How to Refresh Your Wardrobe

Over the past two weeks, we’ve done a deep dive into the importance of clothes and the deprivation that exists for many people. I’ve also shared my own story of clothing deprivation with you. Now, in the next post for my five-part series, I want to give you actionable steps to take to refresh your wardrobe.

Why Your Clothes Matter

Your clothes tell a story and can have a recognizable impact on your mood and emotions. Have you ever put on a new dress and instantly felt confident and beautiful? Or thrown on a t-shirt and pair of sweatpants and suddenly shifted from energized to exhausted? 

Your clothes also influence how others see you. The idea of fashion psychology supports the belief that your wardrobe can “influence everything from the outcome of a sports match (Hill and Barton, 2005) to an interviewer’s impression of your ability to perform effectively in a job position (Forsythe, 2006)” (source). Your clothing choices can distinguish you in a group setting or help you hide in a crowd. It’s not frivolous or shallow to care about what you wear. Your clothes matter

I also want to note here that cleaning out your closet and freshening-up your wardrobe can be very emotional. Don’t be afraid to ask for support! Ask your partner or even a friend if they’d be willing to help you during this time. 

Your Closet Cleanout: Preparation Steps

Block off two to three days to complete this process. Make sure that it’s okay for things to be a mess. 

First, take a complete inventory of all of your clothes and accessories. Take everything out of your closet — and I mean everything! Sort your items into five groups: 

  1. The Love and Wear Pile: This group includes items that you love, wear, and plan to keep.
  2. The Discard Pile: These are “eh” items that you dislike or just don’t wear. They may not fit or feel like “you.” Later, you can sort the pile and decide whether to toss, sell, or donate.
  3. The Ambivalent Pile: This pile includes those items that you’re unsure of. You’ll take a few weeks to sort through these things, try them on, and determine if you want to keep them. One day a week, wear something from this pile. At the end of the day, decide if it goes back in your closet or into The Discard Pile.  
  4. The Special Moments Pile: Here, you have items with sentimental attachment or for special occasions.
  5. The Get Fixed Pile: Lastly, this group includes items that you want to keep but need alterations, mending, or cleaning.

Now that your closet is empty, do a deep clean. 

Next, let’s look at your hangers. It’s important to throw away your wire and mismatched hangers and purchase matching hangers instead. Nearly 10 years ago, I helped my granddaughter Jacqueline fix up her closet, and we bought bright pink plastic hangers. On a recent visit, I noticed that she still uses these hangers — so think of this upgrade as an investment in your future! 

Here are a few things to consider:

  • You may want plastic hangers. I like using them for kids because it makes it easy for them to slide clothes on and off. The downside is that they take up more space.
  • I use slim, black velvet hangers. They leave a minimal footprint, so they are ideal for smaller closets or closets filled with lots of clothes.
  • Choose a color you like and buy enough for all of your clothes. You don’t want your hangers competing with your outfits!
  • Having just enough hangers is also a great way to track incoming items. Perhaps you’ll be encouraged to give away a lesser-worn dress or blouse to make space for something new, thus ensuring that your wardrobe stays filled with pieces you love and wear. 
  • Lastly, if possible, use wooden hangers for your coats and keep them in a separate closet. If they’re hanging near your front door, it’s nice to leave a few empty hangers for your guests to use.

Your Closet Cleanout: Action Steps

Now, take The Love and Wear Pile and put them back into your closet. When it comes to organizing, you can group your clothes by type (so blouses, skirts, pants, and dresses each have their own section) or by color (so your black items will all be hanging together). You can also sort them by type and then hang them according to color. I’ve tried all three ways and like them each for different reasons. 

For The Discard Pile, decide whether they will be tossed, donated, or consigned. Avoid putting these clothes back into your closet, as they’ll quickly be forgotten about again. It may be hard to part with some things, especially if it was expensive, so be prepared for an emotional tug-of-war! A support person can be particularly helpful in these moments.

Find a section near the front of your closet for the items in The Ambivalent Pile. Hang them up together and make an effort to wear them over the next month or so (if they’re in season, of course). If you don’t wear them, it’s time to say good-bye. Also note if they’re “orphans,” those items that you don’t wear because you can’t figure out how to style them with your current closet. 

Onto The Special Moments Pile! You can hang on to these pieces, but hang them in a nice garment bag in the back of your closet. I still have my wedding dress and two beautiful nightgowns, hanging in cloth bags from The Container Store. They no longer fit, but I never want to part with them. If you have an extra closet, you may want to keep them there. Other special occasion items may still be in rotation, which is great! For instance, my husband kept his wedding suit and wore it to our grandson’s wedding. 

Finally, don’t put away clothes in The Get Fixed Pile. Instead, put them near your front door and make plans to drop them off accordingly. One of my money coaches recently told me that she took three pairs of pants to get the hems shortened. All of the sudden, she felt like she had so many more things to wear. These small changes can make a big difference!

Repeat this process with shoes, handbags, jewelry, and other accessories. I recommend doing a full closet cleanout twice a year.

Your Shopping List

Now, let’s make your shopping list. Think of two to three words that describe what you want for your clothes. When I worked with an image consultant, my words were professional and approachable. This method gave me clarity and confidence as I built my wardrobe.

Then, look at your closet and determine where you see missing items or wardrobe gaps. Do you need a black blazer for the office? Or a new pair of mid-level heels for date nights? Would a few new workout outfits motivate you at the gym? Additionally, consider your “orphans” again and think about what you would need to make them wearable. 

If you need inspiration when it comes to your future wardrobe, check out fashion magazines or blogs, Instagram, and/or Pinterest. Make a vision board (either on paper or online) and use it as a guide. Be sure to acknowledge your areas of clothing deprivation and include those necessary items on your shopping list.

At this point, your wardrobe refresh efforts circle back to money. You may have the money needed to start building your wardrobe, or you may need to take baby steps and/or find creative ways to meet this need. Regardless of your financial situation, see below for a few suggestions:

  • If you have no money to spend, consider a clothing swap with family and friends. Not only will it allow you to get rid of some clothes you no longer want or need, but it’ll also bring new items into your wardrobe at no cost.
  • If you have some money to spend, you’ll need to prioritize your list. Think about ways you can fulfill multiple needs with one item. For instance, if you need a new blouse for the office, look for one that could be paired with skinny jeans or a leather skirt on date night as well as with dress pants for work. 
  • If you have plenty of money to spend but are daunted by the undertaking, look into hiring an image consultant or stylist. Many stores will offer customers this service as well. You can also hire professional organizers to help you get your closet in shape.

The first — and most important — step is that you made the decision to address your closet and refresh your wardrobe. Remember that the opposite of deprivation is fulfillment. Regardless of your financial situation, you deserve to have clothes that fit well and that you feel good wearing. Even if it’s only two or three outfits that really check all of your boxes, that’s better than a closet filled with things that just don’t work. 


Don’t miss my previous two posts in this series: The Impact of Clothing Deprivation and My Story of Clothing Deprivation. I’ve enjoyed exploring the power of a confident and complete wardrobe with you and look forward to continuing this journey in my next two blog posts! 

If you’re interested in learning more about the impact of clothing deprivation and the importance of a wardrobe refresh, particularly for business, I’ll be speaking on this topic during the upcoming Mind Over Money Summit, beginning on July 5th. Sign up here!


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