The Rockwood Files: The Great Closet Purge

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

Every woman has to do it sooner or later. Some do it every year and some wait a decade or so, but sooner or later it has to happen. For most of us, it happens shortly after we look into our closets and realize it’s literally crammed full of “nothing to wear.”

When your closet is crammed full of nothing to wear, it’s time for a “closet purge.” But cleaning out your closet, particularly for women, is no small feat. I did it this week and it was a big undertaking, mostly because there are so many decisions to make. My strategy was to take each item out of the closet and put it into a group. Once I sorted things into groups, I’d decide which groups were allowed back into the closet and which ones had to be trashed, donated or burned.

Here’s the list of groups I had after a half-hour of sorting:

  • Clothes I like and wear
  • Clothes I used to like but haven’t worn in a year or more
  • Clothes I wear so much that they now look tired and pitiful
  • Clothes that seemed like a good idea at the time but weren’t
  • Clothes that don’t fit the way they should
  • Clothes that currently don’t fit but may one day fit in the future if I stop eating or remove a rib (This is also known as the “A Girl Can Dream” group.)
  • Clothes I used to wear until I saw a not-so-great picture of me wearing them (Also known as the “bad mojo” group)
  • Clothes I would probably wear if they didn’t need to be ironed all the time
  • Clothes that look okay but aren’t comfortable
  • Clothes that are super comfortable but should never be seen outside this house
  • Clothes that belong to a trend which is now deceased
  • Clothes I’d forgotten about because they were lurking at the back
  • Clothes I keep for sentimental reasons

Deciding what to do with the sentimental clothes is particularly tricky. Women will keep a skirt for decades simply because it was the one we wore on our first date with the guy we eventually married. Mine is still hanging at the back of the closet.

Guys, on the other hand, don’t usually attach feelings and memories to clothes. So they have a much easier task when it’s time to clean out their closet. My husband had his in tip-top shape in less than 10 minutes. He sorted his clothes into two groups: 1) Has a hole; and 2) Doesn’t have a hole.

He trashed the first group and stuffed the second group back in the closet. Then he stepped over the various color-coded piles I’d strewn across

Behold the glorious closet of Oprah…

the bathroom and went off to play video games with the kids. Guys have it so easy.

But despite all the sorting and decision making, it was worth it in the end. Because cleaning out a closet is like therapy for women. It’s cathartic. It’s like a closet detox diet, and the cleansing breathes new life into what felt like an old wardrobe.

Of course, the purge does have potential risks. Once you get rid of closet dead weight, it opens up some fabulous room for new things that might find their way into your hot little hands the next time you’re at the mall. Suddenly you feel yourself magnetically drawn to catalogs and sale signs. And your computer mouse takes you to online shops you’d never ventured into before.

A few transactions later, your closet fills up again with things you love, things that seemed like a good idea in the store but weren’t, things you forget about because they get pushed to the back, and things that never get worn because they need to be ironed first. And the cycle begins anew.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.


1 Comment

  1. I’ve been plotting my own Project Purge for some time now. I’ve told myself I will do it “in the Spring”. You’ve inspired me! I suppose now I’ll have to actually do it!

Comments are closed.