When people are cleaning out their closets, they sometimes struggle with the editing phase of the emend method. They need help making decisions about what items to keep or get rid of. There are several tips and tricks you can follow, but let’s take a deeper look into why you should get rid of certain items.

When you walk in or open your closet, all you should see is “realistic possibilities” of what you could actually wear. So how do you create a realistic closet?

Ask yourself these questions as you are looking through your clothes:

If you saw this item in the store right now, would you buy it?

Without realizing it, clothes become part of our identity and we become attached to certain pieces. Many people have items of clothing that have been in their closet for 10+ years. It’s been a possibility for you to wear for so long, it hard to imagine a closet without it. It can be difficult to imagine getting rid of it, even if you’re not wearing it.

Is it too big or too small?

If you go between sizes — many women do — then it’s not realistic to get rid of everything in your closet because you’re up or down five pounds. It’s possible to range between a set of sizes at any given point.

But, let the items that fit you right now be the ones hanging on your rods and folded on your shelf. Anything that’s not your size can be in a separate section of your closet and you can get to it as your size changes.

If your closet is showcasing items that currently fit you, it’s easier to get dressed in the morning and it’s a mood booster. No one wants to have a try-on session before a big meeting only to realize some of your favorite tops and pants don’t fit the same right now.

When was the last time you realistically wore it?

Often, people say if you haven’t worn it in a year, you need to get rid of it. But, it’s a little bit of a different story this year. Many people have spent the last year wearing casual clothes. As life slowly goes back to “normal” and you ditch the yoga clothes for clothes with buttons and zippers, consider implementing the hanger technique. This is where you hang all of your hangers in the opposite direction (facing you) and as you wear items, turn the hanger in the normal direction. At the end of a season, you can see what you actually wore. Consider donating what you didn’t.

Does this make your butt look big?

Not sure if something looks good on you? Utilize a buddy system and have a friend you trust help you go through your closet can be helpful. Try items on and ask for their opinions on how things look and fit.

How many clothing items should you have?

For example, say you have 30 pairs of jeans, is that realistic? Consider your lifestyle and how often you wear specific types of clothes. If you have 40 pairs of workout shorts, but have switched to swimming instead of running, maybe you don’t need so many pairs of shorts.

Before you even touch your clothes and begin to edit them, as yourself how many (fill in the blank – jeans, t-shirts, socks, etc) that you realistically need based on your current lifestyle. Then try to find your favorite number of that item to fulfill your number. It is important to determine the number before you touch the clothes. Once you touch the clothes, emotions begin to take over and it is harder to be rational with your decision.

Are you letting your emotions take over?

Embrace your emotions, and let them be a guide. Truthfully, when you pick up a piece of clothing in your closet, you know whether or not you should keep it. But if the answer is to get rid of it, your brain may quickly try to convince you of why you should keep it. You know the pieces you love and wear, and the ones you don’t. Be real with yourself and only keep the items that you love!

Would you want to be wearing this if you ran into your ex?

This is a feeling of comfort and confidence. Do you feel comfortable wearing this outfit when you step outside? How confident do you feel? If the clothing in question doesn’t make you feel fabulous…let it go!

Have you ever put this item of clothing on and then changed before leaving the house?

This is a sign that you are not actually comfortable wearing that piece because you put on something else before leaving the house. Let that pile of clothes you left behind be your sign to donate those items.

How much room do you have for your clothes?

Many people are more analytical in the approach they take with cleaning out their closets. They might divide their closet space by how much room they have and designate sections of their closet specific categories.

They might even measure out a specific space, such as designating one foot of rod space for t-shirts to hang. This method takes away some of the emotions of the process and forces you to get rid of items that simply do not fit in the plan.

If you’re following this guideline, know that empty space is good space, too. Don’t force yourself to fill up your closet, or each section of it. You want your clothes to have room to breathe. This way, they’ll be less wrinkly, and it’ll be easier to maintain a clean closet.

Does this belong in my closet?

People often have more than just clothes in their closet. People store memories, files, photos, home décor, luggage, costumes, gifts, the list goes on. Is there a better place these items could go? If so, this frees up room in your master closet for your clothes. Sometimes, the closet is the best place for other items, but it’s always smart to evaluate it.

Is this a clothing item that you wear or is it another category of clothing?

Many people have clothes in their closet that they’ll never wear, and it falls into a category I call “Memory Clothes.” This could be a letterman jacket, prom dress, wedding dress, child’s first communion dress, race/marathon t-shirts, etc.

While a closet is not a bad place to store these types of garments, they’re taking up valuable space to store the clothes you wear every day. A good place for these types of garments is out of the prime real estate, so maybe in a box on the top shelf, under the bed, or a low drawer.

Another category of clothing is yard clothes or painting clothes or handywork clothes. These items should be together instead of mixed in with other clothes. Often, people end up using this category of clothes as an excuse to keep old clothes that need to be tossed. If you’ve got 40 “painting” tops and you only paint once per year, you’ve got some things to get rid of.

Are you holding on to this for someone else?

Sometimes, you end up with clothes you need to return to a friend or an ex. Maybe your college student has left lots of clothes behind after a move. Make sure these items are not taking up the prime real estate in your closet. If it doesn’t belong to you, get it to the rightful owner pronto and gain back that space in your closet.

Are you keeping this because of how much it cost?

If you can’t part with items because they are designer or higher-end items, remember that the money has already been spent. You’re not getting any money back by having it hanging in your closet. If you’re really concerned with getting your money’s worth, it’s better to try and sell it as soon as you can. Older clothes are often different in style and don’t hold up as well over time. You can always check out local resale shops and online consignment shops that may be looking for items in your closet.

What is it about your future-self that’s more likely to use this than your present-self?

This is an interesting question, especially when you consider pandemic life. Currently, you may be working from home wearing yoga pants most of the time. But in six months, you could be back in the office wearing suits. But, if you’ve switched careers or lifestyles, you may not have a need for the suits in your closet.

People can get lost in “someday syndrome” — a way of thinking that puts yourself out of the present moment and results in holding onto things that do not fit your life.  Let the store be the store in this situation. If someday you might need (fill in the blank), then get it from the store IF that day comes.  Instead of storing everything for a scenario that may not happen, remind yourself that you can always go to the store when/if you need that piece of item. Let the store hold your potential clothing needs instead of the precious real estate in your closet.

Consider those clothes that you’ve saved for specific times, such as a funeral, a vacation, or a work event. When those occasions come up, challenge yourself to actually wear that piece. If you don’t, it’s time to get rid of it. Got the perfect date night outfit? Make a date so you can actually wear the dress. Challenge your future-self to wear what your present-self said it would.

Sometimes, getting rid of clothes means saying goodbye to future that’s no longer a reality. This can happen after a health diagnosis, or as one enters retirement. This can be a difficult process, albeit necessary.

Does this piece of clothing need repairs?

If so, make time to repair it, take it to get repaired, or get rid of it.