Staying at home means that many of our previous wardrobe staples are irrelevant – and that we have an awful lot of time on our hands. It’s high time for a wardrobe clearout.
Learning a language, taking part in a gong bath, freshly baked sourdough loaves, working out in the park – a quick look at my Instagram feed and it seems that, at a time when the future feels so uncertain, we’re all trying to improve ourselves to take back the semblance of control.
The way this manifests itself is different for each person. For me, it was regaining control of my wardrobe – a messy microcosm of a life I no longer lived, overstuffed with items that I no longer wore. After lockdown, confined to the same enclosed space, I was faced every day with clothes that were not only mostly impractical for a life spent writing at my kitchen table (bafflingly, I managed to accrue six dinner suits during my time at GQ), but also clothes that I had hung onto in the vain hope that I would fit into once again.
Every time I opened my wardrobe, the impracticality of the former annoyed me and the latter just filled me with a daily sense of guilt that I should be down the gym. Trapped within the same four walls for weeks on end, your emotions are magnified – and the ones you want to magnify are the positive ones, not the negative ones. Something needed to change.
“I have always lived a very minimalist lifestyle,” says Craig Hoareau, owner of personal organisation company A Tidy Mind and professional decluttering coach. “Even before I did this professionally, I would know what my limit of possessions was and once I reached that limit I’d feel that it’s time for a clear out. I always found this very therapeutic and immensely helpful in coping with my stressors.”
“When it comes to clothes, you should only ever keep what you know you will wear again, makes you feel good, is in good condition and reflects your personality.”
An easy start that, if you’re anything like me, begins with an initial flurry of grizzly T-shirts that used to be white and underpants with only the semblance of elastic remaining all headed to the clothes recycling bank. However, the next step is harder – the one that’s less driven by practicality and more by emotion. It might be hard to part with things that you once wore, or that you hope to wear again (although deep down you know you never will), but doing so will not only improve the amount of space you have, but also your mind.
“Letting go of things is liberating,” says Hoareau. “Your outfit decision making will be easier and you will find the things you want to wear without going through the ones you don’t.” For further advice I looked to someone who, like myself, has accumulated a lot of clothes thanks to the very nature of his job: Christian Kimber, a British menswear designer who moved to Australia to start his eponymous tailoring label.
“I have a high rotation of new kit,” he says when I call him up in Melbourne. “I mostly spend my time wearing our samples to death to see what updates they need, but I try to only keep a small amount of clothing in my wardrobe.
After all, organising your wardrobe doesn’t mean just throwing everything out, it means taking stock of what you own and what you want to own. Horeau suggests creating four piles as you go: keep, toss (recycle), donate or sell, and ‘out of season keep’ (to put away). With the space you gain in your wardrobe, consider investing in wood hangers that will support the shoulders of your clothes properly and make sure you fold your knitwear (“The rule is, if you think it will stretch, don’t hang,” says Kimber). Get a few plastic containers for the seasonal items you wish to fold and store. Take the opportunity to take note of any moth damage to your clothes and buy lavender or repellent sachets if you’ve noticed a bug or a suspicious hole anywhere.
However, one piece of advice Horeau suggested really helped. Those piles I mentioned? Put them in another room – that way you start with a blank slate of a wardrobe and aren’t constantly seeing an insurmountable pile of your hoarding tendencies and broken sartorial dreams on the floor – only your achievements.
Of course, with charity shops closed, that currently means my donate pile is staring at me forlornly from an Ikea bag on my landing, but at least my wardrobe reflects a more streamlined, practical and positive version of me. So for anyone that’s feeling frustrated or constricted right now, I challenge you to go to your wardrobe and take stock. Even if you only manage to bag up one T-shirt that no longer fits, you’ll be surprised at how cleansing it feels to let go of that which you no longer need – and how much more you cherish what you do.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s only a small step towards self-improvement, but at such a time, maybe that’s enough.