How to Perform a Closet Audit & Create your Dream Wardrobe

January 11, 2017

how to clear out and declutter your closet

Last week on the journal, I walked you through step one of our Minimalist Wardrobe Workbook which is all about defining (and truly owning) your personal style.

It's so exciting to see on Instagram and Facebook how many readers are taking the process from our Minimalist Wardrobe workbook and implementing it in their own wardrobes.

The transformations are so inspiring, so keep the notes and updates coming. We love seeing them!

The next step in the Minimalist Wardrobe workbook is to take a peek inside your closet and get real specific about what you have, and what you no longer need.

This process is a LONG one, so I recommend setting aside a full day on a weekend to do it. You're going to essentially empty all of your drawers, and closets, and do a full inventory of what you have. After which, you'll sort out your belongings into keep, hold and toss (or donate) piles. 

The next step is to create your dream uniforms, and start really filtering through the clothing you have using that lens. 

Ready? Let's dig in.

how to clear out and declutter your closet steps for a clean closet

This is the step in the Minimalist Wardrobe workbook that really separates those who are serious about changing their wardrobe from those who are not. 


It takes work. A lot of work. You've got to be committed and ready because once you start, it's hard to stop!

Depending on how long it's been since you've Marie-Kondo'd your closet, this might be a full day commitment. 

Start by cleaning off your bed, or if needed, laying some clean towels on your floor (if you need the added space). Empty out your entire closet(s) and drawers. 

Using our "Count what you've got" template in the Minimalist wardrobe workbook, do a quick tally of how many items you have in each category. Feel free to add your own categories as needed.

While you're doing this, you may or may not want to sort them into piles by category - up to you. I decided to do this while counting my clothing and it helped me truly see what I had and what categories of clothing I tend to have an oversupply of (hello, t-shirts!) and also, I get a lot of joy out of sorting things (so if you're like me, have at it!). 


The Initial Keep-Hold-Toss Sweep



• You love it

• It fits, and you look great in it

• It's in good condition

• You've worn it at least once in the past few weeks

• You like it, but it may not be your go to piece

• It fits, and it's in good condition

• You've worn it at least in the last few months

• It's got a positive vibe or memory associated with it

• It's worn or stained

• It doesn't fit (and probably never will ever again!)

• It's out of style and not a vintage gem

• It carries a bad memory or negativity

I recommend starting with an initial, gut-feel, keep-toss-hold exercise. Go through each and every item in your closet and sort into 3 piles. Don't even think about your dream wardrobe or "uniforms" YET.

What to do with the Toss Pile

Although, we named it the "Toss" pile, if you're going for bonus points for up-cycling and environmental impact, I recommend taking a closer look at this pile and further sorting it into three piles.

1. Toss - things that are truly awful. Ripped, stained, not to be worn by anyone. If your municipality has a textile recycling program send it there. If not, you may consider looking to donate it to a crafting or fashion school for scraps or using the items for rags around your house. Last choice - garbage.

2. Donate - things that could have a second life for someone in need. Local organizations like women's shelters, goodwill, value village, will all take on this pile with open arms!

3. Sell / Trade / Gift - things that you spent a ton of cashola on, and still have value, just not for you. For example, your grandmother's pucci purse. Consignment stores, or a platform like Ebay are great for this. Or, if you have a friend you know would love it, why not trade or gift it to them. Good karma rules. (Warning this pile tends to have a lot of emotion attached to it, so tread with caution!)


    Creating the 3 Activity Driven "Uniforms" 


    how to think less in the morning and create styled uniforms

    As I wrote about in last week's post, we have a tendency to wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. This is because our brains work best by putting together 'uniforms'.

    If you've ever read about the brilliant Steve Jobs (among others), you'll know that he wore virtually the same thing every day. A black mock neck top, jeans and new balance sneakers.


    Well, every day our brain is faced with dozens, sometimes hundreds (if you're an entrepreneur) of decisions. At some point, we hit decision fatigue.

    Removing the decision of what to wear today, was for Steve Jobs, a way to funnel his creative thought elsewhere (like, say, into the iPhone design?). 

    I'm not suggesting that you go to this extreme, but leveraging the concept of 'uniforms' is a great way to ensure you've got go-to outfits for all of your top three activities for how you spend your time, and don't overindulged in clothing you'll likely never wear.

    Start with the three activities that you identified as core to spend your time, and consider your colour palette that you outlined. Refer back to your pinterest board, and your sorted piles of KEEP-HOLD, and start to create three outfits for each activity that you spend the most time on.

    Bonus point if you re-use items within each activity or across the activities!

    These should be your FAVOURITE outfits that you're creating. Actual outfits that you would wear during these activities. Get super specific. 

    how to create outfits that i love to wear

    For example: One of my go to "going out" outfits is this 100% silk, hand sequinned top that I bought at Bloomingdales in NYC about 5 years ago. I love pairing it with a ripped black jean for going out, a pair of heels, clutch, and gold accessories.

    Write down each component in detail.

    This step is so important.

    If you get stuck, go onto Pinterest or Instagram. For many of us, coming up with outfits is hard (raising my hand!). Rebuild that Pinterest inspiration board from step one and go for it.


    Identify the Leftovers

    By now, you've created your 9 'uniform' outfits, and sorted your piles. It's time to take a closer look at what's left over. Set aside your TOSS pile (ideally already sorted as per above instructions!).


    Start going through your HOLD and KEEP piles.

    • Given your new 'uniforms', can anything be moved to the toss pile?
    • Do you have duplicates of things that you don't need two of?
    • Are there any colours that you will never ever wear that can be tossed?
    • Has your styled changed enough through this exercise to toss something else? 


    A few exceptions to note:

    Time Spent Doing Other Activities (than your top 3). Maybe you're not at the gym enough for it to be a top 3 activity but that doesn't mean you need to throw away all of your gym clothes. Keep a few key items, but use a more critical lens for sorting through the quantity that you may have accumulated over the years. Haven't gone skiing in 15 years? Maybe it's time to donate that ski helmet and gloves. Still have your formal gown from prom? Bye! Use your best judgement.

    Major Investment Pieces that are classic. If you've invested thousands of dollars in a suit, or bag or shoes, you may want to hang onto them (at least for a bit). For example, I rarely (okay, almost never) wear a suit, but I did hang onto one wool suit, in case I ever have to present to the Prime Minister (hopefully I'll still be a size 6 at that time?). That was a big investment piece that I may donate or sell at some time, but not yet. It's a timeless silhouette that will likely work in a few years if my situation ever changes.

    Seasonal considerations. If you live in a country where the weather seems to have a mind of it's own, or multiple seasons (Spring-Winter-Summer-Fall), you may require a little bit of grace with how many items you own. I still recommend taking a look over how many jackets, hats, scarves, mitts, winter boots etc. that you have but many may be best served in storage in the off season (versus donating them, just to free up space!)

    Memories you just can't let go of or family heirlooms. If you have a few (let me emphasize that) pieces that are family heirlooms, or memorable pieces that you cannot bear to part with, then don't. Hang onto them, but find a respectful way to store them so that the memory is properly honoured. I'm talking about the Louis Vuitton from your great-grandmother and not the sorority t-shirt from uni FYI :) 


      What to do if you're not sure it's time to let go

      If you still have leftovers which don't fit into the exceptions, but you're feeling wishy-washy about keeping, just keep them.

      You have invested money, resources, and so has the planet into creating these. Make these items though the exception, not the rule.

      I recommend hanging them backwards so the hanger hook faces out, and check back in 3-6 months to see if you've worn them. If not, into the TOSS pile they go. Deal?

      Now it's your turn to get started on this oh-so-critical step of the Minimalist Wardrobe Workbook.

      If you haven't already grabbed your copy, get it now when you sign up.

      sign up for email updates to learn how to curate a minimalist closet

        Questions? Comments? I'd love to connect. Leave them in the comments below. I'd love to see how you're progressing with step two of the minimalist wardrobe workbook.

        With gratitude,


        Founder + CEO, Encircled

        Love travel? Join our League of Travelistas -- a community for women who love to travel. Click her to request access to our private facebook group.

        All photos are copyright Encircled. Contact us for permissions/rights to re-use or repost images. 

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        Encircled Size Charts
        Please scroll down to find the size chart for each design. If you have any questions on sizing, please try out our online size recommender or click here to contact us with questions prior to ordering. Size charts are in alphabetical order based on design name.
        If you're on our product page viewing the size chart, click anywhere outside of the pop-up (or on the X in the top right corner) to close the size charts, or click here to surf back to our main collection page.

        The Chrysalis Cardi

        Garment Length (Laid Flat) Garment Width (Laid Flat) Bust 


        (xs - xxl)

        38" 39.5" 32"-41" 25"-34" 35"-44" 5'2"-6'0"


        (xxs - m)

        35" 34.5" 27"-35" 23"-28" 30"-38" <5'4"


        (xl - xxxl)

        43" 41.5" 41"-52" 33"-45" 44"-56" <6'0"

        Fit Advice: The Regular Chrysalis Cardi is a one size fits most garment ranging from sizes XS-XXL or 2-14. It can be easily belted in multiple ways, however the Regular is not recommended for petite or shorter woman due to the volume of fabric - See Petite Cardi. The Regular is also not recommended for curvier/taller women due to fabric pulling around the bust or bottom - See Maxi Cardi.

        We recommend watching the how-to wear videos to see how much fabric drape and length you would like in your finished garment. If you are in between sizes, it is best to size up and the garment can always be tailored shorter to better suit your look - you cannot add more fabric, unfortunately!

        The Petite is best suited for women 5'4" and under with a smaller frame, although it will also work on women above this height (depending on preferred length when styled). 

        The Maxi is best suited for all women under 6’0” with a curvier shape to eliminate any uncomfortable fabric pulling, although it will also work on women who are a bit less curvy (depending on preferred length when styled).

        *If you have any questions on sizing, please contact us - Remember it is best to provide us with your height and size range of garments that you already own! 


        The Dressy Sweatpant


        Worn higher up to sit at your natural waist - straight leg tapers from the hip to ankle opening.

        Size XS (0-2) S (2-4) M (6-8) L (10-12) XL (14-16)
        Waist (inches)
        23" - 25"
        25" - 28"
        28" - 32"
        32" - 34"
        34" - 37"
        Hip (inches)
        32" - 34"
        35" - 38"
        38" - 41"
        41" - 44"
        44" - 47"
        Inseam (inches) 26.5"

        Fit Advice: We recommend staying with your usual size if you are in-between sizes. The cut on The Dressy Sweatpants is more generous and the fit is meant to be drapey and slightly loose. 


        The Essential Long Sleeve Top

        0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 12 - 14 (XL) 14-16 (XXL)
        Bust 28 - 30" 30 - 33" 33 - 36" 36 - 39" 39 - 42"
        42 - 45"
        Waist 23 - 25" 25 - 27" 28 - 30" 30 - 33" 34 - 36"
        36 - 38"
        Hips 30 - 32" 33 - 36" 36 - 38" 38 - 41" 41 - 44"
        44 - 47"
        Front Length / Back Length 24 - 31"
        24 - 31"
        24 - 31"
        24 - 31"
        24 - 31"
        24 - 31"

        Fit Advice: The Essential Long Sleeve Top fits a bit larger than our usual tees. We suggest to order true to your normal size, however since the styling is more flowy than our other Encircled tees, it is suggested to size down if you prefer a tighter look. As the fabric has a natural stretch, it will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown around the chest and hips. 


        The Evolve Top

        0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M)
        10 - 12 (L)
        14 - 16 (XL)
        Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
        Waist 20-22" 23-25" 26-28" 32-34" 35-37"
        Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
        Fit Advice: The fit of The Evolve top is drapey but tapers towards the hip and tends to fit large. We recommend for you to size down from your normal size if you are unsure. The fabric on The Evolve top has a natural stretch that will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown. 

        The Flipside Legging 

        0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 14 - 16 (XL)
        Waist 20-24" 25-28" 28-32" 32-34" 34-37"
        Hips 30-34" 35-38" 38-41" 41-44" 44-47"
        Inseam 28" 28"

        Fit Advice: We recommend sizing up if you are in between sizes with your measurements. The modal fabric on The Flipside Leggings is not as 'taut' as synthetic fabrics like polyester, so if you prefer a snugger fit in the waist area for your leggings, size down. The Flipside Leggings are pre-shrunk. 


         The Minimalist Legging + The Minimalist Crop Legging

        0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 14 - 16 (XL)
        Waist 20-24" 25-28" 28-32" 32-34" 34-37"
        Hips 30-34" 35-38" 38-41" 41-44" 44-47"


        (crop 20")


        (crop 20")


        (crop 20")


        (crop 20")


        (crop 20")

        Fit Advice: We recommend sizing down if you are in between sizes with your measurements. The bamboo fabric on The Minimalist Leggings is tighter than the Flipside Leggings. The Minimalist Leggings are pre-shrunk.


        The Nomadic V-Neck

        0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 12 - 14 (XL) 14 - 16 (XXL)
        Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
        42.5 - 44.5
        Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
        Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
        Length 28" 28" 28" 28" 28"

        Fit Advice: The Nomadic V-Neck fits true to size. If you want a more relaxed fit, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. As the fabric has a natural stretch, it will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown around the chest and hips. 


        The Retrograde Kimono Dress

        XS (0-2) S (2-4) M (6-8) L (10-12) XL (14-16) 
        Bust (Inches)
        28 - 32.5"
        33" - 35.5"
        36 - 38.5"
        39 - 41.5"
        42 - 49"
        Hip (Inches)
        33" - 36"
        37" - 39"
        40" - 42"
        43" - 45"
        46" - 50"
        Length (Inches)
        At longest, 33"
        At longest, 34"
        At longest, 35"
        At longest, 36"
        At longest, 37"

        Fit Advice: The Retrograde Kimono Dress is our most "oversized" piece in the collection. We suggest to order true to your normal size to get the intended look. If you prefer a slimmer or tighter look, we suggest choosing a size down than your usual Encircled size.


        The Reversible Pencil Skirt

        XS (0-2)
        S (2-4)
        M (6-8)
        L (10-12)
        XL (14-16)

        Waist (inches)

        23" - 26"
        26" - 29"
        29" - 32"
        32" - 34"
        35" - 37"

        Hip (inches)

        32" - 34"
        35" - 38"
        38" - 41"
        41" - 44"
        45" - 47"

        Length Total (inches)


        Fit Advice: The Reversible Pencil Skirt fits true to size, but it's suggested to size up if you fall between sizes. The pencil skirt offers a smooth silhouette that slightly tapers from waist to hips and down through to the hem, hitting just at knee length. A pencil skirt should smoothly skim your curves, so to get a perfect fit, first identify your largest measurement then choose the size offering that range while still allowing for some stretch. The fabric on The Reversible Pencil skirt has a natural stretch, that will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown. 


        The Revolve Dress II + The Sleeveless Revolve Dress

        0 - 2 (XS) 4-6 (S) 8-10 (M) 12-14 (L) 16-18 (XL) 20 (XXL)
        Bust (in inches)  30.5-32.5" 33.5-35.5" 36.5-38.5" 39.5-41.5" 42.5-44" 45-47"
        Waist (in inches)  25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34" 35-37" 38-40"
        Hips (in inches)  33-36" 37-39" 40-42" 43-45" 46-48" 49-52"
        Length (in inches) At longest, 34.5" adjustable At longest, 35.35" adjustable At longest, 36" adjustable  At longest, 36.75" adjustable At longest, 37.5" adjustable At longest, 38.25" adjustable

        Fit Advice: The Revolve Dress is designed to fit drapey that tapers towards the hip. We recommend staying with your typical dress size. If your hip measurements are above the guide, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. The fabric on The Revolve Dress has a natural stretch, that will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown.


        The Wanderer Sleeveless T 

        0 - 2 (XS) 2 - 4 (S) 6 - 8 (M) 10 - 12 (L) 12 - 14 (XL) 14 - 16 (XXL)
        Bust 27.5 - 29.5 " 30.5 - 32.5 " 33.5 - 35.5 " 36.5 - 38.5" 39.5 - 41.5 "
        42.5 - 44.5"
        Waist 23-24" 25-26" 28-29" 30-31" 32-34"
        Hips 30-32" 33-35" 36-38" 39-41" 42-44"
        Length 28" 28" 28" 28" 28"

        Fit Advice: The Wanderer Sleeveless T fits true to size. If you want a more relaxed fit, size up. The length can be hemmed by a tailor. As the fabric has a natural stretch, it will stretch to fit within ~1-2" of the measurements shown around the chest and hips. 


        The Reversibe Bandeau Bra  

        (XS/S) (M/L)
        Bust 30 - 33" 34 - 37"

        Fit Advice: The Reversible Bandeau Bra fits true to size and the wide elastic band provides light to medium support. To ensure proper fit, measure your bust and check our size guide.