How to find out if a garment should stay in your closet?

by Sylvia

How to edit your closet

As you know, I’m currently editing my closet (read parts 1 a minimal closet and 2, sorting your closet, of my closet editing series). I’m pleased to say that I have already given many garments up for donation. My once huge pile of t-shirts, has been shrunk tremendously and many clothes that just did not suit my style anymore have been disposed of as well.

But, there is still work to be done. There are many items that I wear very seldom, partly due to the fact that I have become a more dressy and less casual dresser. Still, there are many situations for which my casual clothes would be very suitable. The question is how much to keep and what should be given up? 

Fine tuning your editing

For example, I have a lot of casual wear that I don’t wear so often anymore. My big pile of t-shirts was a good example of that. But I also own slacks, baggy jeans and very casual skirts that I hardly ever wear. Still, khaki jeans can be handy when you go for a walk in the bush and other casual clothes are useful when you go out for a quick school run to pick up your kid.

Today, I needed to do just that. A perfect occassion to wear something casual and to pick some clothes that I do not REALLY like anymore, but kept for casual situations like this. It’s a great time to ‘test’ if those clothes should still be in your closet.

So that is exactly what I did. I wore some of my question mark garments and tested out how I felt. This was the perfect occasion to wear clothes like that, and if I did not feel fabulous in them for the occassion for which I had kept them, then it would be time to let them go as well.

And that is exactly what happened. I wore them, realised I was in casual mode, but did not like the feeling of wearing these particular casual clothes at all. That is the surest sign that these clothes no longer a good fit for your cupboard and style. Remember, you only want to have garments in there that you love and make you FEEL GOOD about yourself.

Fine tuning your style

This process can also help you to fine-tune your style. From the above test I can draw certain conclusions:

  • I don’t like to dress too casual, even in casual situations
  • My casual clothes need to have cleaner lines and be less baggy
  • I don’t like to wear any tight standard t-shirts anymore even if they have a nice colour and a fabulous print (I was wearing one of the t-shirts that still made the cut)
If you repeat this process a few times, you will quickly get some interesting new insights about your style and how it has evolved and your cupboard will become more manageable.


I feel that this is the perfect final test to find out if clothes should stay or go. Make sure to wear your quenstion mark items on the perfect occasion for which you kept them and if they don’t perform and make you feel good, they are OUT.

What is your opinion on this? Does it seem like a reasonable test to you?

Photo by the Outnet featuring a Dion Lee skirt

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Suzanne

You know I am not a “minimalist” when it comes to my closet – or outfits – but this “test” makes perfect sense to me. If I am holding on to something because it might be needed for x,y,z but then I wear it for that purpose and do not feel stylish – why keep it? I could see myself giving this a try. 🙂


2 Sylvia

Good luck Suzanne. Let me know if this work for you as well!


3 lissy

I can totally relate. I just did my summer to fall closet switch and I had a bag to donate and a bag to consign. Some things that I once loved just aren’t right on me any more. I find that happened more and more the older I get.


4 Sylvia

I agree Lissy. And rather than holding on to all your old clothes (as I used to do), it’s better to toss those that no longer suit you. So you feel more like yourself and fabulous more of the time!


5 Greetje

I know, I know. Yesterday I was in a state of despair. I looked in my closets and there were so many clothes and a lot of them I have worn once or not at all this year. I felt so guilty for my continuing buying habit.
I am also cleaning my closets anyway. So I will donate a lot. It is a deal.


6 Sylvia

Good luck Greetje! I think the challenge for the future is to buy things that you will wear more. Creating a wardrobe that is manageable and more versatile, and which will have lots of outfit (mix and match) options. That way you may not feel the need to buy very many new clothes, but just a few each season. I will continue to write about wardrobe editing and making the right choices so hopefully that will help.


7 Marianne

I always thought it is called springcleaning, but it works in autum too, like a virus. Even I went into my closets to clean them out. Hard work for me, but I am trying out everything you write, except the cross your legs pose, standing up not for me, but sitting down it is my favourite pose. This week I am meeting with my friends I hope they like my left overs otherwise they go to the Salvation Army.


8 Sylvia

Good luck editing Marianne! I hope you can make some of your friends happy.


9 Seeker

This is a task I have to do, I tend to keep things but it’s not a good thing.
Congratulations Sylvia on the site anniversary and you look awesome in red.
I also love the black and blue combo and I’m thinking of wearing it.
Interesting issues you brought since my last visit!!


10 Sylvia

Glad to have you back seeker!


11 Rita

YES!!! (Sorry…didn’t mean to yell 🙂 ) I was still debating the capris pant keep or save, and so I wore them. They felt pretty good, and I thought they fit well (or were comfortable, at least), until I walked by a mirror a few hours later and saw how baggy they had become. I saved one pair that come just on top of the ankle that fit the best, but put the others in the give away pile. Perfect advice!

Oh, and I love that cute black and white skirt above…hope you kept that!


12 Sylvia

Yes, I think that is a good tactic. Only keep the best version. Certainly from things you don’t wear so often anyway. No, don’t worry, that skirt is not mine. I just liked it for the main picture….. (see image credit)


13 Marianne

Hi. I really enjoy your blog. Particularly your closet purge advice. I wanted to direct you to a blog that had a great piece of advice today that I thought you would enjoy about wardrobes. The blog is Young House Love. This is not a style blog, but a home renovation blog. They advise looking at your closet the same way you would look at your GPA. Rate your top 10 outfits on a scale of 1-10. Any piece of clothing that does not rank highly is bringing down “closet GPA”. So don’t buy or keep something that is bring down your GPA. Love this simple philosophy. Cheers.


14 Sylvia

Hi Marianne. Thanks for your feedback! A great site you pointed me to and I love the idea of a closet average. That is a great way to look at it. Thanks for pointing this out to me.


15 Michelle

Love this too, makes sense!


16 Michelle

Love this advice! I too have a LOT of casual clothes, & never really thought about how they made me feel, it just sunk in that they need to make me feel ‘fabulous’, like a couple of my items do! Somehow I feel guilty for getting rid of them, even though I always donate them. OK lesson learnt 😉 Thanks Sylvia


17 Sylvia

I know what you mean Michelle. I still feel that way too. But clothes should make you feel good. If they don’t, it’s just a disservice to yourself to keep them. I’m glad that this tip was useful to you!


18 Louise

I think these are good wardrobe tips whatever your age. It’s always good to have a sift of what you have.


19 Sylvia

Totally agree Louise!


20 Elaine

Did you come up with a guideline for editing formal wear? From weddings and other “gala” occasions I developed a collection of items that are nice but not suitable for wearing on a regular basis. Since many pieces were not cheap to purchase should one get rid of them or hold on in the hope that they might be needed again providing they still fit and are in style? I guess this would be easy if formal occasions were a regular thing for me.


21 Sylvia

If you have the closet space I would keep them, unless they are old fashioned and you don’t like them any more. For those items you could see if they could be tailored to make the design more current. I think it’s important though that they don’t take up space in your regular closet.


22 Elaine

Thanks! I have several pieces that might work if altered or paired with a new jacket or shoes.


23 Joyce

I just discovered your site yesterday via “how to wear capris”, and have been binge reading your articles! I’m only 36 but I feel like after moving from North America to Scandinavia at 30 y/o that I started to “lose myself” and dress too much to blend in, as well as starting to worry about aging and no longer being able to dress like a teenager. This post really resonated with me, as I’ve become more active/outdoorsy but realize now that I also don’t like to dress really casual even while roughing it. Love your site, you’ve got a new reader 🙂


24 Sylvia

Welcome Joyce. Great to have you here! You may like to subscribe to my newsletter for automatic updates 🙂


25 Paulyte

“I don’t like to dress too casual, even in casual situations”
wow this is exactly how I feel ! Dear Sylvia, do you receive any comments from other people of you are dressed up compare to the crowd? I have received comments in the office.. was not sure how to react..


26 Sylvia

Of course! Comments like “are you going to a party”, to which I then reply “every day is a party!”


27 Lynn Holland

I thought you had ripped that script out of my head haha.
That’s exactly how I feel.
Never wear anything unless you feel fabulous in it.


28 Molly

Thank you for this! I need to do this more. I have TONS of clothes and I will probably always have tons of clothes, but I do need to edit. I recently bought a pair of dark wash, high waisted flared jeans at Old Navy and I find myself wearing them again and again and again. I’m starting to realize, that although the “styles” say skinny jeans, I hate them. And I hate how I look in them. A wide flare accentuates my long legs and makes me feel pretty! I need to edit some pants this week end and search for some more that make me feel gorgeous! Thank you!


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