Everyone Asks Me to Declutter Their Wardrobes—Here’s How I Do It

Working in fashion can be, in equal amounts, a curse and a blessing: Some people freak out about what they’re wearing when they meet you (and they really shouldn’t, because I’m probably preoccupied with how painful my new shoes are) while others are so enthused that they get you over to their houses to do a full style detox. The latter has become somewhat of a speciality of mine over the years—and it’s something I secretly really enjoy.

A tidy closet is a tidy mind, and I’m becoming known in a small circle of girls who are desperately trying to declutter their wardrobes as someone who is ruthless but fair. And as a woman who definitely gets the job done. Only recently did a good friend’s partner give me a big hug afterwards, thanking me for saving them both from the wild clothing avalanche that was taking over their house.

So if you’ve got to a breaking point or simply want a healthy overhaul, ’tis the season. We’ve pinpointed the best places for you to successfully sell clothes online, but where to start with what to chuck out? That’s where I step in (virtually, of course) to guide you. Keep reading to follow my step-by-step guide on how to declutter your wardrobe…
This is not the kind of task you can go into on a whim. If it’s going to be done properly, make sure you put at least a couple of hours aside so it’s a methodical, calm process rather than a rushed job. Make a brew, reply to everyone’s messages and then get stuck in.
The main thing you need are bags that are big enough and strong enough to contain lots of castoffs. Make sure you’ve got separate containers for charity store pieces, items you’ll aim to sell, unwearables that are destined for the recycling plant and pieces that need to go into storage.
You are only asking for trouble by getting your partner involved. However, it is best to do your clear out with someone in tow—alone and it’s all too easy to cave and keep everything as is. Select a person who is honest but sensitive and whose style and taste you trust. Feel free to lure in the lucky candidate with wine and snacks.
A preparatory organising stage can really help, says Byrdie UK editorial director Amy Lawrenson, whose wardrobe I recently helped to clear out: “I think it prompts you to identify patterns and habits early on. So I had a lot (a LOT) of tops but not many pairs of trousers!” These jumbo bulldog clips (below) are great for grouping things like vest tops and tees. Then you can use them afterwards on your walls to hold up pictures—a double-duty purchase indeed.
If you haven’t worn something in the last six months (or it still has the price tags on and has been forgotten about), it’s at the point when you should move on. If a piece holds sentimental value, by all means, keep it and store it safely away and out of sight.
It may feel like such a faff to have to try on EVERYTHING in your closet, but sometimes it can be the real dealbreaker between what stays and what goes. If you’re feeling on a low ebb and something still looks good, then it’s 100% a keeper. I also think it’s well worth taking outfit selfies for your own future use—those busy times when you can’t think of what to wear can be easily supported by a secret back catalogue of ensembles saved to your phone.
This is not the time to wear those pants that dig in, or the bra that gives you four boobs—poorly chosen underwear can ruin the best of outfits. Trying on clothes and looks one after the other in sequence requires flexible, versatile, simple and flattering underwear that works with almost everything: Think of a plain T-shirt bra and basic, well-fitting thong or tanga. I would also suggest having a basic pair of shoes on hand to style things up with too.
We all have different visions and hopes of what we look like or want to look like, but I know—deep down—that miniskirts aren’t for me, for example. Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with what you dream of, but having someone you trust to look at your closet objectively and say, I think you should make the most of this part of your body because it’s amazing, is a great thing. “I discovered I buy a lot of the same kinds of tricky items—so I had tons of denim shirts and furry tops (bizarre, I know). Plus, I found through doing this that I owned a lot of boxy shapes that aren’t necessarily the most flattering for me,” explains Amy. “I think I do it because I love shopping and tops are my comfort zone, but I need to branch out—now it’s about having the confidence to know what else to go for instead.”
It’s okay to buy excess amounts of one thing if it’s part of your daily uniform—but if you’re not getting the wear out of items, think about why.  Amy found that her love of textures and prints meant that nothing actually went together easily, so she’s now investing in basic pieces to maximise on the statement items she loves. “Getting dressed has become so much easier every day,” she admits.
This may seem like a total chore when you’re undoubtedly super busy, but Amy has reaped the rewards: “I’m glad I took the time to get it done. It cost about £60 to get all of my shoes all resoled and heeled, but it’s saved me having to buy new boots this winter, which would have cost a lot more.” Amy thought some of these pieces were past repair but now they’re like brand-new—so don’t be afraid to take items to a dry-cleaners or cobblers to ask questions.
You don’t want to be sidetracked by sundresses you cannot wear in the depths of winter. Make it easy for yourself and pack away the pieces that are entirely unusable. Also, invest in chic storage and you’ll feel more tempted to use it…
Nothing upsets me more than clothes and accessories that are abused in the home. The better you look after your purchases (don’t leave things lying on the floor or piled on top of each other), the longer they’ll last and the harder they’ll work for your wardrobe. It’s common sense, really. I’d recommend investing in velvet-finish, super-thin hangers—they stop your clothes from slipping, but they also are a real space saver. Get JVL’s 50 Velvet Coat Hangers (£22) and be really smug about it.
Wardrobe detoxes are for life, not just for Christmas, you know. It’s something that should be considered at least once a year, but there are certain actions you’ll start to naturally implement if you keep your learnings in mind. Amy’s advice? “Getting soles put on shoes before you wear them, even if they’re high street,” she says. “I am not a dainty person so my shoes tend to take a real bashing—it’s good to know I can extend the wear of them.” So there you have it. If you’re ready to take on the challenge, get some inspo from these impeccably dressed London girls. This story was published at an earlier time and has since been updated.