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Image / Style / Sustainable Style

Sick of the clutter? How to detox your wardrobe (and not regret it post-lockdown)

by Louise Slyth
06th Feb 2021


You’ve put it off for so long that even that “odds and ends” drawer in the kitchen is now pristine. But the time has come to tackle your wardrobe with that cut-throat cleaning style you've honed all through lockdown. Here’s how to do it to ensure you have no regrets.

Well into lockdown 3.0, you may have cleared out every cupboard in your home already, including your wardrobe.  I have put off this task in favour of other more alluring projects, but I fear now may be the time.  My wardrobe de-tox always causes me the most angst, firstly because it seems so overwhelming and secondly, because I just don’t want to…

A streamlined wardrobe where you can see, and therefore use, everything you have, is not only a joy to behold, but it also actually saves you time and money.  This epic endeavour is best attempted without distractions and often takes me the best part of a day, so it’s time to stop putting it off and put lockdown to good use.  

Start by asking yourself why you are doing this. Are you having a daily fight to wrestle something out from a jungle of hangers, or are you looking to create a capsule wardrobe?  Did you buy a red top in the sales, only to discover an identical one at the back of a drawer?  Or do you find yourself frantically searching for things and feeling overwhelmed?

Keep your motivation in mind, make yourself a cup of tea, and let’s get started.

First thing’s first

Empty everything out onto a clean surface and then clean the inside of your wardrobe/drawers with a little antibacterial spray to freshen it. If you have cedar balls or drawer liners, you can pop new ones in.  Now you have a lovely blank canvas ready for the masterpiece that will be your edited wardrobe.

Next, create five piles – Keep, Special, Repair, Maybe and Remove. 


Easy. Do you love it? Do you wear it regularly? Would you still wear it to a meeting/event/hot date (delete as appropriate).  The keep section is generally the easiest to decide because these are items you already use.  However, bear in mind that just because you currently have no need for tailoring and party dresses, that may not always be the case – don’t be too speedy to rid yourself of things that aren’t meeting their sartorial destiny right now. If you have moved to the countryside and plan to keep working from home, then you may no longer need work dresses, but otherwise, if you love it, hang onto it. 


These are items like cocktail dresses, shorts, bikinis…things that you need but don’t use often.  I have a storage bag on top of my wardrobe for the things I only use a handful of times a year – it saves space and I know exactly where to find them when I need them.  Wrap dresses in tissue paper and throw a lavender sachet in to keep everything fresh for next use.  


Cast a critical eye over this pile.  Will fixing a button or having it re-hemmed make it workable again?  If so, throw all these items in a bag and take them to the tailor at your earliest safe opportunity. If you let this pile linger you will never wear these items again. 


This is likely to be the most troublesome pile and might take some time to review judiciously. This is not a “get out of jail free” card.  Nor is it the place to put things that you just don’t want to deal with or part with.  Take a brutal look at these items and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many times have I actually worn this?
  • Can I imagine wearing it in at least two situations?
  • Does it fit or flatter me right now?
  • Do I have other similar items?
  • Would I buy it now?
  • Does it need something else to make it work, for example, a belt?

If in doubt, take a selfie and ask a trusted friend for her opinion, but be brutal. 

If it has sentimental value and you are pushed for space, consider packing it away, taking a photo, or keeping a scrap of the fabric.  You can’t let sentimentality take up valuable wardrobe space. 

If you still can’t decide, put this pile in a separate part of your wardrobe.  Don’t mix your maybes in with your keepers or your work will be in vain.  If you let them creep back in again you will only be looking at the same skirt in 6 months’ time. Create your maybe section and put a sticker on the first hanger so you know where it starts.   In three months, if you haven’t worn the things in the maybe section, you know what to do…


I aim to live as sustainably as possible, so I never throw an item of clothing away.  There are several ways you can put this pile to good use.

Sell – possibly a post-lockdown task, but good quality items can be sold on E-Bay or Depop and luxury items may be accepted in stores like Designer Exchange in Dublin.   

Have you considered upcycling?  Whilst in lockdown, why not get those creative juices flowing and design your own unique piece, ready to be taken to the tailor? 

Recycle Enable Ireland have nationwide donation banks and you can feel good knowing that 100% of fundraising profits support services for people with disabilities.  Liberty Recycling also has a handy link showing local collection bins.  

Gift – Remember that one woman’s trash could be another’s treasure. You may have a friend that would rock that red dress even though it’s no longer your bag.  If she has something you lust after, you can look forward to a night out together sometime in the future, showcasing your new acquisitions.

Organise your edited collection

Once you have your edited wardrobe, you need to create a system where you can easily find things.  You will save yourself countless time if you know all your jeans are in the same drawer, or all your dresses are in the same part of your wardrobe.

Jeans are both bulky and heavy, so best folded away in a drawer.  Knits keep their shape better folded than hung, and cashmere and silk should always be stowed away in moth-safe bags.

Create sections for each type of clothing. If you really want to go to town, you could then have all your subsets by colour – all white tops together, then all blue tops, all black skirts and so on.  However, I find that after a few weeks, my perfect sartorial rainbow starts to bleed, so better to be realistic at the outset.  

Ta da! Now all you have to do is maintain your system and you can rest easy, knowing that, even if the world is in chaos, at least your wardrobe isn’t. 


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