The 7 Essential Questions To Ask Yourself To Successfully Purge Your Closet

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Ditching the items you spent your hard-earned cash on is no easy task. First things first: don’t think — just dump. Power-sort the items that you love or wear all the time into a keep pile and the ones that you know aren’t working (and aren’t worth something) into a donate or recycle bag. “Pretend your closet is about to catch fire. What would you save?” says Jennifer Baumgartner, Psy.D., a psychologist, a wardrobe consultant, and the author of You Are What You Wear. “You’ll make better decisions if you go with your gut and don’t get sucked into the paralysis of analysis.” To get started, ask yourself these seven questions.

1. Does It Serve You?

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Photo by Alessandra Olanow

This one powerful question can help eliminate the majority of wardrobe clutter, says stylist Brittany Witkin, the author of Closet Organization: The Crash Course. What this question means: Does it make you feel good? Do you get compliments when you wear it? Or do you end up tugging at your hemlines uncomfortably?

2. Does It Coordinate With at Least Three Other Garments in Your Closet?

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Photo by Alessandra Olanow

A streamlined wardrobe is like a symphony, with pieces that work together harmoniously in many combinations. Instead of assigning clothing specific roles (“This is my interview skirt;” “this is the sweater I wear with leggings”), New York City stylist Kim Naci says: “Try reimagining your closet as a boutique filled with fresh possibilities.” (A friend comes in handy here.) Take photos to help you remember new outfits.

3. Will You Wear It Again?

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Photo by Alessandra Olanow

Instead of peering into the past with the old “Have you worn it in the last six months?” question, think about the future. Would you don that strappy dress to work if you had the right cardigan to go with it? Note that on a shopping list and save the dress. Let it go if you try to justify holding on to it with the idea that maybe someday, when I lose weight or go to a fancy party…

4. Is It the Best Version?

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Photo by Alessandra Olanow

If the style is passé, the fit is unflattering, or the garment has seen better days (think stains, fading, shine marks on wool, a saggy bum, elbow or knee imprints), it’s time for an upgrade or a trip to the tailor. Sometimes snapping a selfie while wearing the garment will give you a more honest portrayal than your reflection in a mirror.

5. Is It High-Maintenance?

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Photo by Alessandra Olanow

If the effort of hand-washing or the expense of dry cleaning keeps the article on the hanger, face facts and sub in something less fussy. (This tip does not apply to formal wear.)

6. Does It Have Sentimental Value?

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Photo by Alessandra Olanow

You don’t have to part with your varsity-letter jacket or the hat that Grandma knitted for you. Just limit memorabilia to one storage box, says Naci. As for the necklace your ex gave you that was never really your style — just…why keep that? Resolve to move on. Another option for a memento that you don’t want to part with: take a photo, then toss the piece.

7. How Would You Feel If You Were Wearing It When You Ran Into Your Ex?

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Photo by Alessandra Olanow

Speaking of old flames, Naci uses this line of reasoning when all else fails: “Sometimes people rationalize worn-out or unflattering clothes by saying, ’I’ll just wear them for running errands.’ This question helps to put things into perspective.”

Header image via Unsplash

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  • Mary Harman

    First of all—solid article. It’s hard to not repeat the same Kon-Mari-esque mantras of sparking joy. This was definitely insightful and had tips I hadn’t heard of before.

    Second of all, I am LOVING the visuals for this piece!! Such a nice addition and a breath of fresh air in a world filled with Unsplash images. Nothing against unsplash of course, but too much of a good thing, y’know? These illustrations were a really fun and unexpected bonus for this piece!

  • Shelby

    I’d rather read less articles on TFD if those fewer articles were truly original content. There is nothing wrong with a writer cross-posting to their own blog but Real Simple and the like can take care of themselves. I love the fresh perspective TFD offers and I hate getting these filler posts!

  • Violaine

    I love these illustrations.

  • Alison

    FYI — when I clicked on the link to this post through Feedly, it went directly to the Real Simple article, making it really obvious this wasn’t original TFD content. I know the author is cross-posting, but I agree with Shelby below that I’d rather read fewer articles than a repost from Real Simple.

  • Winterlight

    My number one question is, “Is this piece of clothing who you really are or who you think you want to be?” You might love that gorgeous suit, but when it’s on your body you feel like a little kid playing dressup, plus it doesn’t fit your lifestyle at all because you’re a geologist and you spend half your time at field camp in the Arctic.