My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

In my last post, I wrote about ten wardrobe items that I recently purged from my closet. I showed photos of these pieces and outlined my reasons for letting them go. As I looked back on what I wrote, I noticed some key themes that were repeated multiple times. In today’s essay, I highlight eight lessons that I learned from my recent closet castoffs.

Summarizing the lessons in one place will hopefully help me to better internalize and apply what I’ve learned. I hope doing so will also give you some “aha moments” about your clothes. I want to avoid repeating the same types of sartorial mistakes. Although not all of our mistakes can be avoided, if we take some time to review why wardrobe items didn’t work well for us, we can usually improve our purchase track record. This has definitely been the case for me, which is why I like to do these types of posts at least once in a while.

A Reminder of the Ten Purged Items

As a reminder, below are the ten items that I wrote about in last week’s post. I will be referencing many of them throughout this post as I encapsulate my lessons learned, but the lessons are much more important than the individual garments and shoes. My hope is that I’ll recall all eight lessons when shopping in the future, and I hope you’ll remember the lessons that apply to your wardrobe and purchases.

purged items october 2022

Lesson One: Don’t fall in love with one or two details of a garment.

While it’s great to like the color, pattern, or silhouette of an item, that’s not enough. We must be happy with a piece in total or else we won’t end up wanting to wear it regularly. I love stripes and patterned pants, but I should have returned both the fussy tee and the stiff cropped pants that were too short. As it was, I only wore the tee a few times because it wouldn’t stay in place well. And the pants weren’t worn at all! Not only were they too short and too stiff, but they also became ill-fitting after I lost weight in recent months. While I have opted to tailor some of my pants to fit my current shape, there’s no use altering a garment that was already a mistake purchase. It’s much better to cut our losses and move on.

Lesson Two: Be careful with buying pieces at the end of a season.

I thought the black midi skirt was a great find on sale last year, but once the temperatures were right for me to wear it, the skirt no longer fit me well. We never really know when our bodies or lifestyles might change, so it’s best to buy things for the current season, when we can wear and enjoy them regularly. It can sometimes be a good idea to take advantage of end-of-season sales to purchase wardrobe basics and tried-and-true items, but there’s always a risk that today’s staples may become tomorrow’s “benchwarmers,” so buyer beware.

Lesson Three: Don’t settle when it comes to important details.

This is a lesson I keep having to re-learn, as I continue to make the same mistake! Sleeves and pants need to be long enough, full stop. I wore the black marled cardigan only a handful of times because the sleeves were too short (and weren’t easy to push up). I didn’t wear the black pants with the white side stripes much, either, as the inseam really needed to be two to three inches longer. Something always felt “off” about both garments, so I eventually purged them from my closet.

Yes, it’s a bummer that not enough garments are offered in tall sizes, but settling only makes me feel “less than” when I wear the clothes. I know that petite women also struggle with the length of sleeves and hemlines, but garments can usually be shortened but not lengthened. I know this can be costly and inconvenient, but at least it’s a viable option.

I feel that more size options should be available to all of us, and it seems like the situation is improving, at least with some retailers. Not all the details we settle on have to do with size, though. It may be a neckline, collar style, ruffles, or other embellishments. When something bothers us about an item, we should walk – or click – away, as that feature will likely always bother us.

Lesson Four: Be careful of “splitting your wears.”

When we’re already “covered” in a certain wardrobe area, it usually isn’t a good idea to purchase additional similar items. This great lesson from wardrobe stylist Bridgette Raes is timeless. When I bought the black wedge sandals shown above, I already owned several other pairs of black summer sandals that served the same purpose. As a result, I rarely wore the new pair.

Of course, there are times when splitting our wears does make sense, such as my owning multiple pairs of black and other dark-colored lounge pants. Since that’s what I wear most days when I’m at home, having a decent number of them helps me to avoid laundry bottlenecks.  Bridgette provides other examples of when it’s okay to split wears in a great post from earlier this year. It sometimes makes good sense to have more than one of a particular item, but the potential to split your wears is always something to consider when shopping.

Lesson Five: If you love something, wear it – and often!

Sometimes our wardrobe items become damaged or fall apart, as was the case with my metallic flat sandals. Your favorite sweater that you “save for good” might get eaten by moths, or your size might change such that you no longer fit into a beloved dress that you only wore once or twice a year. Most of us have some pieces that we only have a need for very occasionally, such as formal wear. However, in most instances, we can – and should – be wearing our favorites more regularly. Enjoy them while you can because you never know what might happen to your wardrobe items – or in your life.

Lesson Six: Beware of “sales goggles”!

I covered this lesson in my last post of this type (from March), but it bears repeating since it’s such a frequent issue for me – and perhaps for some of you, too. It doesn’t matter how inexpensive something is if we won’t love and wear it! We’re more likely to “settle” when a piece is on sale or low-priced, as I did with the cardigan with the too-short sleeves.

The cardigan only cost $24, but that’s $24 that I virtually wasted on a garment that didn’t fit me the way it should have. The same was true for the black pants with the white side stripes that were too short. I don’t remember how much those pants cost, but I know it wasn’t a lot. But since I don’t like feeling like I’m too tall for my clothing, these two “good buys” ended up going bye-bye in short order.

Instead of purchasing multiple low-priced items that are sub-standard, we’re better off buying just one piece that ticks all or most of our boxes. We’ll actually end up ahead of the game by doing so, as all of those ill-advised sale purchases can really add up! I’ve done the math and it’s not pretty…

Lesson Seven: When in doubt, return!

I should have returned several of the items covered in last week’s post rather than holding on to them. Of course, it’s better not to buy something in the first place, but when we’re shopping online, it’s difficult to know how a garment or pair of shoes will look, feel, or fit based upon a description and a few photos. Even when we’re shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, though, we can’t always know for sure if a prospective purchase will work.

Store lighting and mirrors are often quite different from what we have at home, plus we’re usually trying things on without the proper accompanying pieces. Therefore, it’s always advisable to try new items on again at home as soon as possible – and create outfits around them, too. Sometimes a top or pair of pants will look great on their own, but if we don’t have the proper pairing pieces for them, they can become wardrobe “orphans.” In such instances, we need to decide if we want to take on the “project” of buying more items in order to create a cohesive ensemble. Sometimes that can be more trouble than it’s worth!

If you find yourself trying to talk yourself into keeping something, you should probably return it instead, even if you’ll incur charges to do so. It’s better to have to pay a nominal return fee than to keep an item that you’ll rarely or never wear (fortunately, many retailers offer free returns). I wish I would have returned the cardigan, black sandals, both tops, and both pairs of cropped pants when I had a chance to do so.

Lesson Eight: Review your wardrobe regularly.

I’m closing with this lesson even though it’s one that I’ve known about and practiced for years. Far too many other people don’t review their wardrobes, though. They may look at their closet pieces on hangers and assume that they’re “perfectly fine,” but that’s often not really the case. Our bodies or style aesthetics may have changed such that previous favorites (like my two pairs of Metro Slouch pants) no longer hold our favor. We might also assume that something doesn’t fit us when it actually does – or vice versa.

We could either be wearing items that are just hanging there – or we could pass on the “dead weight” and free up both physical and mental space. However, we must give everything the once-over and try things on in order to have a better idea of our closet situation. Yes, this can be time-consuming, but you can also just go through one small section at a time and gradually work through it all. I think you’ll be glad you did!

I’ve never regretted doing a closet audit. In fact, I’ve often wished I’d done it sooner. Going through my wardrobe has led to my finding “diamonds in the rough” that I’d lost sight of and was happy to start wearing again. Other great outcomes of taking the time to review your wardrobe include:

  • Gaining a better understanding of what you have and what you need.
  • Freeing up space in what was previously a packed closet.
  • Seeing only things that you’re excited to wear when you open your closet.


I hope at least some of my lessons learned resonated with you. As I mentioned previously, sometimes we need to re-learn the same lessons multiple times until they’re fully ingrained in our psyches. The “sales goggles” issue is something that has come up a lot for me, as has “settling” regarding important details.

I don’t plan to stop shopping sales entirely, but I do need to remember that no matter how low a price may be, it’s still a waste of money if I don’t get good use out of the item in question. And even if I must keep searching for an elusive wardrobe item for an extended period of time, that’s better than buying something that doesn’t check the important boxes.

The good news is that my purchase track record continues to improve over time, so at least some of the lessons from my buying mistakes are sticking with me. I don’t think any of us will ever get to a hundred percent success rate, as we are still human after all (and it’s not always easy to discern quality, wearability, and longevity at first sight).  But I would be happy with continuous improvement and being able to classify the majority of my purchases as “winners.” I think most of you would agree…

Your Thoughts?

Now it’s time for you to weigh in on the topics discussed in today’s post. I’d especially love to read about the lessons you’ve learned from your own wardrobe castoffs.

  • Have your lessons been similar to mine?
  • Are there others I didn’t mention that have been meaningful to you?

My next post will focus on my “holding zone,” what’s currently in there, and how I’ve changed my approach to this important area of my wardrobe. Stay tuned for that one next week…  Have a wonderful weekend and if you’re shopping, please do so mindfully – and beware those sales goggles!

Buy Me a Coffee at

28 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from My Recently Purged Items

  1. Sue says:

    Lessons that stand out for me are never to compromise on: (1) colour (must flatter – as a result, my wardrobe now has a palette I adore and everything goes, so the combinations are endless), (2) fabric (soft, natural fibres, not too cold or sweaty, not too stiff or insubstantial), (3) fit (comfortable, flattering, unfussy, not too baggy or tight), and (4) style (pretty, cute, classic – what I feel attractive in).

    I want to smile when I put on each item and then feel comfortable all day long. And I will no longer compromise with shoes!!! I have replaced all shoes that strain my toes, squeeze or rub, or that make me feel dowdy. There ARE cute and comfortable shoes out there! No need to suffer!

    One other important lesson for me is to treat my wardrobe like a garden. Don’t let weeds take hold. Clear out wilted blooms. Create space for the best flowers to flourish.

    1. Paula says:

      I agree with you 100% Sue! As I have gotten older I have much less patience for shoes that hurt and clothes that are too fussy!

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        Me, too, Paula! I’ve found that I’ve become much more sensitive to uncomfortable shoes and clothing. And if something is fussy, no thank you!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      I love your lessons learned, Sue, and I found myself nodding my head while reading them. I especially liked this statement: “I want to smile when I put on each item and then feel comfortable all day long.” Bravo to that! And your last paragraph comparing your wardrobe to a garden is excellent, too. Yes, we don’t want to let those weeds and wilted blooms take over!

  2. Jenn says:

    Thank you for sharing and reinforcing what you’ve learned, Debbie. I always find your tips helpful.
    My goal is essentially the same as yours, to create and maintain a wardrobe of clothes and accessories I enjoy wearing.

    Yet, my impulses often sabotage me, particularly during stress, sales, and/or when shopping with others. In the moment, I often think I’m taking a step toward solving a wardrobe problem or filling a gap, but in reality, it’s creating another problem or a different gap (shoes to wear with the new pants). Shopping not-so-mindfully often necessitates more decisions, returns, and “weeds” in my “garden.” (Thanks, Sue!) At the very least, for me—it almost always creates wasted time and confusion.

    The other day, following a session of online solution-seeking, I felt disgusted with myself. So I did what I often do. I searched online for helpful articles.

    In one, the writer suggested two suggestions that I found potentially helpful.

    The first was to wait a week before purchasing an item you think you really want or need. Thirty days—and certainly a year—seems unthinkable. But a week? I could do that.

    The second tip was to wear every item in your closet once before you wear it twice. The article was written by a man, which may or may not have any bearing on how easy or hard this would be to do, but I couldn’t commit to that. But wearing each of my (seasonally appropriate) clothing items once? I could do that.

    After nearly a week of practicing these tips, I have placed a few items in my “holding area” and designated a few others to consign or donate. Perhaps more importantly, I haven’t purchased any clothes or accessories and have gained immense clarity on why I don’t reach for certain items. For instance, I have a pair of brown corduroys that I love, but no shoes to wear with them. A pair of low-heeled brown booties would genuinely solve that problem, and if I (mindfully) buy the right ones, they will also work well with my jeans AND replace the uncomfortable taupe ones I plan to consign.

    Between your post and experimenting with these tips, I am more hopeful about the possibility of one day looking into my closet and only seeing items I truly enjoy wearing.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing so much great information, Jenn! I fall prey to my impulses, too, as I’ve shared about previously. I continue to work on being more mindful when I shop, as I agree that impulse and hurried shopping just creates more problems.

      I love the tips from the article you found. Waiting a week sounds like a longer version of the “power pause” (from Jill Chivers, who suggested at least two hours and up to two days). I have “considering” boards on Pinterest that I use to store items that I MIGHT want to buy. These are secret boards that I look at and edit periodically.

      The tip about wearing everything in the closet before wearing it twice would be more difficult to do, but I like the spirit of that challenge. It might be more manageable to do it one category at a time (i.e., wearing every pair of pants and then moving on to tops, toppers, shoes, etc.).

      It sounds like the two tips have already made a big difference for you in terms of clearing some items out and learning about why you’re not wearing other things. How wonderful that you discovered that making the mindful and targeted purchase of the brown booties would lead to your wearing the brown corduroys that you love.

      I think I’m going to try the tips that you mentioned – you’ve sold me on them! I can see addressing various wardrobe areas and periodically doing blog posts about what I’ve learned. I hope you’ll continue to weigh in on how it’s going for you. Thanks again for sharing!

      1. Jenn says:

        Another thing I’m doing is making sure that I actually wear my out-and-about clothing out and about. When getting dressed, I focus first on bottoms, then try to choose a top I haven’t worn.

        I keep a running list on my phone of the items I’m interested in buying and sometimes take screenshots. I like your idea of the “considering” board on Pinterest, though. I might have to give that a try.

        After one week of trying out the tips I mentioned, I’ve designated 2 tops, 1 pair of jeans, 2 skirts, 3 jackets, 5 pairs of shoes, a handbag, and a necklace for donation or consignment. I’ve placed 1 top, 2 jackets, and 1 pair of shoes in “holding.”

        I’ll continue to track my progress. I’m thrilled you are going to give these ideas a try, and I Iook forward to seeing how they work for you.

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          I’m very impressed with how much progress you’ve made in just one week, Jenn! I’d love to read the article in which you found these tips if you’re open to sharing it. I will also give that person (and you) credit if/when I write about my experiences with the tips (which I will likely do).

          I usually focus on bottoms first, too, when getting dressed, but sometimes I will choose my top or topper first. I often like to challenge myself to wear something I either haven’t worn in a given year or at least in a while. I struggle more with out-and-about clothes, but I have some at-home “benchwarmers,” too, that need to be addressed.

        2. Debbie Roes says:

          Thank you so much for the link, Jenn! I look forward to reading more words of wisdom (and I will also read Sally’s article that she referenced in her comment below).

    2. Meghan says:

      I like the tip about wearing every item once before you wear it twice, at least for the in season items. Sometimes I get lazy and always put on the same or similar outfit formulas.

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        I think a lot of us get lazy in that way, Meghan. But what I like most about the tip is that when we challenge ourselves to wear every item once before wearing something else twice, we can either find those “diamonds in the rough” that we haven’t been wearing (and should), or we can get rid of pieces that aren’t working, like what Jenn is doing.

    3. Ocd says:

      WOW that article is one of the most sane voices I’ve heard regarding our insatiable appetite for buying (& discarding) clothes & on our overconsumption in general. A great change from the buy-more articles as well as “flog blogs” full of embedded ads.

      1. Debbie Roes says:

        I’m glad I asked Jenn for the link so that others could benefit from the article that helped her so much. I’m glad you’re one of those people, OCD, and I agree with you that FAR too many blogs (and YouTubers and Instagrammers) focus much too much on buying and overconsumption. We certainly don’t need MORE encouragement in that department!

        1. OCD says:

          I’m so glad you did too Debbie. Everyone is different, with different needs, motivations, & for some of us, cravings for a new thing. In my case it helped me understand more of the reason for my urges (especially stress), the addictive nature of it for me, & provided concrete ideas to help. It was like I sighed in relief.
          (It’s a good time for me to stop purchasing right now anyway as inflation in my area has exploded, & my employers pretend no reason for a cost of living increase…)

        2. Debbie Roes says:

          Stress is a big trigger for me, too, and I know it is for so many of us. The more tools and resources we can find to help us cope, the better. I’m sorry inflation is so bad where you are and your salary isn’t increasing along with the cost of living. Hopefully cutting back on purchasing will give you some relief. Best wishes to you.

  3. Jenni NZ says:

    Well Debbie I think I have learned the most from the tracking I have been doing since 2016, as taught by you. I have had to slowly edit out lots of stuff from before that (because I had a significant Shopaholic problem since I had gained weight in 2007, such that by 2016 my wardrobe had bloated to an unmanageable level) but by buying more judiciously using all these tips it has slowly reduced in size. 9 years to get too big and 6 years to get manageable again! I buy a lot less.
    18 items 2017, 30 in 2018, 32 2019, 12 in 2020, and 15 in 2021. 13 so far this year.
    I do this by using the “power pause”, the PPP ( patient, picky and practical) and when I get excited about something I try to walk away and think really hard about it, because often something about it is not right.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks so much for sharing some of your stats, Jenni. It can definitely take a long time to get an unmanageable wardrobe back to being manageable again. Congrats on the wonderful progress you’ve made! I’m impressed with how few pieces you’ve been buying in recent years. I haven’t managed to get my numbers that low, but I still would like to. Using the “power pause” and the 3 P’s definitely helps. It’s easier to just not buy something in the first place than to have to deal with returns (which I understand isn’t as common in NZ and many other countries) or purging less worn and less loved items.

  4. Murphy says:

    The rule about not buying an item when you just like one feature has saved me tons of money. I used to buy things solely because I loved the color, only to later donate them because they didn’t fit or the style was too fussy.

    One other rule I have adopted is that whatever I buy has to have a real life use in the near future. No more buying because “it might come in handy.” Also, I agree that our shape or taste might change before we get to wear an item.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I think a lot of people get enticed by beautifully-colored items, Murphy, especially with colors that can be difficult to find. I love your other rule about items having to have a real life use in the near future. Buying things “just in case” can definitely lead to “benchwarmers,” as can making purchases for a “fantasy life” (which I used to do a lot).

  5. Meghan says:

    Great summary and I was nodding while reading your post as well as the comments. Our track records are improving, and I hope you feel proud of helping yourself as well as your readers to manage our wardrobe better and better. These great points are worth repeating so that we don’t just know them but absorb them and become instinctively more prudent for both buying and purging. I really like PP and PPP that you and Jenni mentioned because they are easy to remember. One thing I have been trying to do along these great suggestions is to be less critical about my appearance and my clothes. I have had bad purge churn due to my appearance anxiety. Not sure if that’s the right phrase to use but basically I care too much about how I look and want to use clothes to present a better image of myself (younger, prettier, more fit). Freedom comes from self-acceptance, and not worrying about how I appear to others. The other thing I am improving on is fear or scarcity base mindset. 99% of my duplicate or backups have proven to be unwise. I have purged many unworn or lightly worn duplicates over the years. I understand multiple of wardrobe staples work for some people, but it is unnecessary for me considering I have a relatively large wardrobe. I worry about being underprepared or wearing a favorite out and not being able to replace it. The truth is that there aren’t that many days in a season to wear each item that many times, and I have many other items to wear in that season, and my style preference change quicker than the clothes wear out, and the fashion industry won’t die out and I will always be able to buy clothes when I need to. This comment took me quite long to write as I am still learning English and it is so hard to express some inner feeling in a foreign language, and that’s why I didn’t comment very often. Your writing is clear and beautiful which helped me improve my English. Thank you, Debbie.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so glad you found this article and the comments helpful, Meghan. I always gain a lot from what all of you share here. That’s great that your track record is also improving.

      I relate SO much to what you shared about appearance anxiety leading to closet churn. Self-acceptance is still something that I find challenging, but I continue to work on it… I also related to what you wrote about having a scarcity mindset. We often don’t need the duplicates and backups that we think are so important. You’re so right that when one has a large wardrobe, things don’t get worn out all that much, and it’s much more common for our style and/or our bodies to change before that ever happens.

      I think you did quite well in expressing yourself here and I got a lot out of your comment. I welcome your comments anytime, and it’s totally fine if your English isn’t perfect! It’s tough to learn a second language and many non-native English speakers do remarkably well (and better than many of us would do at trying to speak YOUR language).

  6. These are great lessons learned. #5 Wear Favorites Often and #8 Review Regularly really resonate with me today.

    I recently wrote a post about analyzing a potential new purchase, and in that I talked about identifying high priority and loved items to wear instead of buying new that fits in very well with both #5 Wearing Favorites and #4 Don’t Split Wears. I’m operating with the idea that since I do have “enough” clothing, something new doesn’t have to just beat out my average items or least favored items to win a place in my wardrobe (as suggested by the one in, one out rule–which is a good rule, I’m not knocking it). Something new has to beat my *best* items. And when I put together my best items, I realized Whoa, I have a lot of great stuff that I can wear now with no shopping hassle and at no cost! As someone else mentioned above, there are so many days in the season for me to wear these things.

    As for #8 Review Regularly, I would say that this is absolutely key. Not only in terms of identifying items that no longer fit or feel uncomfortable, etc., but in terms of spending some time figuring out how you will wear them (and if you need some support acts to get your best use of them–as a commenter above discussed with brown cords needing some boots). I more and more think that when we are dissatisfied with our wardrobes/outfits in any way, shopping is the LAST thing we should do.

    Despite my enthusiasm for Wearing Favorites, I also do see the value in the Wear Everything Once Before Repeating idea in the linked article. For some people, that may be an approachable way to work on Review Regularly. Then once everything is reviewed, and those forgotten gems have been recovered, “diamonds in the rough” brought forward for additional attention, and blah items have been removed, it’s easier to start Wearing Favorites.

    Thanks as always for the great discussion everyone is bringing to this topic!

    1. Jenn says:

      Wow, Sally. I am just now reading your post. As someone who has tracked purchases and wears for more than a decade, I can tell I’m going to get a great deal of value from what your post. Thank you!

      1. Thanks, Jenn – glad to hear this is giving you something to think about!

    2. Debbie Roes says:

      I look forward to reading your post about analyzing a potential new purchase, Sally. Both you and Jenn are giving me – and others – a lot of food for thought here! I love the concept of anything new needing to beat out our BEST items. This goes in line with wearing our favorites when shopping and needing anything new to be at least as good as those pieces. That has helped me a lot when shopping, but I look forward to reading your additional tips.

      I also agree that reviewing our wardrobe should also include figuring out HOW we will wear our pieces. I used to do that a lot more often and I think I should get back into that habit. Even if I don’t want to photograph everything, just jotting down some notes can be quite helpful. When we shop without really understanding what will add the most to our wardrobes, we often just buy more of the same and then keep on feeling like we have “nothing to wear.”

      Thanks for what you have added to this topic. As always, you (and everyone else here) have added a lot of value to the discussion!

  7. Maggie says:

    Hi Debbie, I watched the video “When It’s Okay to Split Your Wears” by Bridgette Raes. It seemed to me that she was – in effect – talking about cost-per-wear. She used the word “value” but I wonder if cost-per-wear is a more accurate term. The stylist Lauren Messiah uses the word “versatile” in her discussion of having a little black dress as a basic in her video “11 Must Have Basics Every Woman Should Own” (which is highly entertaining by the way).

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I agree that Bridgette was talking about cost-per-wear in regards to when it’s okay to split our wears. Value and cost-per-wear are similar concepts, but in my mind, value may also relate to our emotions/feelings around the items, not just the financial. I haven’t watched the video in a while, though, so I’m not sure if that factors into what Bridgette was talking about. I’ll have to check out Lauren Messiah’s video, especially since you said that it’s entertaining. What’s versatile for one person may not be for another… For example, a white button-down shirt would NOT be versatile for me, as I don’t like to wear those types of tops (but a black dress WOULD be versatile for me). Interesting things to think about!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: