Closet purging is one of my favorite topics. I find it so satisfying to distill my wardrobe down to only the things that I really love. A clear physical space makes for a clear mental space. There are many, many strategies for closet clean-outs out there, and it may take some time before you figure out a method that resonates with you. Here is my take on the topic.
First thing: get all your workout clothes out of your closet. Or, perhaps more realistically, choose one item type or section of your closet/dresser at a time. Maybe just do all your sports bras, and then move on to your crops, and so on.
Start with a “triage” round. As you go through each individual item, make 3 piles. One pile will be your yes pile. These are the things that I’d have to pry from your cold, dead fingers. Another pile will be your no pile, which are the things that you just aren’t in love with anymore. These might make you think “why do I even still have this…” The third pile will be where you spend the most time: the maybe pile. If there is even a shred of hesitation when you pick something up, put it in with the maybes. The point of this round is to be quick and to follow your gut instincts. Don’t think too hard about where to sort. Don’t spend more than a couple brief moments on each item.
Now, we’ll go back through and spend a lot more time getting to know that maybe pile. If you have nothing in your maybe pile, then your yes pile will become your maybe pile.
Take each item from your maybe pile, and spend more time on it. Reflect on why you have it, how it makes you feel, and how often you really wear it. Here are a few of my favorite questions that I ask myself about my maybes:
Does it still have the tags on? If something is more than, say, 2 months old and it still has the tags on, it’s time to be real. When something is new, you should be the most excited about wearing it. It’s like the honeymoon phase, but with clothes. If you’re not excited enough to wear it in the first few weeks of owning it, why would you be excited about wearing it later? You might convince yourself to wear it out of guilt a handful of times, but it’s not going to get its fair share of time in the sun and will inevitably end up collecting dust.
Have you worn it this season? Similar to the tag issue, this is one is the most telltale sign of what really needs to go. Let’s say you have a pair of speed shorts. If you let the entire summer go by and it never left your closet, you’ve got a space waster on your hands. Is it REALLY worth keeping a pair of shorts just so you can wear them once every 2 years? Heck to the no, I say.
Is it uncomfortable or ill-fitting? I don’t like to think about my clothes when I’m wearing them, unless I’m thinking about how much I like them. If you have something where the seam rubs just wrong, or the shoulders are constricting, or whatever issue you might have with it, you’re probably going to spend all day vaguely aggravated by the issue. No matter how cute it is, it’s not worth that kind of hassle.
If you’re a seasoned closet purger or just aspiring to be more minimalist for whatever reason, here are some of the ways I make more brutal cuts.
Love it or lose it. If your immediate reaction to something isn’t “I WOULD DIE WITHOUT THIS”, then it has to go. If you do not absolutely love something, it is not worth your time or your space. Let go of justifications you might rush to come up with. Hold your closet to the highest standard you can. You’ll be glad you did.
Have you worn it in the past month? This is basically just an amped up version of the question above. Obviously, if something is out of season it doesn’t count, but if it’s weather appropriate and you haven’t reached for it in the past month, it’s probably not among the most precious of your things.
Do you have more than 15 items in this category? I know. We’re collectors here. To some of you, 15 crops sounds like nothing (and of course to others, that sounds like opulence). But really, do you need more than 15 (or MAYBE 20) pairs of crops? I think you know the answer to that. Even if you work out every single day and sweat through what you’re wearing every time, that’s still over 2 weeks of totally different outfits, not to mention the option of wearing shorts or tights instead of crops. That’s plenty of time to do laundry. If you have 15 tanks, 15 sports bras, 15 crops, 15 shorts, and 15 full-length leggings, that’s still a good-sized stash that leaves tons of room for favorites. Try not to let any one category get too out of hand. (But if you do: let it be tanks and sports bras.) If 15 still seems egregious to you, back that number up to 10.
Does your closet reflect your functional needs? If you live somewhere where it almost never dips below 50, you don’t need 6 down jackets. If you’re a runner who only does yoga occasionally, it doesn’t make sense for half your wardrobe to be bad for running. Gym bags are another big offender: truthfully, you only REALLY need one. Maybe two, if you’d like to have a larger and a smaller one, or just if you like to switch it up sometimes. But they hog a lot of space and tend to be expensive, so in my opinion it’s not worth accumulating them.
More strategies and resources
A few more ideas for you to consider:
Do you want more accountability when it comes to how often you actually wear something? If you hang your workout clothes, turn all your hangers backwards. Each time you wear an item and go to put it away, turn that hanger back the right way. Then, in 3-6 months, take everything with a backwards hanger and get rid of it. If you fold your workout clothes, perhaps you could just use a different folding method, or move items from one side of the drawer to the other, or really anything that makes it clear to you what’s been worn.
If getting rid of your stuff right away sounds positively terrifying to you, take your “maybe” pile (or just a few armfuls of clothes if it’s too hard to decide) and put it in a box. Store the box somewhere out of sight where you can’t easily get into it. After 3-6 months, if you found you never really needed all or most of what was inside, and if you found you didn’t actually miss it, you’re safe to get rid of everything inside.
Although I haven’t personally finished reading it, Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, comes highly recommended by many. She has many of her own strategy and suggestions for handling clutter both in your closet and throughout the rest of your life.
Be More With Less is a great blog for cultivating minimalist habits. I really like this blog post about cleaning out your closet. She also founded Project 333, which is a minimalist fashion project that could easily be adapted to your workout wardrobe.
There’s a really important, really big caveat to all of this. As much as you might wish for it, you’re probably not going to be able to go through and instantly clean up your wardrobe in one fell swoop. It’s a process, and usually a long one at that. If you can only go through and find 5 things to get rid of, or even only 1 thing to part with, that’s ok. That’s still progress. Cut yourself some slack if this is difficult for you.
When it comes to getting rid of your things, I do find it gets easier over time. The more you practice, the less time and emotional energy it will take. You’ll likely have to go through several “rounds” before you feel comfortable with both the process and the results. Go back for another round every 1-3 months. You’ll get there!