how to cull your closet without losing your f*cking mind
part 2, where I really break it down
The other day my friend Dina and I met in my closet to do a live on tips for culling. Which we did. And then I realized we hadn’t been live and had been just talking to ourselves the entire time like a pretend talk show. Anyhoo. After take 2, and the questions that followed, I realized that this. is. really. a. thing.
As always, style is never just style. It’s about figuring out who you are. That’s why it always feels like more than clothes. Culling is the chance to get a clean slate. It’s “getting rid of” sure, but more than that it’s getting. Getting a fresh start a sense of hope and possibility. Shedding what’s not you and not serving you and making room for who you want to be.
A recent Harvard Gazette story noted that we get dressed 29,000 times in the course of our lives. That’s 29,000 chances to define ourselves.
That’s also why it’s intense, uncertain, and generally fraught. And why it feels so good when you get through it.
I get so many questions along the lines of — “keep or cull?” or “help.” I also ask them. Less so recently since I honed in on my style DNA. But I have, frantically, asked these questions.
So first up, I did a first primer right here. So give it a read if you haven’t because I’m going to build on it here in a very directional, nutsy-boltsy fashion.
Make yourself some coffee.
- Ask yourself if you know your style DNA. If not, that’s step one, a framework you need in order to judge if each piece is “on brand” for you or not. Exactly what I do for brands in my work. How can you judge anything without a definitive lens? I use 3–5 adjectives and some exposition/mood boarding for each. But just knowing your adjectives and how they work plus maybe a mantra/rallying cry is great. (Side note: I am finally doing this for others. Developing your style DNA — and then matching you with a stylist if you like, too. My site’s in progress, so in the meantime if you want more information you can email me email@example.com.)
- Put on an outfit you really like, one that can work with a lot of things. So, for example, your best jeans and gray tee, plus a cute shoe. And at least a little coverup and lip something.
- Go around your closet (or room, no judgement, obvs) clockwise. We need to put some order to the proceedings.
- Pick off a small section to start, like your non-black blazers, say. The first natural break as you work left to right. Take them all out and move them to a separate rack or chair.
- Try on — and photograph — every single piece. Even the one that’s your all-time favorite. Take the very best selfie you can. Take at least a few shots with each piece.
- Now start putting them back on the rack — but imagine you’re in your favorite store. Don’t put back anything you wouldn’t be psyched to see there.
- At the end of a section, go into another room, sit down, and look at the photos you took on your phone. Realize that if you can’t make this piece feel good, even with your best tee and jeans and multiple photos, it’s not bringing you any joy. Get rid of it. Right away.
- You can start another section immediately, or take a break and plan for another section at another time, picking up where you left off and continuing clockwise.
WHEN YOU GET STUCK
- Go “shopping” without a credit card. Go get inspired. You can put things on hold, you just can’t take anything home. When you get home, look at your maybes again and ask yourself: Would I rather have this or what I just saw? Is it eminently clear? You are allowed to sell 6 things and have 1 new one.
- Watch The Minimalists on Netflix. You will not become a minimalist. But you’ll become a person who wants to let go.
- Put the item in a suitcase and decide you’ll take it on your next trip. If you forget about it, get rid of it. If you take it, play with it. A trip can be creative and/or clarifying for all things style.
- If anything has a stain on it treat it with a Tide Stick or mark it with a binder clip with a bit of fabric to protect anything delicate or sticker and put it in a dry clean or hand wash pile. Also binder clip and make a note if there is an alteration needed.
- Anything you’re not putting back, sell or donate immediately. I can’t stress “immediately” enough. Get it out of the house and in the trunk of a car if you need to. You are here because it’s hard. Don’t confuse yourself and end up poking through rejects in pain.
- If you can’t bring yourself to get rid of it, start a “probation shelf” (or rack, or whatever). In a week, return to the Probation Shelf and do the same few steps at the top (try on with your best items, take a photo, etc.)
You gained weight, bought something you hate, etc. Don’t pile it on by refusing to let go of the damages. The world has plenty of assholes. You don’t need to be one to yourself.