The Joy of the Wardrobe Cleanout

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Part 1 – Helping a Friend in Need

My friend was complaining about the state of her wardrobe, and how it needed a gigantic cleanout; words that were music to my ears. I have become the person who likes to sort out other people’s fashion cupboards.

I don’t know how I ended up in this place, probably through years of being an editor, watching Hoarders and reading Marie Kondo, but I am an organisational machine now. I just completed the largest ever edit of my own wardrobe, a mammoth undertaking that took just over two weeks to achieve to perfection. I now know where everything is in an instant; it all fits, it all has a

purpose. I bought a beautiful pale lavender chest of bone-inlaid drawers on Gumtree and have accessorised it with a vase of red roses and a blue velvet footstool. I never want to leave my room now, nor get dressed to be honest.

‘Can I come over and do it for you now?’ I volunteered to my friend, maybe a little too eagerly. So, there we were in her bedroom on a Sunday afternoon, two women on a mission, fueled by Diet Coke and watched by her Maltese Shih Tzu.

It can be a fairly difficult exercise to cull your own stuff, as you might have to overcome nostalgia for items that are past their use by date, but it is much easier to edit for someone else. I turned into a complete tyrant. I surprised myself, I was so mean and forceful. We made piles – one for items that could be thrown away, one for anything that needed mending or cleaning, one for charity, and one for pieces that could be sold.

I played the role of brutally honest fashion adviser – no, that makes your bum look big; no, that’s a bit nanna; no, its daggy; no, absolutely not, it ages you 20 years. I understand having to stay strong in the face of authority, but if you own 14 long-sleeved scoop-neck black lycra tops, I am only going to let you keep three, no matter how much you protest. The only argument that I didn’t win was keeping some items of clothing that were too small, as my friend insisted she would be losing the kilos needed to get back into them. Now, call me Nostradamus, but this mostly doesn’t happen. If, by chance or perseverance, you do take off the extra weight, I predict that you’ll be so pleased with yourself, you’ll most likely go out and reward yourself with something new.

We rearranged everything, putting it all within easy reach, which is key, because if you can’t see something, you won’t wear it. I colour coded all the blouses and tops, culled the handbags down to less than 10, chose which sunglasses, scarves and jewellery could stay, and which could go. Her wardrobe is not only tidier, but more fashionable, and she will be getting extra mileage from fab things she forgot she even had. I also made her throw out all the Miyake Pleats Please, just because I hate them.

And we’re still friends.

Part 2 – The Purge

I tend do the same thing at the end of every year, which is thrash around at home in my pyjamas, throwing things out in an obsessive purge. I spend the beginning of December enthusiastically saying to everyone, ‘We should get together for a picnic over Christmas!’ or ‘Let’s go see a movie!’ but instead I find myself standing amidst piles of dusty, once desired and now resented possessions, wondering why I decided I needed them in the first place.

I love to clear, but one thing I have learnt about a wardrobe cleanout is that, much like beauty maintenance, it’s endless. By the time you’ve dropped the last lot at your local Vinnies, you’ll find that three more things from Uniqlo, something on sale at Matches, and a cheap skirt that clings in all the wrong places have snuck in to replace them. But, over the years, and through many and varied idiotic purchases, I have come to realise three key facts about having the ultimate, functional and manageable wardrobe.

  1. You need far, far less than you think – You will be better dressed and less stressed if you know everything you reach for is already perfectly edited and suits the life you are living now. There is no real reason to hang on to things you no longer wear, even if they cost a fortune. They served their purpose and you loved them once, but it’s time to move on.
  2. Shoes do not ‘keep’ – Designer shoes are not a long-term investment. Once they’ve been worn several times, they will be prone to mildew, crease and crack, even when they are just put away on a shelf. There is no good financial – or indeed fashion – sense in having dozens of barely worn shoes. Buy one or two fab new pairs per season (they will instantly update your whole look), wear them consistently and then throw them out and replace.
  3. Ask for assistance – Now that your wardrobe is edited down to the very best pieces, ask a fashionable friend to come over and give you some tips on new ways to wear what you have. Sometimes it takes someone else’s eye to show you how to mix things up that you already own (a dress with a loafer, an evening skirt with a short trench, diamante earrings with a denim shirt). The answer to a fab new fashion year has probably been in your wardrobe all along. You just had to clear some space to see it.

Extract from Why Did I Buy That? by Kirstie Clements. Murdoch Books RRP $32.99.