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7 Mindset Shifts You Need to Edit Your Wardrobe

Is it hard for you to let go of clothes?

The ones that are old and dated. 

The ones that don’t make you feel your best.

The ones that are “just ok,” but you make do.


Then you are far from alone. 

We’ve all been there: looking at our closet, filled with stuff, feeling utterly overwhelmed.

Even as someone who does this for an actual living, there are certain times when I peek in my closet and think, I’ll deal with this later.

I really have to be in the mood to dive in and get things back on track.

But as we’re racing toward spring, “later” might be now.:)

Register TODAY for Our Virtual Spring 2023 Well Dressed Woman Workshop on March 31st!

How to Purge Clothes and Create a Closet You Love

How to Purge Clothes and Create a Closet You Love

How to Purge Clothes and Create a Closet You Love

Before I launched The Well Dressed Life, I spend about a decade as a personal stylist, working with clients, helping them shop and create a functional and stylish wardrobe.

My first step with a new client was to clean out and edit their wardrobes.

Honestly, it was my least favorite part of my job, but the most necessary.

Almost every time I came home from that initial appointment, I was exhausted.  

At first, I didn’t understand why I was so tired.

It’s not like my job was hard. 

But I eventually realized; it wasn’t the physical task that drained me so much but the constant negotiations back and forth with the client.

Most clients wanted to tell me the life story of every item they purchased and debate every single piece we were purging.

The challenge became, the more experience I gained, the faster I worked.

I knew what should stay and what should go immediately.

Because I wasn’t emotionally attached to the clothes, I could edit a decent-sized wardrobe in under an hour. 

Purging Your Clothes is Emotional

As it turned out I wasn’t the only one drained; clients would let me know they too were surprised how wiped out they felt after our time together.

Because our clothes are an extension of who we are, a link to our past and future, parting with even the most unwearable piece can be stressful.

To make the experience easier for both of us, I had to figure out a way to streamline the process and lessen the rush of anxiety many clients felt.

Since I’ve stopped working with clients, we’ve published countless posts on editing and organizing your wardrobe.

But we’ve never dived into the most important part: the mindset you need to move through the process.

If you grasp the steps of editing your wardrobe but struggle with actually letting go, there are a few things you can do to lessen the strain and stress.

7 Mindset Shifts You Need to Edit Your Wardrobe

This is the most important tip I can share with you. 

You cannot curate your wardrobe if you don’t know your style.

And if you don’t know your style, you will not be able to create a framework for determining what stays and what goes. 

So start there.

Before you attempt to edit your wardrobe, take some time to figure out what you like.

When we worked with clients, before we even entered their closets, we asked them to pull pictures from magazines and catalogs or create a Pinterest board of looks they loved.  

  A snapshot of my personal style board. 

Giving yourself a visual will help you see a common theme.

Here are some questions to ask:

Do you like pants more than skirts? 

Solid colors or bold prints? 

What shoes do you prefer?

What kind of accessories?

Going through this step before starting an edit made a huge difference for our clients.

It gave them “permission” to let go and provided some much-needed clarity and focus. 

When you struggle to let of an item, hold it up to your inspiration pictures and ask yourself, “Does this get me to my desired personal style?”

If the answer is yes, you keep it. But, no, let it go. 

Read Our Post: How to Discover Your Personal Style

2. You Already Spent the Money

“How can I get rid of something I spent money on and barely wore?”

Looking at our donation pile and seeing nothing but wasted money is so frustrating.

But once you can grasp the idea of a “sunk cost,” the fact that you already spent the money, whether it’s hanging in your closet or someones else’s, it doesn’t matter.

It’s just clutter. 

Hanging on to it and not wearing it doesn’t give your purchase any value.

Often, it does the opposite and becomes a negative or a pain point in your closet.

Every time you look at it, you get annoyed. 

Is it in excellent condition but doesn’t work for you?

 Sell it on Thredup or Poshmark (see our tips here).

Or take it to your local consignment shop – be sure to call ahead and check what season they are accepting.

My Best Tips for Consigning, Donating, or Recycling Clothes

Or donate to someone who can benefit from it and move on.

If it’s stained, ripped our in bad shape, recycle or throw it out. 

3. It’s Not Coming Back in Style

I was 16 years old in 1995 when clueless came out and like millions of other teenage girls, every outfit in that movie was my personal style north star.

And now, 90s style is everywhere.

But I am 43.

I don’t want to dress like I did when I was a kid.

Instead, I want to embrace true 90’s style, rooted in relaxed, classic pieces.

Listen to me when I say, that while trends “come back”, they are never the same and likely won’t make sense in your current style.

Each new iteration of a trend has subtle details that make it modern.

Are there exceptions?


Did your mom dress like Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy back in the day? Maybe raid her closet.

We’re talking about a Chanel tweed jacket, or a Calvin Klein bias cut dress, something truly archival is worth holding on to.

But it’s not the blazer you bought at Macy’s on the clearance rack.

That you can let go of.

How do you know when something is dated?

First, when I talk about something being dated, I’m NOT talking about this ridiculous trend of influencers pushing a style one season, and the following season they dare to tell you it’s “over.”

I just saw a video of some girl telling her audience that the Tory Burch Miller Sandals are out of style – which is absurd.

You can peal them from my cold dead hands.

When I talk about dated, I mean truly past their prime, actually old items that make you look older than you are and prevent your look from looking timeless and modern.

So, how do you know?

The Pinterest exercise above helps.

Are the pieces hanging in your closet reflected in your inspiration pictures?

Look at details like buttons, pocket placements, length and widths of pants, shoulder shape, and color saturation. 

Think of it like this: the classic pair of black pants you bought in 2010 are now 13 years old.

The styling, the line, the construction, and the fit are all outdated. 

Consider asking your most opinionated friend or even your kids for guidance.

My daughters are frighteningly good at giving, ahem, brutal fashion advice. 

The point is, you might need a fresh set of eyes to be objective.

4. Don’t “Save” Your Stuff for Someone Else

One of the most consistent things clients would say while we were cleaning out their closets was, “oh, no don’t get ride of that,  I’ll see if my daughter wants it.”

I eventually realized they were using this as either an excuse not to have to make a decision or to help them not feel wasteful.

So, let me say this with love; with few exceptions, your friends and neighbors do not want what you are giving away.

Don’t burden the people you love with your old stuff.

The exception is, of course, heirloom-quality, timeless designer or sentimental pieces. I have several of these pieces put aside for my daughters.  

Once you determine what you want to pass down, have it cleaned and stored correctly so they stay in good condition.

I have a few vintage bags put aside for my girls, the white suit I wore at my rehearsal dinner, and some designer pieces I splurged on that don’t fit anymore.

Other than that, don’t use passing a piece down as an excuse to hold on to something you don’t wear. 

And trust me, if your daughters wanted something in your closet, they would have stolen it by now 🙂

5. Take It Out of Your Main Closet

If you are undecided about a few items, don’t stress.

You don’t need to part with them right away.

Instead, move them to a separate closet or store them in a box under your bed.

Then, after a few weeks, or even at the end of the season, if you haven’t reached for them, you know you can finally let them go.

Same for clothes you’re hoping to fit into again.

If you’re on a weight loss journey, move the pieces that don’t fit to the back of your closet.

I did this for myself this year as I was losing some COVID \stubborn pregnancy weight.

Because there is nothing worse than trying to get dressed and being constantly reminded that your body isn’t where you want it to be. 

6. Fit Doesn’t Mean You Keep

This is a big one.

Just because something fits doesn’t mean it’s for you.

As women, we are so used to the struggle of finding things that fit; we often forget to ask ourselves whether we like it or not.

I found this out personally when I resubscribed to Stitch Fix for some postpartum clothes after my last baby.

I was so happy something zipped up I kept it with no thought to whether I liked it or not.

Everything I ordered eventually ended up in a big, rather expensive donation pile. 

Think about how many things you have that you are lukewarm about in terms of style but kept because you’re just happy it fits?

7. Your Closet is NOT a Department Store

You don’t need to stock your closet like a department store or a bunker for potential fashion disasters.

While I’m far from a minimalist, the sheer volume I’ve seen in closets is overwhelming.

Stop buying things on sale simply because they are at a discount.

Client Case Study: I once had a client who had a giant box of pantyhose and tights, in all different colors, patterns and in various sizes in her closet. Some of them had to have been 10 + years old. She bought them all on sale, “just in case,” despite not ever needing to wear a pair of pantyhose. We battled over the box, and she finally let us donate the decent ones when I told her if she let me get ride of them, I would personally buy her pantyhose any time she needed one in the future. A risk I was willing to take since she refused to wear skirts and only wore pants. 🙂

Be serious and realistic about your needs, spend wisely and don’t fill your space with unnecessary “stuff”

Making a habit of thoughtfully considering purchases each time you shop will help keep your closet organized, is better for your wallet, and limits the endless cycle of waste in the retail industry. 

Getting organized and building a wardrobe you love is a lot like getting fit and healthy.

There is no quick fix or magic wand. It takes a great deal of time and discipline. Editing your wardrobe is like those first couple of workouts back at the gym.

At first, it’s miserable, but then you feel great, and it gets easier.

7 Mindset Shifts You Need to Edit Your Wardrobe

Related Posts

 Join Megan Kristel for a comprehensive, 3 hour long, LIVE Virtual Workshop sharing personal style and shopping tips for women over 40 on March 31, 2023.


Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

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Hedy Livas

Thursday 17th of November 2022

Thanks. You inspired me to clean out my closet. I got rid of some purses I haven’t used in years and some shoes. I know there’s a lot more to do so I’ll reread your article when I get a chance to clean out my closet again.


Thursday 30th of June 2022

Beautifully written post! So much wisdom and clarity for those who want a thoughtfully curated wardrobe!


Wednesday 29th of June 2022

I recently purged my closet and I think I did a great job. We’ve moved 3 times in ten years, so I fortunately didn’t have really dated items to purge. Nearly everything I did get rid of was purchased from the clearance racks at my favorite stores, some items with tags still on them, I’m ashamed to say. I took a lot to a consignment store and the rest to charity. I have a good sense of my personal style, which is classic and tailored….think a crisp white shirt with jeans, black pants or a pencil skirt. I’ll jazz it up with a jacket, sweater or accessories. But sometimes a girl just wants to have fun and be trendy. The current trend of feminine floral pieces is not my normal thing, and I wouldn’t go crazy spending $$ on it. Here’s my question—is there a way to incorporate it into my style without looking like someone I’m not?

Tracy Gray

Tuesday 28th of June 2022

Thank you for this! I recently did a purge of my closet and I admit I had a hard time parting with some clothes. I retired this year and still couldn’t part with some of my work clothes and some dresses that I always got compliments when i wore them. I finally asked my girls to help me. They immediately dove right in and the donation pile grew. We had some “discussions” about clothing they wanted to purge and I wanted to keep. We talked about it and finally I realized it wasn’t necessarily the outfit that I loved it was my attachment to it I was holding on to. I’m proud to say that my closet looks a lot better and much more streamlined. Your article reinforced my decisions!


Tuesday 28th of June 2022

I am currently down-sizing from my large home where I raised my family, so of course I am actively purging many items including clothing. I am also approaching retirement in the upcoming year, so my style and needs are in transition as well. One thing that I finding fun, is to give a favorite outfit a last “tour of duty” wearing before I pass it on. It reminded me why I loved it, and why it will no longer serve me in my new life, which will be lighter and freer than before.


Tuesday 28th of June 2022

I used to struggle with this but several years ago after getting rid of a bunch of clothes when I remodeled my closet, I established a strict rule with myself. I only buy something new if I can think of something in my closet I would gladly give up to make space. (Same with dresser drawers and shoe cabinet.) So I always have one donation bag, and sometimes a Poshmark bag at the bottom of my closet. When I buy something new, I take something old out and put it in one of those two bags. If I am out of hangers, I know I screwed up somewhere and I pull something else to donate or sell. It works really well for me because I'm a high-C (compliance) oriented person; but I have two sisters who say they are not disciplined enough to make it work for them; so I think everyone is different and you really have to find what works for you! The one thing I have noticed is that the higher end, higher quality pieces tend to stay in my closet longer. Even though I could sell them on Poshmark, they tend not to be the pieces I'm finding easy replacements for. Instead, those clearance rack discount store pieces turn out not to be such a bargain because I replace them after 6 months with something new I found that I liked better. So I'm trying to avoid those emotional, impulse buys where I say "it's such a good deal..."


Thursday 28th of April 2022

I enjoyed the post. I have this gorgeous purple, expensive, dressy top that I am struggling to remove from my closet. It is way too big for me now as I lost 40lbs. I never go anywhere where I would need something that dressy. But I haven’t been able part with it until now. Since it is such a gorgeous top I am going to sell on poshmark. It’s time to let it go. Your post inspired me. Thanks

Megan Kristel

Thursday 28th of April 2022

I'm so happy this was helpful!


Saturday 2nd of April 2022

I have two personalities; Eileen Fisher/Talbots and Johnny Was. Help, who am I. At 65 I'm having an identity crisis!


Sunday 6th of February 2022

Just now reading this in 2022. Recently moved to France and did an initial purge for moving. Now after your article and "tough talk", I'll get busy and donate all those clothes I always put on and take off - never wearing! Thanks!

Megan Kristel

Monday 7th of February 2022

I'm so glad it was helpful! Sometimes even I need my own tough talk to let things go :)

Dian Eckstrom

Monday 3rd of January 2022

I had to laugh at the over 50 clothing comments. This past month I had to ask myself "Since when did I like clothes from J Jill?" LOL. But -- as I looked at their selection, I see the classic, well put together look I enjoy. I would love to see more selections from stores that are not considered mainstream or are for the over 50 group!!


Thursday 30th of December 2021

What a timely post!! Today my best friend is coming over to help me purge my closet!! I'm unable to do it myself because I'm physically disabled. I'm so happy she is willing to spend hours doing this with me!! I don't have a difficulty with letting go of anything else but clothing!! It is very emotional to me and my best friend can't understand but is very helpful!! She thought one purse was enough until she met me ten years ago!! Now she owns three daytime purses and one evening purse!! We won't talk about what I own!! I'll only preface with NOT ENOUGH!! I love doing your challenge every year and I LOVE that you have us starting early with purging our closet's!! So very helpful!! Everything you said is so true!! You must know your style to purge!! Such a true statement!! If you don't know your Personal Style then find this out first ladies!!!!


Monday 6th of September 2021

Thanks from the bottom of my heart. I actually got rid of half of my closet after reading this and I feel great...❤️


Thursday 12th of August 2021

We have an “upscale” thrift shop in town that helps fund the local Humane Society. It is very well maintained and organized. Whenever I want to get rid of something nice or expensive, I take it there and never feel regret at letting it go. I did a big purge and used the tips for a minimalist wardrobe when I started reading this blog and now I feel so much lighter, freer and better organized.

Ms. Liz

Wednesday 11th of August 2021

I am purging my closet today to get ready for a donation pick up tomorrow. (In Canada the Canadian Diabetes Association does a free pick up from your home.). This post could not be more timely. I am presently reviewing some items in my closet that are wonderfully tailored and fit well. But I am retired now and they no longer get any wear as I have very limited opportunity to wear them. And if I do I have to look for a way to make them look more casual. Obviously that is too much effort for me so I am - today - letting them go. I am going to embrace the wardrobe I have that is current and let the past go. Whew - what a relief.

Ms. Liz

Wednesday 11th of August 2021

Further to my post - my tip for wardrobe clean out - I also keep a large bag in a secondary closet and when I have an item of clothing that I believe I no longer want to keep - I just pop it into the bag. When I am doing a wardrobe clean out I review the items in the bag once more and if they no longer "spark joy" off they go to be donated.

Lianne MacGregor

Wednesday 11th of August 2021

I agree with everything you've written and really appreciate your reference to the appalling amount of waste generated by the fashion industry and fashion consumers. Knowing what we want to wear and setting limits on how much we consume are essential for the health of the environment. Thank-you!


Tuesday 19th of May 2020

Not sure where my husband fits into this algorithm but he has clothes crammed into his half of our closet that haven't seen daylight in 15+ years. He won't even discuss going through them for donations. I did manage to pry about 20 ragged, stained tee shirts out of his hands. Victory was mine!


Tuesday 5th of July 2022

@Mandy, Same here but with my husband it’s button down shirts (he has over FIFTY!!) and golf shirts. He gets so annoyed when I ask him to purge that I’ve given up. Needless to say, I NEVER buy him clothes!

Cindy Gayle

Sunday 15th of March 2020

I absolutely love this post! I am guilty of all of these: hoping for a body I’ll never get back, feeling guilty for money spent on clothes I don’t wear, too much in my closet, emotionally attached, and not being able to see the modernity. Thank you for this! I am saving this post because I will need it over and over, I’m sure!


Saturday 26th of June 2021

Oh.I am so with you here. I left a job (not quite a career ) that I loved in around 2014 ,due to mental & then physical ill health caused by toxic working environment & being unable to get the help I needed. After a couple of years I realised this had become early retirement, as I completely lost myself & was unable to return to paid employment-I managed then to purge my very smart working wardrobe as I rebuilt myself as a retiree. THEN came menopause & body changes -including weight gain that fought against but have now had to accept. However I still have clothes that I love & which don't fit my new post menopausal body shape & I am STILL struggling to let these go-its almost like I am still beating myself up for being forced out of my working life. I think I am closer to finally relinquishing the last (very large ) bag of clothes ,but It sure is an emotional struggle. I don't have this problem with anything other than clothes as I prefer being uncluttered & unencumbered generally.

Beth Anderson

Friday 13th of March 2020

Thank you, I needed this post! I'm so emotionally attached to my clothes. I will need to re-read to really apply the needed ruthlessness to pare down my bursting (but also small) closet. When we went through a financially difficult time several years ago, I was the blessed recipient of hand me downs from 3 different women in our community. Their clothes were beautiful, and brands that I could never afford on a good day. It felt foolish and ungrateful to pass any of it on, so I ended up with way more than I needed. I still struggle with guilt getting rid of those pieces - even though it's been 5 years in the "clear" financially. I also have favorites that I love so much and wear all the time - some I've had for close to 10-15 years! They haven't worn out yet, and I have a hard time "seeing" if they're out dated. It's hard to justify buying similar updated pieces when I'm stretching my clothing budget to fill in other holes. Sigh... why are clothes so complicsted??? I DO have to say though, this blog has been IMMENSELY helpful in helping me see what I like and why, and what works/doesn't work and why. I don't feel so panicky anymore, and have SO much more confidence making any wardrobe decision! Thank you Megan!!!


Thursday 12th of March 2020

This post says 3/12/2020. Why are the comments dated 2018?

Megan Kristel

Thursday 12th of March 2020

This is called an "evergreen" post, one that is regularly updated with relevant, timely content. Today's post as been edited with new information, more tips, greater detail and updated images.

Tracy Gray

Wednesday 27th of March 2019

This has been great. I have been the worst at cleaning out my closet. At one time when cleaning out my closet, I decided to give some outfits a second chance. My mindset at the time was: if you don't wear it next year, it has to go. Well some things never went. Then when I would finally reached the stage of actually removing it from my closet, I moved everything to a space room we had and would keep the discarded clothes there just in case. After all, what if I needed it? What if it came back in style. Through your suggestions and subtle push, I have taken the big leap and really cleaned out my closet and the spare room. I almost cried as I drove my clothes to the local thrift store. The gentleman who grabbed the bags from me tossed them onto a large conveyer belt and I actually cringed. But I feel free and I actually that I have a clean palette to work with. I have slipped back, but I am making progress. And yes it is an emotional rollercoaster.

Carolyn Jensen

Tuesday 10th of April 2018

Great timing for this post Megan! I decided that I would finally get rid of a skirt that I literally moved back and forth between summer storage and winter storage for (gulp) 10 years without wearing it once. Oh the energy wasted that I could have used on shopping:)


Tuesday 10th of April 2018

These are great tips. I struggled so much with this, especially when I still had tags on stuff. But once it was out of my closet I felt so much better, less guilt, and then ended up with just stuff I love. And, then you can also see the holes better and can add accordingly.

My problem still lingers with shoes, but I'm getting better.


Tuesday 10th of April 2018

I always knew my style, but then I turned 50 and realized stores don’t have much for customers like me. Then, I started to hate shopping, stopped knowing my way around the stores, and now I feel overwhelmed. Not only do I not know what suits me, what I love — but even if I did I wouldn’t know where to buy it. Based on the catalogs that come to my house, I suppose I should load up on Eileen Fisher? Help me!!


Sunday 10th of October 2021

@Kristin, Boy, do I know the feeling!


Tuesday 10th of April 2018

Kristin, I had to smile at your comment about clothes for the "over 50" woman. I especially had to laugh at the Eileen Fisher comment. I know exactly what you mean. Now having just turned 60, I also feel the same way as you with the change in personal style and not finding what we really want or need. Maybe we can get Megan to do a post on wardrobes for the older woman. :-)

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