Why I’m NOT doing a major closet purge right now

And what I’m doing instead…

Why I'm not doing a major closet purge this January. Closet with sweaters hanging above pants, shoes in boxes on shelves.

Why we want to “detox” our wardrobes

There’s something about a new year that makes us yearn for fresh starts. And clearing out and organizing our wardrobes is one way to get that “clean slate” feeling. A well-edited wardrobe makes getting dressed easier, and helps eliminate overwhelm and decision fatigue.

I’ll admit, I’ve been pacing in and out of my closet this week with itchy fingers. As cathartic as a major closet purge is, I’m resisting the urge. Here are a few reasons why:

I evaluate & edit my wardrobe on an ongoing basis

While our closet is big enough for our needs, it’s not huge, and closet “real estate” is valuable. A little over three years ago I began replacing and refreshing my wardrobe to incorporate more color.

During that turnover, I did a lot of experimenting to figure out what worked for me and didn’t. As part of that process, I regularly purged what wasn’t quite right when I found a better replacement. As a result, I have what I need for day-to-day wear, and have been purchasing less the last few seasons.

It’s mid-season

I’ve found the best time to do a serious closet clear-out is at the end of a season. At that point, what I did or didn’t wear for that season is fresh in my mind. I can pull those pieces that never saw daylight or any that are worn out or need replacing (which I’ll add to a “gaps” list for future shopping).

By purging mid-season, I may get rid of something I haven’t worn yet, but might have worn later in the season when I want variety or have a new styling idea.

I’ve over-purged in the past

It’s so frustrating to realize that The One Thing that you could really use right now was in your purge pile a few weeks or months ago. I find that when I do a closet detox out of boredom or for emotional reasons is when I over-purge.

What I’m doing instead…

I have been doing some culling and re-organizing in my closet this week, and it is satisfying.

Setting aside

I’m not touching any of my warmer weather clothing at this point, which I moved to a less visible and less accessible part of my closet a few weeks ago. While it feels like low-hanging fruit at this time, I’m leaving it alone for now (see “over-purging,” above).

For my current-season pieces, I’m putting aside anything I haven’t worn or wanted to wear in the last few weeks. Rather than consigning or donating, I’m setting aside in cloth storage containers on the top shelf of my closet* or hanging in the “dead zone” (least accessible rack of my closet).

That way they’re still available, but my closet feels lighter and more pared down.

*I make sure sweaters have been washed or cleaned before storing, and store with natural moth-repellent sachets.


I’ve moved a few things around to make all of my “wearing now” pieces more visible. And I have a few pieces that I’m still evaluating out on my rolling rack to remind me to either wear or store them.

Our closet is narrow and not well-lit, so it’s hard to get good photos. One thing I wish we’d done when we had the closet installed (almost 20 years ago!) was to add under-cabinet lighting. Oh well…


if your closet is bursting at the seams and yet you struggle to put outfits together, it might make sense to consider a wardrobe detox. I’ll be offering help via Zoom beginning next month; get the details HERE.

In frequent rotation

Here are some of the items in my wardrobe I’m wearing most often.

My winter wardrobe workhorses: cashmere sweaters (bright, leopard & striped), cotton turtleneck, straight-leg jeans, lantern pants, ankle boots, Birkenstock Boston shearling clogs.
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

(Some of my personal wardrobe items are no longer available. In those instances I’ve shown and linked to similar items above.)

Jeans and sweaters are my default setting when I’m hanging out at home or just running a few errands. I tend to wear mostly cashmere from December until May, so like to have a few in rotation.

What I’ve set aside for the season: longer, fitted sweaters & cardigans (except the cotton turtleneck, which I wear as a base layer).
What I’m wearing: hip-length or cropped lengths with a relaxed fit
Favorites: J.Crew | Anthropologie | Sézane | J.Crew | Me & Em

I tend to wear jeans more than anything else, but I’ve also thinned the herd there too.

What I’ve set aside for the season: very slim styles, thinner fabrics, very light washes
What I’m wearing: relaxed straight fits, thicker fabrics, medium-to-dark washes
Favorites: Mother | AG | J.Crew

After a couple of years of not wearing ankle boots as often, I’ve been wearing them again for going out. But at home, I’ve been living in these shearling clogs, either with or without socks, and they are SO comfortable!

Do you edit and organize your closet seasonally, or do you tend to do a major closet purge annually (or less often)?

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  1. Just a thought, regarding the under-cabinet lighting you wish you had installed…. our son recently purchased an older row-house in Philly and I commented about all their lighting! I was so shocked that they were “battery lights”!! They even put one outside over the front door! I have numerous “dark spots” at my house, so I was thrilled to see this so effectively in operation! You might want to check it out!! Do ya’ll have a Lowes in California? We’re in TN and they’re plentiful here! https://www.lowes.com/search?searchTerm=under+cabinet+lighting&refinement=4294836942

    1. Yes!!! These type of under counter battery powered lights are a welcome addition in my kitchen. I have one under the counter where I do food prep and I don’t know how I lived without one for so long. Just remember to turn them off when not in use to save the battery charge. Mine came with a remote control too. We have Lowes and Home Depot here in Northern California, but not sure about down south.

  2. Love your article today on “closet purge”. I have been itching to go in mine and organize, I have a lot of beautiful clothes and spend so much time
    Deciding what to wear,Usually end up with jeans or joggers as they fit into my lifestyle.. I’ve done a purge before when I shouldn’t have and let things go that I sadly regret so thank you for a reminder to hold off
    I was analyzed as a soft/warm autumn last spring and I have a closet full of great autumn colors mostly from Kettlewell, love their clothes.
    I have a vacation planned in May for London then onto Cornwall. I can’t wait to sign up for a zoom session to help with my travel wardrobe.
    This is my first comment but have followed you for a very long time.

  3. Several years ago I would purge twice a year at the end of Fall/ Winter Seasons and at the end of Spring/Summer Seasons. I’ve become even more disabled and simply unable to do this anymore so I pull out a few similar items at a time and try on and cull my wardrobe this way. I’m on a path to lose weight so I’m not culling as much at this time!!! Some items are just a little too tight for my comfort for now!!!

  4. Happy New Year!
    I absolutely agree with you on this! I keep a large wicker basket on the floor of my walk in closet and anything I think I may want to donate goes in there until the basket is overflowing. If nothing has been pulled out and worn, then it’s certainly not been missed. I just dropped off a bag last week. There were items in there with tags on them. Bought in haste, too big to begin with and should have been returned. I hope someone will be able to enjoy them. All items in the basket are folded nicely, so it doesn’t look messy or out of place. (almost like a basket of warm throws left beside the couch in the living room) I do have a large closet, so this works for me. Since I started using this method I never have regrets when donating items.

    1. I purge as I go, too. My “basket” is a handle tote intended for beach toys. Anything that no longer fits or is showing signs of wear goes in there, season by season. No tiresome try-on sessions! I launder everything, then donate the clean items in a clear plastic bag in the season in which they should be worn. I believe in second chances. Only the items that are no longer useful to me go in the tote, so it’s obvious and easy to part with them.

  5. Great advice Susan! I really like your idea of culling items not worn frequently and simply putting them out of sight. I’m looking at the Cinq a Sept Jacket and the Mother jeans and balking at the prices. I’m going to have to go through my jeans again. I haven’t been able to find a Marine Navy to go with my jeans but I’d really like a jacket in a color other than camel at this point. I also think the shearling Berks are cute but they’ve sold out on Zappo. I still wear my comfy joggers at home all the time because I exercise and paint all day. The sweaters: I’ve got mine in bags + as many as I can fit in my small drawer in the built in wardrobe. I’m actually afraid of hanging them the way you do because of moths but it’s nice to have them out and visible. Did you get size 28 in the Mother Dazzlers? I think Kim at Northerncalstyle has tried them also and likes them. I just love your blog–somehow it just makes me feel ‘connected’ in a good way. You’re very thoughtful and discerning. Thanks for this!

  6. Re dark closets — I recommend Ecolights or something similar. They are battery-pack-powered LED strip lights, often sold as under the cabinet lighting for kitchens. While they can be hardwired, I’m currently using some that are battery powered (with a self-contained battery pack that lasts for years). Talk about a game changer!

  7. I purge clothes twice a year….fall and spring. In between, I purge if something does not feel right after I put it on. I organize my closet by color. denim and casual pants are folded.
    This is the time of year I purge the kitchen and linen closet, though.

  8. Good advice! Thanks for the link to the moth repellent sachets. Have you tried their spray? I was using the Laundress sweater spray, but threw it away after the recall, and I’m looking for a replacement. We do have clothes moths in our house, ugh. It’s a never ending battle.

  9. Thank you, Susan, for these good ideas to consider when planning/purging one’s closet and dresser drawers.
    I know what you mean when you donate an item & regret it later. Now I let the culled items sit in a box for a month, then look over each item again and check the pockets again. If I know it’s time to let them fly, the clothes are washed, shoes/boots/ handbags cleaned & accessories put into see through zip lock sandwich bags. If you just can’t part with an item, keep it. I can’t give up a beautiful soft grey leather & suede coat my parents treated me to in the 1970’s, when I was in university. It’s a bit tight now & lives in the back of my closet.

  10. I’m not purging per se. I’m discovering. I’m deliberately looking at nice things I never wear, make an outfit for the day, and at days end evaluate how I felt in it. I’ve already discovered new favorites. I am taking photos each day too and analyzing what works and what doesn’t. I’m going to do this for a few weeks and see the results.

  11. Love your post. So helpful, as I tend to want to purge when I’m bored. Not the best head space to be in. I am having a problem, not just your site but with my other blog emails. Every time I click on an item, my iPad says address invalid. Ach! That makes me so frustrated. Could you possibly add the brand name or store of the item? That way I could just go that route. I’m sure it’s my iPad, not your site. Thanks again.

  12. If you need to start the purge somewhere, I suggest the three year rule…If you haven’t worn it in three years, do you really need it or want it?
    Then the next step should b all these other suggestions, whatever works best for you!!

  13. Very wise decision. And a great excuse for me to wait with weeding through my closet.
    (PS you should see my comfy slippers haha. Horrible but warm)

  14. Back in the day, I did a major purge (not often enough…) and a truly major purge when I left the corporate world. But the methodology has since changed. The retirement home has a luxuriously large closet which has its hazards. There are enough clothes in there to provide at least three women with generous wardrobes. But I like variety…. The new process is to be on the lookout for anything that is appropriate to the day that I haven’t worn in a while and make an outfit. If it works, great – it feels like I have something new. If it doesn’t (fit, style, condition, an “orphan” without any coordinating pieces) into the charity bin it goes. I keep one going and take it when it gets full. At this point I’m just trying to keep the collection from getting any bigger. My focus does seem to be narrowing a bit.

  15. My closets also have battery powered light recommended by others. We had them installed 8 years ago and have only had to replace one specialty bulb so far.

  16. Before Christmas, I reorganized my drawers and hanging clothes. During this fall/winter season I put anything I want to donate in a bag for a homeless charity which I will give away soon so the sweaters can still be worn. In the early spring I’ll start getting out the spring things which are stored. I put clothes in the donate bag throughout each season and take a second look before they’re donated. I also analyze why they being donated to avoid the same mistakes. Many of my clothes can be worn year round – dresses, jeans, a denim jacket, long sleeved sweaters and blouses. Of course seasonal clothes like wool and linen get put away at the end of season. Love your blog and all of your thoughtful readers.

  17. Have followed your blog for years, and have learned and enjoyed so much. Will you do a lesson or two on how to store accessories…, scarves and jewelry? I too have limited closet space. Off to buy lights for my closet……

  18. After several wardrobe purges I’ve learnt not to be quite so cavalier in my approach since regretting a few donations particularly regarding size. I have given away looser styles in the past but with decreasing shoulder mobility they would have been useful now. Nothing worse than struggling in or out of tops.
    Now I check unworn at the end of a season, put probable donations into another wardrobe ready to donate at the beginning of that appropriate season. That also gives me a re- evaluate option.
    Charities never want to be overburdened by out of season clothing which in turn does nothing environmentally worthwhile.

  19. Well this won’t be popular but building a functioning wardrobe slowly with clothes that last a long time and look great will not require so much purging. Knowing your body type and colors is very helpful. It saves money and time. And it helps save our planet.

    I’m reminded of this when I travel to Europe for a month with only a carry on bag.

    1. I agree with you, and yes, a functioning, long-lasting wardrobe is the goal. But our bodies may change, our lifestyle may change, we may move to a different climate, and clothes do wear out…there are valid reasons that we need to make make updates.

  20. Those birkenstock clogs are my ride or die. I’m on my third pair, currently in the beautiful midnight navy color. My old tan and black ones are still more or less fine (I spilled something obvious on the tan ones and there’s a spot, but I haven’t worked that hard to get it out).

    I tend to purge my closet when I change it out for seasons, which is twice a year for me here in the bay area. Cool weather vs warm weather. My house is freezing right now! But I agree, if I have something cozy and warm and didn’t wear it all winter, I have to wonder why. Usually it doesn’t fit quite right, I don’t feel great in the color, or it’s uncomfortable in some way. Then it goes.

  21. I have a buying issue that I think is really silly and compulsive: I keep thinking that *this* or *that* pair of jeans/pants will be THE ONE! So now I must have about 8 pair of jeans and yet I want another. Does anyone else have this tendency? Although…..truth be told, comfort is more important to me than ever before. I do keep culling jeans and pants if, not worn for a while, I try them on and YIKES! Not comfortable!
    Is this part of the ever changing world of our closets?

  22. I do a purge /major clean out in the spring and again in the fall. In January I tend to do what I call straighten up . If something really stands out as a purge I do it . I tend to hang onto things until spring most of our really cold weather is in Jan and Feb . I make sure things that sometimes get disorganized over the holidays , are nice and neat . I also make sure nothing needs to be cleaned . I make sure all my shoes and boots are clean . I also check my coats and their closet and hang scarves neatly . Straightening is all I need in Jan . HNY

  23. What kind of hangers do you use for your sweaters? It those are regular hangers, how do you hang the sweaters on them? I need a tutorial!

  24. I have the urge to get in there for sure. There are so many pieces I bought that were “aspirational” but that my lifestyle doesn’t even support anymore. All I really need is a 16 piece wardrobe of simple pieces. I tend to go overboard on jeans because I really believe if you keep up with current cuts you can feel “in style” and ageless. At home I’m really only wearing athletic gear (because I go from gym to forest to slopes in winter). I realized I never wear jeans at home, only if I’m “dresssing up” for a doctors appointment or haircut lol! On TikTok there is a meme about “my mom actually wears JEANS in the house” which I thought was so funny. My kids live in baggy sweats at home. I would never have need for a blazer or cute jacket the the PNW because unless I was at someone’s country club I would have no need for one. When you live in the woods, it’s all about puffers and “gear”.

  25. I have a little moth comment. I cannot hang any wool at all because the moths get them. I have emptied my closet several times and dry cleaned all the clothes and in summer hung all the clothes in the sun for several days and even put clothes in the freezer. I have used Laundress and Total Wardrobe Care (the folks in England). I have used natural and non natural moth protection products. It is an ongoing war. But then, an acquaintance in the fashion and high end consignment business told me about Yardley Lavendar soap bars. She buys them at the Dollar Store! She’s used them for years and the moths left and didnt return. I currently have hanging bags and sweater storage bags in my closet and a couple of airtight tote boxes all with Yardley soap bars. Not a moth to be found.