Here are some tips on getting started, what to ask yourself before parting with an item, and how to better care for the things in your wardrobe.
The weather is certainly warming up, and the days are getting longer, at least here in Munich. The shop windows are also looking brighter, and my inbox is being inundated with new Spring arrivals.
While a change in season shouldn't equate to a new wardrobe, I do find it to be a good time to do a bit of a wardrobe re-organisation, packing away the ski gear and heavy coats, as they await to be rediscovered next year.
Now I am used to the odd wardrobe clear-out, having completed 2 international moves, and downsizing from a house to an inner city 1 bedroom (now studio) apartment. Therefore, I have learnt a thing or two over the years about re-organising and decluttering my wardrobe. However, there are a few things I always ask, and do, before removing any piece, in order to ensure that they don't simply get sent to landfill. I also find that with the right approach I am in a good position to only buy (or make) what I need - avoiding any mindless (over)consumption - in the future.
So here I share some of my tips and tricks that may help you in your next spring clean.
Timing: For some, a task like this may take a couple of hours, for others like myself, an hour will probably suffice. It all depends on how much you own, how messy you are, and of course the clean up process.
Equipment: I recommend getting organised first and allocating some space to make piles, and better yet, set out some bags or baskets (including laundry) ready for possible washing, or donations etc.
Order of attack: Some may prefer to literally take everything out, clean their wardrobe, then put things back piece by piece. Others may work their way through their hanging space, folded pieces, then on to their drawers, working piece by piece. Honestly, it is up to you. My approach tends to be an amalgamation of both.
Questions to keep in mind
When going through your wardrobe, I recommend asking yourself some questions about each piece that will aid in the decision making process. These are some of the things I like to keep in mind:
Have I worn it in the past year? If I have survived an entire 365 days without the urge to wear it, ask why.
Is it because of the fit? If so, can it be altered?
Is it in need of repair (i.e. missing a button)? If so, can I (and will I) mend it?
Does it need altering (i.e. taking up of a hem)? If so, can I (and will I) alter it?
Does it represent the way I dress now, or the way I dressed 5 years ago?
Do I feel confident when I wear this?
I also revert back to those pieces that I find myself wearing the most and identifying why. Is it the colour, shape or fabric? Maybe all three. I then ensure that these preferences guide my decisions going forward. For example, I don't own any tight fitting style of clothing (with the exception of activewear tights, and my skinny jeans). Therefore, I would be seriously questioning myself if I was tempted to buy a body-con dress!
It is also important to remember that if there are pieces that don't conform to your current values (e.g. fast fashion) but you do like and wear them, don't dispose of, or ignore them. Disposing of these items is only going to increase their environmental impact. One of my favourite winter jackets is made of wool with leather panels in the sleeves. While as a vegan, I wouldn't buy this now if I saw this in a shop, I do love the jacket and wear it a lot. Therefore, it makes sense to me, to hang onto it.
Piles, piles, piles!
If, after taking the above into consideration, you find you still won't wear an item, it is then time to decide what is the best thing to do with it. The goal being to avoid simply throwing it out!
Donate: If you are considering donating a piece, ask yourself, "If I saw this in a shop, would I buy it?" If not, then why would someone else!! If they are in good enough condition that they can be donated, maybe drop your local store an email first or call in, and see if they are taking clothing donations, or query what they may be after.
Sell: These are the pieces that you may be willing to sell on sites like eBay, or Depop.
Pass on: These are the pieces that you know a friend or family member would love and that you can pass on to.
Laundry: These pieces are simply in need of a spot clean or wash to freshen them up.
Mend/alter: These pieces may require some simple mending like re-sewing on a button, or darning a hole. Or maybe, you don't like the length of an item, so altering the pieces to be a little shorter would mean you might wear it again.
Repurpose: If you can't achieve any of the above, it may be worth considering repurposing the piece or the fabric into something else. This could be as simple as making a rag, or creating something new (e.g. collecting other fabric pieces and patch-working it something else).
Do an inventory as you go
I recommend making notes as you go regarding any gaps you might have identified, or what you are noticing about your style (e.g. your shape and colour preferences). This will help inform future purchasing decisions, and ensure you are guided to buy only what you need.
I have a simple "Notes" tab set up in my phone listing the things I feel my wardrobe may need, whether it be to help me wear other pieces I own, or because I am still adjusting to a different climate and lifestyle here in Munich.
What is left
You have kept these pieces for a reason so you need to make sure you look after them!
By just considering the way you launder will go a long way in prolonging their life, while also doing good by the planet. Take a look at my earlier article Let's talk laundry for some tips on how we can get better at laundering our clothes.
Storing clothing appropriately is also important. For instance, knits and stretch fabrics should be folded, to avoid them stretching, and delicate fabrics that are prone to wrinkling are best hung. Taking the time to consider the type of hanger can also be helpful. I use soft velvet hangers for those slippery, delicate pieces, and wooden hangers for those heavier pieces, like coats. On the topic of storage, it may also be worth considering packing away (if you have space) those seasonal pieces like ski gear, heavy coats, and boots during the warmer months, and high summer pieces like sandals, and shorts away in the winter. Not only will this free up some space, but there is joy to be had in unpacking these items the following year, and rediscovering what you own!
Organising your wardrobe in a way that suits your routine can be a game changer. This could be removing and packing away the heavy seasonal clothes when they are not needed so we are not overloaded by choice. We could also try organising our garments by colour, category (i.e. tops, skirts, trousers, etc.), or style (i.e. work verses leisure). I tend to organise mine by colour then style - something that has stuck with me from working in the industry. Not only do I know exactly where to find things, but as my hanging space is also often visible in my small apartment, this also looks better.
If you after some more tips, or maybe just something to watch as you re-organise your wardrobe, I recommend this lovely video by Bonny Wright from her Go Gently YouTube channel.
Please get in touch or leave me a comment. I would love to know your spring cleaning tips. Also, let me know if you found this article useful.
Thanks for reading.
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