Don’t try to go through the whole closet in one day. I promise it will never work, and you will end up discouraged. Instead, start with one section. This can be the tiniest section, too! Hell, go through your underwear drawer and sift out all of those granny panties that reach your belly button. Personally, I recommend going with the part of your closet that is the most visible first. For me, that was a pile of sweaters. Once you get that done, everything else becomes easier.
Math comes into the equation.
Whenever I shrink someone’s closet, I ask them when the last time they wore a piece was. I give them a 30-day limit, and if they haven’t worn it in 30 days, it’s time to say “goodbye.” (Of course, I take seasons into consideration: It wouldn’t be kosher to part with a winter piece in summer, because obviously the person hasn’t worn it in 30 days. Use your best judgement here.) When I started going through my pieces, I asked myself truthfully when I had last worn a piece. If it didn’t make the 30-day cut, I put it in the “part with” pile. I had to be unforgiving and harsh on this—with no one else was here to set down the rules, I had to go with my gut feeling.
Pay attention to repeats.
I’ve had clients with multiple incarnations of pieces, ranging from Molly Goddard tulle dresses to tons of artfully worn-in Carhartt jackets. As for myself, I have a rotation of about eight dark-hued sweaters. It’s almost as if I want to constantly look like I’m sitting shiva in Siberia. That’s beside the point. A good tactic here is to set down all of your repeat clothes and go back to step one. Ask yourself: “How long have I had this piece?” Think about the last time you wore it was and if it has been more than 30 days, say goodbye.
Consider the sentimental value of a piece.
For as long as I could remember, I have kept everything in my wardrobe associated with my mother. I always have had some anxiety-ridden fear that if I part with anything my mother gave me, she would disappear, or something horrible would happen. It was only recently when I did a serious survey of my closet that I realized that this pipe-dream nightmare was irrational and her cast-offs had begun to affect me negatively, becoming emotional baggage that has manifested into physical baggage. I told myself that I could keep a few special pieces from her, things that she wore when she was younger and cherished, but I could toss the ratty J. Crew top that she bought a consignment store last year.
Think about the future without the “what if.”
When we want to keep pieces from our wardrobe, we often veer towards a “what if” scenario, convincing ourselves that we will one day wear the garment in question. Example: “Well, what if I go to this animal-themed party and I could wear this wild pair of Robert Cavalli zebra-striped pants?” There will be no animal-themed party! If you can’t remember the last time you wore something, there is no foreseeable future for it.
When all else fails, talk to yourself.
It’s not that self-isolation has led you to speak to inanimate objects—like Tom Hanks’s character and Wilson the ball in Castaway—but rather, speaking to yourself aloud is a good way to coach yourself through parting with pieces. Think of it as another person with you, like a third all-seeing eye that will help you sort through your wardrobe.
In the meantime, box it up.
Most places to donate or sell things have temporarily closed. Nonetheless, these clothes should be out of sight and out of mind. Separate pieces into piles such as the sell and donate. Box it up and neatly store it. When the time comes, these clothes will go to a better place.