Streamlining old wardrobe eliminates unwanted clothing


There is a monster in your closet and it is not the furry kind with razor-sharp teeth; it is your wardrobe. It is disordered, cramped and maybe even a little smelly. If one more article of clothing is added, the whole thing is likely to burst like Rebecca Bloomwood’s closet in “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”

It may be premature to begin your spring-cleaning for the semester, but designers’ spring collections are hitting stores and if you are graduating come spring you might want to lighten your load.

Parker Rayl, junior in microbiology, uses a scientific approach to maintaining his closet — equilibrium.

“If I’m buying new clothes, then I’m getting rid of clothes,” Rayl said.

He said he wears about 90 percent of his wardrobe. Among the 10 percent that goes unworn are embossed, Affliction-inspired “Jersey Shore”-esque T-shirts and a pair of well-worn camouflage work boots he wore on his family’s ranch.

Like Rayl, over the years we accumulate clothing, items that no longer interest us that are pushed back into the black abyss. The task at hand, you worry, might swallow you whole with hours of sifting, deciding and fighting down reflexive excuses like:

Refocus: Do not think of cleaning out your wardrobe as losing something, think of it as making way for the new. Clearing out the jumble of old, ill-fitting and downright “What was I thinking?” pieces creates a space that is less cramped. It leaves the best of the best: clothes that make you feel beautiful (or handsome, gentleman), confident and good about yourself. With fewer pieces you can easily see what you have.

Assess and gain perspective: Peruse the racks, the dressers, the storage containers, the top shelves, even those out-of-sight, out-of-mind under-the-bed boxes and mentally catalog the inventory. Recalling the standout pieces makes parting with the average ones a much sweeter sorrow.

Pulling teeth: Sift through the garments. Select items you have not worn for six months or longer and make a pile. No need to panic, you are not letting go yet.

Back to basics: As a reward allow yourself to preserve the basics. Basics are articles of clothing to be layered with just about anything. They form the foundation for which your wardrobe revolves. For both sexes examples include plain cotton T-shirts, a crisp white button-up and a pair of perfect-fitting blue jeans.

Try it on for size: There must be some reason the pile you made has been discarded. Did it ever fit in the first place? Is it completely not your style? An impulse buy? Outdated? Figure out why it is collecting dust by trying each item on in front of a full-length mirror. The garment may no longer fit, is not flattering or no longer feels comfortable. By trying on garments you have not worn in a while, you might also discover a renewed interest. From this step make “keep” and “ditch” piles.

Disposal: Now what? You have a mess and might be tempted to throw it in the trash, but think twice. While natural fibers like cotton and wool biodegrade eventually, synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon could take hundreds of years to decompose if they do at all.

“It’s only in the last maybe 15 years that we’ve thought of clothing as being disposable,” said Kim Hiller-Connell, assistant professor of apparel and textiles. “That’s what is driving all of this — fast fashion — it’s all about every six weeks getting new fashions into the stores then creating this sense of urgency within consumers of having to buy more and more and more and not wear what they already have in their closet.”

But, there are alternatives to creating waste.

Misti LeMoine, owner of Manhattan-based T-La-Re, a “second hand store with a twist,” said a wardrobe goal should be: “in your backseat if you were to put a clothing rod across it because you have to move, everything would fit … It’s not very sensible to have a bunch of things you’re not using when there’s someone else who could benefit from it.”

The life of your garment doesn’t have to end with you. In fact, there are some great options at hand for the disposal of your unwanted clothes. Besides selling on sites like Ebay, some companies like Nike, Patagonia and Kenneth Cole will repurpose and recycle your items so that they have a new life.

Besides those options, there are also some great local options you can use. The Salvation Army Thrift Store, Seven Dolors Catholic Parish and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church are always taking donations and can provide a feel-good rush of doing a good deed.

If you’re short on cash, Rockstar & Rogers is a local place that will pay you depending on the clothing’s condition. Another store is T-La-Re, which will resell some of your clothes and donate the rest.

Repurpose: Once you have exhausted all of your options, be creative. Repurpose old T-shirts into a quilt, sew a handbag out of old jean patches or make a fabric flag garland. If you are no Martha Stewart, spiral cut a T-shirt into a scarf, use old men’s underwear and socks for dust mitts or tie-dye a stained garment, LeMoine said. Search craft websites like Pinterest or magazines and get funky.

Investigate: Keep your eye open for unique opportunities in the community. For example, Career and Employment Services holds periodic Career Closet events for donating business casual and professional clothing.

Systematize: The last step in streamlining your closet is organizing. Invest in appropriate hangers. Everyone hates those annoying pointy shoulders wire hangers leave on wool sweaters or pesky silks that slide off metal ones.

Put every piece where you can see it. Do not fold garments that easily wrinkle. The idea is for clothes to be ready to wear.

Find an organizational system. You do not have to go as far as color coding, but find a method that works for you.

Because a major source of our bulging closets is fast fashion, Hiller-Connell said streamlining your wardrobe can begin with the purchasing decisions you make.

“If we bought good quality clothes that would last, could be mended, could be altered, we wouldn’t have to dispose of our clothes as frequently,” she said.

Brittany Stevens is a senior in print journalism. Please send all comments to