How to Clean Out Your Closet Without Regrets

Uh oh, Sarah’s about to give advice to tens of people across the Interwebs. What’s she up to this time?

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to quit your job and go to law school (what kind of crazy person would do that?!). I’m going to stick to a slightly less life-altering subject: cleaning out your closet. Since I started doing my monthly budget posts and mentioned how I’ve been selling old clothes to fund new ones, I’ve had at least 3 people ask me for details on 2 different but sometimes related issues:

#1: How do you decide what to get rid of?

#2: How do you make money off your old clothes?

Now before I get into the nitty gritty, a disclaimer: This advice isn’t for everyone. Some people only go shopping a couple times a year and/or have a well-edited (read: small but functional) wardrobe. Those people don’t need help getting rid of stuff.

But for the shopaholics (like yours truly) and hoarders, you might want to take notes.

All of these tips are things I’ve learned myself over the past few years. I used to have a lot of trouble letting go of old things, but at the same time I couldn’t stop buying new things. This kind of behavior makes for an excellent best-selling book series and blockbuster movie, but in real life it leads to buyer’s remorse and a messy, overstuffed closet full of things you don’t wear.

I tried to get on board with the whole “build a wardrobe of basics” thing but then I remembered that I hate basics. For me, there is no goal of a “complete” closet. The way I see it, a complete closet is as ridiculous an idea as a complete music collection: You could get an album of every kind of music there is, but there will be times when none of those albums is what you want to listen to. There will always be new artists and new music to try. And sometimes an album you loved 5 years ago isn’t going to resonate with you anymore. See where I’m going with this?

It took an embarrassingly long time for me to figure it out, but the best option for me is to have a freely rotating closet: when new things come in, old things need to go out. As a bonus, when you learn to let go of things that are relatively new and still in great shape, you can sell those things to help pay off your new things! 

Let’s get down to business with Question #1: How do you decide what to get rid of? These are the 8 reasons I generally have for pulling things off their hangers:

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Anything that falls into that first category (stained, damaged, etc.) can’t be sold, but you shouldn’t be wearing gross stuff like that anyway. Cut it up to use as rags or something.

Everything else could potentially find a new owner, whether you sell or donate. But first, here are the only 3 valid excuses I can think of to keep an otherwise purge-able item:

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I’ll clarify that last point with an example: Maybe you bought a nice suit for an interview one time, but you haven’t worn it since. One day you might need a suit again, and a nice one is expensive. If it still fits, you might want to keep it just so you don’t have to drop a couple hundred dollars again. Or maybe you have one nice cocktail dress but you’re more of a jeans girl. Same kind of deal – you might as well keep the one you have for when you need it.

Notice that “you spent a lot of money on it” is NOT one of the excuses. A too-small pair of Louboutins that you managed to find on clearance for $200 is worth $0 sitting on the floor of your closet. There’s someone in the world with smaller feet who would be happy to pay you for those so you can buy something better.

Alright. Now a little bit about Question #2: How do you make money off your old clothes? I’ve had the most luck with consignment and resale stores.

I started off at a traditional consignment boutique: You bring in your stuff, they accept what they want, and you make a percentage if it sells within a certain amount of time. If not, you can get your stuff back. I had more luck with bags, shoes, and accessories at a traditional consignment store. I think my clothes didn’t sell that well because I’m much smaller than average size.

A few months ago, I switched to a resale boutique that pays cash on the spot. Most people have heard of Plato’s Closet, but they only buy “teen” clothing so they’re not interested in your fabulous Ann Taylor dress. But with a little internet research, I found several resale options for actual adults near me. (To find these places in your area, Google something like “women’s resale fashion [your city].”) I’ve had better luck with these places because I can actually make money off my clothes, not just accessories.

A lot of consignment and resale shops will say they only sell “designer” goods, but don’t let that discourage you. I’ve taken A LOT of clothes to these places – sometimes I’m surprised at what they want, and sometimes I’m surprised at what they don’t want. If one place turns you down, try another one (or even try the same one a month later…seriously). It might just be a matter of what they already have too much of in stock.

The latest trend in resale is the Poshmark app. I won’t try to give a ton of advice about this one because I’ve only used it once, but I was successful! I think Poshmark is a good way to go if you have a designer item that people would actually seek out and pay big bucks for. I sold a used marc by Marc Jacobs bag on Poshmark for $120. Poshmark takes a 20% commission, but $96 is a lot more than I could have gotten if I had sold it to my usual resale place. My advice is to start your price pretty high, then gradually lower it until someone bites – it worked for me! Just Google “Poshmark” if you want more info about it; there are tons of reviews out there.

OK, guys. That’s it. I hope those 3 people who asked me these questions feel fully informed now. More questions? Your own advice? Leave them in the comments! Maybe you’ll inspire a future post. And pretty please: If there are any shopaholics and hoarders in your life, share this with them on Facebook. Or if you want to be passive aggressive about it, just pin it on Pinterest and hope they see it.

Flashback Friday: TOPIO (the Whole Damn Thing)

Happy Friday, everyone! If you followed my blog last month, you know all about the Take One, Pass It On challenge. Every day in November (that I got dressed), I rewore one thing from the day before. Even if you followed along, it’s been awhile since Nov. 1. Let’s take a walk down outfit memory lane, and see all 20 outfits side by side!

If you’re a skeptic who thinks “I can’t wear the same thing 2 days in a row – what will people think?!” The answer is probably: They won’t think anything because they won’t notice. I bet as you look over all these outfits, you’ll find very few of the “repeats” jump out at you.

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See? That’s what makes this little experiment so fun. It gives you the motivation to wear things in new ways. But don’t just take my word for it (because I’m biased)…Check out AJ’s TOPIO roundup and see what she has to say (and honestly she says it better than I ever have).

Even though the “official” challenge is over, I still encourage you to try the Take One challenge in your real life. And then be sure to tell me how much you love it and what a genius I am. And if you already think I’m a genius, I would love it if you would pin the photo above to spread the word about my blog!

One last huge THANK YOU to all the other bloggers who did the challenge in November! You can see their links in the weekly roundups here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4.

Have a good weekend!

5 Ways to Wear a Flared Skirt

This navy skirt was a total clearance rack impulse buy, but it was $10 well spent. I’ve worn it so many times already, and there’s no end in sight. The above-the-knee length is perfect, as is the waist band and cute flared shape. Every girl who knows what’s good for her needs one of these babies.

So let’s get this party started. Here are 5 ways I’ve styled this flared skirt:

1.  For evening

I believe this was actually the skirt’s debut! I wore it with a silky top, a statement necklace, and bright heels to see a Broadway show this summer.

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2.  With a belt

Since the skirt is solid, this patterned belt added some pizzazz. Well, maybe pizzaz is a strong word, but it added something. I’m sure of that.

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3.  Disguised as a dress

I paired my navy skirt with a navy shirt to look like a dress. It’s only as I write this that I remember I already have a long-sleeved navy flared dress. So this was kind of pointless. But at the time, I was in wisdom tooth extraction recovery and was on some drugs, so I’ll blame that.

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4.  For fall

This was the most recent permutation of my ever so versatile skirt. With a sweater and boots, I was ready for some cooler weather. (I’m thinking some bright tights would be another cold-weather addition. Stay tuned!)

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5.  On vacation

Florida seemed like a good setting to try a knotted gingham button-up and orange flats with my skirt.

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In case you’d like to add a flared skirt to your wardrobe, here are some I picked out just for you!

Flared Skirts

1.  Kirna Zabete for Target, $27.98  //  2.  Dorothy Perkins, $59

3.  ModCloth, $47.99  //  4.  Miss Selfridge, $50.00 (comes in other colors too)

5.  ModCloth, $32.99  //  6.  Topshop, $76

What to Wear: Week 3 Update

Two weeks in a row! I am on a roll. If you haven’t read the original “What to Wear?” post, see it here. Last week I had the following items on my card:

  • Pencil skirt
  • Watch
  • Silky blouse
  • Coral & blue LOFT scarf
  • Floral dress
  • Bandolino kitten heels (this is the only one I skipped, because I’ve been wearing these shoes a lot recently – like here and here)20120806-210527.jpg

You might notice that my new Anne Klein watch shows up in several of these photos. I might have a mild obsession.

Hope everyone’s having a great week so far! (Mine started out with taking a sick day Monday because my stomach didn’t feel like facing the day…I don’t wish that on anyone else!)

Previous What to Wear Updates:

What to Wear: Week 2 Update

You might have noticed that it has been a long time since my Week 1 Update of What to Wear. No, there has not been some kind of glitch in the space-time continuum. I just haven’t been using my cards every week. But I did last week, hence the update.

Wait, cards? What are you talking about, Sarah? If you are a relatively new reader of Sarah’s Real Life, or you just need a refresher, see this post, where I break down one of the ways I decide what to wear every day. To me, great style is not just about picking out the trendiest new items; it’s about how you put different pieces together. And when you have a ton of clothes and accessories and shoes like I do, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.

The items on my card for the week were:

  • Wooden bead necklace
  • Cropped jacket/blazer
  • Patterned cardigan
  • Yellow hair bow
  • Yellow pleated skirt

Check it out! These pics should all look familiar if you’ve been reading the past week…20120730-113554.jpg

My little card definitely came in handy this week! The wooden bead necklace was the perfect thing to add to my tourist ensemble and spice up my plain navy tee. The jacket was something I hadn’t worn in forever and was contemplating tossing, but once I wore it I realized I just had to embrace its costume-like quality and have fun with it! This silky cardigan was perfect over a dress for an evening out in Chicago. The yellow bow – I always forget I bought this little guy! – is a fun addition to any outfit. And I’m glad I challenged myself to fit this yellow skirt into a work-friendly outfit.

So…how do you decide what to wear? Leave me a comment! And if you want to be in the loop for future style adventures, use the links in the main menu (above) to follow me on Bloglovin’ or Twitter!

Everyone Loves a Style Makeover

I don’t normally ambush people like in “What Not to Wear,” but if someone asks me for style help, let’s just say I nearly pee my pants with excitement. As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m in South Carolina visiting my in-laws, and my mother-in-law Cindy said she wanted my help cleaning out her closet and shopping. Well…twist my arm.

Cindy is an excellent candidate for a style makeover because (a) she actually wants help, (b) she already has lots of cute clothes, and (c) she loves to shop.

You might be wondering what Cindy even needed my help for. Well, Cindy’s problem is that she’s still hanging on to some less than attractive garments that for some strange reason she thinks it’s OK to still wear. And as for the cute stuff she already has, she doesn’t always do the best job at styling it. You see, Cindy comes from what I like to call the Matchy Match Generation. She thinks that the way to make a cute outfit is to pick a couple colors that look good together and make everything you wear one of those colors.

For example, in the picture below, Cindy styled the outfit on the left. While the print mixing was a great fashion-forward choice, notice that she picked a yellow belt, yellow earrings, and yellow shoes. Please make it stop. I restyled her (picture on the right) with bronze sandals, some silver accessories, and a pop of turquoise in her bracelet. She said the turquoise made her nervous – let’s try not to make fun of her; she’s new at this.

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I had a great time going through Cindy’s closet and saying things like “are you in middle school?” and “are you a Florida retiree?” She would respond with excuses like “well it’s really soft,” and then I would say “I don’t care” and throw it dramatically on the floor. I don’t mess around.

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Below is the pile of clothes for Goodwill. The picture doesn’t do it justice – it was huge! And yes, that is a velour paisley blazer on top. Now you understand why I was needed.

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Then of course we had to do some shopping for some stylish and age-appropriate clothes. Cindy shopped like a champ. She ended up with 3 skirts, 2 tees, a blouse, a tank, 3 pairs of shoes, a summer scarf, a necklace, a bracelet, a clutch, and a belt.

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That night we went out to dinner and I dressed Cindy in a new outfit. Doesn’t she look beautiful?!

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What to Wear: Week 1 Update

For those of you who read my post last week on outfit planning, you’ve probably had troubling sleeping at night because you’ve been wondering, “Did Sarah use one of her index cards last week?! Did she wear everything on the list?! I MUST KNOW!!”

Well, stress no more, my little style fiends. Here is your answer. Yes, I did use one of my index cards last week. The items on the card were:

  • purple peplum top
  • zebra CK flats
  • cropped pants
  • maxi skirt
  • mint green J. Crew necklace
  • solid cardigan

If you look back at the last week of outfit posts, you’ll see that I wore all but the J. Crew necklace! Don’t believe me? See for yourself.

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So, is anyone else going to try it?

By the way, you can now follow Sarah’s Real Life on Bloglovin’. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the link!

What to Wear?

Sometimes people remark that they’ve never seen me wear the same thing twice. Well, I assure you I do wear clothes more than once, but rarely do I repeat exactly the same combination of clothes. It helps that I have an enormous wardrobe.

Today’s entry is about one little trick I use to manage my crazy closet (which is actually a spare bedroom). If your wardrobe is sparse, this may not be helpful to you; but if you are a fellow shopping addict who stares into her stuffed-to-the-brim closet thinking “what the hell am I going to wear today?” then read on…

I came up with this idea at a time when I had lots of older stuff in my closet that I hadn’t worn in awhile but still wanted to wear, as well as several new things to add to the mix.

Start with a few index cards. You will use one for each week – 4 or 5 to begin, but you can always add more later. Now pick a category (for example: tops, jackets, shoes, accessories, skirts, etc.) and on the first line of each card, write down something in that category. It could be one specific item (ex: Ann Taylor striped turtleneck) or something more general (ex: patterned sweater). In the example below, I picked all items of the tops or sweaters variety.

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Then pick another category and write down an item on each card. You see where I’m going with this… You can make as many categories as you like, or you can even pick random items. I started out with categories – tops, shoes, bottoms – then I did a round of randoms, then did two more categories – accessories, jewelry. The “rules” are really up to you. But in general, try to pick out some items that you’ve had for a while but have been neglected, as well as items that are newer. Then be sure to throw in some basics and favorites.

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This project can easily be done on your own, but I consult with my trusty advisor, Coco.

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Once you have your cards done, use them as a jumping off point each day that week when you’re deciding what to wear. You could wear multiple items from your card on the same day, or just pick one thing each day and build your outfit around it. Again, you make the rules so it really doesn’t matter! You can be as strict or as flexible with your cards as you like.

If anyone else decides to try my little scheme, let me know what you think! Did it work for you? Does anyone else have unique ways of managing their closets and thinking of new outfits? Leave me a comment!