September is a tease of a month: it always seems like the beginning of fall (it has that “-ber” ending that all the other prime-time fall months have!) but the summer heat is usually still lingering around. Come September, I tend to start fantasizing about fall looks and am emotionally “over” my sundresses, but it’s far too early to put the wardrobe switch into effect.
And for all of these reasons, September is the perfect time to do your summer wardrobe cull.
In these final weeks of heat (or early weeks of cool), take stock of what you have (and, more importantly, what you have not) worn in the past months of warmth. If you haven’t worn it this summer, chances are you won’t wear it next summer. The obvious exceptions to that rule are formal wear and investment pieces, especially this summer when we’ve had so few events to dress up for. But even there I think there’s still a “shelf-life”: if you haven’t worn a given item in three or four years of summers, then it’s likely you never will again.
But back to the main point . . . it’s time to clean house! And it can be tough to do this at the end of a season. The little nagging voice in my head is an effective impediment to culling: “But you might wear it next year,” it says, or, “It’s so cute—why don’t you wear it?!” That nagging little voice is one part thrift and two parts fear: fear that I’ll regret giving the piece away, fear at acknowledging money spent without return, fear at needing to replace the piece, fear of losing the potential that piece represented.
That nagging little voice needs proof. So use these coming days of warmth to prove to it and to yourself that you will not wear what you have not worn.
How do you do this? There are lots of ideas out there for how to effectively take stock of what you have and wear, but I’m here to advocate the clothing rack process.
I recently discovered the usefulness of a clothing rack. It was a necessary addition to my room because it doesn’t have a closet, but it’s had some unexpected benefits for how I live, dress, and clean out my wardrobe. Even if you don’t need a clothing rack, it might be worth seeing if one can be added to your room, and here’s why.
First, it makes it so easy to see what I have. Nothing gets lost in the far edges of the closet or on the floor jumbled up with the shoes. Nothing gets forgotten in the weekly rotation. This means that if I haven’t worn something in a while, I know it’s because I didn’t want to, not because I simply forgot I owned it.
Second, it makes it easy to be inspired by what I have. I get to see the pretty things I own, the cool difference between textures and prints all beautifully jumbled together. This inspires me to break up my outfit ruts and pair new things together. I feel like this increases the capacity or potentiality of my wardrobe. And, again, it’s a pretty good indicator of what I simply don’t like/wear/need.
Tips for making the clothing rack approach work for you
Rather than putting your entire closet on it, you could “target place”: pick out the items you’re considering getting rid of—the things you haven’t worn in a while, things you don’t love anymore, things that don’t fit well, etc. Put these questionable items in plain sight and see if that makes you reach for them more frequently. Possible variation here: you could challenge yourself to wear one item from the rack every day, mixing those items in with your go-tos in your main closet. Whatever you don’t wear at the end of September gets donated.
If you’re trying to build a truly minimalist wardrobe, you could do this the opposite way: put out a little capsule wardrobe, only what you love and wear regularly. Limit yourself to between 15 and 30 items. Give yourself the inverse challenge: try to wear only what’s on the rack. Things that remain in the closet at the end of September get donated (again, formal wear and investment pieces are the obvious exception to this rule).
If you don’t have room for or simply don’t want to buy a clothing rack, you can adapt this to your regular closet without too much difficulty. Pick out the “prime location,” the place your eye sees first and best. This isn’t quite the same as having the items in your line of sight all the time, but it mimics this accessibility. Then put either your collection of likely donations or your proposed capsule wardrobe in this prime locale. Challenge yourself to dress only from that location for the month and see what happens. And when September ends, you know what to do.
I’m including here some clothing rack options of varying prices. If you just want one for this quick project, a cheap one will do the trick. If you decide you want to have it as a more permanent fixture, it’s worth it to spend a bit of money—I’ve mistakenly gotten cheap ones, and they fell apart with daily use. Happy wardrobe re-working!
- RIGGA clothes rack, $12.99: This is a nice cheap one for a temporary project. When you’re done, you can easily donate it to a Goodwill.
- Pipe Clothing Rack, $129: This is a great sturdy piece which can accommodate your whole closet long after the closet-clean out is complete!
- Levy Clothing Rack, $89: If you’re more of a natural wood than an industrial metal gal, this one would be good for a more aggressive closet-clean out and then for displaying a large chunk of your closet—plus, the shelves on the bottom are nice for shoes.
- Slim Clothing Rack, $98: This one is perfect for a mini-assessment, where you put out only the things you either love or never wear. After the clean-out project, display a capsule wardrobe or simply display your favorite pieces as part of your room decor.
- Cameron Clothing Rack, $129: This one is nice because it’s a metal-wood combo, with shelves on the bottom and on the top. If you need to rely entirely on a clothing rack as your closet, this would be my recommendation!