so wanted her to have my pink Coach bag from 2005. I didn't know Oxfam did that about pricing. Good for them! The only thing I know at all about Oxfam comes from Barbara Pym or Margaret Drabble novels and the like. I have a small stash of items that I keep for sentimental value only. You really should crop those purple flares for Italy. You can be especially daring when you're in a foreign country and no one knows you. Send pictures please:)
      P.S. Any day I expect you to sign your comment…"Wendy- somewhere in Italy" like those old movies in the sixties.

  4. In my transition to retirement over the past 4 years, I've slowly weeded out most of my business wardrobe. I have to admit dressing for work is the only part of my old life I miss! While I'm striving to tidy up, I am stumped on what a curated closet should look like. Susan, do you have any guidelines in your notebooks on what an ample framework would be? My new lifestyle is very similar to yours. I probably have 8 pair of black pants in various fabrics, lengths and styles, for example. You seem to have such good judgment as well as style that I'd appreciate your recommendations. Thanks!

    1. It's funny I missed wearing my suits and dress pants for a couple of years, too. I hung onto anything I thought I might wear for a year or so. And then tried everything on and tried to imagine where I might wear it. Then I invited several young teachers, all of whom I had either hired to work in my department or had mentored at one time, to come over for tea and "shop my closet." We had such a wonderful afternoon. Me especially. They all left with a garment bag with at least one outfit in it. I did the same the next year for fall and winter items. Anything I could spin into a more casual outfit, like tweed blazers, or cardigans, I kept.
      I'm just now getting to the point where I might be able to tackle a topic like this. I'm flattered that you think I might have anything illuminating to say that would help, Chris. And I'm going to have to think about it first. "Curated closet" … good title. I'll get back to you.

    2. Hi again Sue – I was reading through the comments (I like to see your replies) and thought I'd let you know that there will soon be published a book with that very title!

      The book doesn't come out until September, but the writer has a blog called Into Mind, all about minimalism and clothing etc., which is worth a look. She also published a workbook online – I imagine that the book will include some of the same info. Here's the link to the blog:

    3. Thanks for that link, Patricia. I'd never heard of the blog. There sure is a plethora of information on how to plan a wardrobe on that site.

  5. We like a lot of the same brands… Isn't Chloe Malle wonderful? You probably know she's Candice Bergen's daughter. Fun and classy are in her jeans… genes! Brenda

  6. I've just done a similar closet purge putting away winter wear, bringing out spring and summer, and taking several items to our local thrift store which is run by volunteers from four local churches. Much of what is collected there is sent on to inner city missions and women's shelters, so I know that if my "hand me downs" aren't purchased locally, they will go to someone else who needs them.

    Elaine @ Following Augustine

  7. The new shirt is such a great piece, relaxed but polished. I usually do a closet cleanse about twice a year now, which I find is sufficient. I've been working on refining my shopping habits and only purchasing what I love, which should make this task a bit easier going forward. Still, lifestyles and bodies change, and it's good to let go of what we no longer use or love.

    1. Thanks, Sue. I was shopping with my buddy who works at Nordstrom the other day, and she had stashed a short tweedy jacket (kind of Chanel-ish) in her room for me to try on. I pulled it on and it fit perfectly but we both shrugged and said… "Nope. That's so "old Sue".. not the current Sue." It just didn't suit me anymore. Or didn't suit the me I've become since I retired.

  8. Hi Sue I wish I was as organised as you with clothes ..Both shopping and sorting my wardrobe! However thanks to your suggestions I have got better over the last six months. With a lot of soul searching I realised I often bought clothes and accessories as people by Art etc because I really liked them ..found them appealing/beautiful. I didn't always think how often I'd wear them and more importantly would they look as good on my body as they did in my head! Ha ha. I've actually become more disciplined and can look at something, accept it's gorgeous but not for me …and walk away! I also compiled a list of what I "need" for this summer and I'm trying hard to stick to it.
    When I have a clear out I take things to local charity shops, like Wendy. Most recently to a one supporting a local children's hospice.
    Your new blouse is a good mix of pretty and practical. I find myself using the word versitile to describe lots of your purchases and I think that's because you really think how you'll wear something. A trait I'm trying to adopt!
    Hope you're having a good week ..Sorry it's taken ages for me to email you. Promise to do it within the week!

    1. Breaking old shopping habits is hard. Especially, if you're pressed for time. It's so much easier to fall back on what you've always done. Good for you to make a "needs" list. And remember your lists are only supposed to be "guidelines." If you find that special piece, you can always break your own rules!

  9. Oops..* buy not by! That's the predictive txt on my phone ..It always thinks it knows better than me what I mean to say! 🙂

  10. I do not do as much decluttering as I should. I have a friend who read Marie Kondo's book and loved it. She said with her clothes, everything ended up keeping just went together easier!


  11. What a great post! I need to follow some of your closet editing advice, for sure. I am an absolute clothes hoarder and have difficulty parting with anything. But there are so many things in my closet that I don't wear because when I do wear them I find myself tugging and straightening or just plain uncomfortable. I think retailers should allow returns after one wear! Something looks great in the fitting room, but after a day's worth of wear you realize they are not so great (more with shoes than anything.) I guess this is why clothing "renters" like Gwynnie Bee are so successful. Perhaps I should go that route! In any event, thank you for this post and giving me a little push to start a Spring/Summer closet edit!


    1. Oh … I hate owning a shirt or pants that in theory I love but which are just sooo uncomfortable that I end up NOT wearing them and then feel guilty that I wasted my money! Wardrobe planning is so complex, isn't it:) I'd never heard of clothing "renters" except for men's tuxes.

    1. I know what you mean..sometimes I wonder what happened to a particular item. If I gave it away… or… if I still had it, would it fit? Probably not.

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