How to Keep Your Personal Style When De-Cluttering

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Whenever I speak on the subject of de-cluttering or teach a course on how to downsize, I always joke that downsizing doesn’t mean you have to eat granola every day and wear only cargo shorts and Birkenstocks all the time.

It always makes people chuckle, but the joke is actually grounded in a genuine concern that people have.

Often, people think de-cluttering and downsizing automatically means deprivation.

And that by narrowing down your possessions, you must also give up everything you enjoy and everything that makes you, you.

Well, let me just squash that right now.

When you de-clutter and downsize your life, it’s actually the opposite that happens! Your life becomes more abundant, more joyful and you are able to be more genuinely you than ever before, because you’ve cut out all the excess and gotten down to what really matters.

This applies to every facet of your life, but especially to your personal style.

De-cluttering does not mean getting rid of all the fun things that make your style unique.

Yes, depending on how far you’re taking your downsizing, you may have to really cut back your wardrobe in order to fit it into a small space. If you’re going to live in a tiny house, for example.

But, even in that situation, you can still hold on to your own style. You just hold on to less of it.

In fact, I’m a walking, talking example of this myself.

When I moved into my 160 square foot tiny house on wheels, I had one small closet to put all of my clothes in. And by small, I mean two feet wide.

If you’re not sure how small that really is, go get a ruler and check it. I’ll wait.

It’s ridiculous, right?

So, I had to get a little creative with my space and use the as-seen-on-TV “Wonder Hangers” that would allow me to put 7 pieces of clothing on each hanger and utilize the vertical space by having my items cascade downward.

But, as you can see from this picture, there are still plenty of “girly” items in there, because that’s who I am – a girly girl.

There’s still plenty of pink, purple, fringe and even a Panthers football jersey, because that’s part of my lifestyle too.

Even my shoes still demonstrate my style.

There’s not one lowly pair of sandals. There are still high heels, fashion sneakers and yes, purple leopard print slippers.

Even though I pared down my wardrobe to an extremely small amount of items in comparison to what it had been, you can still see my own personal style from start to finish.

So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about how you can keep your style when de-cluttering.


Get rid of the “low hanging fruit.”

I always teach people to go through their closet in three separate “sweeps.” The first go-through, you should only be looking for items that are no longer wearable. That means things that are faded, stained, have holes, rips or are otherwise damaged. These items should be pretty easy to get rid of because they are not in good condition.

Get rid of things that aren’t age or size appropriate.

After you’ve done the first sweep, then go all the way back to the beginning and start over. Don’t try to combine the sweeps because that’s how you’ll end up feeling overwhelmed and scattered. Just do one sweep at a time.

Starting over again from the beginning of your closet, now go through and pull out anything that doesn’t fit you – things that are either too small or too big for you. Keep only the items that legitimately fit your figure correctly (no matter how much you may love something). You also want to pull out any items that are too young or too old for you. We often will hold onto pieces that we’ve had for a long time because they have been favorites over the years. But as time passes, they become inappropriate for our age (I’m looking at you, Daisy Dukes). You may have also picked up an “old lady blouse” or two along the way, so unless your personal style is old lady fashion, let those go too.

Be honest with what’s left.

Now, comes the more difficult part. After you’ve done those first two sweeps, everything that’s left is technically salvageable. It all fits you, is age appropriate and in good condition. But, chances are, you probably still only actually wear about 20% of it. So, now is the time to be ruthlessly honest.

On this last sweep, you want to look at each piece and think about how long it’s been since you’ve worn it. If you haven’t worn it in six months (a year at most!), then you can get rid of it. Some will be easy because you wear them regularly, some you may have totally forgotten about it and some may fall somewhere in between. But the important thing here is to be honest. Don’t fall for that nostalgic voice that may start saying in your head, “Oh, I forgot I had this! I will totally wear this!” Because the truth is, you haven’t and you’re still not going to.

And that’s okay! Because this is where you’re going to really zoom in on your personal style. You’re going to really focus on the pieces that represent your personality and your lifestyle, that feel comfortable to you and make you feel confident.

Which, is going to make it a lot easier to then get rid of the rest.

Don’t feel bad if you hardly ever wore something or if it still has the tags on it. Things often look different once we get them home. Maybe it seemed cuter in the store or the color looked different under the fluorescent lights of TJ Maxx.

Whatever the reason, it’s okay to change your mind. And by giving yourself permission to let go of those items now, you are freeing yourself up to wear the things that you really do enjoy.

Rock what’s left!

So, now that you’ve done your three sweeps through the closet, you should be left with only the items that fit you perfectly, that feel great, that look great, that are in good condition and that you actually enjoy wearing. And that my dear, is your style.

Whatever that is for you. It will look different for every single one of us. I kept purple leopard print slippers and a turquoise shawl with fringe on it. But for you, it may actually be all cargo shorts and sandals. And that’s okay too!

The point is to get rid of all the excess – the things that have slipped into the black hole in the closet and just gathered dust over time. To get rid of the things that were given to you (and kept out of guilt), the hand-me-down’s that you hate, the things you never wear anymore, the things you shouldn’t wear anymore and the things you never wore in the first place.

So, all that’s left is what makes you, YOU.

Now, go out there and rock it!

Jenn Baxter is an accomplished author, speaker and blogger based in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2015, Jenn launched her website, Live a F.A.S.T. Life, based on her own experiences with clean living and downsizing into a 160-square-foot tiny house. She now teaches others how to make similar changes in their own lives through her online webinars and her e-course collection, De-Clutter, De-Tox, De-Stress. Her new book, Live a F.a.s.t. Life: How Stripping Down and Cleaning Up Gave Me My Life Back is available now on her website, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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