Try on everything in your closet

by | May 27, 2009 | clutter | 14 comments

I was completely inspired by Michelle Slatalla’s recent column about cleaning out her closet. The idea is to try on every single item in your closet, get rid of things that don’t look good, and then I guess reconsider everything that does look good, so that you think about wearing that fancy velvet blazer with jeans (that was her example; I don’t have a fancy velvet blazer).

And so, while Dave was occupied ripping siding off of our house, I attacked the closet. I pulled out absolutely everything and tried it on. The big surprise was that everything fit pretty well. I guess I know what looks good on me, because I didn’t have a lot of duds. I thought for sure that some of my party dresses would go, especially the hot pink silk halter dress with shiny beading, but that actually looked a lot more classic than I remembered. There’s a lot I’m not proud of from my shopaholic days, but at least I was obsessed with Banana Republic and J. Crew, so that the clothes I’m left with now are all cut really well and are all fairly timeless.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. I randomly look best in party dresses. It is certainly not any life of mine where I’d wear party dresses on a regular basis, but they were the only things I put on that made me think, “That looks GREAT!”
  2. I look best in brown.
  3. All of my t-shirts have a small stain on them somewhere.
  4. I look best when the waistline of pants hits right below my belly button. Surprisingly hard to find these days.
  5. We have moths in our closet.
  6. Never take someone else’s cast-off clothing. Or at least think really hard before doing it. Most of the clothes I got rid of were ones someone else was getting rid of.
  7. There are a lot of clothes in my closet I don’t wear, but should. Like a cute grey fitted 3/4-sleeve button down that looks good with jeans. And all those twinsets. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to wear my silk sweatersets while parenting, but I might. And the navy blue printed polyester button-down (Anne will know this as the “coffee bean shirt”). I regret that I rediscovered it now, when the weather’s a bit too warm for it.

The whole exercise (which took about four hours with continual interruptions) was also a great motivator to finally get back on the fitness horse. I’m almost there, but I need to reacquaint myself with Jillian Michaels and get shredded and all that. I stopped exercising when I was working on my final project a few weeks ago, and I need to get started again. Standing in front of a full-length mirror, trying on outfit after outfit, I could see how if I tightened things up a little in the general ab area, everything would look a million times better. So it was a worthy activity just for that extra (needed) motivational push.

In the end I only got rid of one big bag of clothes, and my closet didn’t look any sparser or more organized afterwards, but it was extremely helpful to remember what’s in there. Next step is to do the same thing with my dresser (jeans and pants, mainly). I should have done it at the same time, but I had closet fatigue and needed to move on to something else.


  1. Anne

    I really need to do this. Yesterday I came home to find that our cleaning woman had taken it upon herself to tackle my closet and make it all neat and orderly, thus highlighting how I have way too much crap in there. But she got me started, and I pledged to finish the job. Trying everything on sounds like a good plan, but as I’m in the Worst Shape Ever (TM), it might not be a lot of fun.

    Awwww, the coffee bean shirt. I finally took that to Goodwill as part of my “It reminds me that I’m not in my twenties anymore” theory of getting rid of clothes.

    You DO look fantastic in party dresses! Time to have a party.

  2. Julie

    Anne, I just saw you in February, and you look great! I really recommend trying everything on. If anything, it reminds you of what looks good, and what goes with what, and what you forgot about and are happy to discover, and what you forgot about and don’t care about at all.

    I’m keeping the coffee bean shirt so I can pretend I’m still in my twenties. Plus, it was kind of a “mature” shirt for us to buy at the time, no? It’s not like it’s some clingy glittery tank top. (Um, not that I’ve ever actually bought anything like that.)

  3. Elizabeth

    I did this recently and it was very freeing. In the past, I’ve had a really hard time parting with clothes…particularly those one-of-a-kind vintage scores (a green silk Nehru jacket comes to mind). It was easier to justify getting rid of things this time, though, because my size has changed and most of my clothes didn’t fit.

    Now, my problem is thinking that I need to MAKE MONEY from the discarded items. I have three or four or five bags of clothes in the basement that I lug to Buffalo Exchange every so often to earn my eight dollars, or whatever ridiculous amount they are willing to give me. This is the problem with buying expensive clothes. Clothes are not an investment. In my mid-twenties, I seemed to think that they were. But, I’ve got a green leather skirt and some Betsey Johnson things that it pains me to give away, knowing how much I paid for them. This is why I now buy most of my clothes at Target!

    I probably need to do another closet cleanout session. Maybe today. You are my decluttering/organization inspiration!

  4. Annette

    Today I was in the opposite end of the house, our basement, cleaning out old toys and books. It has been a great experience. I’m taking a break and was actually startled to read your post. Facing my wrong-sized, outdated clothing is going to be much harder to do. Thanks for the kick in the pants. (No pun intended) – Annette

  5. Julie

    Oh my goodness, Annette, I so need to do the basement. And the shed. Oh, the shed!

  6. Kate

    I’ve been feeling an intense urge to clean sweep closets but face an obvious dilemma — I can’t reasonably try clothes on at 5 1/2 months of pregnancy and I have no idea what my body will be like after Baby #3! I also can’t unload boy clothes because it’s highly likely that Baby #3 will be another boy. I can, however, urge my husband to chip away at some of the silly things he kept for way too long. I could also go through my kitchen cabinets or revisit my shoes. Maybe that will make me feel better!

  7. Julie

    Kate, that is exactly why I couldn’t do this activity until now. (I also have to say that I can’t unload the best girl clothes, because I’m saving them for you, just in case!)

  8. Clog

    My question is — what do you do with that perfectly good cashmere sweater whose color is a tad off so every time you put it on, you take it off? Get rid of it or wear it to do the weeding?

  9. Annette

    To Clog – I put a pink cashmere sweater in the goodwill bag for just that reason. So soft but an unflattering cut and color! I just had to let it go.

  10. Julie

    Annette’s right. If you never wear it, why bother having it take up closet space?

    That said, I did keep a slightly off-color (tan) cashmere sweater from Dave’s (deceased) Uncle Al, which is so comfy and soft and somehow, in my closet-overloaded eyes, looked ok. And which I deliriously decided I could embroider with flowers to make it hipper. Never mind that I’ve never embroidered anything ever.

  11. Anne

    Just think how happy some unknown Goodwill shopper will be to score a perfectly good cashmere sweater whose color/cut is just right for her! Happier than the person who is constantly taking it off and feeling disappointed about it.

  12. Christina

    That is my problem exactly– I posted on here a while ago about how I had no problem getting things from closet to a “get rid of” pile- but then I have guilt about not getting any money back for them, or how they must be worth something so I should try to sell them…and then they sit and sit until i can drag them to Buffalo Exchange (who never want them- making me realize they are much less fashionable than I thought they were!) I do this with my daughter’s clothes too since there are many still with tags on them (blush)…they sit in a pile to be taken to a children’s resale shop. But this is just silly since kid clothes are worth next to nothing in resale value.

    Hmm- Aunt Sylvie- this talk of a pink cashmere sweater is making me curious– I LOVE cashmere- what exactly is wrong with the color?

  13. Elizabeth

    I strategically place my “coolest” items on top, so the buyers can see that I am bringing them the best damn bag of clothes they’ve ever seen. And despite this, they just wrinkle their noses and say, “Um…knit shirts from the Gap and Old Navy aren’t really selling for us this season.”

    And guess where I’m headed today? To the children’s consignment shop to see if I’ve made any money!

    On a positive note, I sold our Kelty pack on Craig’s List last week! For ninety bucks! Party!

  14. Julie

    I go through phases when I want to make money on my castoffs, but most of the time I just want the OUT, so to Goodwill they go. I figure it ups the Goodwill karma for the next time I need something (plus what Anne said). Our local consignment shop also only takes 1/84th of the things you bring in (and you have to make an appointment MONTHS in advance). I have had some success with eBaying kid clothes. I think people are still willing to spend on their kid’s clothes.


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