How long do you keep your clothes for?
August 10, 2014 10:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm wondering what other people think is a reasonable time frame for getting rid of clothes that they don't really want anymore.

I realise that there are people who believe in ditching anything that doesn't suit, and probably people who wear everything until it falls apart. I have items of clothing that I've bought that have fallen into either of those categories, but generally, I try to keep items of clothing going even if they are not awesome because I can always wear them around the house and it makes me feel less guilty. I know, too, that how much you paid for an item is probably a factor. But maybe not a huge factor? I know that for me, there is some point at which an item that I have kept out of guilt or a sense of obligation gets ditched because I feel that it is long enough. Or maybe I once liked it but it's not really fashionable any more. So I'm talking about those items that are not outrageously unfashionable but just not quite the right cut or colour anymore, or maybe never suited you that much. When do you give yourself permission to replace those?
posted by jojobobo to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (46 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Whenever I need hangers. Seriously. When I buy new clothes, and find that I've run out of room to hang them in my closet, then it's time to get rid of stuff.

How I determine what to get rid of: Generally, I am getting rid of stuff that doesn't fit right/never did; Not as flattering as I wanted it to be; Needs a repair that I am unwilling/unable to do; For whatever reason, I just don't wear it as much/if at all.

I've got some sentimental items that I've let myself keep, but everything else is subject to purge. What I paid for it is pretty irrelevant, but I've never paid much for clothes. That's the best part of shopping at Goodwill - less guilt.
posted by hydra77 at 10:22 PM on August 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

I think there are three potential filtering strategies you could follow:

1. Having clothes to wear - this is the same criteria as is used by most travellers and is the best one for determining everyday wear - if you are at home then I'd suggest you have enough clothes to give you two weeks wear in any given season of the year before you would need to do a laundry. Everything else can be got rid of.
2. Using the storage space you have. - this is basically the strategy that hydra77 outlines regarding hangers: use up the space you have until it is full. Have a purge when it is.
3. Having a collection of clothes - This is where you determine the amount of storage you want to have by the amount of clothes you want to keep. Not everybody who wants a collection of clothes need be an Imelda Marcos - most people need some special occasion clothes for formal events, DIY or sports. Decide what the occasions are for you and how many alternatives you'll need for each.

Choose whatever strategy you like for getting rid of extra clothes - but time your purges for before a shopping expedition so that you can record what you are needing to replace.
posted by rongorongo at 11:14 PM on August 10, 2014

I rent and move often, and so moving house tends to be the time to "purge" those slightly unwanted but not totally useless items of clothing. Having to pack everything up is a good motivator for getting rid of extraneous stuff.
posted by mymbleth at 11:15 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think a reasonable time to rid yourself of any item of clothing is as soon as you decide you don't want to wear it any more... as long as you give it to someone like me (who will wear, and wear out, almost anything free) or Goodwill, so that it stays in circulation, being used to fill a need. Dispersal, not disposal.
posted by Pigpen at 11:23 PM on August 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

As soon as you can afford to replace it with something you like better without straining your budget. If it's wearable, someone else can and will wear it (if you donate or sell it).
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:39 PM on August 10, 2014

Best answer: A few months. Rarely more than 6 (months). YMMV
posted by stubbehtail at 12:21 AM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think a really good set of rules, as someone who shares an apartment with their partner that only has one TINY closet(in a one bedroom apartment! what were they thinking!), is basically this:

1. Have you worn it in two weeks?
2. If not, is it something you only wear when it's the opposite season, or in special circumstances?
3. Will you really wear it in those circumstances? Will you actually encounter them? You don't need to keep your winter parka in san diego unless you plan on going hiking in the mountains or something.(Or at the very least, you only need _one_ jacket for those circumstances, and it can get folded and put away on a high shelf)

The only real exception to this is if i see a really really good deal on a piece of clothing that's a staple for me(IE my favorite pair of pants, in the color/wash i like for $5 at a thrift store in perfect shape) and i'm socking it away for a few months or a couple seasons because i know the current staple ones will give up the ghost and it's just prudence.

I've honestly started to really like having super limited storage space. Previously, i've lived in places where the storage space was essentially infinite within reason, and i've had friends who had storage space that was essentially infinite beyond reason(IE an entire large extra bedroom/"guest room" in their house to just put up clothing racks and pile stuff in). Stale things or "oh but i sort of like that!" that i never actually wore would pile up.

I also gave myself a few exceptions, like a few stunt pieces of clothing. I have a hugh hefner type smoking jacket/robe, a cheesy 70s blue suit i've worn to a few costume parties/"prom" parties, etc. But i have a core stack of button ups, a core stack of jackets, a core stack of undershirts/tees, and only maybe 4 pairs of pants and 4 pairs of shorts. I think i'm probably going to keep it this way forever. It's actually pretty nice going "well you can't have 15 button up shirts because there just isn't room". Keeps it from getting out of hand, and also makes you only really want to have stuff that really fits and looks good because if it doesn't quite hit the mark, then it's taking a seat on the bench something that does could be in if/when you find that item.

Also, don't save shit to patch/repair. Do it that week, or get rid of it. Stuff i really really liked i'd fix after i got home from work if just a button popped off in the middle or something. Stuff i could go either way on would languish in a bottom drawer for months. It's an easy way to identify what you really care about.
posted by emptythought at 12:22 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: My rules are simple:

1. Have I worn it in the last year?
2. Am I positive I'll wear it in the next 2 months?

If the answer to both is "no" it goes out. If the answer to #2 is "yes" then it gets a two month reprieve and if I still haven't worn it after that time then it goes out.
posted by mr_silver at 12:54 AM on August 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If the season for wearing an item has passed and I haven't worn it, it gets put in the back of the closet until it's time to make a trip to goodwill. I have plenty of clothes to wear around the house, and the money's already spent, so there's really no use in keeping them.

If I've gotten by without wearing something for a whole season, I probably don't need to replace it. I don't buy clothes based on keeping the same number of items in my closet. I buy clothes when I find myself wishing I had a particular type of item I think I'd wear a lot, or when I find myself running out of things to wear.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:25 AM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Socks need to do the sock job, when they fail to do the sock job toss them. Underwear needs to do the underwear job, when they fail to do the underwear job toss them. A coat needs to do the coat job, when it fails to do the coat job toss it. A garment that was purchased by someone you will see again, whether you like it or not, is a nice thing to wear in their presence.

Whatever the article of clothing, it will come back into fashion.

Some people spend a lot more money on clothes and have more limited closet space than I.
posted by vapidave at 1:35 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I generally get rid of things in job lots when moving, or when I'm running out of storage space, or when someone else offers to deliver them for me (I'm bad at doing it myself).

I generally ask myself 1) Do I like wearing this? If yes, it stays, if no, then 2) Are there situations when I may need this. Note that I am strangely shaped and don't shop for clothes often, so I err on the side of keeping things. If I knew that I could easily run out and buy myself some cheap clothes to, say, paint in, I wouldn't keep the 10 year old t-shirt and daggy tracky-daks I have at the bottom of my drawer.

But generally, I try to wear clothes that make me feel good. So I keep those, and try to chuck or replace-then-chuck the clothes that I feel negatively about.
posted by kjs4 at 1:41 AM on August 11, 2014

Response by poster: Specifically wanting time frames, rather than philosophies or rationales. If you have such a philosophy, great, but what kind of turn around does that commonly create?
posted by jojobobo at 1:50 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: I go through my wardrobe every 3 to 6 months. Anything I decide I don't actually love or I haven't worn since the last purge goes. There are bits and pieces in between where I decide "naah" and it goes in the charity bag.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:45 AM on August 11, 2014

Time-wise, most trendy things won't survive a season. The less trendy a thing is (colour, cut, combination), the longer you can get away with it. You can unselfconsciously wear preppy / classic (some might call them boring) clothes for as long as they hold together. Anything beyond that is going to involve opinions about specifics, ideas about fashion, etc.

Sometimes, a thing is part of a larger theme that sticks across seasons -- skinnies were a fad that stayed; one-shouldered things hung around for a long while, same with tunics and oversized t-shirts. The things that sneak into slightly longer relevance depend partly on whatever happens in high fashion, partly on celebrities, and partly on regular people loving a thing (Uggs). Watch people/skim magazines now and then, and read people who will filter the high end stuff for tips. Patterns almost never stay for longer than a season, other than polka dots and stripes; oversized or distinctive patterns especially go quick (small black and white polka dots are more wearable across seasons than massive pink ones).

That said, my observations on things that cycle: summer seems to reliably move between navy/marine themes, bright colours (e.g. neons or just brights), pastels, all white, athletic looks, and boho. Fall/winter, between military looks, luxe jewel tones and fabrics (e.g. velvet, lace), leather/bad-ass, preppy (often goes with plaid) - there are more but I'm loathe to think about winter right now, sorry :(. Keeping things that touch - lightly - on those themes wouldn't steer you wrong; tops/blouses and non-faddish bottoms (pencil skirts and tapered pants, vs. pouffy mini or pleated culottes) tend to be safest. Chinoiserie, animal prints, and menswear (houndstooth; grey) each seem to come back on about a 3-4 year cycle. Now and then space/futurist themes, usually expressed in metallics, pop up. Past decades (these days, 50s/60s, because of Mad Men still I think) turn up too, maybe on a three year cycle.

If you go with some mix of classic and vintage styles, or things that are just so unique they're beyond fashion, you can hang onto those and not think twice.

But, if you're just wearing these things around the house and you're mostly concerned with cost/ecological impact, wear them as long as you want to, and store them apart from things you wear out.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:52 AM on August 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Once I decide I don't t really like something, it takes me at most a week or two to fit in a trip to the recycling centre or a charity shop. This is from someone who has plenty of clothes that are ten or more years old. The crucial decision for me is whether I still like wearing something, not how old it is, so I often end up getting rid of newer clothes because I tired of the style, while hanging onto the old reliables. (The exception is that I keep one set of old clothes for gardening, where it's purely durability and not likeability that counts.)
posted by Azara at 3:16 AM on August 11, 2014

If the stuff fits well, is well made, and is still in good condition then it usually stays whether I like it or not, because fashion and my brain go in cycles and no doubt I'll get back to it at some point.

If it's badly made or doesn't fit, or doesn't flatter, or I guess if it's officially Too Young for my current age, then it goes on a kind of 6 months - 1 year cycle.

But then I don't buy "trendy" things unless I really honestly love them and would wear them trendy or not.
posted by emilyw at 3:29 AM on August 11, 2014

I almost never throw away any clothes. The shirt I am wearing right now I bought in about 2007! And it still looks quite current actually. I also try to avoid the temptation these days of buying new clothes unless its quite necessary.

I do throw things away if they get holes in them and if I move flat (each 3-5 years lately) I may throw out a bunch of stuff I don't wear any more.
posted by mary8nne at 3:54 AM on August 11, 2014

It depends on the type of clothes and its quality, but I have many clothes that I've owned and used for a decade such as sweaters and coats that people tell me look new. Taking care of the clothes (brushing, folding properly) helps much more than you'd think. If it's still in great shape, then I would definitely keep clothes that I don't wear anymore since sometimes down the line, you start looking good in them again (due to change in skin tone, general outline, etc.), or you will find a new way to wear them. I would never throw away anything after just one season.

However, the trend of fast fashion is the opposite. It is not durable, and the designs often times reflect the trend of the moment, so it is meant to be worn one season and thrown away. This is a new phenomenon in fashion that reflects our modern commercial society. A hundred years ago, if someone tailor made a coat, that coat could be passed down to their children and their grand children, but this was only possible because of it being of high quality. So ultimately, you should let yourself be flexible when deciding when to throw things away based on its quality, I would say.
posted by snufkin5 at 3:54 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

A good technique for weeding out your closet is to go through and reverse all the hangers so the hook is facing towards you instead of away from you. Then, as you wear, wash, and put away items, hang them back up with the hanger facing the correct direction. After some time has passed (a year, six months, whatever time period you want to use) you can quickly see which items you haven't worn in that time period because they are the ones still on reversed hangers.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:04 AM on August 11, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Generally I find most everyday clothes are good for me for about three years before I ditch them, though jeans and business clothes can hold up longer.
posted by Andrhia at 4:20 AM on August 11, 2014

How about every significant season change? No point in holding on to a coat you hate all through summer just taking up space in your cupboard.
posted by kjs4 at 4:38 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh wow. I cycle my clothes much less frequently then others. 5 years at the minimum.
posted by royalsong at 5:08 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: I do a major purge every 2-3 years. Things only get tossed in the meantime if they come to my attention because they're falling apart (rips, holes, broken zippers, etc.) Everything else sits until the big clean-out.
posted by whitewall at 5:17 AM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Judging from the answers up-thread, I think I have a much smaller number of clothes that I cycle through much faster than other people do. It's not uncommon for me to wear the same clothes every week for a few months, then once or twice a month during their relative off-season, and at the end of 6 mo to a year, those clothes are pretty noticeably worn and have to go to charity.

I wear things until they're worn out, but as a general rule, they get worn out between 6-12 mo, with 3 mo as the minimum, and 2 years as the maximum. There are exceptions to the rule, though -- the stuff that's especially well-made or that I really like, I'll repair or keep around even if it's a little sloppy. The hoodie I'm wearing at this moment is about three years old, for example. I have another hoodie that's about ten years old that I've mended almost every part of. I have a leather jacket that I've gotten the zipper replaced on twice, that's about seven years old. If something has sentimental value, like a T-shirt I bought on a trip or got for an event or something, I'll keep it basically forever regardless of whether I wear it (honestly, I'll probably never actually wear it, but who cares, seeing it in the drawer brings back happy memories).

The exception is to clothes that I've *never* worn and that have just been sitting in my closet for maybe years at a time. I'll keep them until I wear them. If after trying to wear them for a while, to the point that they start looking at least slightly "worn," I still don't feel good in them, then I'll give them to charity. Depending on how loathe I am to wear that piece of clothing in the first place, that time is pretty variable, but I would guess maybe six months. It's usually based on the piece of clothing showing its first sign of wear rather than on the length of time, though.

I'm not understanding the "wear at home" idea? If I don't like a piece of clothing but am sort of stuck trying it out for a bit, I'm personally way more likely to wear it to work or other places that I have to be than to wear it at home, because at home, I can dress however I want and don't have to wear ugly or uncomfortable things. So I tend to wear my favorite things at home. Do you mean "wear at home" like, you'll wear the pieces you don't really like for chores or jobs that have the potential for messing up your clothes, or something like that?
posted by rue72 at 5:43 AM on August 11, 2014

jojobobo, no time frame here. I still wear the dressy skirt I was married in (1992.) It's well-made and in good condition, so there's no reason to ditch it because it's "old."

I let fit be the deciding factor. If the jeans no longer zip up, to Goodwill they go. And if anything gets stained (the kind you can't remove no matter what) it gets tossed, regardless how new the garment might be.
posted by BostonTerrier at 5:51 AM on August 11, 2014

Once I admit I don't really wear an article of clothing and don't like it, it goes to goodwill. This assumes that I have other suitable clothes that I do wear or like, of course. But if I don't like it, I feel no guilt about getting rid of it.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:59 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wanted to add a couple more thoughts. One, the reason I am so willing to give myself permission to get rid of stuff is that I feel less cluttered mentally when I have less clutter lying around physically.

Two, you should give yourself permission to get rid of stuff sooner if it nice clothing you paid a lot of money for that you don't happen to like. If you wear it around the house, particularly if you wear it around the house doing chores, it won't be put to its intended use. If you donate it, someone else can wear it to a job interview, to work, or on a date. That is best for everyone. You're not being wasteful; you're being the opposite of that.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:11 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: I ask myself the question "Did I take this item of clothing off again and change into something else the last few times I tried it on?" If the answer is yes, into the goodwill bag it goes.

As far as timelines go, I'd say 2-4 months. If I haven't worn something in that time frame, it's gone. Unless it's something like a fancier dress I haven't had an opportunity to wear or something seasonally inappropriate (a heavy sweater I haven't worn since last winter doesn't count). I cull my wardrobe regularly, probably at least once a month.
posted by futureisunwritten at 6:21 AM on August 11, 2014

Every fall, I put away summer clothes and get out my winter clothes, and then I swap out winter clothes for summer clothes in the spring, and that's when I toss aside stuff that doesn't work anymore. If anything wasn't worn in the last season when it was relevant, that's probably evidence that it's time to give it away. I do have some things that have survived a couple of winters without being worn, but generally it's because I love the garment even if it doesn't really work.
I have learned that it is better to keep clothes that don't fit, especially if the reason that they don't fit is because of size fluctuations. I've had enough of that over the past few years and I've realized that I've given away a lot of great clothes in good shape only to be in that size again within a few years. Right now, this is really relevant as I am pregnant. I may have to size up some pants for the in-between months (if I do get back to pre-pregnancy pants) and I'll also want to store away maternity clothes in case I get pregnant again in the next few years. This is worth the cost of storage (which, for me, is low, given that I have the space in the house).
This is for pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, and other regular clothes. I get new bras at least once a year, but I don't examine socks and underwear for years at a time. I hate throwing away shoes even if they're in terrible shape, so I will keep shoes until there is seriously no more room in the closet.
posted by aabbbiee at 6:46 AM on August 11, 2014

If I don’t like something, I only keep it if it fulfills a wardrobe need that I don’t have a replacement for yet. For example, I like to have seven work-appropriate outfits for summer and for winter; I may not like #7 and rarely end up wearing it, but I keep it as a backup until something else comes along. If I notice stuff I don’t like or is worn, I pull it out immediately; I go through my closets about once a year to cull anything I missed.

But I don’t intentionally keep stuff out of guilt for any particular period of time. Bygones!
posted by metasarah at 7:06 AM on August 11, 2014

I spent a lot of my life broke, at 46 I am finally in a position to buy nicer clothes. I can for the first time get clothes that fit nice and don't have to keep stained shirts etc just in case etc. It is so liberating. I edit my closet as I go, if I pull out an item and find myself thinking ugh it's got a stain, or I really don't like it I ditch our donate it. Being a big woman I never got the good items from goodwill, being able to buy something just because I like it and not just because it was on sale at Wal-Mart and I can't walk around naked is an amazing feeling that has effected all areas of my life. I feel pretty for the first time ever. Don't keep clothes that don't make you feel good about yourself if you don't have to. Keep a couple of "painting/diy" items, get rid of anything else that makes you go ugh, this thing.
posted by wwax at 7:16 AM on August 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I do try to get rid of things I wind up not using or that I wear a lot and are now worn out, and to keep things within the medium amount of storage space I have. In specific terms, that means that almost everything I have is less than 5-6 years old. The last time I moved was 9 years ago and I have only a handful of things that I had before I moved--some sturdy t-shirts for exercise, my favorite wind proof fleece, a hand knit sweater, etc. I don't necessarily buy "trendy" and I'm not that worried about things being out of fashion, but I also don't worry about buying "quality" items that will last for decades. I frankly think I would start getting bored with even my favorite pieces after wearing them regularly for more than 5 years.
posted by drlith at 7:27 AM on August 11, 2014

Because I feel that I currently have an Adequate But Not Excessive Amount of Clothes, I try to work on a one-in, one-out principle. If I buy something new, when I put it into my closet for the first time, I try to find a similar item that is really too worn or stained to wear, to throw out, or something I just haven't been wearing, to take to Goodwill. (My philosophy is that instead of hoarding clothes I don't wear and enjoy, I should release them to be found by some person will be delighted with them and wear them often, which is clearly a better use of our Earth's precious natural resources.)

I despise clothes shopping, so, more commonly, I end up throwing something out that is horribly stained and/or in tatters, and then have to force myself to go out and buy a replacement for it due to the one-out, one-in corollary to the above principle. (I'm currently down one pair of shorts and one pair of pants. Ugh.)
posted by BrashTech at 7:33 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

My method: Take the stuff you aren't wearing and put it aside. The plan is to take it to Goodwill - but don't do that yet. You aren't getting rid of anything yet, so you can be aggressive in going through your wardrobe. Leave the stuff in storage and wait 3-6 months.

Now you're ready. Go through the Goodwill bag. Did you forget you owned that sweater? Are you happy to find it again? Did you miss in during the time it was in storage? No? Get rid of it.

And by get rid of, I mean follow through and bring it to Goodwill where it will become a treasure to someone else.
posted by maryr at 7:50 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

No literal time frame. I buy classic stuff (Brooks, Armani, etc) mostly at thrift stores, making sure it's in like-new condition, and then wear it till it shows wear, and then donate it to a thrift store. Buying classic cuts and colors assures that fashion volatility doesn't date my clothes. I get compliments, which I choose to believe.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:53 AM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't have a timeframe either. If the clothes look good, fit well and are fashionable then I'll subconsciously be drawn to them when I pick something to wear, whatever the age of them.

As soon as they fail one or more if those criteria then I'm less likely to wear it. Once a year has gone by and I've not worn it then the chances are high that I'm never going to do so again. At that point, they go out.
posted by mr_silver at 7:57 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: I consider the cost and the number of wears, and am also a Goodwill shopper in part because of that.

So my formula is as follows:
- Original cost $1-$4 will give myself permission to give away, throw out, or donate without ever wearing it if I for some reason decide it was a bad decision to buy it
- Original cost $5-$10, I want to have worn it at least 3 or 4 times to have gotten what I consider a fair value from the purchase
- Original cost $10-$30, I want to be able to wear it at least occasionally while in season for 1 to 3 years

I do not want to spend more than $30 on an item of clothing unless it's for a special occasion or I expect to wear it more like 50-100 times, or until it wears out, whatever. I minimize washing my clothes to unless they are visibly stained or actually smell to try to extend their wearable life - I don't just wash stuff every time it's been on my body. So I guess I basically want to spend no more than about $2 per wear of clothing, generally speaking, although usually I'm pretty good at picking stuff I'll enjoy for several years at least and probably spending only a few cents for each wear.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:00 AM on August 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I second all the methodologies above, in that the trick is to have a plan in place to weed out your 'not-so-favorite' or 'not-favorite-anymore' clothes during the year, as you wear them. For me, some get culled when I pull them from storage for the upcoming season, while others get culled when I wear them or at the end of the season when I put them up realizing that they didn't wear as well as I wanted or didn't fit as well as I'd hoped. Then they go in the Goodwill/Salvation Army/Thrift Store/Surplus/Consignment bag, and then when I go to those places to shop, I give back as well as get.

Yes, I have skipped a year or so and bought an item I'd previously bought, had second thoughts on, then returned. Also, can't bear to get rid of those t-shirts? T-shirt quilts!
posted by eclectist at 9:11 AM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't keep or wear clothes I don't like. Once I know I don't like something, it's effectively gone. I do have around-the-house clothes, but they're generally exceedingly comfortable (e.g. sundresses that aren't faded or threadbare but feel lovely on a hot day, giant sweaters for winter) and/or have high sentimental value (t-shirts from high school and college). I try not to have any clothes I don't like to wear (like for instance I should get rid of a couple of perfectly serviceable dress shirts that were just right for my last job but don't fit in at my current place of work).

When I notice that I don't like something, or if it sits in the mending basket for more than a couple of months (i.e. I like it but not enough to mend it), it goes into the Goodwill box - the actual box only gets taken to Goodwill a few times a year, and once in a while an item earns a reprieve, like if I realize I don't have enough of that particular kind of clothes and I need SOMETHING to wear.

I have more trouble with holding on to clothes I like but am unlikely to wear - a dress that looks great but I've already worn to every possible wedding, a beautiful but impractical ankle-length coat, stuff like that. I try to purge that stuff a couple of times a year.

As far as giving myself permission, the way I see it, getting rid of the clothes is not the mistake - the mistake was buying clothes that were poorly made or didn't suit me (I have very little guilt about clothes that are properly worn out or just non-useful anymore). The clothes in my closet are the result of choices I made in the past, and maybe I want to make different choices in the future (buy better-made/more classic-styled clothes, spend less on clothes I know I'll only wear a few times) but that doesn't help the current state of my (small, shared) closet.
posted by mskyle at 9:42 AM on August 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

If it doesn't fit me well, I don't like it, or it is in poor repair, it goes to the thrift store or the trash pretty much immediately. But if I like it, I'll keep it for decades. I still own t-shirts from high school.

Of course, nearly all of my clothes come from thrift stores or discount stores so it's really no big deal to get rid of something.
posted by zug at 9:46 AM on August 11, 2014

My flowchart:

This process starts when there's not enough room in my closets for new and/or existing clothes.

Does it fit?
No? -- donate it to Goodwill or similar charity.
Yes? --
Is it worn out / does it have holes in it?
Yes? -- don't donate it but throw it out, or use it as a rag if appropriate. (Reason being -- Sure, if you're poor, ripped/worn out clothes are better than nothing, but they announce to the world that you're poor and maybe that's something you'd rather the public not know about.)
No? --
Have I worn it in the past year?
No? -- donate it to Goodwill or similar charity.
Yes? --
Does it have sentimental value (like my wedding tux) or might I need it on infrequent occasion (like a suit and tie)?
Yes? -- keep it.
No? --
Do I like it?
No? -- donate it to Goodwill or similar charity.
Yes? -- keep it.
posted by tckma at 10:19 AM on August 11, 2014

I keep things that don't fit, because I tend to fluctuate a couple sizes over the course of a year or so. However, once something doesn't fit it gets the strict "is this a favorite?" assessment and if it's not, I don't hold onto it.

Other things I keep for a long time. I have jeans that I've had for 10 years. Tee-shirts last a couple years, then if they are ratty I prefer to throw them out ( but I'm bad about doing this because I'm poor and always feel like I need to hang onto things). I've lately moved into a new place with a much smaller closet and it encouraged me to do a pretty strict purge - to finally get rid of some ratty flare-leg pants I wore in college, for example.
posted by celtalitha at 10:29 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: I purge when I switch out my cold weather and warm weather clothes, so about every six months. But I have clothing that has been part of my wardrobe for decades, and clothing that doesn't end up making the permanent cut after a few months. It has do do with whether it actually gets worn (I've gotten really good at choosing wisely but things still slip in that end up not catching on in my wardrobe), and a few things get kept because they're sentimental or just too fabulous to let go.
posted by padraigin at 11:24 AM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: I have a simple test:

Have I worn it in the last two years? (because, you know, special occasions that needs special clothing - Halloween, Christmas, beach clothing which realistically gets used only once a year, etc)

If the answer is NO, then it goes to charity or to family/friends.

Having said that, it's not always easy, so I **have** kept a few items that I haven't worn in the past two years (some going on ten years and still have not worn!).

But as a general rule of thumb, this rule works wonders for 90% of my clothing.
posted by moiraine at 12:23 PM on August 11, 2014

Best answer: I purge when I switch things out for the season, so about twice a year. Also, if I replace all of one thing (I tend to buy multiple pairs of jeans at once, for example) I get rid of all the old pairs at the same time.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 3:07 PM on August 11, 2014

Response by poster: This has been really interesting, thanks everyone. It seems I hold on to things longer than most. I hear that clothes are cheaper in the us so maybe that plays a role. To answer a question above re:round the house clothes- I have a bunch of clothes that have bleach stains on them/I shrank in the wash but not too badly/are out of fashion/stretched etc that I change into after work r that this year, on maternity leave with a messy puppy and a messy baby, I wear over the course of the day, knowing that I can wash them a milllion times and not be shortening the life span of clothes I really like.
posted by jojobobo at 3:20 PM on August 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

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