Unless you’re blessed with a space that’s big enough to hold your warm-weather and cold-weather clothes, odds are you’re pretty familiar with cleaning out your closet. That said, you might also be familiar with the act of standing knee-deep in piles of skirts, shirts, sweaters, and sequined dresses, only to realize they’re doing nothing for you anymore but taking up valuable real estate.
Sure, you could shove everything back into your closet with the hopes of liking it better in a year or two (won’t happen), but by doing that you’re only working against yourself. Meaning, by hoarding clothes you never wear, you’re likely to start drowning in stuff, which makes it more difficult to find things to wear. That said, we’ve put together a 10-step guide to understand when to get rid of clothes. Trust us: Your closet will thank you.
1. It’s truly stained.
The fact is that—with a little effort—most stains can be removed (have you seen our handy guide to stain removal?) whether it’s via a professional or by employing clever tricks. However, there are things that can’t be fully removed—intense ink stains, bleach, dried paint, large oil stains, and certain dyes, for example—so it’s best to bid adieu to garments marred by these offenders, suck it up, and buy a fresh piece.
Keep in mind that thrift stores don’t want irrevocably stained items any more than you do and won’t put them out to sell, so it’s best to recycle them, as opposed to donating them.
2. It smells odd.
Certain materials hold onto certain smells longer than others no matter how many times you wash it. While there are ways to remove musty odors from fabrics (spritzing them with a vodka and water mixture, for example), there’s no guarantee all scents will disappear. If your piece smells of must, food, or body odor even after you’ve washed it, it’s time to replace it.
3. It’s damaged beyond repair.
While a tailor can replace a zipper, a button, or even the lining of a coat, they can’t fully fix a gaping tear on the side of your silk blouse, or a huge hole in the middle of a wool skirt. Denim, however, is a different story thanks to spots like Denim Therapy so if you’re in love with a pair of jeans that are starting to rip, you may want to hang on to them and get ‘em doctored.
4. You wouldn’t buy it right this second.
When it comes to getting rid of clothes, the true litmus test isn’t whether you’ve worn an item in a year, but rather if you were out shopping right this second, would you buy it? If the answer’s no, out it goes—even if it’s only a month old. We’ve found this method to be highly successful, and can effectively cut down your closet by 25%.
5. It doesn’t fit.
Some women keep too-tight clothing with the hope they’ll lose enough weight to wear it again, to which we say: why? It’s silly let a dress or one pair of pants pressure us into dropping pounds, especially since it might not be weight we’ve gained, but our bodies have shifted, causing older clothes to fit differently. Getting fit for yourself is fab, but not for a cocktail dress when there are 100 just like it waiting for you in your size.
Same goes for items that are way too big: Unless you really love it and plan to pay to have it altered, why not use your closet’s real estate for awesome pieces that look amazing on you now?
6. It doesn’t convey the message you want it to.
Let’s not kid ourselves: We all use fashion as a means of sending unspoken messages about who we are, or—at least—who we want to be. Oftentimes, that message changes as we get more mature, as we come into our own, or as we experiment with different styles. Certain pieces simply no longer remain relevant to the image we want to portray and that’s okay, but—unless it’s a piece that will appreciate in value, or something of sentiment—it means it’s time to part with these pieces.
7. You equate it with bad memories.
If you look at a wool overcoat and automatically associate it with the winter you lost your job, faced a family hardship, got dumped, or simply were going through a particularly rough patch, toss it. Same goes for pieces left behind by painful exes, friends, or anyone negative. Purging your closet of bad memories can be powerful, and it’ll force you to buy new things you really love (and are totally baggage-free.)
8. It’s simply not trendy anymore.
We’ve all bought super-trendy items that simply don’t stand the test of time, like that pair of clunky sneaker wedges you swore you’d wear every day, or a pair of neon floral jeans. Of course, if you still love and wear these items, by all means, don’t stop! But if you’re over them and know you won’t reach for them, it’s time to let ‘em go. Same goes for items that might not ever have been trendy, per se, but those you loved a few years ago and think they look dated/frumpy/matronly today.
9. You keep trying it on but never actually wear it.
You know those pieces that you always seem to try on at home, but never seem to grab when you’re actually getting dressed? Odds are, you’ll never wear them outside of your bedroom, so why are you still hanging on to them? Better to use the space in your closet for things you’ll actually reach for regularly.
10. It’s totally stretched out or pilled.
One surefire way to not look chic and pulled-together? Wear clothing that’s stretched out. Sure, the laundry can help certain pieces retain their shape, but when you wear items often, they do stretch. If your trousers have sagging seats, your sweaters have necklines that are stretched or sleeves that are pilled, a coat doesn’t fit the way you want it to anymore, or your bras and underwear are totally shapeless, it’s time to get new ones.