Closet cleanout tips: A fresh start as we head into 2021

Getty Images

By Kate Powell

2020 was … a year. Things that mattered before fell to the wayside and the juggling act of working, parenting, and surviving filled all the open spaces in our brains. The fact that we can all tell the tale is a testament to our strength and resiliency as families. But as we head into 2021 with a light on the horizon it may be time to clear some of that space in our minds (and our closet) for better days ahead.

If there is one big lesson from 2020 we can all agree on is to keep it simple — cut out the clutter and the unnecessary burdens. As a stylist, this philosophy holds true for your wardrobe as well. And as we prepare for the winter months ahead with lots of time indoors, it may be a great time to take a long hard look at your closet and find some more peace there too. Here are some ideas and lessons learned after a decade of weeding through closets.

It’s OK to admit you made a mistake and let that piece go anyway.

I cannot tell you how many closets I’ve tackled in my career that have at least one item purchased more than 10 years ago with the tags still on. When I inquire, the answer is always “I’ve never worn it so I felt bad getting rid of it.” I get this. Writing it, it seems insane but living it is a different story. For both emotional and financial reasons, the idea of buying something and not wearing it can be truly guilt-inducing. So we hang onto it in the hopes that one day, inspiration will strike and we will suddenly find 10 outfits that we can make with that piece. Let me dispel this for you. You will never wear it. Instead, these items take up valuable closet space and valuable mental space – a daily reminder that you “wasted” money. Time to let it (the guilt, the piece) go. Your closet should bring you joy and anything in it should be exciting, something you can’t wait to wear. Admitting you made a mistake and sending an item packing is OK.

It’s OK for your clothing priorities to change

In my 20s I was a heels-all-day, trend-of-the-week junkie. Now, a mom of a toddler in my mid-30s and I just can’t. I’ve taken stock of the realities of my life and how I want my feet to feel at the end of the day and my priorities have shifted. And that’s OK. Take stock of your life and where your clothing priorities lie and purge from there. For me, it was a lot of stilettos and cheap trendy items in favor of luxurious classics and investment shoes that don’t hurt.

Find your outfit standard

One of the reasons that a purge can be really hard for a lot of people is because as individual pieces, most of your wardrobe would be considered OK. Things fit and they are in decent shape so why get rid of them? But there is a big difference between things fitting and things being amazing and totally “you.” What I advise clients to do is to find the one outfit you absolutely love, the one that makes you feel like a million bucks. Take a photo of yourself in it. Now, how do all your other items stack up? Does that little sundress from your 20’s make you feel unstoppable? Or does it make you feel like a little kid? It’s ok to let something go for no other reason than it doesn’t fit the image of who you are right now.

Hire a pro

I get it. This is all easier said than done. There is a reason I have a job doing this for a living. Tackling your closet, filled with emotional purchases and sentimental items is no easy task. Halfway through you find yourself playing dress and having absolutely no idea what you are trying to achieve. A little objective oversight can be truly cathartic. A stylist can strip away the emotional lens through which we tend to see our clothing – and our bodies in said clothing – and give you an opinion based on what the world is seeing and what your clothing is saying. Many stylists, like myself, are offering virtual appointments as well as in-person appointments, depending on your comfort level. And you can often find packages that include shopping and digital outfit creation as a way to round out the experience. Whatever need you have, a stylist is here to help so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask any questions or divulge any (seemingly) embarrassing issues … we’ve seen it all.

To learn more, visit

More from our Sister Sites