How to Avoid Regret When You Clear Out Your Wardrobe

December 1, 2017
How to Avoid Regret When You Clear Out Your Wardrobe

When I talk about clearing out my wardrobe – something I’ve been quite ruthless about over the past year – the recurring question I get is, “don’t you ever regret getting rid of things though?” My answer is always no, but what I suppose I really mean is: occasionally I experience fleeting regret but I have a system in place to ensure it’s nothing more than that. Not quite as snappy though is it?

The average woman has £2,400 worth of unworn clothes in her wardrobe and I’d like to hypothesise that most of those are still hanging there because of the prospect of regret hanging over the owners’ heads. Most of us has pulled hanger after hanger out of our wardrobes with the intention of purging only to pop them all back amid entirely doubtful declarations that, ‘it might come in handy’. Only they never come in handy and they remain untouched and unworn as we overlook them each day for the pieces we truly love to wear.

While I think we should all dedicate a lot more consideration to our wardrobes and shouldn’t take a disposable approach to clothes, I don’t think there’s any value in feeling stressed due to an overflowing wardrobe full of pieces that could be enjoyed by other people. So clear out, strip back and assess what you really need and love. And heed these tips to ensure you’re not racked by regret the second you part with them.

Set a Time Limit

If you don’t wear something but you feel like you might really love it, don’t just stick it back in your wardrobe, give yourself a time limit. You can be as hard or gentle on yourself as you like; it can be two weeks or six months, it’s entirely up to you, just make sure you stick to it. For every day garments like t-shirts and jeans, one month should be more than enough. If you don’t wear it for a month, it goes. For seasonal items – coats, scarves, winter boots – be a little more generous. There’s no point in giving yourself 30 days to wear a pair of fleece lined boots when it’s the height of summer. Using this tip, I’ve saved things that I’ve ended up loving and parted with things that were doing nothing but take up much needed space in my wardrobe. 

Wear It. Right Now

Is there one thing you just keep holding onto even though you never wear it? Put it on. Right this minute. It doesn’t matter if it’s a party dress or an enormous sun hat, just put it on right this second. If there’s a reason you haven’t been wearing it – maybe it fits badly or it has a scratchy seam – you’ll know immediately. If there’s nothing obvious, just sashay around in it for a bit. Stare at yourself in the mirror, take a few photos. Is it really you? Is the colour right? Does it make you feel good? If the answers are all negative, you know what to do.

Give to a Worthy Cause

The other day, as I contemplated what combination of outerwear layers I would wear that day (I’m currently averaging around three at once), I had a fleeting pang of regret as I realised that the dogtooth cocoon coat I’d given away last winter would have topped my outfit off perfectly. But then I imagined someone who can’t afford a coat, let alone fuck around with multiple permutations of them, wrapping up against the cold in it and my regret melted away.

The dogtooth coat was one in an absurdly large pile my boyfriend and I had given to a friend who was collecting on behalf of a charity coat appeal for the homeless last winter. Sure, it was a nice coat but the fact that I had not one but a multitude of spare coats to give away demonstrates that I had much more than I needed. (I still do, in fact, even with my pared down wardrobe.)  How can I possibly regret giving something away that’s keeping someone in need warm? Your white shirt might go to someone who couldn’t afford to buy one for a job interview. Your unworn shoes might replace a pair that have been worn right through. If you’re deliberating over whether to part with something or not, don’t sell it, give it to someone who really needs it instead. Any hint of regret will instantly disappear when you think of the good it might do, however tiny.

Be Kind to Yourself

No matter how much you might crave a streamlined wardrobe that wouldn’t look out of place in Patrick Bateman’s apartment, there will always be a few things that come woven through with history or emotion. I, for example, have a full length silver dress that I inherited from my Nana. I have worn it precisely one time for a blog post and I doubt I’ll wear it again any time soon. It absolutely breaks every time limit rule but will I be getting rid of it? Nope. I plan on strutting into an obscenely decadent event in it one day and, as it’s not something I could just pick up again, I’ll be hanging onto it until that day comes.

Ditch the Guilt

While it’s more than OK to hang onto a few pieces that really mean something to you, you most definitely don’t have to hang onto pieces that mean something to someone else. If someone gives you a jumper, it doesn’t come with a contract to say you have to keep it indefinitely. Once it belongs to you, it’s yours to do with what you please and if what pleases you is getting it the fuck out of your wardrobe then that’s what you should do. And if your friend/aunt/brother gets shitty about it? Then they’re a terrible gift giver.

What if it wasn’t a gift and it’s something you’ve inherited? It’s a little trickier, certainly, but the same rule still applies. If someone in particular is really keen that you keep it, offer it to them. Either they’ll take it off your hands or they’ll reveal their thinly veiled hyposcrisy when they admit they they don’t want it cluttering their wardrobe either. Whatever the situation, you’re not beholden to keep something to please someone else, so clear yourself of any guilt. 

You could do weird things I’ve seen online like putting things in bin bags and turning coat hangers back to front but these are the things that really work for me. I’ve never once pined for something I don’t have anymore so that’s one point in the ‘they totally work’ column. It’s basically science.

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