As a professional image consultant one of the things that always amazes me is how many clothes professionals own that they never wear. Women tend to wear only 25 percent of their wardrobes, and men wear 85 percent of the clothes in their closets. That statistic indicates that women like to go shopping and buy items as an experience and an event, whereas men tend to only purchase what they need. But having all those extra clothes hanging in the closet only interferes with getting dressed in the morning. Many of my clients have confessed that before working with me they would stand in their jam-packed closets for 15 minutes or more, just wondering why they had nothing to wear.

Cleaning out a closet does take some time, but think of the time you will save by dressing faster and easier every morning. You’ll feel your best and look your best, able to start each day in a productive fashion. Clearing your closet helps to clear your schedule and your mind – along with lots of image obstacle clutter that may be standing between you and your career goals.

#1 Tip: Edit your wardrobe

Go through your closet and try everything on. Yes – everything. Stand in front of a full length mirror and be objective. Ask yourself questions like: Do I love it? Does it just skim my silhouette or is it too big or too tight? Does the color of the item flatter my complexion? Does the style flatter my body type? If I wear something else will I look better?

After you’ve gone through the analysis of the garment hanging on your body, determine whether it stays or gets deleted.

Getting rid of clothing is one of the hardest things for professionals to do because our clothes hold memories. We may want to hang onto that specific suit that we wore five years ago when we won the company appreciation award or traveled overseas to speak at a conference. I understand these urges because I, too, have to overcome that nostalgia and the voices of memory talking in my head.

The memories are awesome, but when that piece of clothing hangs in our professional wardrobe and we can’t fit into it anymore it creates a negative effect that is psychologically and emotionally detrimental. We see it and are reminded that we added unwanted pounds or don’t feel as good about our body as we used to. That’s not a good feeling, and it can drag down your confidence and image without you even realizing it.

My advice: Purge it from the closet and either give it to a charitable organization or send it to a consignment shop. When you give clothes away that you loved wearing it allows others who are less fortunate than you to feel that same joy when they wear it. Rather than bringing you down by hanging in your closet it will become a reason to feel uplifted – because you are doing something wonderful for someone in need.

If it really has sentimental value, then take a photo of it to keep before you give it away. At the very least, store it in a separate closet in a sealed garment bag. But get it out of the everyday closet where it is just cluttering up your life.

#2 Tip: If you haven’t worn in the past year, delete it.

If you haven’t worn a particular item within the past 12 months there is always a reason why. Maybe it doesn’t fit or you bought it at a clearance sale. Maybe somebody gave it to you as a gift. Regardless of why you don’t really like wearing it you need to delete it from your wardrobe inventory. Standing in the closet every morning looking at clothes you don’t love doesn’t help you feel at your best to resonate with your target audience. It’s like going on a diet and then standing there holding the door to the fridge open wishing you could make a sandwich.
Just accept the fact that it doesn’t work for you and that you deserve to look your absolute best.

Advice: If you are adamant about not tossing it yet because you are losing weight and it might fit later or because you may someday have the occasion to wear it, then tag it with the date of your semi-annual closet cleaning. Six months later, when you come back to update your closet, check the date. If you haven’t worn it by then, the expiration date is up. Retire it by giving it away without more procrastination.

#3 Tip: Is the item modern and congruent with your current brand?

I always believe that we should invest in classic-modern clothes, but clothing styles do evolve and change. You want to be on the leading edge in this new decade and dress to reflect your personal brand. Review your wardrobe and analyze each piece. Is it still modern looking? Can you add a few modern trend pieces to it and have an intentional look? Does the style, color, cut, and fabric create a visual brand image that you want to convey to your clients, prospects, or supervisor?

Advice: Today stores have tons of sales, so you can always replace core wardrobe pieces to give yourself an update. Think of your wardrobe as one of your best marketing investments to exude your brand. Spending $500-$1000 on a strategic branding of your wardrobe might be just what you need to move your business up a notch this spring and summer season.

#4 Tip: Does it still make you look impeccable?

Really look the items in your wardrobe over and see if they are in mint condition. Clothes do have an expiration date on them – they don’t last forever. Many times the cuffs on a dress shirt look worn or the elbows of a blouse become discolored. Scrutinize the item. Would you buy it today if you saw it in a consignment shop? If you wear clothes that have holes, spots, or pulled seams it damages your professional image – and no one can afford to let that happen today.

Advice: If it is something that an alterations person can fix, like a loose button or hemming a sleeve, that is one thing – but make sure that the item is worth the money it costs to repair or mend it.

#5 Tip: Does it reflect your personal style?

Last but not least, you need to determine if your personal style has stayed constant. That means are you still comfortable wearing it today as you were the day you bought it? Our personal style evolves as our lifestyles and professional lives change, and whenever you reinvent yourself you need to acknowledge it because that is a great thing worth celebrating. If we don’t change and evolve we won’t experience the kind of personal growth we need for greater success. If you don’t feel that you are really resonating with an item of clothing in terms of your internal identity and external image – or if you feel that it does not make you look and feel your absolute best – it is okay. Understand that you are changing and that some items do not ideally suit your new vision of yourself.
Advice: Make a list of anything that doesn’t resonate with you – for example, a black pantsuit. Then next time you go shopping take your list with you and focus on finding the replacement items, in newer styles that you will feel more comfortable wearing.

Closet cleaning is essential, especially nowadays. When the economy declines people think that their professional clothing requires a budget cut – when in fact your professional image, including your wardrobe, is one of your best business investments in terms of making more money over the long term. When you schedule time and take the effort to purge your wardrobe it shows that you value how you look and present yourself each and every day. Cutting out the dead wood in your closet allows you to dress faster every morning, provides you with a list of specific items you need to replace, and it boosts your personal brand and professional image by keeping those current and fresh.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Hathorn is a professional image consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author.
Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the next level.
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