Decluttering a (mostly) thrifted wardrobe

It’s that time of year again, when I experience cabin fever from endless rainy days spent inside and begin decluttering with reckless abandon. I’m too attached to my trinkets and tchotchkes to part ways with them right now, but my clothes have been fair game for purging these past few weeks. 

Lately, I’ve become fond of the idea of appreciating beauty whenever I see it, but not necessarily becoming attached to holding onto it for myself. It’s probably a Buddhist impermanence thing, or maybe it’s even as pedestrian as a turning 30 thing. 

Last year, I drastically downsized my makeup collection without intending to do so. After tossing out very expired makeup, I didn’t replenish my eyeshadows and lipstick. By September, I stopped dying my premature grays altogether, so the only beauty products I continued buying throughout the year were face wash,  moisturizer, sunscreen, and facial oils. 

Why I’m decluttering my closet

Yellow dress next to fiddle leaf fig tree

Slowly but surely, I’m headed towards the same pared-down path for clothes. I appreciate beautiful clothes, but I don’t feel compelled to buy every piece that I like. I definitely don’t need to buy anything new — other than athleisure and underwear, most of my clothes are thrifted or hand-me-downs. After spending your early 20’s buying clearanced-out, bottom-of-the-barrel, poor-quality fast fashion, you learn to be more conservative with spending money on clothes! 

Even though you can assemble a beautiful thrifted wardrobe easily, thrifting can pave the way to hoarding pretty quickly. To revisit the tried-and-true KonMari framework, I just don’t find joy in collecting clothes anymore, and I’d like to simplify the dressing-up part of my life. I’m not a minimalist by any means, but my sense of style has become more guided by practicality than desire — does that make sense? As someone who loves having beautiful things around her, I still want to wear statement clothes that are chic and expressive, just not at the expense of my comfort. And besides, I need more real estate for my knickknacks. 

A method for decluttering clothes

Bag full of clothes on a teal sofa

While decluttering my closet, here were the two key questions that I asked myself: 

  • Does this feel comfortable to wear? 
  • Do I wear this enough to justify keeping it?

On the note of comfortable clothes

This past year, I’ve been decluttering most of the polyester and acrylic dresses in my wardrobe. Despite garnering compliments from many of these pieces, I’ve decided to purge them since they sit uncomfortably against my skin and trap odors easily, especially during the triple-digit Valley summers when I would actually want to wear them. Again, it’s the appreciating beauty but not necessarily holding onto it thing. 

On the note of re-wearing clothes

I also don’t have much of a need for formal or special occasion dresses, since I’m a self-employed writer who works from home. There’s no reason for me to look like a quiet luxury boss babe or Fran Fine even when I’m off duty. While I don’t want to look dowdy, I’ve become leery of anything that chafes or squeezes my body. I really want to get the most wear out of my clothes, and I’m simply not going to wear anything that hugs my body too tight or gets too stinky.   

Pieces to declutter

Animal print maxi dress

Here are a few of the pieces that I’ve decluttered from my wardrobe: 

  • A floaty foliage-speckled, long-sleeved Kate & Lily maxi dress from Ross
  • A Max Studio lemon-print empire waist dress from Goodwill Modesto
  • A brandless puffed sleeve, polka dot dress from Goodwill Modesto 
  • A final sale Bobeau animal print wrap maxi dress from Nordstrom Rack
  • Several thrifted jorts that are too short or simply don’t fit
  • Graphic tees that no longer feel age appropriate 

Questions to ask when buying new clothes

Red turtleneck and jeans

The good news is that I’m really starting to understand my personal preferences when it comes to clothes. Besides the occasional one-off impulse buy, I really have started to pick up the same materials and silhouettes over and over again this past decade. I’m not swearing off buying clothes, but I think that it’s prudent to think about what I gravitate towards to slow down the cycle of thrifting and donating clothes. Here are the questions that I’ve started asking myself whenever I go thrifting for clothes:

  • Is it made of a material that I can take care of and feel comfortable wearing?
  • Does it drape/fit on my body well?
  • Do I already have something similar to it? 
  • Would I wear it regularly, or do I just like the idea of the person I could be while wearing it?

What my day-to-day wardrobe realistically looks like

  • Tightly woven 100% cotton sweaters
  • Cotton dress shirts
  • Straight-fit and flared Levi’s
  • Elastic-waist grandma jeans
  • Relaxed-fit linen and Tencel pants
  • Nylon jackets or shearling coats 
  • Cotton sweat sets
  • Long-sleeve cotton tees 
  • Performance leggings and bike shorts (yes, these can stink, but I wear them regularly for running) 

I’ve just really been thinking a lot about beauty and style — what they mean to me, how I can simplify my approach to them, how I can resist trends rooted in unfettered capitalism. Anyway…off to the thrift store we go!