Step One, Clean Out the Closet

Today is we are looking at Part One of The Conscious Closet by Elizabeth L. Cline: Good bye fast fashion!

Part one of this book is about assessing what we already own and figuring out what to do with what we no longer want. So today is step one, the great cleanout! This is actually the chapter that first got me hooked on this book and here’s why, Cline is adamant that cleaning out your closet is not about getting rid of everything you own and starting from scratch. The point is to understand what you have and to put what you no longer need to good use. Then to use that information and go forward to make ethical, sustainable purchases in the future (which we’ll get to later in the book!)

So here’s how I cleaned out my closet.

First, I have to admit that I had done a bulk of the work before we moved. Trying to decide whether something is worth moving cross country is a great way to purge everything in your house! So before my move I looked at everything and got rid of anything that didn’t fit, that I hadn’t worn in a really long time, or that I just didn’t like anymore.

This past week I went through my closet and I actually went against Cline’s advice and looked at all my clothes, not just my seasonal ones. I did this for two main reasons. One, I have a much bigger closet now and can keep most everything out at all times. Two, I live in a place where spring means one day I could be in shorts and the next I’m going to be layering on sweaters. I would rather just have it all out where I can see it. Plus, with this strange time in history, I have plenty of time to just tackle it all now, so why not?

I sorted everything into two main piles, keep and give. Then within those piles I sorted again.

In my keep pile I have the following.

Things I love. These immediately got put back in the closet

Things that are a maybe. Cline says to keep the maybes, try to figure out what you like about them and what you don’t and see if you can get more wear out of them in the coming months.

Things that need to be altered or repaired. I have a few things that need a button sewn on, need to be taken in, or that I love but want to alter a bit. These are all headed down to my sewing machine and my plan is to use the month of May to work through them.

Things that I can keep and use the fabric for something else. This is where knowing how to sew comes in very handy! I have some clothes that can absolutely be reworked into kids’ clothing and I plan on using them this spring and next winter. My rule is that I have to know exactly what it will be, just like when I buy new fabric, otherwise it will just sit in my office and never turn into anything. If I know what I want to make with it, chances are it will actually get made.

For my give pile I have things to sell and things to donate. It’s a weird time right now so honestly this may be a box that sits in my closet until things open back up again and I’ll just have to be ok with that. For the sell I like Thred Up. I don’ get the biggest returns on this, but it’s the easiest to use and for me it’s worth it. I’ve used my credits to buy a couple of things off the site before and the process is really simple. Cline uses the other chapters in part one to discuss other ways to sell and she has some great advice.

For donating, I’m not quite sure yet where I will be taking my clothes. Again, Cline has great advice and again, I’m going to have to wait until things open back up to really research this. For now I will sort like clothing (more business, dressy, casual) so that when I find places that will take them, I’ll be able to be a bit more specific. Some shelters for example ask for work wear or seasonal things.

The final part of the cleanout is to look at your Wardrobe Statistics. I added in the category of handmade into mine and came up with this. I’ll be filling this in in the weeks to come and hope to share my final count at the end of this month.

Wardrobe Statistics

# of articles of clothing:

% Worn:



Ethical brands:



Knowledge about environmental impact in fashion:

Knowledge of social issues in fashion:

The following chapters, 2-6, go into greater detail on ethical ways to take care of your clothes and how to donate, sell, and swap your clothes. I think it’s important to know how much of our clothing that we donate goes into landfills because people just dump things off at Goodwill to make themselves feel better (I say this as someone who has done just that.) Taking the time and effort to make sure your clothes are being recycled, reworn, or put to good use is absolutely part of a conscious closet. All that work will also help in making you (me!) more mindful about what you bring back into your closet.

I feel really good about where I am in my closet clean out and will update as I go along. I’m hoping that Me Made May will really help with this process and get me motivated to make alter alterations and changes I have planned. I hope it’s helpful to see how I cleaned out my closet and inspires you to clean out yours in a conscious way!


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