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If in Doubt, Thou Shalt Throw it Out


To keep, or not to keep – that is the question. Or perhaps, as it is in my case, the question is rather: how much closet space do I have?

I have reached a point where mine is bursting at the seams. I have long ago passed the point where it became necessary to divide my wardrobe into summer and winter, and store the out-of-season garments in my storage room in the garage. Now I have come to the inescapable conclusion that I must actually throw things out.

What a frightening prospect! The last time I did a major overhaul of my wardrobe was when I switched from bohemian eccentricity to extreme minimalism, and I got rid of virtually every single vintage garment I owned.

The memory still makes me wince slightly, although there are really only a few items that I truly regret: the watermelon 20s-style velvet coat with the large, ruched collar; the swingy 40s black lace dress, and the 40s black crepe tie-back short sleeved tailored top; the darling little red linen 60s jacket trimmed in black and white polka-dotted ruffles; the black satin diamanté buckled Ferragamo square-toed 60s heels; the 70s Morticia black dress trimmed in pleated organza ruffles … WHAT WAS I THINKING? If I could shake myself, I would. Please excuse me while I shed a few bitter tears. (Interestingly, there is a lot of black in that list.)

Now, although I know I need to thin the ranks, I’m apprehensive. What if I throw out the wrong thing?

… ‘if in doubt, throw it out’ is a long-held motto that has many times clinched anxious sartorial nail biting.

Sometimes it is glaringly obvious when a garment has passed its use-by date and it is easy to discard it. Other times I am not quite sure, but if the item is really rather ordinary and easily replaced with a newer, younger model, I consult my inner fashionista. If there is indecision, then I will be ruthless: ‘if in doubt, throw it out’ is a long-held motto that has many times clinched this anxious sartorial nail biting. It is my cardinal rule that answers when all else fails.

I am probably not alone in my concern on discarding something I might want again in the future – lovers of vintage will especially agree. So often it seems that no sooner I toss, lo and behold a week later I suddenly find myself wishing I still had the thing. It’s very annoying.

So, if you are in the same boat, here is my little self-help guide. Hold my hand, take a deep breath, and we’ll do this together. Just remember one thing: you will need to be ruthless.

Where to start

You will need to try things on, so make sure you’re wearing the right underwear, you have good light, and access to a full-length mirror.

When you are deciding on a particular garment, do take the time to try it on with something it matches reasonably well so that you can make a fair judgment.

If you need someone else’s opinion, enlist a good friend whose fashion sense is impeccable to spend the day with you. (Ply them with wine and other tempting snacks to keep them good-humoured and operating at peak efficiency.)

Put on some fun music (although not so fun that you get distracted with dancing to it).


  • If it is unflattering, throw it out
  • If it is damaged and irreparable, throw it out
  • If it does not fit, and is not likely to ever again, and cannot be altered, throw it out
  • If it is poorly constructed or cheap and nasty, and does nothing for you, throw it out
  • If the colour looks horrible on you, throw it out
  • If it is ugly, throw it out (do I need to reiterate this after the last commandment?)
  • If you never wear it, or just don’t need it, throw it out
  • If it just doesn’t fit in with your style anymore, throw it out
  • If it makes you look completely the wrong age (like a child or a nanna), throw it out
  • If you own a half-dozen of them, throw it out – keep only the best

If you passionately love it, KEEP IT

When to KEEP

  • If you wear it all the time, and it is brilliantly useful, KEEP IT
  • If it is practical and you go back to it time and again, KEEP IT
  • If you passionately love it, KEEP IT
  • If it suits you, it makes you feel wonderful and look stunning, and you will probably wear it occasionally, KEEP IT


  • If it is something you are fairly certain you will rarely wear, but it is truly unique, well-made from high-quality materials, or collectible, (eg, designer or vintage) and you have space for it, KEEP IT
  • If it is a specialist item such as sports gear that would be expensive to replace, is in good condition and emits no offensive odour, KEEP IT
  • If it is an item you just don’t think you can part with just yet, store it for a while and if in six months’ time you haven’t missed it, (or a season passes and you haven’t worn it), throw it out


If none of the above seem to apply and something is still niggling at you, ask yourself, “Am I in doubt?” Obviously, if you have reached this point, YOU ARE. So exercise some self-discipline and THROW IT OUT. You will find it very liberating, I promise.

Now that you have rid yourself of all that bad fashion feng shui, you are probably feeling a virtuous glow. Not only that, you are also the proud possessor of a tidy wardrobe, and, even more importantly, a wardrobe with space in it. And we all know what that state of delightful affairs indicates: time to go shopping!


But before you step one foot in any dangerously tempting shopping strip, you will need to arm yourself with the Sixth Commandment of Miss Moses: ‘Thou Shalt Shop With the Precision of a Military Campaigner.’ Come back in a week or so for the next installment.

If you’ve just tuned in, or would like to refresh your memory, click here to review all the Fashion Commandments. 

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