Slimming Down Your Sweater Collection

published Sep 10, 2015
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(Image credit: Janel Laban)

I live in Chicago so layers are a lovely fact of life here. Sweaters are both a fashion opportunity and a warmth necessity and while there’s no reason to fight it, that doesn’t mean all knitwear is good knitwear. It can get pilly, shrunken, holey and plain old worn out. Today, we’re going to start the Closet Cure off in a relatively small and manageable way and sort through just your sweaters. Let’s go.

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(Image credit: Adrienne Breaux)

Whether you store your sweaters in your closet or in a dresser, take them all out. If you have them in more than one place, gather them together. (If you decide to count them at this point, let us know your total before the purge in the comments!).

Once you have them all gathered together, and do a quick simple first pass pull of “yes” sweaters. To get started, think about which ones you wore last fall and winter vs the ones haven’t seen the light of day since 2013 or before. Think about the ones you always grab for a cozy weekend at home, a big work day or for long walks. Which are the ones are you happy to see again, after the summer?

First, make a “yes” pile of the stars – the ones you’ve enjoyed wearing in the last year or so, that are comfortable, look good, are in fine shape – the sweaters you absolutely want to keep. Next, make a “no” pile of the easy ones to let go of – the ones that are too small (or too big), uncomfortable or plain old just not your style anymore.

Now, at this point you might be possibly left with some maybes. They might stay as maybes (in which case they can go in the maybe bag, nbd) or they might get moved to a firm yes or a firm no. To work through the decision, use the process below. You can read through it here and then, if you like, you can also download a graphic version of it to print out and stick up on your closet door or wherever is handy during the Closet Cure to help keep you on track.

The Closet Cure Decision Tree

To decide if something is a “keeper”, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I wear it regularly – and if not, why? If the answer is because its fancy and formal, but you wear it when the occasion is right, then that’s ok. If the answer is “I’m not really sure” then move on and ask yourself the following:
  • Do I feel good, confident and comfortable when I wear it? Be realistic and extra picky here. Would I wear it on a date? To a job interview? To a class reunion? Yes? Move on to the next step. Meh, still not sure? Put it in a “maybe” pile for now – no stress, just don’t put it in the yes pile just yet. No? Put it in a “no” pile.
  • Does it fit well (for real, right now, not a year ago or a year from now) – and if not, can it be altered? (Not sure? TRY IT ON. The few minutes will be worth it, I promise. Look in the mirror, turn around, put on the right shoes, take a selfie, be SURE.) Is it now a Yes? Move on to the next question. No? Put it in the “no” pile.
  • Is it damaged or stained – and if so, can it be repaired or cleaned? Yes? Move on. No? Put it in the “no” pile.
  • If something makes it through all of these with “yes” as the answer, then KEEP IT. Now you just have to either put it (neatly) back in the closet or the drawer OR into a bag for the dry cleaner, a bag for alterations or a bag for shoe repair.

Ok! So now that you’ve figured out what you are going to keep and have either put them back or in a bag for cleaning or alterations, you should deal with your other two piles.

If you have some “maybes” that’s fine – we’re going to deal with those later – just put them in a “maybe” box or bag for now and set them aside.

If you have discovered some “no” pieces, that is 100% FINE, too. (Actually, it’s good!) Everyone has things in their wardrobe that are perfectly fine, but just don’t work for them. You can let them go. Someone else (who it does work for) is going to be so happy with it and you’ll feel great when you open up room in your closet and your wardrobe (and your life) for things that suit you. Don’t feel guilty, don’t beat yourself up, just recognize that there are things that you thought might be good for you at one point but now you know better and are simply going to pass it on. It’s all good.

Everything in the “no” pile should be sorted into one of the following bags or boxes by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is in good repair? Yes? Move on to the next question. No? Put it in the rag bag or trash. (One exception: if its a high quality item that is repairable that you think a friend might like to have, it’s ok to hang on to it until you ask them about it.)
  • Is it clean and unstained? Yes? Move on to the next question. No? Put it in the “no” laundry bag/basket.
  • Is it high quality, still in fashion, in good shape? If the answer is no, move on to the next question. If the answer is yes then consider what you’d like to do with it. If you are interested in trying to consign, sell or trade it, put it in a bag for “selling”. Are you considering hosting or attending a clothing swap with friends after the Closet Cure? Then start a bag for “swapping”. If you are happier to donate directly to a shelter or other community service organization or plan to drop it off at a thrift store, start a general bag for “donating”.
  • Is it in reasonable shape, warm, clean and totally wearable, but maybe not anything that will fetch enough of a price to make the selling, consignment or the swap with friends process worth it? Then into the “donating” bag it goes.

Be sure to sort the “no” sweaters into your bags right away, depending on whether you will sell, donate or rag bag/trash them. Out of sight, out of mind, just keep things moving!

Hopefully this sweater sort will yield some good results, unearth some favorites, make some room in your closet, and give you an idea of how you’ll work your way through other sections of your wardrobe. Stick to just the sweaters today and don’t go overboard. Just get this one section done well and get ready for a bigger assignment tomorrow – you’ll tackle more over the weekend when you have more time to try things on.

Good luck and let us all know how your first sort went in the comments…

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