The Great Closet Clean-out

An unlimited wardrobe sounds like it would be fantastically awesome, and it is, but there can be inflection points where I ask myself, “What in the world was I thinking buying/keeping this much clothing? How many bodies, exactly, do I think I have?” Once reality sinks in, I realize I could never possibly wear even a fraction of it (think: economic law of dimishing returns). In the world of a reseller, it’s just so easy to see your clothing compounding faster than your investments, but trust me, the investments are far easier to maintain than an overflowing closet (last I checked, my 401K didn’t need to be washed, ironed, mended, stain-treated, de-pilled, or protected from moth damage). Are you wondering how my closet gets to “unlimited” status in the first place? I’ll explain below, and also why it just doesn’t make sense (not going to be stupid and say “cents”, but there, I did it anyway), and then how I go about working the madness into order and profits that can be stored in my “easy-care” investments instead.

How is it I am looking into a dark abyss of clothing when I open my closet doors? I mean literal mountains of clothing heaped on the floor, spilling off the shelves, and hangers bending under the weight of three, nay, four items a-piece. Has my self-control and sense of reason been lost under those J. Crew sweaters and Loft skirts? I do have a system for what comes in, what gets immediately put up for sale, and what trickles into my closet. I say trickle because really, when compared to the quantity I purchase for resale, it is a minimal amount that I keep for personal use. My husband is on the floor in a hysterical fit of laughter right now, but I trust I will vindicate myself before the end of this post. While I hold to my stance that I don’t (intentionally) try to keep too much of the clothing I buy for resale, the sneaky math is building up all the while. Many years ago, I lighted on the 20% rule (or as reality likes to points out, guideline…) and have stuck with it ever since. What is the 20% rule? When it comes to what I reinvest, I put up 20% of my profits into new merchandise and 80% goes to either our budget requirements or savings/investing goals. The same holds true, for simplicity, with where I cap my keep-rate (a term I think I have made up). For whatever new inventory I purchase for resale, I aim for a keep-rate of no more that 20% of the dollar amount spent (not 20% of the quantity of items). Also, note that I include my four girls’ shoes/clothing in that number, and occasionally things for my husband. Now comes the cold, hard, math. On average, I add 10 new-to-me items to my closet per week. Multiply that by 52 weeks per year, and that’s an eye-popping 520 items being jammed in my closet each year, on top of what was already there. Couldn’t I just reduce the keep-rate? Naturally, that is an obvious option, and each reader can decide for themselves what keep-rate is acceptable. Why the 20% keep-rate works for me: 1. Did I mention I love clothes? 2. It’s a creative outlet for me to mix/match and compose various ensembles. 3. I prefer to give items a chance at success in my closet. I’m often surprised that things I thought I would love never get used and things I felt so-so about when I kept them have become cherished favorites. 4. Finally getting to the purpose of this post….I do a great closet clean out twice a year and voila! problem (mostly) solved.

It actually came about somewhat organically, my great closet clean-out. Twice a year I change out my seasons, and you would think that is when I would have the clean-out (around September and April) but no, it’s actually it’s more variable than that, it depends on when I hit my two yearly sales slumps, one is in summer, usually around June-July, and the winter one is roughly late November-December (remember my shop is a mix of pre-owned/new clothing so I don’t have the same selling profile as someone selling only brand new items, for some reason I doubt late November to December would be their ideal closet clean out window). If you don’t have the same quantity as I do coming into your closet, a yearly clean-out might suffice. And by the way, that doesn’t mean I don’t sell things from my closet through-out the year. As soon as the “I don’t want this anymore” switch is flipped in my brain, that item goes into my sell pile. That, however, is more like regular maintenance and generally not a substitute for a much more deliberate cleaning (think of it like brushing your teeth every night versus seeing a dentist every six months). Is my closet clean-out Marie Kondo style? Yes and no (more no than yes:). I usually try to take half my wardrobe per clean out (rather than every last piece). I go with summer clothing at one cleaning and winter clothing at the other. I don’t fold everything bento-box style either, though my oldest daughter has taken to rolling all the linens in the hall closets and I must say, I really like it. But back to clothes closets. I start by putting everything in a big pile and then hang up the things I know I love and want to keep. From what is left, I start trying things on. If I try it on and feel it’s flattering, it stays. If I try it on and my audience (my husband) likes it, it stays. If either he or I don’t like it, it’s gone. Items that I feel have a great deal of practical use (like a white cardigan) usually stay until replaced by a similar item in better condition. During this process, I usually identify many similar items and pare back to just one (I really don’t need four kelly green pencil skirts, much as I love them). When I’m done, I generally have 100-150 items ready for resale per closet clean out. So when added to the regular maintenance that pulls items out in between the closet clean-outs, I am staying within a healthy keep-rate.

From experience I tell you it is no fun to be clothes diving every day trying to find your outfit, or worse yet, locate two matching shoes. I love my closet, it’s super organized (like sorted by colors, patterns, clothing type – the more you have the more you have stick to a system or it’s really not worth having that much stuff if you can’t find it when you need it). The clean-outs make sure I’m not pulling out and trying on things that I don’t even like anymore, so now even more time is saved on top of squelching the problem of not being able to find things. So now you’re ready to find your own super sweet spot: a closet that sparkles, room to add new favorite finds, and money rolling resolutely into your investment accounts, where it happily compounds and needs no trying on, it’s always a perfect fit.

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