10 Sep 2018

How to Detox the Wardrobe


What is the one easy, fool-proof way to clean out the closet?

Yes, finding the time is one way and having the willingness to spend it is another.

But how do we make it a super efficient and painless task? “Detoxing” the wardrobe is never simple, not now and not ever.

Recently I have done my fair share of closet cleaning. I’ve cleaned out, packed and moved and I have unpacked, unpacked some more and re-arranged several times. None of it is the best fun but there are efficient ways to “detox” our wardrobes.

How I start, end and keep going when all I want to do is shove everything back in their drawers and slam the wardrobe shut comes down to one inoffensive little question.

Will I wear it?

Will I wear it is pretty loaded.

It translates as:  Do I like it, have I worn it recently and does it even suit me? Would I buy it today?

If the answer to this question, or any of its derivations, has the slightest hesitation then the garment in question is out. It seems ruthless but I know me and I am doing myself the hugest favour. I am saving hours of indecision and confidence crises by restricting my wardrobe to those pieces that I like, love and most importantly that work for me.

Trust me, this is a brilliant strategy if you play by the rules.  And here is the best news?

Afterwards, you will feel like not only pretty pleased with yourself but also as if you have had the detox, not the wardrobe.

There are some tricks to it.

This is how I do the major “detox”.

Make sure there is plenty of time and don’t start unless your mood and energy levels are high; this is a job requiring stamina.

Start cupboard by cupboard; don’t make it so overwhelming you have lost before you start.

Create 3 piles for each cupboard, the definite, the definitely not and the maybes. Put the maybes to one side and “sleep” on them.

Out of the definitely not make three more piles, the giveaway, the sale items and the rubbish.

Note: there are very few things we ever regret giving away especially if we donate them to a worthy cause.

Tips once The Piles Are In Place

Don’t save clothing to grow into.

Farewell that which is stained and damaged or in need of major repair; we never get around to it.

Unless you are curating for the Met or live in a house like Southfork, fling the shoulder pads and anything unwieldy from the ’80’s and 90’s. That’s where the daughters come in. Mine seem to be very happy recipients of my old kit and even happier is how they make my “oldies look new again”.

Don’t do the double up. How many old black tee shirts do we really need? Save the most recent and most flattering.

Be realistic about space; give that which you love room to move and pride of place. How often do I look in my wardrobe and miss the best because it’s smothered by the worst?

Be truthful in all things; it makes or breaks this detox.

I am a great one to think – when I lose those extra kilos or this might work if I wear a jacket over the top – I won’t and it won’t. It is the same as waiting for the “right” gala to wear a formal number from 2000. The Millennium has been and gone and so should those party dresses.

Know your current style; not who you were in the past. It is today we want to look our best when we walk out the door. Our wardrobes must reflect what is in our hearts and minds. I may reflect with fondness on my past fashion triumphs and failures, but that is exactly what they are – reflections.

Will I wear it – really wear it? This is my “detox’ motto. xv

Never Ever For The “Detox”

eileen fisher shaped leather jacket  ||  theory lamb leather jacket  ||  belstaff moto jacket  ||  la marque leather jacket

images, gary card

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EXCELLENT advice, Vicki! I am going to need to do this step by step over the weekend because I didn’t do it over the summer! Now that the weather is becoming a little cooler, I really do need to detox my closet! Happy week!


Vicki, I have been checking in on your blog for a few years now and have picked up on several of your tips. A couple of months ago, you suggested a field jacket for airport attire. The version you showed was sold out but I did find a different jacket online before our trip to Paris at the end of August. It was a brilliant recommendation! This morning I was just thinking about badly I needed to clean out my closet and, voila, here you are. These are extremely helpful tips and I will get this done now. Thanks again!

Taste of France

For me, “will I wear it” is above all a question of lifestyle. Years of being lady boss had me comfortable and confident in suits. Now I work from home, and even when we go to parties or events nobody is dressed very formally. Yet, my tastes still bend toward dressy over casual.
The Vivienne Files has a number of templates for organizing wardrobes–a 4×4 wardrobe, or a 333 wardrobe (referring to the number of items). It really helps to see where one has, say, too many tops and not enough bottoms.
If something hurts to get rid of, just put it in a box and make a reminder on your calendar six months from now. Chances are, when the day rolls around, you’ll reopen the box and realize you didn’t miss that stuff and can finally dispose of it.

Janet Mills Crabtree

My question to myself while sorting through a seasonal closet change is “Would I buy this today?” If the answer is “No” it goes
to the donation pile.


Exactly! I am in the midst of a clean out this week. I was debating whether to keep an item of clothing just this morning. Beautiful piece and in great condition – and I asked myself, would I buy it today? And the answer was definitely not. So out it goes!

Jay schultz

Oh goodness. That would be the lion’s share of my entire closet. Quite possibly, it’s time for a brutally honest chat with my current self.


This is an awkward sensible topic. I am a notorioush donor but I admit that sometimes
I regreted what I gave away because I missed it as an everlasting part for a new piece.
To me detox or better said declutter means also buying lesser in the future and mix it
up with the old goodies. It also makes a lot of fun and is more interesting.


Excellent points and very timely for me as I am currently evaluating the contents of my closet. I have become more able to be ruthless when making decisions when cleaning out but I have a new challenge as I recently retired from a long career in management working in an office and now my needs have changed. I’ve made some hard decisions lately to sell (or to not purchase) some items that I know I will not wear. My rule of thumb with new purchases is to calculate how the cost of the purchase will amortize out. My biggest challenge is actually to find my style for a more casual way of dressing.


Office dressing.. or work dressing.. makes life easier… I find the casual dressing the hardest of all too… so mostly, unless it’s very hot.. I don’t do it!


I retired from a job in corporate finance. I had a closet full of Armani, Gucci and Prada suits. I kept a few of the Prada pieces and only one Gucci blouse (when Tim Ford was at the helm). The rest went to consignment shop. My biggest struggle was finding a casual look that made me looked polished, were comfortable and most important that I felt like me. I finally found it, but it took a few years. Instagram (Linda V Wright – my style icon) is a great source of inspiration. I splurge on shoes, which I find really ups the chic factor even when wearing a pair of chinos and cotton blouse.


In addition to purging I have gone to a capsule wardrobe. Love it. There is always something to wear, everything is classic and high quality. I guess I had a capsule wardrobe when I was still working, but never called it capsule. My closet is very neat and tidy. I refresh my wardrobe a couple of times a year but mostly work with what I have.

Jay Schultz

This post is so timely for me as I walk in and out of my spare bedrooms where I have all of my questionable items hanging and lying (husband’s things too). I feel that I’m in a “stuck” position for a couple of reasons. I have investment pieces that I dearly want to slim down for (which you gave me a reality check on). I’m toying with a completely separate closet for them which might inspire me to do better. I wonder if selling them online at one of the popular sites is worth it (Tradesy, etc.). Would that make them easier to part with? Do you sell anything? The other “stuck” issue is where best to donate. I personally like women’s-oriented causes (like Dress For Success) or shelters and am all ears to anyone who would like to mention others I may look into. That aside, this was an excellent post. Thank you.


I do and have sold good pieces – those that my daughters don’t want… Ebay is quite good and there are many second-hand shops which take goods for consignment…


What I do is hold up a garment and ask myself, “Would I buy this today?” I may like a piece but would I necessarily purchase it now. Works for me! I enjoy decluttering so this has never been a problem for me. Every season I do this.

Adrienne Beaumont

Thanks Vicki. I moved in January and have a whole wardrobe in a spare room with “winter” clothes that has been really difficult to access. Winter is over and I haven’t needed any of them so I think I can free up some space and get rid of all of them! Maybe keep a coat for Europe?


Thank you so much Vicki for being my ‘catalyst’! I started on the home ‘detox’ first thing this morning and now, several hours later, I have many bags of clothes etc. to prove it. It is so cathartic and I, like you, can now find what I want. Great feeling.


I am going to re-edit after this trip… I think it’s a great idea to do a big “detox” and then little edits every month or so… I always decide to do the big clean out when I’m going away… makes me think about what I really need!


You’re definitely right – if you know your current style then you can focus on that and not who you were in the past because as you said: ‘It is today we want to look our best when we walk out the door.’ Awesome, workable tips! Thank you.

Christina Pretorius

My tip is never to throw anything away, rather find new homes for your treasures via charity shops, op shops (opportunity shops). You loved the item once, someone will again. Call it refound, preloved or sustainable fashion, there’s a groundswell of amazingly dressed women who are adopting this way of shopping.


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