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How to clear out your wardrobe

Wardrobe 4

Finding something in your wardrobe can sometimes feel a bit like pot luck, with so many clothes in there that it’s almost impossible to find what you want.

For reasons unknown, we hold on to clothes that are out of fashion, out of date, or have simply never been worn, and all the while are left with less and less space for new items.

If your wardrobe needs a clear out, an unsparing approach is key; Cosmopolitan is on hand with these ruthless yet sensible tips to free up some much-needed space.

First you're going to need a few things: some paper and a pencil for writing down notes about the items you are purging from your closet, and a brutally unforgiving eye. The tougher and more honest you are with yourself now, the easier things will be for you later. 

Cull the clones

Underwear and T-shirts are one thing, but if you notice that you've got six of the same floral dress, that should raise a red flag, especially if you tend to favour one or two heavily above the others. Lay them all out and think about exactly what it was that made you think these pieces were so different to begin with. Now that you look at them all together, do those differences really hold up? Are you sure? What was it that compelled you to buy these things when you already had nearly identical pieces in your wardrobe? Were there specific circumstances in which you bought these clothes? Were you shopping with friends? Were these pieces on sale? Identifying the pieces and the circumstances under which you bought them will help you to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future. It's not just enough to make a mental note. Actually writing them out will help you internalise the information and give you with physical document to refer to later.

Nullify the never-worns

Are many of them from the same shop? Were they bought for special occasions? Was there some unbelievable discount involved? Do they share common design details like ruffles or bright colours? Do they fit a certain way? Even if just two or three of the items share a distinctive trait, it's worth writing it down, especially if it's something you noted previously. The more often one of these traits pops up, the more important it is for you to be wary of them in the future.

Purge the past

No over-stuffed closet would be complete without a few shameful fashion skeletons hidden in the back. It's time to confront your old bad style habits head on and learn from them. You once loved this stuff. Why? What changed? Were you just copying a style you thought looked cool on someone else? Were you distracted by some tacky, bedazzled flourish you only now see for the horror it truly is? What was it that first drew you to this cloth abomination and what was it that finally forced you to retire it altogether?

Wring out the wrong sizes

Lay out all the stuff you own that no longer fits. Where exactly are the problems? Is it the buttons? The cut of the hips? The shoulders? Is it too long? Too short? Are these problems that always existed or are they issues that developed over time? Pay special attention to items that are particularly difficult for you to imagine giving up. Maybe it's a designer piece you spent a bunch of money on or it was once the key component of your favorite outfit. What is the specific issue that made this piece unwearable? Put stars next to any pre-existing fit issues that you somehow convinced yourself to overlook at the shop. Once you identify what those are, it will be harder for you to ignore them in the future. It's also worth noting any fit issues that are the result of fluctuations in your weight. If your changing weight means you often find your jeans either too big or too small, you might want to consider switching to something with more stretch or a different style of bottom altogether that can better adapt to your changing body. If not all the time, then at least when you are looking to invest in a more expensive item. 

Ditch the damaged

Ok. What's the deal? Are you a messy eater? Do you snag all you sweaters? Are you particularly hard on your bags or shoes? Some clothes just aren't for everyone. That's cool. Better to know your limitations before you buy something. 

Forsake the filler

What is about these pieces that is turning you off, even though they don't fit into any of the other categories? More likely than not, you will find a lot of overlap between this and all your lists. Take some time to distil everything you've written down into one, smaller, cohesive list that you can carry with you to remind yourself of the major pitfalls you are likely to face the next time you go shopping — styles that you are drawn to but never wear, colours you think are pretty, but not on you, shops and sales where you tend to make your worst choices, even people who compel you to buy things you don't actually want.

Cosmopolitan is an international fashion and lifestyle magazine, providing news, recommendations and advice on a wide range of matters in print and online. To find out more, visit


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