Keep it or Cull it? 9 Spring Cleaning Questions to Brush Away the Lockdown Clothing Cobwebs

by Karly Rayner

There’s no doubt about it, lockdown has made its stamp on our homes and wardrobes. From the ever present piles of stuff that are the totem animals of newly ‘dual purpose’ spaces, to the wardrobes where a look I like to call ‘middle-aged dog walker’, has somehow become a dominant force while we weren’t looking. 

Spring cleaning is often presented as a somewhat brutal, utilitarian task which has connotations of stripping life of all the bows and trinkets in the spirit of functionality, which can make it quite unappealing. 

I feel like with a little bit more kindness and emotional awareness, we can brush away those lockdown wardrobe cobwebs in a more gentle fashion which will leave us more likely to maintain equilibrium as opposed to swinging between extremes. 

Below are 9 questions to ask yourself to help decide whether to keep or cull clothing in a balanced way to restore closet contentment. 


Question 1: Is it in Good Condition?


This one might sound glaringly obvious, but we all have items which have seen better days which slip under the radar. That is, until one day, with horrifying clarity, we notice how colossal that red wine stain on the left cuff is when we bump into an ex-partner at the corner shop. 

Empty your entire wardrobe into an ungainly fabric haystack in the centre of your room (I know, I know, but one pile will ensure you get it done sharpish), slam on a podcast and ask yourself honestly — is this item in good enough nick for me to wear without cringing?

If it can be repaired, shove it in a box and make a strict deadline to actually take it to the shop and leave it by the front door for good measure. If not, it’s time for it to go. Ratty old underwear and floppy, misshapen t-shirts never made any hearts soar and their swan song is overdue. 

3.1 million tonnes of textiles end up in landfill in Europe every year, but never fear. Even the most unsightly, scrap of a garment can be taken to some North Face stores to be recycled. Don’t forget to save the obligatory tatty gardening or DIY outfit, and some rags!


Question 2: Is it a Product of Wishful Thinking?


We’ve all done it. That thing where you buy an outfit, then slowly realise the model’s golden-ratio winning proportions might have a slight impact on how wonderful it looked. This is a particular peril of online shopping, especially when you lose that pesky bag it came in and the queue to the post office is 40 people long. 

Other wishful thinking purchases include: That gear you bought for when you decided you were hell-bent on becoming an ultra-runner after getting a bit too into Couch to 5k, that ball gown for the ball you wouldn’t ever go to, even if you were invited and that dress that’s perfect… except it’s 2 sizes too small. 

These wishful thinking purchases are full of the ghouls of shopping guilt which simply must be banished. 


Question 3: Does it Belong in the Past?


You know how some vintage items are timeless classics which deserve to be preserved for future generations and some… aren’t? You’ve guessed it, those need to go — unless maybe they would make an unbeatable Halloween costume.


Question 4: Does it ‘Spark Joy?’


As William Morris famously said, “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” The same goes for your wardrobe.

Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a utilitarian regime stripping all fun and frivolity from your life. If the aforementioned 2 sizes too small dress summons a sweet nostalgic rush of emotion for a joyful season of your life, you are totally allowed to keep it. Either just as a small wardrobe memento or, as a repurposed item. Patterned dresses make amazing cushion covers and curtain sashes which you might be able to appreciate more. 


Question 5: Could This Item be More Useful to Somebody Else?


Clothing you adore, but no longer wear can also be passed on to family members, colleagues and friends who you just know will give them a new lease of life. 

There is something immensely satisfying about seeing one of your old favourites making someone's eyes light up anew and, if your clothing matchmaking endeavours are successful, the recipient will remember you fondly whenever they put it on. 


Question 6: Does it Have a Home and if Not, Are You Willing to Go Through the Effort to Make it One?


There’s perhaps nothing less harmonious than having clothes practically ejecting themselves from your drawers like coiled snakes whenever you dare open them. 

If your clothes don’t have a proper home where they can rest; hung or folded into suitable tranquility, then you need to be prepared to find them one to restore order. This doesn’t have to require loads of extra furniture, smart multilayered hangers can be a huge space saver and I personally roll all of my non-crease tops and jumpers so they are both compact and easily seen. When I can’t squeeze another clothing burrito into the drawer, I periodically retire items or move them into seasonal storage under the bed. 


Question 7: Do I Own Something Similar Which I Enjoy More? 


Steve Jobs infamously wore the same outfit every day, but if that dull utilitarianism isn’t really your vibe, you probably shouldn’t be clinging onto multiples of near identical items. 

In this scenario, I feel the phrase “two’s company, three's a crowd” is a pertinent one to bear in mind. 


Question 8: Am I Keeping This Item Through Misplaced Guilt? 


Be honest, are you clinging onto that blinding jumper because it was a gift from Aunty Lilian who is well-meaning, kind and lovely, but potentially a bit short sighted?

Guilt is often a motivator for keeping unwanted items, especially the potent power of feeling ungrateful for a heartfelt, but ill-suited gift from someone you care about. 

Perhaps, these items would be better off in the charity shop, so they can move on and find their soulmate as opposed to tugging at your insides every time you catch a glimpse of them. 


Question 9: When Did I Last Actually Wear This?


Ah, old faithful! It might be an old cliche that if you haven’t worn something in over a year, it’s probably time for it to migrate to pastures new, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!


Cover image: Wikicommons: Wjablow


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