How to Closet Shop in 10 Simple Steps

I love the idea of “shopping your closet” for outfits you may not already know you own.  Doing a deep closet shop can be great for a number of reasons like saving money or living a more minimalist lifestyle. I love to do it for three main reasons:

a) It cuts down on the clutter in my closet, so I can actually see and make use of my outfits.

b) It gives my clothes an even wear.

c) Everything feels new again because I haven't seen it or worn it in six months!

Below are my 10 favorite tips and tricks for how to shop your closet cheaper, better, and more efficiently than you have previously (and I promise, most of these you haven't heard before!) We'll cover important steps such as:

  • Do a closet inventory
  • Pack away seasonal items
  • Mix pieces you're thinking of getting rid of with things you love
  • Make a list of staple items you're missing
  • Throw away anything with rips, tears, stains
  • Shop off season for missing items
  • Make an annual clothing budget and stick to it


Tips for How to Closet Shop Effectively

#1- Start By Taking an Inventory of Your Closet

Depending upon the season and what you shopped for last year, there could be a surplus of items in one category. After living in NYC for two years, I have now have more sweaters and boots than I need in Atlanta.

I write down the things I'm missing (rain boots, for example), maybe a few items that need to be replaced (my trusty flats! a black tank top!). This helps me shop my closet better and ensure I'm not buying multiples of items I already own. When I need really high quality basics, my girl at Trunk Club helps me shop for them.

A Spring/Summer wardrobe and a Fall/Winter one. At the end of every season, ceremoniously pack away the out-of-season clothes. Personally, I put them in boxes and stash them out of sight either in my closet, or in another part of the house entirely.

#3 – Tag “Borderline” items and pack those away after six months

I tag a few “borderline” items that I knew I didn't get much wear out of to see if I wear them again the next season. If something that I've tagged from last winter doesn't get worn again the following one, I donate it instead of packing it away. Packing and unpacking for each season also allows me to inspect my clothes more carefully than I would if I just left them in the closet all year long.

#4 – Pair Borderline Items with Unexpected Pieces

Sometimes if I have a “borderline” piece, i.e. something I haven't worn in six months but still love or feel an attachment to, I'll take it out for a spin with something I've never worn it with before, just to see if I feel the same way about it, or if I can make it “work” with my current closet. A lot of times, this feels like I'm wearing something new, even when it isn't. If the outfit rocks, I'll keep the piece and wear it again. If it doesn't, I'll donate it.

#5 – Buy Off Season and Pack Away to “Shop” Later

Keep the extra “thrill” alive by packing away new items you bought off season and can't wear for a few months in pretty tissue paper in a separate box. I don't need to tell you that shopping off-season can save huge amounts of money.

#6 – Purge Without Question or Regret

Rips, tears, and stains? Throw away those items (no matter how much you love them) or donate them to goodwill. Seriously. I do this so  I always look neat and that my clothes are in the best shape possible!

#7 – Shop the Magazines and Compare

I also allow myself to “shop” magazines twice a year to see what the trends are. I no longer subscribe since getting help for my shopping addiction but in the fall and spring I look at what is in style in the magazines and compare to my closet. Some items I used to own will come back in style, and other items I own that are more “Classic” will line up better with trendy jewelry etc.

Shopping magazines, fashion blogs,  and yes, PINTEREST helps me come up with new outfit ideas I'd never thought of before.

Based on what is in style I pick two-three of my favorite “trendy” pieces and write them down. This allows me to indulge in the trends without going over budget or buying a lot of things I don't need.

#8 – Create a Targeted Budget

So after I've taken inventory of what I “need” to get for the season, I take the number of items and divide my total clothing budget by that number (find out how much to spend on clothes in a year, here). If I need 10 items…300/10=30.00 per item. $300 is usually what I spend in the quarter (unless I'm on a no-shopping challenge, or trying to aggressively pay down debt!)

#9 – Creatively Stretch Your Budget

What if you don't have a clothing budget for the reasons listed above, or what if you just got laid off, or seriously need to cut back for another reason? Think of creative ways to access new-to-you clothes whether its waiting for a gift occasion from friends and family, indulging in a clothing swap with similarly sized girlfriends, or shopping on Ebay (I get HUGE discounts on things I want from Ebay.) Necessity is the mother of invention, you know.

#10 – Start The Rotation

Are you bad about wearing the same things over and over again? Me too. So I intentionally hang things I've worn in the back of my closet and keep the unworn items at the front. When planning my outfits, I try to make them out of items so everything gets worn. It doesn't really matter how you set up the rotation, just that you find something that works for you.


Related: How Fashion Bloggers Make Money, This is How Much to Spend on Clothing in One Year

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  • Reply
    Chonce Maddox
    February 16, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    I love this! Especially #4. I like to mix and match to get more wear out of clothes and create more outfits instead of going shopping, since I feel that I have enough clothes. I have younger sisters so it’s easy for me to get rid of items I don’t wear or can’t fit anymore. They take everything 🙂 I’ve always wondered how popular clothing swaps were because I do clothing swaps with my friends all the time. A girlfriend ended up giving me 2 brand new pairs of jeans around the holidays because she received so many pairs from friends and family.

    • Reply
      Lauren Bee
      February 25, 2015 at 7:29 am

      Clothing swaps are really fun, although I’ve only been to one. But several people attended and seemed to walk away with things they really enjoyed.

  • Reply
    Sara OSS
    February 16, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Purging is so helpful at making me fall back in love with what I already own. I feel less ennui with my clothes once I’ve gotten rid of things I don’t wear.

    Another thing – don’t keep clothing that doesn’t fit you intermixed with things that do. That way you don’t get bummed out seeing it when you get dressed every morning.

    • Reply
      Lauren Bee
      February 16, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Yes, love that last tip. I’m currently in a weird place where I’ve lost some weight and now my pants don’t fit, but I don’t want to buy new until I hit my target.

  • Reply
    Stefanie @ brokeandbeau
    February 14, 2015 at 10:01 am

    I really struggle with the “borderline” items. I really rarely wear them, but I still can’t seem to purge them.

    • Reply
      Lauren Bee
      February 16, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Just do it! It’ll feel so good!

  • Reply
    February 13, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    I think that people are afraid to experiment with their clothes and pair things in ways that they normally wouldn’t. I’ve had a lot of fun with that and it’s really extended my wardrobe.

    • Reply
      Lauren Bee
      February 16, 2015 at 10:34 am

      I’m guilty. I put together “outfits” I really love, and then I never mix it up.

  • Reply
    Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way
    February 12, 2015 at 3:54 am

    I love this one! I will organize my closet this coming weekend because I really had a hard time when picking on what to wear.

  • Reply
    Bridget Casey
    February 11, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    I’m just building up my closet… I probably “shop” it too aggressively 😉 I’m constantly giving my sisters the clothes I don’t want or fit anymore and leaving little for myself. I’m trying to build up my collection of shirts now… I just don’t have enough!

    • Reply
      Lauren Bee
      February 16, 2015 at 10:35 am

      I’m a purger by nature too. Every time someone comes into my closet they say, “I thought you had more clothes.” Can’t tell if this is a compliment or not, but I tend to throw things a way faster than most.

  • Reply
    Hello Pre Nurse
    February 11, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    Great tips! I love to shop my closet too, but I organize mine differently. I might have to do a post on that sometime. -Kayla

  • Reply
    Tahnya Kristina
    October 24, 2013 at 2:57 am

    Love this post Lauren. I often find my self always wearing the same outfits but if I mix it up a bit I could have an entirely new wardrobe.

  • Reply
    October 13, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I am in the process of packing away my summer clothes as fall is basically here (in Colorado). My Fall wardrobe also is my Winter/Spring wardrobe! I love the idea of have nice things in a pretty box with tissue. Might have to do that.

    • Reply
      L Bee
      October 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Washing them and putting them away freshly washed also helps. I only tissue wrap the things that still have tags on them!

  • Reply
    Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans
    October 11, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    I don’t normally pack away my clothes since SF Bay Area weather is always so unpredictable, but I would love to do so.

    • Reply
      L Bee
      October 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

      It’s nice to do if you have the space. When I lived in a tiny apartment in NYC I kept all of my clothes out. Which felt weird since I’ve been doing the rotation since I was in high school.

  • Reply
    Rebecca | Seven2Sevne8
    October 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I love this! I am doing Project 333 for a year (in 2-month stints) to go through my entire (once overwhelming, but getting better!) wardrobe very methodically. I would like to switch to two wardrobes (warm/cold) (I’m in St. Louis, so probably pretty similar weather to yours in the South). I am not sure how many things I’ll want. I know I’d like more than 33 items if I’m going to stretch for 6 months instead of 2-3. Can you discuss your wardrobe size? Storage of off-season items (bins? Main level? Storage area?). If you addressed this in prior posts, please indicate – I’m new to your blog (like it a lot so far)!

    • Reply
      Rebecca | Seven2Seven8
      October 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      (Rebecca | Seven2Seven 8)

    • Reply
      L Bee
      October 15, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      Hey Rebecca, thanks for reading! Sorry it took me awhile to answer your post, but you asked some great questions.

      My wardrobe size is actually pretty manageable. Not down to 33 items for 3 months at a time yet. I’d say I keep about 60-70 items in my wardrobe at any one time (includes shoes), but again I use these for six month stretches of time.

      I store my off-season items in two cloth bins I got from the container store, which I cannot see through. I keep these in the top/back of my closet,, and I keep off-season shoes in a slim pastic bin with a lid that fits underneath my bed. I think it is important when you’re storing off-season items to not be able to see them. I think this keeps them “fresh.”

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  • Reply
    Broke Millennial
    October 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I really like the idea “surprising yourself” with seasonal favorites. I may have to start implementing that one myself.

    • Reply
      L Bee
      October 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      It’s fun. When I pulled out my fall/winter clothes I saw two pieces I bought last season I hadn’t thought about. It felt like having something “new.”

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