A must-do seasonal trend: closet cleanse

After looking at the pieces you discard, look at the ones you have kept, especially those that have stayed in your wardrobe for long, and observe what they have in common. (iStockphoto)
After looking at the pieces you discard, look at the ones you have kept, especially those that have stayed in your wardrobe for long, and observe what they have in common. (iStockphoto)


Wardrobe cleaning needs as much regular attention as skincare, for it can transform shopping mistakes into future fashion staples

We usually associate closet cleanses with spring, the start of the fashion season or before Diwali, a time considered auspicious in India for decluttering home. Both are great times for a closet cleanse, but I believe it should be done more regularly, at any point of the year.

Thrice a year is a good idea, suggests Gayatri Gandhi, founder of Joy Factory, a bespoke decluttering and tidying service.


“I do my main one in summer, then one prior to Diwali, and the other at the start of the year," she says. “A closet cleanse might seem like a task and one that doesn’t spark any joy but, if done well, it can be very rewarding. We think of our skincare routine as a ritual. Well, a closet cleanse is a ritual for the wardrobe, and the gateway to your personal style."

Rules to follow

When it comes to a closet cleanse, there are some things that need to be kept in mind. For starters, does that skirt or shirt lying at the back of your wardrobe spark any joy?

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This question is a crucial part of the KonMari philosophy by decluttering guru Marie Kondo, Gandhi explains. “The foundation of my company is based on the KonMari philosophy." The philosophy is not about following steps mechanically but, as Gandhi points out, “asking yourself honest questions".

So, while the rule of thumb is to get rid of pieces if you have not worn them, there are some exceptions to the rule. Like the pieces that just need some alternation or repair work. Or, those that are dear to you.

“Keep pieces that are new and you haven’t found an occasion to wear them," says fashion content creator Amrita Thakur, known for her practical style tips. “Pieces that are older and carry sentimental value or are just classics that you cannot part with and eventually will use, wear or repurpose can also be kept."

Generally, I make an edit of all the pieces I have not worn for a while and then do a re-edit to see which pieces I really believe I’ll wear in the future. I also keep pieces that are important to me—like my first designer outfit (a Rohit Bal jalabiya). It is a piece that, as Gandhi would say, “sparks joy".

“Items that hold significant sentimental value or clothes made for special occasions, such as weddings, should be kept. Labelling and storing these items separately will make them easier to locate in the future. Additionally, they need not occupy prime space in your closet since they are not used daily," suggests Gandhi.

She has formulated an approach called “C2S2". It stands for Collect, Choose, Scrap, Store, and is applied to every category, from clothes and books to paper and shoes.

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The magic of discards

It is the pieces that you discard which are the more interesting ones. These items will teach you about your own approach to fashion. Often, impulse purchases end up in this pile.

As the late designer Vivienne Westwood once said, “Buy less, choose well, and make it last."

Before you buy something, ask yourself the following question: Does this piece really fit into my closet and my lifestyle? Start by doing some homework before you shop. Take a look at your wardrobe, see what you already own, and think about what you need. It should always mirror your lifestyle. Yes, the odd special buy is allowed, but the general rule is you should wear a piece 30 times.

A closet cleanse will tell you how smart a shopper you are. And as with everything, we only learn from our mistakes. “Fashion is a way of understanding and thereby, developing your style," says Thakur.

“Fashion and trends can act as a filter for you to drop the things that don’t work for you and adopt the things that do. And that is a process. It takes time, so yes, we all make mistakes and pick things that will ultimately not see the light of the day," she explains.

Often, people purchase items in a bid to follow a trend or push themselves to try a new silhouette and then get stuck with their buy—that’s a mistake that should not be repeated. “This is not necessarily a bad thing because, again, this is how we come to identify our personal style," says Thakur. “However, the hope is that one gets better with time and makes fewer mistakes."

Another important part of a closet cleanse is how you dispose of your pieces.

Whether it’s sending them to a pre-loved site (why not make money from your wardrobe—it might encourage you to do a closet cleanse more often) or donating them to a charity, you need to need to be mindful at all times to ensure the clothes do not end up in a landfill.

Make responsible choices

After looking at the pieces you discard, look at the ones you have kept, especially those that have stayed in your wardrobe for long, and observe what they have in common.

Thakur says, “Tailoring and the quality of fabric along with its make are the things that I value. That’s what I keep in mind whenever I’m purchasing next. This ultimately helps me create a more sustainable wardrobe."

Think of your closet cleanse as a personal styling session, and if you find it overwhelming, you can either get professional help or take inspiration from the Sex And The City 2, where Carrie calls friends over to her house to help decide which pieces she should keep and which ones she should discard while enjoying champagne. You, of course, should try to keep the drinking to a minimum. A good closet cleanse needs a clear head.

Dress Sense is a monthly column on the clothes we wear every day.

Sujata Assomull is a journalist, author and mindful fashion advocate.

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