Detox Your Wardrobe: The 5 Golden Rules

*Updated for your reading pleasure on 20th May 2019 (originally posted in March 2017).*

It may seem drastic but when I’m feeling stifled by life, few things make me feel better than a good clear out and my closet is no exception. By now we’re all familiar with the typical ‘Keep’, ‘Sell’, ‘Donate’ and ‘Throw’ piles we make when sorting but I have a few simple rules that will help you to declutter and detox your wardrobe efficiently every time for improved mental health. Intrigued? Read on.

a neatly detoxed wardrobe

For me, cleaning out my closet isn’t just about getting rid of the clothes that I never wear anymore, that’s easy. It’s about taking the time to take a step back and really assess how my current collection makes me feel and purging anything that I no longer love. That’s the reason I encourage you to think of it as a wardrobe ‘detox’. It’s about getting rid of the items that may be having a negative impact on your life.

1. Doesn’t Fit? Bin It!
You may think that you don’t have anything that makes you feel this way but I bet you, if you really look through your wardrobe, you’ll find at least one of the common offenders. How about that one thing that you always hoped to slim into but never quite make it? You may think that keeping those super tight skinny jeans front and centre is a great incentive to get yourself down to the gym more often.

The reality though is usually that they sit there month after month, year after year even, unworn and chipping away at your self esteem every time that you have to have to pass over them in favour of your faithful and roomy boyfriend jeans instead. My advice? Get rid. They’re not serving any purpose except making you feel inadequate and god forbid you be tempted to try them on every now and then, ‘you know, just to see…’. I’ve been there. It ends with me using one hand to prize my jean leg past halfway up my thigh where it’s stuck and the other hand simultaneously clutching a bottle of wine and a piece of cake with which to console myself. It’s a vicious cycle. End it.

2. Give Yourself A Cut-Off Time 
If you really, really think that you actually might maybe possibly fit into said item very soon (perhaps your new spin class is working wonders), then give yourself a realistic deadline and promise that if they don’t fit by then you will pop them on Depop and put the money towards something that will make you feel fabulous. The same goes for things you’ve bought that you never get to wear because the occasion hasn’t come up. The gorgeous evening gown, the ‘special occasion’ summer hat, the killer heels (named so because you can’t walk for a week after you wear them).

It may seem like a good investment to keep these things for ‘when the time comes’ but if the time never comes they might as well just be sitting there in cash form, wasted. Not only that, but I find that these items tend to taunt me about how unexciting my life is that I’ve never been invited to the type of black tie do where I’d never actually need a floor-sweeping gown. My Oscars invite must have gotten lost in the post….

tips on how to detox your wardrobe

3. Get Rid of the Super Negatives
Then there are the things that you associate with negative experiences but have kept because they’re in perfect condition and money doesn’t grow on trees. I’ve gone through so many of these items over the years. The sensible shoes I bought for that Christmas temp job I had. They’re ugly but I might need them again to wear to something smart and sombre like… a funeral? That’s just morbid. Chuck them out. The stuffy shirts I wore to that office job I hated and quit. I might need them for an interview one day? Nope, bad memories. Time for those crisp corporate nooses – sorry, I mean collars to go. The shoes the ex boyfriend bought that are oh so pretty but make you think of him. Him… On the donate pile they go.

4. Say Bye to ‘Meh’ items
It’s easy to justify throwing out obviously worn clothes. I actually get quite a sense of achievement from chucking laddered tights, holey socks and bobbly knitwear, ‘Check me out, not even bothered’. What’s more difficult to part with however, are those things which have lost their lustre when you can’t quite pinpoint why. For instance, I have this Zara lace yellow sundress which I just put in my donate pile. Holding it up, there’s nothing wrong with it really but somehow it just doesn’t seem as magical as it once did. Maybe it’s faded a little. Maybe my taste has changed. Maybe I’m just sick of seeing it after a few years but either way, when I put it on I generally feel a little underwhelmed, slightly depressed even by the fact that I no longer love it like I once did. So it’s got to go.

rules for clearing out your closet

5. Ask, ‘Would I Buy This Now?’
Finally, once you think that you’ve gotten rid of everything actively toxic, look through once more and ask yourself the most important question one can ask when wishing to detox your wardrobe; ‘Would I buy this again now?’. It seems so simple but it’s soooo important to keep your wardrobe up to date with your evolving style. How can you be your best, happiest self if your wardrobe is full of things that you wouldn’t even buy?

They say that style is a way to say who you are without ever having to speak and I think that this is so true. I find few things more depressing day to day than looking in the mirror and catching a glimpse of myself only to realise I’ve just grabbed any old things that match but aren’t actually all that ‘me’ anymore. In my head I’m a badass. My style is polished and classic with a modern twist and that’s how I want to look. Why then, when I’m searching for something (anything?!) to wear at 6.30 am, is my hand landing on things that I loved five years ago?

Five years ago me dressed way differently to current me. Five years ago me was a student whose daily uniform consistently largely of leggings, gingham shirts, Converse and a top knot. Yes, Hollister, Superdry and Jack Wills will always hold a place in my heart, but they’re not really my style anymore. Yes, I could still make my lumberjack shirts work with some skinny jeans and ankle boots but actually, now I come to think of it, that’s not the style story I want to portray. I’m just keeping them because I feel I should. I’d be much happier selling them all and using the money to get a purchase a pretty cold shoulder ruffle shirt that I actually feel good in instead of just ‘fine’.

having a clear out can improve your mental health

Remember, wanting to detox your wardrobe isn’t reckless or overindulgent. It’s important for improving your self-esteem and in turn, your mental health. It’s much more financially smart to embrace the opportunity to get rid of anything that you no longer lust after so that you can reinvest that money into something you’ll really love. Even if you clear out 30 old things and have enough money to buy just 5 new pieces, the new pieces are guaranteed to make you feel far better than the old toxic pieces ever did. That’s a pretty great trade if you ask me.

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