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How To Purge Clothes: 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: You open your closet door, see that it’s filled with stuff, and immediately feel 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, which often leaves me feeling guilty.

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

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. I’m sure this is a sentiment that most professional women can understand.

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

However, this challenge eventually got easier. 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 feel uncomfortable.

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 closet space and keeping your closet clean.

But we’ve never dived into the most important part: the mindset you need to feel good as you 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 and purge your closet, 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 that spark joy for them.  

  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 clothing items you haven’t worn 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 peel 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 for a special occasion.  

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.

The same goes for items that don’t fit anymore.

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 rid 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.

How To Purge Clothes: 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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Monday 16th of October 2023

Hi- great information, and inspiration. For me, I always always always have to have like 5 or more of everything “in case I spill something, snag something or whatever” I fear that in the back of mind, so there is this urgency of what-ifs and being prepared for anything. And that creates chaos. But, inevitable I go out to lunch with the girls and guess who dumps her salad in her brand new white trousers? Yep, me. I might need a course in how to not be a total klutz.


Tuesday 3rd of October 2023

Enjoyed re-reading this post. Recently retired, so difficult to realize that my career was finished. I loved it, loved our team, didn’t retire til 70 yrs ol🙃 please Just realize there are women who need a leg up so to speak, who could benefit from my donation to Attitudes and Attire. What better way to pay it forward than to share your closet. I’m so happy I did!


Friday 29th of September 2023

Thank you for this article. As I stare at my closet - I see chaos. Your article helped me form a plan to let most of it go. Love the idea of making a wardrobe board of what I'd like my style to be.

Virginia Flynn

Friday 15th of September 2023

Hi Megan, I love articles about closet purging and this one is no exception. Purging especially thinking about the cost of some pieces can be painful. Giving it to a friend always made ME feel better, but then I'm forcing my rejects onto them! Thankfully, I have very gracious friends! Often I would hang onto clothes and then couldn't remember if I ever wore them! Several years ago I started to "Doom Tag" them but putting a slip of paper over the hanger to be removed when I wore the item. At the end of a season, or often somewhere during the season, if I saw the tag, it meant I never wore it. It makes the decision making so much easier on whether to keep, toss or donate (not "gift" anymore! :) ). Some people just turn the hanger around but the paper is a quick visual that helps me see everything clearer. Today I put in the donation pile a white jeans jacket. It's a classic Lee jean jacket that I've had over a year. I wore it once and promptly got a black mark on the sleeve. I never liked how it fit, the fabric was stiff and I'm just not a "white jean jacket" wearer. I kept it thinking I would wear it over a tee shirt dress and hung onto it because it was "in." It was one of the annoyances I would pass by over and over. How do I feel letting it go? GREAT! VICTORIOUS! FREE! Thank you, Megan, for this seasonal kick in the pants and all the advice you give on wardrobe building and maintaining.

Francine Carmody

Thursday 14th of September 2023

I truly enjoyed your information today.Ithink it was a wake up call for me. It’s time to look at my wardrobe & really take the time to be positive about what I’m wearing. Thank You.I know I will enjoy your newsletter.


Sunday 10th of September 2023

I have a large home and every wardrobe are full of clothes I am attached to for one reason or another… Reading your post has made me realise how mad I get about disposing of anything and not letting go… So here we go…. One box at a time ?!


Saturday 9th of September 2023

I stumbled onto this via Pinterest. Thank goodness! Great defence!


Saturday 2nd of September 2023

Love you Pinterest idea to figure out my style, but I live in a small town. Do you have suggestions for where to find these new clothes?


Thursday 31st of August 2023

Your post inspired me, I would be getting rid of a lot of clothes this week. As I kept reading , I realized how much this made sense. Thank you!!!!

Nancy Eisner

Wednesday 30th of August 2023

Thank you. Your advise makes sense and has motivated me on where to start.

Kim Kozer

Wednesday 23rd of August 2023

Awesome article! Thank you for writing it. It came at a perfect time. My sister on law who always looks great, is coming to help me purge my closet next week. I’ll be ready now when she comes and know my style to help release the clothes with pain in doing so.

Kathie Daniells

Monday 17th of July 2023

I really need to sort my clothes. I only wear skirts or dresses as I don’t like trousers. Is it best to sort into outfits which I like together ie skirt, top, cardigan/jumper/jacket; or dress and over tops, or separately into each “subject “ skirts, tops, t shirts, cardigans etc ? Colours into rough order ?


Wednesday 5th of July 2023

Just read this and found it so useful. The part about keeping things because it cost you a lot of money is so true and looking at it from a different point of view makes a lot of sense. Keeping things just in case they might fit you again is also a big mistake . Thank you for this !!


Sunday 25th of June 2023

I am retired but very fit and am told I look much younger. You are the age of my kids. Do you think this can work for me?


Saturday 17th of June 2023

I read this post just when I most need it. I am recently retired (2 months now), have a post menopausal pooch, am heavier than I should be (but working on it), and am the overwhelmed owner of over 250 pairs of shoes, 100 handbags, and enough clothing to compile full wardrobes for five 5’ tall women of varying weights. It is beyond time to put the suggestions from this post into effect. I especially appreciate the focus on “keeping what you love” as opposed to “getting rid of” which for me is the most difficult part of downsizing. Thank you for this!

Virginia Flynn

Tuesday 13th of June 2023

Megan, thank you SO much for this. Over the last four months I have “refined and renewed” my what I call my “off the property clothes”. The side of my closet that I wear when I go out whether it’s to church or shopping. I now can actually slide hangers on the closet rod without throwing out my shoulder!! Now I have to tackle the other side of the closet which is packed to the brim with “on property” clothes. These clothes are tougher to purge because they are the cleaning, home improvement, gardening and relaxation clothes for the four true seasons we have in Western New York. I like the idea of boxing or as I call “pending” clothes to see how often I reach for them, but my house doesn’t have the space to store them. So it’s definite “Yes” or “No” when purging. One piece at a time. It WILL happen!

Norma James

Saturday 29th of April 2023

Great idea’s easy to follow I can already see some items going but I am having trouble with how many pants I should have I am retired and don’t really have a big social life anyway great advice thank w


Thursday 20th of April 2023

This was a great article. I really needed to read this tonight. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge. Much appreciated.

Ruth K.

Saturday 18th of March 2023

Hi Megan, thanks for your honesty and reminder that however we feel about the particular thing you post, there is no need to be unkind. Reading your posts has really helped stretch me to think more deeply about what clothing is best for my body, mind, and spirit. It's a continual journey. I admit I am particularly challenged by keeping my closet (and drawers, and the guest room closet!) uncluttered. It's hard to be truthful to myself about what really fits me well - again, physically and mentally/emotionally. Your blog really helps me! Our styles aren't very similar, and I am kind of envious of your height, but you are helping me get a well-dressed life! Thanks for what you do!


Saturday 18th of March 2023

Really find inspiration from your posts; Thank you.

"Each new iteration of a trend has subtle details that make it modern." Isn't that the truth? But I would include what we call 'classics' to this statement.

When I was young, a classic was an item that was the same from year to year. Only wear and tear would get you to throw it out.

It appears to me that is no longer true. Now classics seem to be items that fall in the general direction of being the same, but have subtle differences-so to me-it is not a classic but a more gentle, softer, longer lasting 'trend'.

Just my frustrated thoughts on the subject.


Friday 17th of March 2023

I’m 58 and just purged a ton out of my closet. I can’t believe what a clothes horse I have been. My daughter just had a baby and fits into the clothing I had hoped to lose weight for. So she’s getting hand me downs including clothing I never wore and still had tags. She’s excited! What she doesn’t want will go to a friend and her daughters who also love hand me downs. So my spending isn’t totally going to waste. It’s helping out those I’m close to that are in need. Your post helped me to purge. I still have shoes, dresser drawers to go through, but it’s a start! And if I do lose weight, I can enjoy a little shopping. <3


Thursday 16th of March 2023

Megan, I missed the opportunity to work through my closet in the January Wardrobe Challenge, so these pointers are just what I need to kickstart my clean-out. Thank you for all your practical tips and the style suggestions that are both thoughtful and good value. You are helping me develop a closet that fits both my retired lifestyle and my budget without restricting me to senior styling!


Wednesday 15th of March 2023

I am not very guilty of hanging on to things. I hate to shop. I edited my spring wardrobe and now I must shop before it gets warm or I’ll be wearing t-shirts from the races I have done. I don’t wear t-shirts much. There is a point where I have trouble parting with things. They are like trophies.


Wednesday 15th of March 2023

Really good tips! This is something I’m working through and trying to reform my buying habits. I want a smaller, harder-working wardrobe and I’m getting better at being brutal.


Thursday 9th of February 2023

All of this is very good advice. Thanks

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