I’ll be the first to admit that I have serious issues when it comes to clothing. Not only am I an avid thrifter, but I also refuse to part with pieces for fear that they’ll come back into style. So when I decided I was going to move from Los Angeles to New York this summer, I knew that I’d have to assess my wardrobe and that it was going to be a struggle. While the process was filled with trials, tribulations, and tears, I did make it to my new home with four suitcases in tow and a story to tell. Keep reading to find out the steps I took to discern what to take with me, how much it cost, and my overall tips for anyone choosing to clean out their closet.
The first step in any move, whether cross-country or to a downsized closet, is the decision to do so. After that, it’s followed by a serious assessment of how much clothing you have and how much you’re willing to keep from a practical stance. I knew that I didn’t have the ability to store anything in Los Angeles (nor was I interested in leaving my beloved things in a storage unit), and I wasn’t driving across the country, which meant anything I took with me would have to fit in either a suitcase or be shipped. This might not be the case for you, but I do suggest you start with an honest assessment of how much you have and come up with a plan for how much you want to handle moving. Here’s a tip: To see how much you actually own, pile all of your clothes (and I mean all of them) onto your bed. As overwhelming as it seems, it will make the next step easier.
After you’ve made the decision about how you’re going to move your things, it’s time to get down to the hardest part: parting with things. If you’re anything like me, I’d suggest you break it into multiple phases. Do a cleaning three months in advance, one month in advance, and then the week of your move. Donating things in waves will make the burden of parting with things easier, in addition to giving yourself ample time to sift through your belongings. The way I was able to part with so much was by asking myself the following questions:
Have I worn this piece in the past six months?
Does this piece bring me joy? (Riffing off of Marie Kondo’s method.)
Does this piece fit into the vision of who I want to be in the future?
Is this piece practical?
When asking myself these questions, I found that I was holding onto heels that couldn’t be walked in in NYC and sentimental pieces I had never worn. While it’s wonderful to hold onto pieces you love, as you start this process, you’ll realize you’re not just holding onto an impractical pair of heels; you’re holding onto so much more than that. And there’s nothing better than letting that shit go to make the room not only for your future but your future finds.
Okay, so you’ve decided to part with a pair of jeans you don’t fit in. Now what? Break your donations into sections: sell, donate, recycle. I discerned which pieces could be sold by looking at a handy Who What Wear trend guide, and I put all of the seasonal, well-maintained pieces in a pile to be sold. I took them to a local consignment store (you can find one near you, or consign on The RealReal) and tried to turn a profit. Of course, they won’t take sweaters in the middle of summer, but even if you make $50, that can be applied to your costs of moving or the costs of you finding a new piece you love.
After you’ve tried selling your best pieces, you’ll want to donate the pieces that aren’t falling apart. You can do this by giving to either friend or a cause you love. I recommend doing research. Beyond Goodwill, there are companies like Free the Girls that will take your used bras and donate them to girls who are rescued from sex trafficking, or you can donate to your local homeless shelter. If something is beyond repair, the next best thing is to take them to be recycled. H&M collects clothing from all brands to be recycled.
Once you’ve conquered cleaning out your closet, it’s time to pack. Keep in mind that whatever you choose to keep, you will be paying for in the form of physical labor, shipping, or excess baggage fees, so you’ll want to do research. Part of packing is discerning which airlines and shipping companies are going to be the best for you, along with knowing whether or not you’re going to have help moving your things. In my case, I knew that I was flying alone and that if I couldn’t carry it through the airport or up my five-floor walk-up, I couldn’t keep it. Furthermore, I knew that baggage fees we’re no joke, which is why I broke my packing into two sections: seasonal and can’t live without. Anything I felt I would be heartbroken over losing went in my luggage and anything that I could lose or didn’t need to wear immediately was shipped traditionally.
Even with this packing strategy, I still found myself opening up my suitcase at the check-in Kiosk to make at least one suitcase the regulated 50 pounds and shelling out $200 in baggage fees in addition to the shipping fees for my other boxes. Unless you believe no price is too high to get all your favorite things to your new home, I highly suggest you weigh your bags, and don’t be afraid to leave things out of your suitcase to keep your fees and your load light.
You’ve arrived after all the packing and pounds shed, but by no means are you done. The best thing you can do is organize and revise your wardrobe again once it’s fully unpacked in a few weeks—especially if you’ve moved to a new city. I found that my ideas around what I could wear in NYC we’re wildly optimistic and that I could indeed have avoided packing my suitcases to the brim. And while I have no regrets on what I brought with me, the beauty of cleaning out your closet to move is that you free yourself of attachments. You find that with that extra space in your closet, you’ve made room for the things you really love most in life, and the things you do choose to carry with you are well worth the baggage fees.