Purging the Wardrobe

08 May

I’ve just completed my semi-annual clothing purge, something I try to do around the time I make my switch-over from winter to summer clothes or vice versa.  In this blog, I’ve previously discussed the various options one has for finding homes for all kinds of items. In this post, I’d like to focus on the decision-making process and options for disposing of clothes.

Personally, I don’t favor the Marie Kondo approach for downsizing your wardrobe (i.e., put all your clothes in the middle of the room and select only those that spark joy to return to your closet. And be sure to stand all your socks and underwear up on end!) But it doesn’t hurt to consider one type of clothing item at a time, e.g. tops or dresses or pants, with a focus on the season that’s coming up, so that your donations and consignments match market needs. If you are moving, you have other considerations, such as space, climate, and lifestyle, and you may need to be more ruthless.

This task goes more smoothly when I am in the mood for it. Some people may prefer a second opinion. I’m a bit of a loner on this one. In my most recent purge, I found myself reacting in one of a number of ways.

The Negative Diagnoses

Yuk! Hate myself in it, even though once I loved it.

No longer fits. Maybe I will lose those extra pounds. In that case, I’ll treat myself to something new and let someone else enjoy this.

What was I thinking when I bought that yellow sweater set that I never wear because I don’t look good in yellow?

Still has the tag on it three years later? But it’s so cute! Why haven’t I worn it?

Doesn’t fit my lifestyle anymore (or maybe never did). How many silk blouses do I need? I’m retired, and I have other tops that don’t need dry-cleaning. How many suits? Keep one for a funeral.

Out of style. All those short tops that were popular some years ago cut me off in the wrong place!

I used to wear it all the time, but I’m bored with it.

Too high maintenance. I’m willing to do only so much ironing.

Already have three similar shapes in the same color. Pick the nicest. Dump the rest.

I don’t love it, but it was expensive. Pooh! Don’t love it? Get rid of it—try consigning first.

In lousy shape: Stains, holes, rips, pills. No excuse to keep.

The Keepers for Now

It’s so useful even though I don’t love it (jeans, black tops, white t-shirts—obviously keep)

I love it and wear it sometimes (keep for now)

So that’s where that lovely top was—I was wondering (put it somewhere you can find it)

Worn, comfy, but still wearable (move to my at-home-only clothes drawer)

I just bought it but haven’t worn it yet (give it a year and see how often you are drawn to wearing it)

I love it, but it doesn’t go with anything I own or doesn’t quite fit my lifestyle (think outside the box. Still nothing in a year? Give it up)

My husband, first boyfriend, mother, fill-in-the blank gave it to me, and it means so much (okay to keep one or two items from a few people for their sentimental value, at least for awhile. Remember, we are slow-downizing here! It doesn’t all have to happen at once. Take photos.)

The Options

As I’ve said before, I don’t want to get into the business of selling clothes online (e.g. through Etsy, Ebay.) Yard sales? Clothes generally don’t sell in that kind of venue even if you want to organize a yard sale. NextDoor, Craigslist—only if you have a lot of one kind of item to sell that might be of interest to someone, and you can sell in bulk. There are people out there who like to repurpose things and might want to take them off your hands, probably for next to nothing.

That leaves--

Consignment and selling to third party vendors: Only for those items that are currently in fashion and in great condition but just don’t work for you, or if they are vintage. Some used clothing vendors will buy from you, but they can be picky and don’t pay all that well (usually about 40% of what they charge).  Consignment stores vary in what they like and take. So do your research. Most require an appointment, and sometimes the wait time is several weeks. Once you go, be prepared to march out with your rejected items.

Donations (some will pick up and some won’t):

                --A friend who has already told you they love a particular item! What could be nicer?

                --An organization that give clothes free to people in need. (In Boston, Second Chances. Dress for Success; in spring, prom dresses to Anton Cleaners)

                --a theater company that might like vintage clothes you can’t sell (try your local college theater department)

                --An organization that sells clothes in their own retail outlets (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Boomerangs)

--An organization that sells textiles and clothes in bulk to another vendor: It’s possible that your clothes will end up in a landfill. This is more common than you think. If the website doesn’t tell you, call and ask. Of course, it’s still your choice, particularly when the organization offers to pick up your items.

The Decision-Making Process

Decisions should be made quickly. If necessary, try it on. No agonizing. Three piles: Keep, consign, donate! Move the items to be donated or consigned out of your closet and out the door as soon as possible. In the past, I have had a holding closet for those items about which I am ambivalent to see how the passage of time affects my opinions. I’m moving away from that approach now that I have a better sense of what I own.

Here some examples of recent decisions of mine.

That beautiful, expensive, sleeveless, black designer dress with the full skirt that I was cajoled into buying. (I could have said “no.”) Those extra pounds did not help, and I have no use for something like this. Tried to consign it twice last year—once to a high-end place and once to my regular consignment shop. No one wanted it. Sadly, I missed the deadline for the cleaners that accepts prom dresses to be given away. Swallowed my pride and took it to Goodwill, where someone can buy it for a song. Verdict: Too much time spent on trying to get some of my money back!

Four cute tops and a cute dress that I once wore but no more: Off to the consigners—these might sell.  If not, Goodwill!

The worn t-shirts with logos of places from my life: Cut out the logo for use in an art project; donate to one of those places that takes “textiles.” Hope they recycle these.

Two very cute sleeveless summer Lilly shifts from 1960 that belonged to my mother: Consigned twice, but no one wanted them. Sad about this. I think they are worth something. Time to let that go.  Maybe a costume department? Anyone interested?

The whittling of my wardrobe is more like a slow drip. I do try to follow the one in, more than one out policy. I defintely have fewer clothes than I once did, even in my active clothes storage spaces, and I am working hard to shed myself of the clothes laiden with meaning that I can’t or don’t wear.

How do you do it?

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