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Conscious Closet Clean-Out

April 06, 2020

Like so many, Dakota and I are navigating this break in our routine and trying to take the time to self-reflect and think about our friends and family, business, and community. Last year we announced Harper & Tucker's sustainable fashion initiative and our choice to reconsider our collections and partner only with companies that are setting high standards in their commitment to sustainable and ethical fashion. With that in mind, I personally wanted to continue my own education on the topic and discover tangible ways in which I could implement these values in my own closet.

This independent research lead me to Elizabeth Cline, a Brooklyn-based journalist and advocate, whose first book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashionexposed and explored the true nature of fast fashion, its toll on independent retailers, and the psychological obsession with bulk buying and deal seeking. While I did purchase Overdressed and plan to tackle it next, I was immediately drawn to her most recent book: The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing GoodThe Conscious Closet had been sitting unopened on my side table for months now, but I have finally dived in and found that it has been more enlightening than I could have ever anticipated. 

In summary, The Conscious Closet is organized around strategies and tools that guide its reader through an exploration of their present closet and future wardrobe. A self-described style-seeking fashionista, Cline understands that everybody has their own unique relationship with clothes, so regardless if you have 50 items in your closet or 500, her goal is to educate and encourage mindful and conscious shopping so that you can keep up with trends, mitigate harm to the environment, save money on future-unworn items, and recycle clothes responsibly and even make a buck off of it! 

Building a conscious closet starts with greater awareness and the next garment you purchase, not by feeling guilty about the ones you already have” The Conscious Closet, p.16

Cline's guide to building a conscious closet is divided into six different parts and Part 1: The Conscious-Closet Cleanout is a 'spring cleaning' like I have never done before. Rather than mindlessly throwing clothes into a bin and making decisions with your gut, instead create a mental inventory and answer: "Do I wear this?" "Where was this made?" "What is the fabric?" "Is that a synthetic or natural fabric?" "Can I resell this?"

While the act of asking and answering is in of itself a much more mindful clean-out, Cline encourages you to track and take note of your answers to make this an active and empirical exercise rather than a passive one. She advises to take note of fabrics, countries of origins and even the different eco-footprints of items (i.e. vintage or secondhand). By just listing these categories it informs you holistically on the clothes you wear every day.

I tweaked her original inventory guide slightly to actually break down and specify this information based upon the garment type and also track the outcome of the item itself ("keep", "sell", "donate", "recycle"). I additionally wanted to list how I acquired the clothing - was it purchased online, in a big box retailer, boutique, hand-me-down etc. I will say...this made the process much more tedious than her original guide, but I just really wanted to get as much from this exercise as I possibly could. I also had some hypotheses on my own buying practices in the back of my mind and wanted to see if they would be proven true. 

See below: 

Natalie's Wardrobe Impact Inventory

There was SO much I learned from this exercise! I feel like the next time I make a purchase I am going to be much more confident in knowing the niche of that item in my wardrobe as well as what it is I actually should be looking for. I feel much more informed on my own style and in knowing that my closet is only filled with pieces that I unquestionably feel confident, sexy, beautiful and strong in. 

Below is a snapshot of some of my high-level takeaways from this experience: 

  • I wear domestically-made items more frequently than the average item in my wardrobe (59%)
  • The priciest (and highest resell value) sportswear brand in my closet is the one I wear least
  • Shoes were my 'trendiest' clothing type and the one with the lowest % worn (43%)
  • This season I would continually rotate my sweaters to the back of my closet once worn, so while sweaters were one of my highest garment count at 20, the wear rate was the highest overall at 80%  
  • A third of the clothing I wasn't wearing were of nice enough quality and condition to be resold

A 2018 study of households in twenty countries, by moving company Movinga, confirmed more than 70 percent of the average wardrobes is going unworn" The Conscious Closet, p.15

Full disclosure, looking at the numbers, I probably overestimated the items I actually wore or (at least) the items I assumed I would wear. I was also disappointed that I wasn't more discerning when looking at the items I ended up keeping versus the amount I actually wore. With that in mind, I know that this exercise put me on the right path toward clearing clutter and allowed me the opportunity to have a better narrative and understanding of what drives my own fashion and self-expression. We have to remind ourselves that striving for progress, not perfection, is important.


Now it's your turn! Whether it is this week, this month, or this year I encourage you to take an approach like this during your next closet clean-out. It is 100% more tedious than throwing items into a grocery bag and dropping off at a donation bin, but it is absolutely worth it! Below are some simple guidelines from The Conscious Closet that helped me through my clean-out and a link to the excel sheet I used for this process - which is completely optional! 

You can download the excel sheet HERE  


  • If you love, keep it!
  • Regardless of the price of the item if you're not wearing it, have no plans to, do not keep in your closet - you can always re-sell! 
  • Pay attention to WHY you wear certain items of clothing - color, fabric, style
  • Reserve your closet as a sacred space for your wardrobe - put sentimental items in storage 
  • Purge by season (particularly if you don't have time to do your entire closet) - it will be easier to make decisions on items you've been wearing recently
  • The numbers won't always line up (tags worn out etc.) just do your best!
  • Don't throw any item in the trash - setup a swap with family/friends, sell online, donate, or find a clothing/garment recycler near you!

If you have time this week to clean-out even a portion of your closet - we want to hear your stories! Dakota will be embarking on her own clean-out and will be giving you a peek into her process on our Instagram (@harperandtucker) and then on Friday, April 10th from 5:30-6pmEST we will be hosting our very FIRST virtual Harper & Tucker Happy Hour on our Instagram TV!

We'll be drinking wine as we answer your questions, discuss our takeaways and reasons why building a conscious closet is important, strategies for recycling and reselling unworn garments...and just have fun talking fashion as we always do!

Until then, please take care and stay safe! 



*UPDATE: For any clothing damaged that you're unable to sell, swap or donate we advise sending those pieces to For Days. For Days will upcycle your old garments (must be cleaned/washed) with their Take Back Bag program for $10.