Cleaning Out Your Closet: 5 Rules for Deciding What to Keep, Consign or Donate

As manager of North Shore Exchange, a high-end, charity resale shop in Glencoe, Missy Brownson knows just how difficult it can be for clients to part with the once-loved items in their closets.

There’s the gorgeous sheath dress you wore to your son’s graduation, the classic pair of heels you found on sale for a deal (but half a size too small) or the designer skirt that is no longer your style.

But when closet space is at a premium and you find yourself often thinking, “I have nothing to wear,” it’s time to take a critical look at your wardrobe.

“Hanging on to pieces you no longer need—especially when hard-earned money and sentiment is involved—is way too easy,” she says.

Following are Brownson’s rules for cleaning out your closet.

1. Define your current style. Is your style classic and polished? If so, it’s probably time to get rid of the Boho tops you just aren’t wearing any more since you went back to work. Before you get started on clearing out your closet, take some time to really think about how to define your style. What pieces in your closet make you really feel like YOU?

2. Be brutally honest with yourself about what you wear and what you don’t. Do you really love a piece? If the answer is no, then there is really no reason to give up space in your closet. Maybe it was an impulse buy that was overly trendy, or a great deal that really never fit your style.

3. If it doesn’t fit, get rid of it. This rule is an emotionally tough one. Still not sure? If it’s a piece you’ve always loved and would continue to wear, invest in a quality tailor.

4. Follow the two-year rule. Unless it is an overly sentimental piece, if you haven’t worn it in two years it’s time to get rid of it. You may feel guilty about giving away a dress that still has tags on it, but keep the end goal in mind. Your closet will thank you.

5. Categorize as you go. For each piece you are getting rid of, decide then and there what you plan to do with it to make the follow-up process of physically getting rid of your items that much easier.

Make a pile for those items that you are going to throw away: clothes that are ripped or stained, or shoes with damaged heels. For high-end designer items that are still in great shape and in style, sell or consign them to get back a part of your investment. Other unwanted items that are still in good condition can be donated to those who could truly use them.

Looking for a charitable option for donating or consigning your higher-end pieces? North Shore Exchange is a high-end, charity resale shop in Glencoe featuring luxury and contemporary women’s designer clothes and accessories, as well as home furnishings and décor. All of its profits fund organizations providing human services and education for children and families at or below the poverty level, as well as local agency Family Service of Glencoe.  

North Shore Exchange, 372 Hazel Ave., Glencoe, (847) 835-0026,