Why I'm Curating My Closet And Learning To Let Go (And How You Can, Too)

There’s a giant blue Ikea bag (you know the one) sitting outside my bedroom door right now. It’s not filled with kitchen utensils or desk organizers or lighting fixtures (which, from Ikea, is basically some electrical wires and a lamp shade with a 376-page DIY guide.) The bag is filled with clothes, shoes, and accessories. There are some blue Lululemon pants, a colorful cotton dress from Splendid, and some orange Nine West patent flats in there, among some other not-so-cheap items. And I’m giving them away.

Wait — don’t get angry with me yet. It’s not that these aren’t great clothes. I’ve gotten good wear out of most of them and made wonderful memories in them. But they aren’t me.

I’m in the process of curating my closet (or at least, I’m trying to.) I have no idea where I came across the term “curate” in relation to wardrobes, but for some reason, it’s stuck with me. Since I’ve mainly heard the term in reference to museums, think about this: I think it’s fair to say that the more items you like in a museum, the better you like the museum itself. Sure, the layout and interior is important, but what really captures you are the pieces themselves.

That’s how I’m thinking of my closet. And even though I don’t have that perfectly organized two-story closet adorned with glamorous décor (yet), I’m really focusing on my clothes as art pieces. I love clothes — as a fashion writer, how can you not? — but as I’m learning to hone in on my own style, the more I’m realizing that some of the things I’ve worn over the years just aren’t my thing. That’s not to say that I thought they looked bad on me; I just didn’t feel right wearing them.

In fact, I’m glancing at a green and white gingham button-up hanging in my closet right now, and I think it’s got to go. I’ve only worn it once, so trust me when I say that the guilt is pulling me in the other direction. I’m not a wasteful person, and I don’t want to feel like I’m throwing away money. But I know for a fact that I will never, ever wear it again. I’ve got a photo where I’m holding my friend’s sweet baby girl, and I’m wearing this particular shirt in it. I love the picture, but every time I look at it, I think, "that shirt is not me." (And also, how my friend had THE cutest infant.)

The most important style rule in my book: the better you feel in an outfit, the better you look. So I’ve decided to get rid of the things I don't feel good in, whether that’s because it doesn’t fit right, it’s worn out, or because it’s just not who I am. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my personal style is, and although I can’t quite describe it perfectly yet, knowing what you like is a feeling you get. Although I’m sure that won’t convince my mom that what I’m doing is good for me when she visits and notices I no longer have those aforementioned orange patent flats I had to have a couple of years ago.

As I’m going through the process of weeding out my clothes, I’ve been surprised at how much more I enjoy getting dressed. I’m waning my closet down to pieces I really love (like my trusty grey tee and wear-with-everything chambray shirt) — not just things I kind of like and bought on a whim. Deciding on my outfits is so much more exciting when I don’t have all those “eh” clothes in between my favorite things. I’m pickier about shopping, and I'm learning to really ask myself, do I love this? I’m collecting pieces that fit who I am. And if that means skipping the latest trend, that’s OK.

If you’re thinking about trying to narrow your closet to only your favorite things, here’s my advice: Don’t just ask yourself what else in your closet you could wear something with or where you could wear it. Ask yourself if you enjoy wearing it. I’ve heard of a trick some people use when they reorganize their closet: Take everything out and hang your clothes back up with the open part of the hanger hook facing outwards. When you wear them and hang them back up, put the hanger the right way again. In six months, the clothes that are still on backwards hangers have to go. Although I’ve never done it myself, I’m a fan of that method, mostly. I will say, there are some things I have in my closet that I love but don’t get the chance to wear them that often. But I keep them around a) because I love them and b) because there’s always a chance, right?

The biggest challenge of curating my closet has been trying to let go of things that I spent my hard-earned money on. Again, the territory comes with some guilt. But, like I said, I love clothes, even if I don’t love certain things on me. I want the items I cut from my closet to go to loving homes, because clothes deserve to be worn. So, farewell, blue Ikea bag full of cast-aside items. It’s not you; it’s me.

Images: Alexa Tucker