It’s Purge Night in your closet.
All bets are off.
All laws are suspended.
For twelve hours, only powerful clothes are safe.
Which outfits will you spare?
And which deserve to die?
A quick look at Rotten Tomatoes will tell you that the jury’s out on whether the premise of the movie The Purge – a society kept under control by a yearly 12-hour period with no laws or emergency services – holds up to scrutiny. But when it comes to your wardrobe, maintaining order via an annual period of merciless settling up actually makes a lot of sense.
Today, I’m going to show you how to lay your internalized “laws” and emotional hang-ups aside and embrace the purge.
Rule 1: The Purge Lasts a Scheduled, Set Length of Time
Know when you need to purge. Sometimes it’s because a lot of your wardrobe has become worn out and you’ve been making do with it for too long. For many men, a transition to a new phase of life prompts the need for a clean-out. If your clothes don’t reflect your age or where you are in your career, or you have a lot of things you never wear, it’s probably time.
Once you know it’s needed, put it on the calendar. Block off a Saturday afternoon and resolve to only do that.
Set a strict time limit – you’ll be less tempted to procrastinate AND less likely to dither unnecessarily about your decisions. The more time you give yourself, the more you’ll overthink things.
Like the film’s, your purge should be annual. Marking aside time to check out your wardrobe in a deliberate way will save you time in the future – time shopping, time getting dressed, time panicking because you forgot that shirt still hanging in your closet has a hole in it.
Subsequent purges won’t be as drastic as your first one. That’s okay. The point is, you’re keeping your wardrobe up to date, in good shape, and pared down to the essentials.
Rule 2: Authorized Weapons Only
For your closet purge, your “weapons” are the questions and concepts you use to aid your decision-making. And heads up: the methods you might be thinking of – making three piles, looking only for what you literally never wear – are weak.
You want to separate the best of your wardrobe from that which just doesn’t make the cut. You want a highly selective process – in your new, stylish wardrobe, every single piece should be a winner.
In his book Essentialism, Greg Mckeown presents a series of questions you might ask while cleaning out a closet – and better questions you could ask instead. He uses the analogy of de-cluttering our closet in the same way we de-clutter our lives…
But let’s focus on his closet strategy.
Don’t ask, “do I like this?” More than likely you do at least a little bit – otherwise, you wouldn’t have bought it in the first place.
Instead, ask: do I wear this often? Do I look GREAT in it? If this was on the shelf in the store, would I buy it again full price?
These are much more powerful questions. They’re derived from one of my men’s style equations – the style equation of value.
If it’s not a ‘hell yeah,’ then it’s a ‘no.’
Rule 3: All (Mental) Emergency Services Are Suspended
That anxiety you feel when you think about getting rid of stuff is a mostly sunk-cost fallacy – the irrational belief that something you’re not using is worth holding onto because you’ve spent money on it.
It may pay off elsewhere, but thrifty self-control won’t serve you here. Turn the “but I spent money on this!” sirens OFF for the duration of the purge.
Move fast and be brutal. Don’t let “someday” or “maybe” get in the way of paring down. Sure maybe someday you’ll get back in shape and wear that again, but in the meantime, it’s just taking up space (or worse, getting worn and making you look like a walking midlife crisis).
Clothes that look even somewhat dated (or just plain old) can make you come across as cheap – like your clothes are all secondhand, and not in a cool thrift-shop hipster way. Chances are, you can get along without them.
The last major category of items you’re going to be getting rid of are those that are only fit for the trash. This is another thing many guys will have reservations about, but stained, worn out, and torn clothes – no matter how nice they used to be – aren’t fit to sell or donate. They should not stay in your closet because of that. Check my handy guide on when to throw away clothes (and more).
Rule 4: No Killing of Outfits Level 10 Or Higher
In The Purge, you’re not allowed to kill a high-ranking government official. In the Closet Purge, you’re not allowed to kill an outfit you could wear in public if you were one.
When your whole wardrobe’s potentially on the chopping block, what do you really need to save? The high-quality, the timeless, the investment pieces that will never go out of style. If they fit great and they’re in great shape (or could fit great and be in great shape with a trip to the tailor) these types of clothes are probably keepers.
Also in your ‘keep’ pile should be clothes that are highly versatile and could become a component of several go-to looks. You know what you wear often and what goes with what, so if you need to turn twenty shirts into ten shirts, for example, build your all-star team from the most frequent picks.
If you need some guidelines, check out my posts on creating an interchangeable wardrobe. The mindset of incorporating maximum versatility will help you build a minimalist wardrobe that works.
After the Purge
Once you’ve purged and you’re looking at your clothes hanging there – vast empty spaces between each item, gaping holes where the clothes that didn’t make the cut once were – you’re going to want to buy tons of new clothes right away.
Unless you literally just trashed all your pants, don’t do that.
Live with your clothes for a little while and work out what you need to complete your wardrobe. Start forming a list of what you need or want, so you can shop strategically. Don’t waste time and money just because the hoarding impulse kicks in.
Create a system for getting rid of unwanted clothes in the future. Have a bag or clothes basket for unwanted clothes near the place where you keep your current rotation. When you buy a new item, is it replacing something else? Put the old item in the bag. When something wears out, make sure it’s out of sight and out of mind so you’re not tempted to venture out in it out of convenience.
You can donate or toss your no-longer-needed basket at your next annual purge.
If your closet hasn’t been cleaned out in ages, this probably sounds daunting, but it will be well worth it for the way it streamlines your mornings – and your laundry days.
Take it one step at a time, and you’ll be left with a wardrobe that consists only of great options. Why settle for less?