Spring Cleaning

Last week I started to catch up on my blog reading and was completely sidetracked by the wonderful Wardrobe Architect series on the Coletterie blog. I’ve been reading others’ experiences in following along and I just knew I’d get sucked into it! Since January, Sarai has been writing on a number of topics on personal style and wardrobe curating.

Over Christmas, I was already thinking it was time to do major wardrobe (and fabric stash) overhaul, so this series couldn’t have come at a better time. At first I wanted to overhaul my closet just to conserve space, but then it became an itch to gesso the entire canvas. I had a free Saturday last weekend, so I went into Spring Cleaning Overdrive and spent a good six hours taking apart my closets from top to bottom.* I even went after my makeup, accessories, and lingerie.

Spring Cleaning | Cloth Habit

Before: It’s not that messy, but I really can’t find my scarves in there…. it’s all a jumble.

I purged my closets one other time in my life, before I was married and right before I moved to Europe in my early 30s, but there was no rhyme or reason to it other than that I needed to fit all my belongings into two suitcases. I lost some treasures in the process like my favorite 70s rust color suede jacket with the huge pointy collar and brass snaps.

Spring Cleaning | Cloth Habit

AFTER (left): I can see!

I like how Sarai began the series with some very thoughtful and introspective exercises before moving into more practical ones. I’ve always been a big believer that style is a very personal thing, and expresses so much in self image, lifestyle, social dress codes, and cultural and spiritual values, whether intentionally or not. Or it reacts to those things. Digging a little deeper into the “why of you” is such a great place to start.

I’m sort of a 10,000 leagues-under-the-sea personality so I’ve always loved exploring the deeper matters of what fashion expresses. Over 10 years ago I kept a journal about clothing and its meanings, and loved writing into my own style personality, invariably quoting social theorists, Yeats or the Bible as I went along. I wrote about why I was drawn to certain colors and fragrances and what they meant to me philosophically, or how certain landscapes, my religious upbringing, or interest in Celtic history were naturally expressed in my clothes.

Spring Cleaning | Cloth Habit

Celtic knotwork from my old journal. It’s as addictive as Tetris.

So I love to experiment with fashion but I don’t always know what I’m doing. When I first started this blog, I had just read through some personal style books in an attempt to get better at making conscious wardrobe choices. I think it was all connected to turning 40. What I really wished for was a French godmother to teach me all those French dressing tricks–or as I would put it, the non-tricks–to being a woman of a certain age. I pretty much have the non-tricks down with my hair–I don’t fuss with it–but would love to have more of that knowing with my clothes. One of my favorite books was Nina Garcia’s The One Hundred, which inspired me to start the blog with a goal of sewing ten classic pieces.** I ended up making six of them but it also got me thinking–just because I’m turning 40, do I need to start thinking classic? I tried ballet flats and just don’t like them. Am I getting old with the Chucks high tops? (My favorites now are Supergas.)

And then there was climate confusion. My first full summer in Austin was quite a shock. I didn’t know how to dress or groom in this climate, at all. I missed sweaters, coats, layering–and drapey layering is one thing that has always been a part of my personal style. I couldn’t quite bring myself to wear flip flops. It took a lot of confidence and practice to adjust to bearing skin all the time, wearing strappy shoulder dresses, shorts and sandals eight months of the year–and feeling good in those things.

Although my wardrobe has fleshed out with more summer clothes and in the process I’ve discovered my love of billowy, drapey silk blouses and tanks, it’s still top-heavy with the impractical–too nightlife for my lifestyle, too hot for summer, or just plain ill-fitting.

I look forward to re-thinking some of this with my newly blank canvas. Well, it’s not entirely blank. But I managed to whittle down the party dresses to three. And I left myself with no white tee-shirts or tanks. There is a time a t-shirt must come to an end and transform into one of my husband’s motorcycle rags. I’m excited to plan out a thoughtful wardrobe that starts with a few needed basics and then builds into a little capsule collection for summer.

Have you ever done a major wardrobe purge?

*I used this Wardrobe Detox advice as I was picking through everything. Good stuff!

**Wait, I just realized I passed my three-year blogiversary! I’d totally forgotten about my first post.


  1. Sallie says:

    Such great thoughts Amy! I have loved reading all these thoughtful posts on fashion, personal style, and wardrobe journeys by so many of my favorite bloggers. I haven’t started delving into the Wardrobe Architect series yet, for the same reason that you delayed – I know I’ll get addicted once I start! Also, I’m terrified that I’ll get the urge to purge my closet than lose steam halfway through and end up living among piles of clothes and belts and scarves, and then I’ll lose the cat in it and my husband will leave me and eventually the entirety of my closet will just consume me… kind of like that ghost door in Poltergeist… or perhaps less scary (but still kind of scary) like the Junk Lady in the Labyrinth…
    Needless to say I am incredibly envious of your pared down closet. This is something I always strive for, but yet somehow I always end up with way too much stuff. And I’m pretty much over it. It’s probably time to face my fears and make the purge too!

    • Amy says:

      I wish I had a decent picture of what my floor looked like while I was in the middle of this. I had to shut out the cats because they were verrry interested in playing with sequins. I gave myself a time limit because… I wanted to watch Hunger Games that night. This kept me from getting all gooey about belts I haven’t worn in 5 years. I also warned Derek several times–don’t come in! it’s going to get worse before it gets better!

  2. Susan says:

    Ooooh, great post. I have been so incredibly behind on my reader as well, but have been hearing from all angles about this wardrobe architect series and am starting to get pulled…. Maybe I’ll dip a toe or two in today. 🙂 The psychology of personal style is such a vast and intriguing subject!

    • Amy says:

      It is fascinating, isn’t it? I’m having so much fun planning and focusing a bit more deeply on my wardrobe.

  3. Michelle says:

    I truly believe, it’s not the clothes that make the woman, it’s the woman that makes the clothes. I think, if you allow yourself to wear the things that make you feel good, it shows and becomes a reflection. I’m really working to start sewing more of the things I want to wear. I’ve struggled with figuring out exactly what those things are, but I’m getting there.

  4. Ginger says:

    Interesting post! I think I need to take a more organized approach to my wardrobe- it’s all over the place and not that suitable for my lifestyle. You’ve inspired me to go home and go through my clothes!

  5. Heather Lou says:

    I’m so impressed with your purging! I’ve really, really, really been meaning to get around to this but I just haven’t had a block of time I could devote. I have a fairly big walk in closet (lets be honest- it’s a room) and it just encourage all my hoarding tendencies. But I have SO much that never, ever, ever gets worn. My problem is I’m still haunted by some great stuff I gave away and came to regret later – like the most PERFECTLY fitting Levi’s denim shirt. So part of me fears I will purge and then LIVE TO REGRET. What I think I’ll do is buy a couple of rubbermaid “just in cases” boxes and keep all the stuff I think I might want out in the garage. Then in two years crack it open and see if I want to wear it again. Now, to invent a machine that makes time so I can get around to this….

    • Amy says:

      Oh Heather, once spring fully hits you in Montreal, the need for purging might set in! This is the first time I didn’t hem and haw over closet cleaning, worrying about regret. I don’t know what was different about it, since I have regretted giving away a couple of things in the past. I did fill a storage bin with “maybes” which I was really torn about. I think this is a really good idea. I’ve also done this in the past, and sometimes it’s like Christmas when you re-open the “maybe” bin months later, but then there will be things that you just know won’t get worn.

      Lucky you, walk in closet! I had one for a brief period and it was truly dangerous but awesome! Especially in the shoe storage department. I definitely need an entire closet for them. I’m still working on those as I’m very, very sentimental about shoes.

  6. Anne says:

    Due to space limitations I do a wardrobe purge about twice a year. I immediately donate/toss out anything that doesn’t fit well. I keep the stuff that fits well but has seen better days for getting dirty on the weekends. Next goes anything that doesn’t get much wear because I just don’t love it that much. This is how I’ve found out that I should really limit the amount of prints in my wardrobe. A print I found irresistible often seems dated, juvenile, or just not that attractive two or three years later. Abstracts and true classics like stripes and plaids seem to have much more staying power.

    I did a big fabric stash purge this past year. I discovered that I look best in cool colors (blue, pink and cool-toned reds, purple, turquoise/teal and other blue-toned greens, black, white, gray) so almost everything in my stash that isn’t one of those colors gets repurposed as muslin fabric. Those $0.50/yard fabrics from Joann’s I bought 8 years ago as a clueless bargain-hunting beginner also get repurposed for muslins. This has been a good thing because I now do muslins much more than I used to and I’m braver about trying new styles.

    • Amy says:

      I loved doing this so much that I think I am going to have to purge twice a year, too. We have such a tiny house with tiny 1930s closets. Eventually I had to add the Ikea wardrobe pictured above but it was still too cluttered.

      The fabric purging will be next–what did you do with it? I gave some to Goodwill last year but I want to get rid of much more. A couple of years ago I also swore off prints unless I had a project for their immediate use, for the same reasons you mentioned. Especially knit prints. I’ve gotten much more exacting in my fabric choices, because I know I’ll fall out of love with a lot of things quickly.

  7. Maddie says:

    Yes, the Wardrobe Architect has infected the blogosphere , and I’m under its spell too. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I spent one hour, one night purging. By only giving myself an hour, it was a game or a race, and I didnt have time to think about, “oh, I’ll wear this when…” If I hadn’t worn it or cleaned it for more than a season, it was tossed. My closet is now smaller than it has ever been, and I love it. I’ll be sharing this week on my blog the purchases that I made for my new wardrobe.

  8. Carolyn says:

    Oh, I love this idea, even though I know I’m hopeless at sorting out my own closet. When I do haul out the Maybe pile absolutely nothing gets tossed, instead everything in it gets a new lease on life and I go back to wearing it full-on all over again. The thing is that I do get bored with a small selection no matter how much I love the items in it; but the love returns after a little break!
    Also there should be another category; sentimental. Things like your wedding dress, your old school uniform, items you should never toss. Also for me, some of the more artistic and creative things that I have made for myself; will never get thrown out even though I no longer wear them 🙂

    • Amy says:

      That’s a really good idea, Carolyn. Last year I filled a tub with things I marked as “memorabilia”. It has my wedding stuff, a tux suit I never wear but has meaning to me, and some other items that were symbolic gifts. Those are things I want to stay with me or gift when I pass.

  9. Els says:

    Hi,I’ve been addicted tot the series as well as everyone else I’m guessing,but I’m also glad you hinted on the fact that turning Forty was a bit of a turning point.I had exactly the same feeling when the Forties hit me,not feeling old not in the least,but more like a wardrobe dip.Mini’s are out,shorts only for lurking in the garden or holidays but that was about it.I hate ballerina’s,my feet look awkward in them so that’s a big nono for me too.The rest of my style pretty much stayed the same but ever since THE SERIES it has gotten more of a feel that everything actually goes together.I know what I like and looks good on me so I don’t buy any more fabrics or itemsthat don’t match my existing pieces(yay,wallet is happy)The only time I did get a weird look from my man was when I came home with studded combat boots(we have lots of rain here) but I stood my ground and they kinda grew on him.I’m thinking I’ll do a cleanout once a year and revise what didn’t get worn,that’ll keep my closet from growing ,hopefully.

  10. Jill says:

    First off, you inspire me. I love your style, and as someone just a bit over 40, you encourage me to be a bit more daring and less dowdy.

    About 6 months ago, I ran across another blog post about a capsule wardrobe. I had read about the idea before, it didn’t do much for me. This time, though, I reduced my closet to 30 – 40 items total, all within a color/style scheme. I wore these 7-8 interchangable outfits for three months, then switched to another 30 – 40 items. A few things stay in the rotation – a couple pair of jeans, a couple pair of flats, my favorite grey sweater. As I go through things, I try to get rid of a few things each time. I’ve purged and regretted in the past, so I’m trying to be a bit more thoughtful about not getting rid of something I could use/remodel/take-in.
    I’m in my third cycle and love that I’m not wasting money on clothes or fabric for which I have no need. I also love being able to grab something out of my closet and know it will work, even on days nothing “looks” good.
    My next step is to endulge in making lingerie to work into the rotation – to have pretty things out and under.
    Thanks for the great teaching and direction. I always look forward to reading your blog and seeing your creativity. Can’t wait to see what you do next.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Jill, what kind thoughts. Thank you! I’m really looking forward to building a more interchangeable wardrobe from here!

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