The Saturday Night (Closet) Massacre

The Bland Family Closet*

Une femme has been making noises for months about doing a ruthless closet purge, and it has finally happened. Beginning Friday night I spent about 15 hours over the weekend pulling, sorting, bagging up clothes to donate at my local thrift store. (Or photographing and posting over at Emotional Baggage. Make me an offer, I just want these to find a good home!)

A few things I’ve realized:

1. The hardest clothes to get rid of are the ones I’ve rarely or even never worn, but that have sentimental value, like my Air Garcia t-shirt (bought in 1992 at the one and only Dead concert I ever attended) or the coffee-themed Hawaiian shirts I bought in Hawaii and wear maybe once ever five years when someone has a luau party. The second toughest items to purge are the ones that I’ve worn much and loved, but that either are worn out or no longer fit.

2. Impulse buying isn’t always a bad thing. Some of the items that have become my core favorites were purchased on impulse. If it speaks to you, it fits, it’s within your budget, and you have occasion to wear it, don’t dither.

3. After the purge, it’s a lot easier to face getting dressed in the morning. I can see everything, and am down to the core pieces that I know actually fit and work for me. Over-abundance and too many choices can be paralyzing, and weigh me down mentally and emotionally.

4. I am just not a skirt/dress person. I kept only two skirts, and no dresses (though I only had two).

5. I am, however, a jacket person (though I already knew that) and while I thinned out my collection considerably, a couple of brilliant additions found their way in over the weekend (more in an upcoming post).

6. I now have a wardrobe that is a) Paris-worthy and b) will cover pretty much any occasion short of black tie (and if I ever get invited to one, I know where I can rent).

7. My tried-and-true wardrobe philosophy (stick to simple, neutral, classic pieces, update with accessories or an interesting jacket) may be boring, but it’s what I keep coming back to and what works for me. For some, that might seem like a rut, but after spending so much energy trying to “find my style” I realize I already have.

* Not MY closet, mine isn’t that neat and has much more black. Closet photo from here.


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  1. Time for me to do at least a mini-purge as well — I admire your efficiency! And I absolutely agree about the impulse-buying and the difficulty of getting rid of certain rarely-if-ever-worn items. Interesting to think of what kind of garment one favours — you’re not so skirts/dresses but definitely jackets; I love skirts and dresses and like jackets but rarely wear them (cardigans, yes, jackets no).

  2. It’s an excellent feeling, isn’t it? I need to force myself to go in & do that every six months. Not happening right now because I really, really am not allowed to do any shopping right now, and post-purge I do find it a lot easier to justify spending.

    Also agree on the impulse buys. My current favorite is probably a fuchsia pink velvet vintage swing coat that reached out & grabbed me one day. That thing has earned its keep, let me tell you.

  3. Mater – I really love what I’ve seen of your wardrobe, and wonder if I’d pursued a different career path if I’d have developed a style more like yours? I think a lot of what I’ve come to feel comfortable in has been based on what works for work.

    Style Spy – yes, that spending justification is a dangerous side effect!

  4. I’m finding that the multiple sizes I’ve been over the last few years has made this really difficult! I’d finally gotten rid of some of my pre twins clothes, only to find now that I could use that size again. Grr– in a happy sort of way.

    Pseu, like you, I’m moving more away from dresses/skirts. I work on a college campus, walk plenty, and chase little kids at home. They’re just not going to work for me, for a few years anyway. And it’s heaven giving up shaving/hose/slips/Static Guard.

  5. i do a twice a year mini-purge and remove from my “wearing” closet things that are old or stained, or i haven’t worn in a year, etc. i am rarely sentimental about my clothes and have nothing so classy or valuable i won’t toss it if necessary.

    the closet that *needs* cleaning out desperately is the art suppy closet. i’m the sort who will grab anything — i mean, *anything* — and think “maybe i can do something with that!” i have tons of material scraps, old clothes made from interesting materials and what can only be described as odds and ends piled in bags, boxes and bins in a closet. i live in a one bedroom apartment and closet space is at a premium. but somehow, i always think… “i can *do* something with that…”

  6. I need to go through my closet(s) thoroughly and purge. I started a few months ago and have a bag filled with an old coat and some old sweaters. I have so many things I never wear. But it’s hard sometimes for me to let go of things, there’s always that “I might wear it sometime” thing. But the older I get, the more I want just a small but quality wardrobe of pieces I really wear. I do like pants more in the winter for work, and skirts in the spring/summer. I really like sweaters, cashmere and long cardigans, and I’d have to say those are the things I have the most of.

  7. so interesting you say that, Pseu. I’ve been thinking since I commented along exactly those lines — thinking that in many ways our essential styles are similar and yet they’re manifest in different ways because of where we live and the careers we’ve developed. interesting topic for a collaborative post (you know, in our spare time!)

  8. I completely agree about impulse buying. It doesn’t happen often, but there have been times when I’ve picked up something and known it would work with my core wardrobe and that I would wear it for years. Back in the late 80’s, I spent several hundred dollars on a silk velvet burnout scarf that had been hand dyed in gorgeous shades of purple and blue. The price nearly stopped me, but I have worn that scarf for 20 years and I still get compliments on it. It will never leave my closet!

  9. Closet cleaning is so satisfying. My closet is pretty paired down as about half of my stuff is on storage. But, even though I am not up to throwing anything out. I really enjoy taking everything out and putting it all in an order that I wish I could maintain on a daily basis.

    We have a very similar fashion philosophy only I am a major skirt collector and will probably never through out a skirt, where pants very often are retired.

  10. I don’t do skirts either though, like you, I love jackets and am building up a collection.

    I am relieved to hear that is not your closet – just looking at it gave me an inferiority complex. Mine is much smaller, far more messy and seems to contain mostly black and purple – and my shoes/boots are just in a heap! I am marginally better than my daughters (one keeps her clothes piled up on a chair and the other prefers the floor) but I really need to do some tidying up.

  11. Funny thing about impulse buying – some items I’ve bought on impluse have become wardrobe staples, well worn and well loved, but others turn into the “what was I thinking” category as soon as I get them home.

    Worst of all I have no way of knowing in advance which way it will go!

    PS glad to know that wasn’t your closet.

  12. I´m not sentimental about my clothes either and share the closet with my hb. On a regular basis I go through his and my clothes. The good ones( which are mine) and which have not been worn, I pass on to my daughters, and if they don´t like them,the clothes usually end up on our local e-bay and the girls get to keep the money.I have also parted with lots of jewels,inherited and bought. Absolutely no regrets! It is so liberating to have so little personal stuff. BTW,however,I´m daydreaming about a Ferrogamo alligator tote that´s way too expensive for a sane person…

  13. So impressed – with the feat AND the revelations. I, too, find that many of my impulse buys end up as staples. Surprising, that.

  14. wow – i am loving your blog. i am so not the fashion person…oh don’t get me wrong, i would love to be, but i have anxiety when i look for anything “stylish” – i look forward to learning a thing or two….as for Paris what can i say, its my soul mate.

  15. Congrats on your efforts!! I was amazed you let me see your closet! It wasn’t that bad. Glad you got it sorted out and learned something important in the process!

  16. Closet purges begin with taking the first brick out of the wall- put your hand on that first skirt and then garbage bags fill. My problem is, I know know what works too… so end up with a stuffed closet of things I really like.

    Still the “if you haven’t worn it in 2 years, it goes” is a pretty good guideline.

  17. LBR – maintaining the order: aye, there’s the rub!

    dana – yes, those multiple sizes are a killer! I’ve purged everything that was snug. If my size shifts downward again…aarrrgh!

  18. Completely Alienne – I think if that were my closet I’d have to kill myself. ;-p It’s beyond drab…it’s downright depressing.

    Northmoon – that’s true. The only way to find out which it will be is just to go ahead and buy it!

  19. Bonnie-Ann – back when I was making a lot of costumes I had a closet like that: fabric and ribbon and various buttons and trims, and scraps of fur from the Goodwill thrift store. I had in my head the costumes I was going to make with almost all of it, but they never materialized.

    metscan – yes, it’s very lightening, isn’t it? Ferragamo??? MMmmmmm.

  20. Sal – we’re surprised, but maybe we shouldn’t be. When something grabs us, it’s usually because it aligns with our style instincts.

    Kelly – yes that old “I might wear it someday” rationale really gets in the way. I used the “if I haven’t worn it more than once in a year” yardstick to purge.

  21. mater – ooh, let’s do that sometime! I think it would be fun.

    maria – it’s OK to have your own definition of “stylish”. If you’re having anxiety, it might be because you’re trying to fit someone else’s definition. I find that when something feels too forced it’s best to leave it on the rack.

  22. iheartfashion – oh yes, indeed!

    Duchesse – so true, a journey of a thousand miles… My closet has sections so it was easy to say “I’ll just do the pants tonight” but once I got started, it was hard to stop!

  23. All I can say is that you are MY Shero for tackling your closet and doing the purging I’VE been contemplating for weeks now!

    Sounds like you’re getting the just reward for all that work – a closet that really works for you! Congrats!

  24. Ha! After hearing about the Air Garcia shirt, I’m delighted to see how fabulous it truly is. One of my cleaning closet rules includes holding onto concert tees indefinitely. (I regret giving up some of my fabulous tees from my youth.) I have also found they look especially great under a jacket. (p.s. great to meet you at WendyB’s fabulous gathering.)