Forty Days – Forty Items: The Lent Closet Purge

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Forty Days - Forty Items Closet purge for LentForty Days – Forty Items: A Lent Closet Purge

This photo has been making the rounds on Facebook and I find it positively terrifying. To see hundreds and hundreds of people share this, like this, comment on this, think it's a great idea for themselves and their roommates and partners… it's a clear sign that our society has TOO MUCH STUFF!  I know this, we all know this, but to be able to remove 40 items from your wardrobe, donate them, and still have a functioning wardrobe is a sign that we are wasting our money, wasting our time, wasting away our style.

I'm a fashion blogger.  I get free clothes from companies, and I buy a lot of clothes to create new and fun outfits to photograph for the blog and wear to blog-related events.  I come from a mother who has great style, sewed her own wardrobe and collected beautiful pieces over the years.  I worked almost a decade in apparel and also amassed quite a collection of clothing that I treasure.  While I have been paring down over the past year, I do still have a small corner of Studio 54 in the back of my closet.  Even so, if I removed 40 items from my closet, I'd have a very hard time getting dressed for everyday occasions like work, a bridal shower, a wedding, a funeral.

If this Lent exercise sounds appealing, I strongly encourage you to do it.  And after you have, maybe consider a journaling exercise to find your personal style so next year you aren't back in the same overloaded closet situation.  Quality, not quantity creates style.  And personal style helps you know yourself, feel good in your body and your wardrobe, and improves your self-image and self esteem.  Fewer clothes usually creates more style.

For some inspiration to get the ball rolling (or the bag filled):


A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. As someone who is a practicing Christian I think this idea is off base with the purpose of giving something up for Lent. Where is the sacrifice in giving away something you don’t need or no longer wear?

    Forgoing something during Lent is supposed to help us remember and appreciate the sacrifice of Christ, who died so that we’d be forgiven. How is clearing out your closet of unwanted items going to help you appreciate the sacrifice of Christ? The whole idea is just an excuse to clean up.

    If one wanted to take a wardrobe-based action, one could put away favorite items that would be missed, and when you miss them appreciate what Christ missed in his life for us. Deciding to not make any new purchases might also be an action. In my opinion ridding of yourself of things you don’t want and/or won’t miss falls short.

  2. I may have the opposite problem, in that I already have a wardrobe that is tightly-edited and working well, and if I were to slice out 40 items, I’d render everything else unwearable.

    I promise this is not bragging — this is pointing out that one of the inherent limitations of a smaller closet is that you can’t easily eliminate a piece or two without a ripple effect across the rest of your wardrobe.

    1. I couldn’t get rid of 40 items either without creating great chaos. And I don’t have a particularly tiny wardrobe; I just keep it up-to-date and do a sweep every season to get rid of anything that’s worn out or needing to be replaced.

      I find many of these purging challenges dubious. Yes, sometimes you need to get rid of things, but if you already own something, why not try to make it work? Or at least think seriously about why you bought it if it doesn’t work, and figure out a way to not do that anymore. I often wonder if all these purges are just a way to get a quick emotional lift, and then allow you to go off shopping to re-fill your drawers and hangers.

      We’ve all seen the articles about how much stuff there is in the secondhand/donation market, and how much of it is shipped overseas, which then negatively impacts local craftspeople. Donating your stuff to “those in need” is a nice thought, but it’s not that straightforward. Avoiding waste and using your stuff as much as possible is a much better approach in the long run.

      1. “I often wonder if all these purges are just a way to get a quick emotional lift, and then allow you to go off shopping to re-fill your drawers and hangers.”

        Yep. They let you excuse yourself for your past errors in judgment and give yourself permission for more consumption.

        I’d love to see a Lenten challenge where it’s not just getting rid of 40 items for the (presumably grateful recipients of) charity, it’s buying 40 things that your local shelters and nonprofits could use.

      2. Agree completely. Often people email me that they can’t afford the fashion that I provide, and then digging deeper I find they have bins of clothes, dozens of pairs of cheap jeans, 30+ everyday tee shirts, a pair of flip flops in every color. The issue isn’t purging, it’s not getting to the point of having to purge in the first place. To work with what we have instead of starting over. I write a lot of capsule wardrobes, but I considered not doing them in 2016 because I feared people would see it as a license to go buy a whole new wardrobe. Then when I saw I made a capsule from what I already owned, I decided to go that route to show people you can work with what you have, you don’t need more to have more style, and to just stop trying to shop our problems away.

  3. I could get rid of 40 pieces and still have a good wardrobe – but the stuff I purged would all be maternity clothes.
    Which I’m still so conflicted about, somehow. Why am I keeping all these maternity clothes?! Why?!

  4. I couldn’t remove 40 items from my closet, either, but if I expanded it to the entire house, I could do it easily. Maybe the idea could be refashioned to “out of your excess, give”?

  5. I’m planning out a capsule wardrobe of 10 to 15 everyday looks I love and look good on me (using your how to build a capsule post). Someone pointed out nobody really notices what you’re wearing (unless you’re a blogger/stylist). After I build my core wardrobe (out of my closet … I do have a ton of clothes) I’m going to box up the rest and see if I miss anything. I’m also planning some special occasion looks (for those weddings, cruises and other events.
    If after a few months, nothing has come back out, it’s going to find a new home.

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