Like many people, I often picture the perfect version of my life—the one where I finally have all my shit together. In this version, I cut back on Netflix. I cook meals exclusively from scratch. I compost. All of my plants survive. I don’t spend $25 on coffee every week, and instead make it at home. And above all, I finally have my wardrobe figured out. This dream isn’t so much about discovering my personal style as it is about being thoughtful about what I own. I’ve always been on a mission to stop accumulating piles of stuff, but never succeeded in cleaning out my wardrobe once and for all. That’s why I created a set of rules to help me overhaul my wardrobe on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.
I decided to approach this goal the same way I have any other success venture. When I wanted to build exercise into my daily routine, I didn’t start by going from zero to six or seven a week. Instead, I started with one workout per week and the next month, I did two per week. By the end of 2020, I was working out six or seven days a week, every week, and the process never felt impossible. It was a habit that stuck. This is what I want for keeping my closet clean—a habit that felt built in to my routine consistently, rather than something I did once or twice a year on a whim. I sat down and wrote out a plan to clean out my wardrobe once and for all. Below, find what I came up with.
Every Week, Get Rid Of One Thing You Don’t Wear
I decided not to do the big "closet clean-out" event for once in my life. It worked every once in a while, but more often it made me feel overwhelmed and ended with me trashing items out of pure frustration (or, even more often, just stuffing them in a random drawer). This year, I would take things slow. Aside from the very first week of the year, I'm going to avoid doing giant closet purges and instead break things down in smaller bites.
Every week, no matter what, I'll look at my closet and get rid of one item. Just one. Instead of making a thousand decisions in one day about what to keep and what to get rid of, I would just choose one. This sounds small—but it’s accessible, easy, and always feels manageable. You’d be surprised how easy it is to definitively decide on a piece of clothing you never wear, or doesn’t fit when you only have to choose one.
Every Month, Get Rid of One More Item Per Week
I also told myself that in the second month of the Great 2021 Closet Makeover, I would get rid of two items per week. And then in the third month, I would get rid of three and so on. This way, purging my closet would feel gradual and I’d get used to making decisions about clothing (did I love this item? Did I wear it regularly? Did it fit?) and freeing up space regularly. I would never be overwhelmed by the concept of making decisions about every single thing I own (a daunting task for anyone), instead deciding on just a handful each week.
Every Month, Schedule a Date to Sell, Donate, or Toss
Another change I’m making is to choose a day every month to either sell, donate, or trash the clothing I’ve gathered. Whether that’s four items during the first month of the year or 48 during the last month of the year (it seems like a lot, but when you consider underwear, socks, and old bathing suits, most of us could easily throw around 50 items of clothing per month), I would sit down and take time to get the clothing out of my house. No matter what. This way, they won't end up sitting in a trash bag at the end of the hall for three months with a vague plan to take care of it, eventually.
And that, surprisingly, is it. In the past, my closet overhaul attempts have been 12-hour sprees of total chaos—haphazardly trying to get rid of as many pieces of clothing as possible at once. Go big or go home. All or nothing. This left no time to actually assess how I felt about each individual piece, and it was also unsustainable. A couple months later, I’d be left with a similar mess of clothes in my closet, no matter how much I had purged. I had no guidelines for being thoughtful about the things I owned. Approaching things differently this year might work, or it might not, but I do know that breaking things into small, repetitive steps has always worked for me in other aspects of my life—so why not this, too?