Wardrobe detox tips & lessons - une femme d'un certain âge

How it’s going with my wardrobe detox…

Women's tops hanging on a rolling rack in front of a window. More wardrobe detox tips at unefemme.net

I’ve been on a wardrobe detox and closet reorganization “bender” the last few days; I’ve even tackled some of those long-ignored top shelves in the closet! 🙀 It’s always an eye-opening experience for me, and I thought I’d share some of my observations and tips from this wardrobe detox.

My closet can breathe again (and so can I…)

While I do make small edits to my wardrobe seasonally, it’s been well over a year since I’ve undertaken a full wardrobe “cleanse.” I’ve been working in sections (tops/tees, bottoms, jackets, sweaters) which I find is the most efficient method. I just sent off a few items for consignment, and set aside a few things to revisit later. The rest I’ll give to a friend who has daughters my size. Whatever they don’t want will be donated.

I laundered or sent out my wool and cashmere sweaters to be cleaned, and they’ll be packed away in storage bags with cedar blocks to discourage moths. I’ve moved my warm weather tops (shown on my rolling rack above) to a more prominent spot in my closet.

It all feels more tidy and orderly now. I can see what I have and more easily “shop my closet.” Other than eventually turning over a few “placeholders” (those items that aren’t 10’s but that serve a purpose) and filling a couple of gaps, I feel like my wardrobe is in good shape for the next few months.

Wardrobe detox tips and observations…

  • Have a space cleared where you can put the “for future consideration” items before you begin. (I didn’t do this…learn from my mistake! 😆)
  • Have cleaning supplies handy to wipe down shelves, vacuum floors before you start putting anything back.
  • Nothing goes back into the closet that isn’t 100% ready to wear. If it needs to be laundered, cleaned, or have a button sewn back on, set it aside.
  • Sensing a theme from your discards? Are there items you over-buy? (For me, it’s sweaters, tees, and jeans.) Styles of clothing that you never end up wearing? Make a list to keep with you next time you’re shopping, and avoid buying more of the same.
  • Mind the gaps. Are you short on summer trousers? Lightweight tops with sleeves? Make a list of those items you need to round out your wardrobe and prioritize when you shop.
  • Don’t skip over shoes, bags, and accessories. Do they suit your current lifestyle? Do you wear them now?
  • Think carefully about your “one-off’s” like special occasion wear. You may want to keep some items for very specific types of events. (I hang onto a very nice pair of riding pants because I know someday I’ll have the opportunity to get on a horse again…) On the other hand, does it look dated? Can it be altered or updated?
After the wardrobe detox: Susan's jackets hanging on a rolling rack.

Above, the jackets I’m keeping. (Plus my long navy jacket, not shown.)

The reasons we hang on…

I had a few pieces that I never wore, but had hung onto through the last couple of wardrobe purges. Here are a few of the rationalizations that kept those “orphans” hanging out in the back of my closet.

But it’s a classic! We’ve been told so often that there are certain items that every woman MUST have in her wardrobe (a white shirt! a trench coat! a black pump!). But every woman’s “classics” are different and if you don’t wear it, it’s probably not one of yours.

It was such a steal! (Or conversely, “it cost a fortune!”) A couple of years ago I happened to catch an online sample sale from a designer whose pieces I’d often admired. Even her sale prices were usually out of my range, but the final sale markdown tempted me to order one top. I took a wild guess at the sizing, but when it arrived it was HUGE. Huge beyond being able to alter. I hung onto it out of sheer stubbornness, but this time I finally sent it off to see if it would sell on consignment.

My mother/best friend/Significant Other loves it! Offer it to your best friend or mother. S.O. is a tougher call. But if you haven’t worn it in a while, and they hasn’t asked about it… 😉

It’s a limited edition! Someone else might be delighted to have it. See if you can consign or sell it.

It reminds me of a wonderful vacation/event/relationship! Ah, this is a tough one. Sometimes sentiment wins out. Do you have a photo of yourself in the piece you could have printed up and framed to hang instead? But hey, I’m still kicking myself for having given away a couple of concert tees a few years ago, so go with your heart.

Perfect timing…

Clothing storage & care from Total Wardrobe Care UK

Just as I was getting ready to put the closet back in its (new) order, I received this lovely gift of clothing care and storage items from Julia at Total Wardrobe Care. It included a knitwear storage bag, packing cubes, a sweater comb, various sachets and more. (Our closet smells HEAVENLY now!) Thank you, Julia!

Do you have any wardrobe detox tips to share?

Stay in touch.

Affiliate links in posts may generate commissions for unefemme.net. See my complete disclosure policy here.


  1. Francesca B.
    July 23, 2021 / 4:38 am

    Really enjoying this closet clean Susan thanks for posting, l am doing it right beside you. I have to get tougher about giving clothes away with sentimental value one of my favorites is a dress l wore to opening night of my father’s opera, he was a composer, and it is a rich vibrant purple with vintage Bakelite buttons and a Peter pan collar in a contrasting fabric. Too young looking for me now but what a great night. Happy weekend:)

  2. Maire
    July 23, 2021 / 4:46 am

    Very timely post as I planned on going through my closet this weekend. The Total Wardrobe Care gift box looks lovely and the web site had useful information for storing clothes. Do you have a recommendation for similar items that can be found here in the States?
    Thank you

    • July 23, 2021 / 6:56 am

      I ordered from Total Wardrobe Care and my shipment arrived within a week, from UK to NJ.

  3. Kathie
    July 23, 2021 / 4:59 am

    Thanks so much Susan. This is timely. Fall clothes will be hitting the shops soon so its a great time to detox and take inventory. I’ve been scoping out my closet this week after watching the Instagram. I know I’ve hung onto pieces I’ve haven’t worn since I seriously detoxed last September so its time to revisit them. For me guilt is the reason I hang onto things I don’t wear. I love them but they don’t fit my lifestyle anymore. I retired young from the business world and wound up working in a friend’s boutique clothing store where I got to dress in fun and fashionable clothing. I don’t wear these many of these items now and most of my clothes I actually wear are year-round. Its time to set aside a few days and hit it. I like your approach of divide & conquer. It seems less intimidating.

  4. Charlene H
    July 23, 2021 / 5:00 am

    Love the array of colors now residing in your closet! Would like to know how you handle consignment of your removed items. What are some tips, pros and cons you might share? Thank you!

    • Lagatta de Montréal
      July 23, 2021 / 4:24 pm

      As you know, I prefer your Parisan colours…

  5. Leoni
    July 23, 2021 / 5:15 am

    My color preferences, all of which look good, seem to run in cycles. Following your “shop your closet” principle, I stash items I don’t seem to wear but love in a plastic box on my closet floor and check the box seasonally…then rotate. Not enough goes in the box…my closet is still stuffed…but I find that next year or in two years, my preference has shifted back to the removed colors. Since most of my clothes are pretty simple, the styles last for many years.

  6. Kelly
    July 23, 2021 / 5:34 am

    Purging can be so hard! A while back I switched to pulling out about 30-35 pieces of clothes to wear each season. I keep them on a clothes rack and only shop those clothes each morning. So much easier to get dressed and everything on the rack is something I love. It made it a lot easier to go back to my closet and remove the stuff that wasn’t getting chosen for the clothes rack. Stylist Allison Bornstein has an interesting way of purging. She has people go to their closet and just pull out the things the love or want to wear but don’t know how and then works with them on those pieces. The rest can be stored, donated or sold.

    • Cheryl
      July 23, 2021 / 4:39 pm

      Great post. I go through my closet twice a year, at the change of seasons ( summer/winter), but still have a hard time getting rid of things.
      My big issue? I have tons of clothes I’ve “grown out” of, but can’t get rid of them….keep thinking I’ll lose those 10(20?) pounds.
      Also, I have clothes I’ve bought for special events which don’t fit into my everyday lifestyle. They just sit there. But they’re lovely and I hate to part with them.
      Any advice?
      I have to tell you…I started following your blog a few years ago, along with several others geared to women “ of a certain age”. Yours is the best, by far. We are worlds apart in body type ( I’m tall and dark-haired), but your style is one I aspire to. Thanks for giving me great ideas to keep looking good as I age.

      • Susan Blakey
        July 23, 2021 / 6:16 pm

        Thanks so much, Cheryl! My suggestion for the clothes that don’t fit you now is to put them away out of sight for a few months, then revisit. Do they still have the same allure? My guess is that if you’re not looking at them every day, they won’t “haunt” you.

  7. July 23, 2021 / 5:51 am

    I so often regretted tossing a practical piece I hadn’t worn that I finally dealt with hanging onto “practical” by moving them all out of the closet into a box labeled “practical”. They are about 15 assorted solid color tops and cardigans. .

    This box has saved me so often. I buy that new piece and realize I still need to find a top or jacket that goes with it. MEANWHILE, practical box to the rescue!

  8. July 23, 2021 / 6:40 am

    A couple of years ago there was a freak snowstorm (well, by Maryland standards – it was about 2″ and melted the next day) in March and I was still teaching at the community college. It was shut down (since no one in Maryland can drive if the weather is the least bit difficult) so I decided to put all my clothes in order by color. That was a godsend.

    I’ve also put clothes in the closet with the hangers turned backwards. If I’ve gone a year without turning it back, get rid of it.

    And when I dyed my hair teal and purple last summer (which I love and I’m continuing to do because it makes my eyes pop and somehow seems even more natural for me than a so-called “natural” hair color), I realized that there were certain colors in my wardrobe that no longer worked. Anything with a yellow undertone went. I frankly don’t care much for yellow undertones ANYWAY – pretty sure I’m a cool summer, although I have never had my colors done – but with auburn hair, they were okay. But with this hair color, nopeity nope nope.

  9. Joan
    July 23, 2021 / 6:42 am

    How fun to see NO black jackets in your Save collection. That red jacket — oh, swoon! What a keeper!

    • Lagatta de Montréal
      July 23, 2021 / 4:26 pm

      Heartily disagree.

  10. Janelle
    July 23, 2021 / 7:01 am

    You ride horses? Did not know that. Where? When?

    • Susan Blakey
      July 23, 2021 / 7:03 am

      Yes, I rode all through my childhood, and rode my Dad’s horses until he passed away in 2009. Horses were my first love.

  11. Pam
    July 23, 2021 / 7:23 am

    From one horse lover to others: this NYT article is so incredibly heart-warming:
    Also, when I edit my wardrobe, I pull out all the items in a category and try them all on- trying on the less-worn as well as the favorites helps me see the reasons they are not chosen (poor fit, color not good for me, etc) so I can keep (and wear) or donate.

  12. Kathy
    July 23, 2021 / 7:29 am

    Sometimes I will put an item on and it just feels off. That is when I put it in the donation bag in the spare room.

  13. Gitte F. Olsen
    July 23, 2021 / 7:34 am

    Hi Susan, I’m curious what consignment store you use. I had a great one close tome, unfortunately she had to close due to the pandemic.

    I have also been detoxing my closet and your post also reminded me I needed to order cedar/lavender for my winter clothes.

    Love to see all the beautiful colors in your closet.

    Have a wonderful weekend.


    • Susan Blakey
      July 23, 2021 / 7:40 am

      Hi Gitte, I usually work with online consignment companies, as it provides a broader customer base. The last couple of times I’ve used TheRealReal because they’ll come to my house to evaluate and pick up items. I’ve also used Fashionphile, and Ann’s Fabulous Finds.

  14. Eve
    July 23, 2021 / 7:38 am

    It’s such a chore but so nice when you’re down to what you really love and wear. I need to purge jackets for real. I didn’t get around to my favorites last year because it doesn’t get cold enough here to wear that many, I’ve decided to just keep maybe seven out of the fifteen I own. That way I will be reaching for the ones I love and figuring how to wear them instead of picking one just because it’s the right color. I’m sticking to about three favorite colors and the rest neutral.Too many colors confuses things. I ove wagging through this purge with you. I hope you keep the top with leopards and the coffee cup top.love those.

  15. Elizabeth
    July 23, 2021 / 7:51 am

    Two things I’ve learned from purging my closet – double check all pockets and let your purged items sit for a week before they leave the house. I got rid of a beautiful and timeless blazer that I have regretted. Sometimes you get caught up in the excitement of clearing your closet and don’t think through a decision carefully.
    As an extension to this post, would you consider doing a run down on online consignment sites, how they work & how to use these sites? Please include those that Canadian readers can use. Thanks, Susan! Love your blog and found the talks by the UK women so helpful.

  16. Kathleen
    July 23, 2021 / 9:06 am

    Susan, You have inspired me to work further into my closet. I wanted to mention a wonderful novel about loving horses…it is “the Horse Dancer” by the English author, Jojo Moyes. I have read almost all of her work. She pulls you in and you can’t stop reading! Bon Weekend!

  17. SueMD
    July 23, 2021 / 9:35 am

    I’ll admit I take a very different approach, which I might call “organized pack rat.” I organize clothes by season, type and color. I only purge something when I notice that it just doesn’t fit well anymore or is looking a little worn. I realize this habit of retaining things for a long time takes up room because I literally have 15-20 year old jackets or slacks, but I often find that I can pull out something I haven’t worn in a long time that suddenly seems current again. Having a couple additional clothes racks seems a good investment since it means I can limit my new purchases to the few things I truly love. For the rest, I have a lot of options to “shop.”

    A good example from this season — wide-leg and boot cut pants are back, and I have a lot! My skinny jeans are carefully hung, waiting for their next time in the sun in a few years. But the number of new jeans I need to purchase this year — zero.

  18. Peggy
    July 23, 2021 / 10:15 am

    I love closet clean out. One of the things that helps is getting into an attitude of giving. Many people out there need clothes at a lesser cost than they can get them at a department store or boutique. If you donate items that have a little life left in them instead of old raggy stuff, you can feel pretty good about yourself. I am not a goody-goody. Just looking for ways to feel good.

  19. Carol
    July 23, 2021 / 12:18 pm

    The Caslon lightweight jacket in navy peacoat that you featured in your 7 June thread is invisible among your other jackets. Is it simply hidden or did you not keep it? I ended up purchasing it and I’m glad I did. I must say that I have more clothes now than at any point in my life and I don’t think that’s a good thing. I’m still not going to a lot of places, so they aren’t being worn. Note to self: Nothing needed for spring/summer 2022. 🙂 This morning I dropped off two bags of gently worn clothing at a neighborhood thrift store and I will be doing another closet detox next month. In my neck of the woods, summer officially ends with the arrival of Labor Day and some people put the summery clothes away. However, it is usually warm through mid-October, so I roll with the summer look/vibe through late September. Another thing that happens once Labor Day arrives is that people rush out and buy pumpkins with a direct focus on fall decorating, but I am not in that camp.

    • Susan Blakey
      July 23, 2021 / 12:20 pm

      I did keep it. I’d worn it out to walk the dog in the morning, and had forgotten it was draped over the back of a chair in the kitchen!

  20. Mary
    July 23, 2021 / 6:21 pm

    Dear Susan: I am late to the party, but thank you for this inspirational post. I hang on to a lot, but you have given me some good ideas. I am wondering whether you have any tips for a shoe detox. Is there a point when a comfortable pair of shoes still gets to move on to someone else? Uncomfortable is almost unwearable so that should be pretty easy. also tips for shoe care would be great. Finally, the Total Wardrobe Care is a nice site, but pricey. Thank you for the other items shown for storage which seem adequate. Thanks again for an enjoyable post. A little bright spot in my working day.

    • Susan Blakey
      July 23, 2021 / 6:26 pm

      Hi Mary, I get very attached to many of my shoes, so that’s always the hardest for me to clear out. What I’d look at is duplication: do you have multiple pairs of one type of shoe (e.g. sneakers, ankle boots, loafers)? If so, are there pairs you tend to wear more than others? You may find that you can let go of some of the redundant pairs without missing them. And you’re welcome!

  21. Robyn
    July 24, 2021 / 2:47 am

    Like Peggy I generally donate or give my good condition clothing to someone or an organization. It just makes more sense in the long run. Secondly, I used to over purge and regretted it. Now, a couple times a week as I’m dressing I’ll put clothes I’m not reaching for now in a “holding” box to keep from having an over stimulating closet. Periodically I’ll go through and resort them. I tend to find a style uniform for that season and wear it to death. The next year, same season my style uniform my change. Now it’s army green linen or blend drawstring joggers or utility pants, black or white tee. For going out wide legged cropped or ankle length pants and a linen tee, or short sleeve silk blouse. Pretty much everything else has gone into holding.

  22. July 24, 2021 / 8:57 am

    I still haven’t come round to doing it. I dread it. And I know I have to do it.

  23. Jan whichard
    July 24, 2021 / 9:37 am

    I’m so stuck. I have way too much and it is all lovely…but too much. It is also overwhelming to look at even though it’s organized. Like you, I’m a string and I have way too much black still…it’s got to go!! I’m going to tackle the closet when I return from vacation. I might add that I’ve purchased items from TWC for several years and enjoy their products. They have been out of some storage bags for a while….they are made in China. Some moth prevention items cannot be shipped to the USA so maybe pick some up next time you are in the UK!

  24. Sue
    July 24, 2021 / 3:40 pm

    I’m all for wearing the colours that flatter me for everyday purposes. But getting rid of all black clothing doesn’t seem practical. What would you wear if you needed to attend a funeral? Surely it makes seep sense to keep a black outfit to wear to such occasions?

    • Susan Blakey
      July 24, 2021 / 3:46 pm

      I’d wear navy. At the last few funerals or memorial services I’ve attended, people wore a variety of subdued neutrals: black, grey, brown, navy. But if you feel that black is most appropriate, then by all means, keep something black for those events.

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