The Closet Detox, Part 1: Why You Should Do A Wardrobe Cleanse

We’ve been thinking a lot about our shopping habits lately. Ashlee Piper is the woman behind the gorgeous eco-lifestyle site The Little Foxes and contributes eco-friendly fashion coverage on Ecouterre. Over the summer we’re going to talk about detoxing your closest with Ashlee, starting with why it matters. Here’s Ashlee…

This past winter, I dove head-first into blogger Caroline Joy Rector of Un-Fancy’s Capsule Wardrobe Challenge. The premise behind the challenge was simple: Pare down your wardrobe to 37 pieces, plan your outfits for the upcoming season, shop once to prepare, and then, never shop again for the next three months. As someone who extolls the virtues of eco-friendliness, the challenge appealed to my inner anti-pack rat, but the application over the following months brought me so much more than I had anticipated. The experience reaffirmed what I already knew – what we all probably know – but sometimes forget: Having less gives you more – more freedom, more time, more appreciation for what you do have, more creativity, more emotional space, more peace.

If you think this is crazy talk, allow me to spit some truth about what the five things this undertaking will bring to your life:

5 reasons why you should do a wardrobe cleanse

1. Planning creates peace and appreciation.
The first step to creating a Capsule Wardrobe is taking stock of what you have. Piece-by-piece, I sifted through my wardrobe selecting my 37 items (we’ll go into a rubric for how to do this easily in Part 2), and you know what? Giving each item such individual attention, created a well of appreciation. The pieces that made the cut were smoothed, hung with care, repaired if needed, and well-loved. When was the last time you looked in your closet and even knew what all was in there, let alone appreciated every stitch?

2. Paring down creates space and opportunity to give back.
As you can imagine, there are quite a few items that don’t make the 37 piece limit and those have to go somewhere, right? Instead of contributing to the ever-growing 25 billion pounds of discarded textiles that enter U.S. landfills each year (that’s 87 pounds per person – chew on that for a sec), I bagged up items for donation, took some higher-end pieces to the consignment store and even held a clothing swap with friends. Watching items I no longer needed make graceful, purposeful exits from my home was liberating. And what remained was good vibes and a beautifully open space, formerly known as my busting-at-the-seams, stress-inducing closet.

3. Less shopping means more money, time, and happiness.
When was the last time you went clothes shopping only because you really needed something? It should come as no surprise that studies have shown that anywhere between 70 to 90% of garment shopping is emotionally based (as opposed to practicality based). We’re stressed, sad, lonely, bored, gleefully happy, giddy, in love, feeling less-than or unworthy – whatever the emotions du jour – and we think the respite lies in the glossy windows, polished mannequins and swipe of our credit card. Trust me, shopping once, with a list, and never again for 3 months is a revelation. For me, social outings no longer revolved around buying stuff. I would bypass an enticing store display to go to that yoga class I’d been dodging. Less time spent shopping meant more time actually doing the things I needed to be happy, more time to meaningfully connect with others, more productivity, more money in my wallet… the list goes on and on.

4. Fewer pieces allowed me to prioritize my values, save time, and reach wardrobe nirvana.
Too much choice can be assailing to people. If you’re like me, you go to the grocery store, see 47 different kinds of peanut butter, and freeze. Major grocery chain Trader Joe’s played upon this psychology when crafting their business model – streamlined selection, but only the finest products. We’ll go more into this in Part 3, but yeah, procuring clothing items that are in-line with your value systems is pretty much like reaching wardrobe nirvana, if such a thing exists. And don’t even get me started on how easy it was to get ready each day, how simplified laundry became each week, and what an expert minimalist traveler I became. In short, I got loads of time back and still looked (and felt) chic as hell.

5. Personal style has nothing to do with quantity.
Watch any French woman artfully tie the same scarf 1,000 chic ways and you’ll know it’s true. Repeat after me and take heart: Style has nothing to do with money or volume. Despite what magazines try to tell us, authentic, striking style has everything to do with what you make of what you have, and nothing to do with how much money you spend. Using what I had in innovative configurations gave me a quiet confidence in my personal style.

I’m Sold! What’s Next?
Now that I’ve (hopefully) answered your lingering questions like “Why the hell should I do this?” and “Will I die if I don’t shop for 3 whole months?” (the answer is no to that last one, btw), the next two installments will touch on the following:

Part 2 – clear steps for paring down your own too-full wardrobe into something that creates space and makes sense for your needs.

Part 3 – helpful guidelines for how to acquire new wardrobe items with a conscience that aligns with your values, whether you’re a fair-trade junkie or a sustainable fabrics lover.

In other words, your wardrobe will go on the object equivalent of a cleanse. We’re gonna clear out the cobwebs, get rid of the old stuff that’s no longer serving you, repair the things you love, and create space to flood your closet (and your life) with the good stuff. And what happens after that? Well, the same thing that happens after you cleanse your bod, you emerge with a fresh energy in the form of an organized wardrobe that fits your life, embodies your values and makes you feel like a million bucks, no juicer-cleaning involved.

Now, who’s ready to go on a Wardrobe Cleanse?

Bottom banner image
From our friends


  1. I haven’t actually bought clothes in awhile but can’t bring myself to do a wardrobe cleanse. It kinda breaks me heart to do it.

    Stephanie | 06.17.2015 | Reply
  2. I just started my wardrobe cleanse about 2 weeks ago and dumped 6 huge drawers on our queen size bed (I’d already gone through hanging items a few months ago during seasonal changes for winter so they are due again). The mound was over a foot tall. The other day, I actually passed on a huge box of clothes that were in near perfect (i.e. worn rarely to never) to a good pal who admitted not buying anything new in years. She has 3 kids and was thinking of going back to work after 14 years as a stay-at-home mom. I told her that if anything didn’t work out for her, just donate or gift forward. She kept everything but one skirt!

    Melody | 06.18.2015 | Reply
  3. Love this article and so excited for the next parts! I love Carolyn’s blog and I’m already there with a minimal wardrobe as I don’t like shopping, but my problem is I’m nervous about what to buy now. The things I have are worn out, it’s time for new casual clothes but I would love some advice from more stylish friends and articles about winning key pieces, shapes and items to start with so I don’t end up with another round of blah clothes that I don’t feel excited to wear. I’m also making sure ALL new clothes and accessories that I buy are more ethical. I recently brought a new work wardrobe going to just one shop here in Australia that met the ethical requirements armed with a list such as (black pants, black suit jacket, long sleeved blouse….. etc. etc.). In 2 hours the sales assistant and I had selected everything and as a reluctant shopper I was estatic to have it all done so quickly. Everything’s black and white, it all matches and looks great!…… I love my tiny work wardrobe! Now to bite the bullet and somehow get that success in my casual clothes for the first time.

    Jess B | 06.19.2015 | Reply
  4. I have to say this was a beautiful read and am quite looking forward to see the other parts.

    Oana | 06.20.2015 | Reply
  5. You’re really motivational-you know that? I’m leaving my computer and doing this right now.

    Tiana | 06.20.2015 | Reply
  6. I love a good closet cleanse, and recently purged a lot of my items when I rearranged for summer! I heard a good tip once that said at the beginning of a season, turn all of your hangers backwards and any hanger that is still backwards at the end of the season, give the item away…trying it now!

    Design Chic | 06.22.2015 | Reply
  7. You guys are so inspirational! Thank you for taking the time to share your comments and experiences, and I’m so glad this series resonates with you! Rest assured, the next two parts of the series will help you with paring down and restocking in a way that’s ethical and also highlights key pieces. I am so excited to share this journey with so many cool people from around the world. Viva la minimalism! 😀

    Ashlee Piper | 06.22.2015 | Reply
  8. When will the next one be published?!

    Mrae | 07.07.2015 | Reply
  9. I’m in 🙂

    Danaides Duverge | 05.19.2016 | Reply
  10. Think you are right on!!! Had decided to do that recently, think it will start a process at my home to get rid of many things that need to go. The idea of passing on to others is great, we should have thought of that long time ago.

    Jolynn Schartz | 06.02.2016 | Reply
  11. Ok how do I get to part 2?

    Donna | 09.24.2016 | Reply

Leave A Comment