Quick Closet Challenge

My cutie-pie husband says (about our past dating lives, but it applies here I promise) “You figure out what you want by figuring out what you don’t want.”

In wardrobe terms, we’ll be setting up a system of filters over the coming weeks, identifying your optimal clothing choices by ruling out things that aren’t so right.  Last week’s exercise was the first filter – defining the things you want to move away from in your wardrobe. So let’s start this week by getting them out of your closet … and your drawers and shelves and storage boxes under the bed ….

Many women find it very hard  to purge their closets, so start with the easy stuff.  Many of your comments from Lesson #1 mentioned things that are worn, stained, sloppy and indisputable unflattering.  Unisex tees (the boxy man-styled ones), granny looks, mom jeans, sweat pants, stretched-out exercise clothes and undies, little girl styles (puffy sleeves anyone?) and excess pairs of black pants also made the list.

So this week’s assignment is to  get rid of those things.  Simple enough, right? This is just a warm-up for a more extensive purge in future weeks, but you’ll be amazed how much more user-friendly your wardrobe will immediately feel with fewer items competing for your attention.

If you get on a roll with this, you might tackle your shoe collection and the stash of orphan earrings and broken necklaces too.

Things from this round are probably not  donation-worthy, and landfills don’t need any more clothing, so please do an internet search for a textile recycler  in you area and dispose of them responsibly.

Keep a count of how many items you remove … and share in the comments.  It can be reassuring to learn that you’re “not the only one”.  Happy purging!

Read tips for organizing the keepers HERE.



About Nancy Nix Rice

I help other women feel confident about how they look every day - regardless of their age, budget, lifestyle or the size tag in their pants - so they put wardrobe concerns on the back burner and go share their gifts with the world.


  1. Katrina on February 5, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    This is an ongoing process for me because it takes me a while to get used to the idea of purging stuff. Ten years ago, I had three closets full of clothes, and overflowing drawers and cabinets. Slowly I chipped away at it, but I didn’t start counting until two years ago, when I had 295 items including shoes, bags, and workout clothes. I am now down to only 162 after donating 27 items this weekend, and I’m sure there are a few more things I could let go.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 5, 2017 at 10:03 pm

      Wow – you’ve made great progress! I’d be interested to hear how it feels for you to be dressing from a more edited closet.

      • Katrina on February 6, 2017 at 10:40 am

        The biggest thing is that my clothes are in much better shape because they are not squashed together. I can see everything, and I don’t have to go searching through the entire house to find one item. My part of the closet looks clean and spacious. Now I just have to convince my husband that he doesn’t need hundreds of gross old tee shirts on his side. lol

        • Nancy Nix Rice on February 6, 2017 at 11:46 am

          If you find a strategy to convince your husband, please share it. Who would think that someone in my career would actually share a closet with a man who owns more clothes and even shoes than I do? At least he looks darn good in them all! It took me years to get him to part with the yellow and orange polo shirts and all the “sentimental value” Hawaiian shirts.

          • Katrina on February 6, 2017 at 6:24 pm

            I’m glad I’m not the only one – what is it with men and shoes these days? He has 15 pairs of black shoes and almost as many brown – not that I’m counting or anything…

          • Shanna on February 6, 2017 at 8:40 pm

            One thing you might consider is making a quilt out of the old t-shirts:)

          • Nancy Nix Rice on February 7, 2017 at 1:26 pm

            Fun idea. Lacking time to do a whole quilt, I’ve also done toss pillows with sentimental tees.

  2. Beth Chambers on February 6, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    I have been purging faithfully for the past 2 years, so all the ill-fitting items are long gone, as is all of the unneeded office wear. I find I need a few pairs of slacks, but I’m waiting for more of the weight to come off to make sure I get the right color combo into my capsule.

  3. Andrea Letourneau on February 6, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    My husband is Mr. “I only need one pair of shoes”. Totally amazing to me, the owner of 87 pairs. He considers shoes like tires for the car – we just need one pair. OK…. I’ve been working (slowly) on paring down the shoes. The ones that are easy to get rid of are the ones that aren’t comfortable to wear all day. Over time, I’ve noticed that I’m moving more toward flats and away from heels. I still have several pairs of heels, but those are slowly moving toward the “special occasion” type of footwear.

    One of the best methods I’ve found for purging is to turn all hangars backwards at the beginning of the year, and to put safety pins into each folded garment or garment on a multi-hangar. As you wear each item, return it to the closet with hangar oriented normally, or without the safety pin. At the end of each season evaluate what you have and have not worn. Anything appropriate for the season which was not worn is a candidate for purging. Of course, if the summer was exceptionally cold, you may have avoided sleeveless garments, so those can stay for later re-evaluation (or, if winter was exceptionally warm, you may not have worn you wool sweaters, so those would also stay for later re-evaluation because next winter you could want them exclusively). This system has really drawn my attention to my favorites vs clutter because after a few laundry cycles I find myself reaching for the same items (ones with hangars oriented correctly) rather than reaching for the less desirable ones. I then question why I don’t wear a certain garment – and if it’s because it doesn’t fit, or it’s uncomfortable, or I just don’t like it, then I know for certain it’s a candidate for removal from my wardrobe.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 7, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      Agreed – that backwards hanger trick is a great indicator, though as you point out, it’s not the final word.

  4. kskelton49 on February 7, 2017 at 7:27 am

    I’ve been working at downsizing my closet since we started preparing to downsize our house (we’ve been in the new one a year and a half). It gets easier! As for husbands, after we moved I made my husband look at or try on every shirt in his closet–anything frayed or torn went as well as ones he described as the last choice when there weren’t any other shirts to wear as well as some where the sleeves or body were a little short. But shoes he wanted to hang on to, even though he only wears about three different pairs!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 7, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      Can’t live with ’em … can’t live without ’em, right?

  5. Katharine in Brussels on February 10, 2017 at 7:48 am

    Hi Nancy, my daughter is three weeks old today and I just donated the last of my maternity clothes that I had sewn when I was expecting my eldest. Great feeling! Between my children I got a better job that required a more formal wardrobe. Then last spring I found out my husband and I were expecting. What to do? Better but still affordable maternity wear is nowhere to be found, and I had no energy to sew a new wardrobe of complicated pieces. Using your wardrobe capsule ideas from Looking Good inspired a navy and grey office wear capsule of regular (not maternity) clothing that I had invested in before getting pregnant. This worked because I sewed three belly bandeaus from an Burda maternity issue some years back. These lycra cotton tubes tightly held up slacks like a maternity panel would have, but the benefit is I didn’t have to invest in maternity clothes, and I don’t feel any disappointment to “still” be wearing clothes that I wore during my pregnancy. Of course I’m still wearing them. They’re gradually fitting better and better. Hoorah for closet challenges and capsules!

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 10, 2017 at 8:03 am

      I just love hearing how this “capsule” concept is impacting women’s lives around the world. Especially helpful when we go thru transitions — new jobs, babies, weight reductions, retirement – and need to re-think our wardrobes.

  6. Kathleen on February 13, 2017 at 12:13 am

    I got rid of 34 items, all from storage bins in the garage. I want to learn more before I discard perfectly wearable items from my closet. I’m not worrying about that right now, as it seems that this first stage of closet purging is about dealing with garments that you know you’ll never wear.

    At the moment I have 3 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of sweatpants and nothing to replace them for housework and exercising. I could reduce my count of solid color cotton tee’s, but I want to wait until I have my color pallet. I think I’ll mark items that I want to do away with by hanging them backwards. Then I’ll ask myself as I reach for one of them, “What would I rather be putting on right now instead? Nancy, since I’ll be seeing you in March for a color consult, I’m waiting to do any shopping and meanwhile watching these posts for style ideas.

    Thanks for these exercises, Nancy. I love that they come in manageable blocks. Thanks for recommending “The Slight Edge”. I’ve had Nancy Zieman’s Book, “10-20-30 Minutes to Sew” for years, which seems to be a rather specific application of the Slight Edge. I’m making real progress in garment sewing at that pace, and intrigued by how applicable that same concept is in all areas of life.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on February 13, 2017 at 7:50 am

      You nailed it Kathleen. I want to help readers make informed choices before we start a major purge, but I also wanted to give everyone the feeling of making tangible progress. In face-to-face closet consultations I sometimes have the client save billable time by identifying some discards herself. Inevitably I glance at her get-rid-of pile and start pulling out things with great potential that she just hadn’t yet recognized. You are so right that there’s lots more to learn! See you in March, and meanwhile we’ll be talking about color concepts in this space.

  7. Karen on March 2, 2017 at 3:18 am

    Closet Purge

    I removed a trash bag full of non-fitting items for donation to someone who can use them. This included shoes that hurt. My new motto is if the shoe don’t fit move it on to another foot.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on March 3, 2017 at 9:03 am

      Love it. Always good to remember that our “trash” can sometimes be someone else’s treasure.

  8. Kathleen on March 25, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    I’ve done several purges since we left Connecticut and returned to Florida, and then last year I read the Marie Kondo book and gave away anything that didn’t give me joy — on some level, at least. I thought I was “done” but then last spring we spent 2 months in the NC mountains and I had to be selective about what I brought — it had to fit, I had to like how it looked on me, it had to “go” with the other items. Surprise! I discovered that I packed my favorite clothes that I wear again and again, and left the “step children” at home. So it must be time for a new purge because I’m still wearing my favorites.

    • Nancy Nix Rice on March 26, 2017 at 6:51 am

      Yet further evidence that – at least in our closets – less really is more. Thanks for sharing your insight, Kathleen.

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