unpacking outfit

What I Learned Taking My Clothes out of Storage After 15 Months

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It’s been almost one year and a half since we sold our home, packed everything up, rented 3 homes, and moved 4 times to finally end up at the home that we built. When we were getting ready to embark on this journey, and in an effort to make future moves easier, we packed up almost everything that was nonessential. And now that we finally landed in a place that we can call home for as long as we want to live in the Midwest, I’m finally opening up boxes that have been sealed shut for 15+ months.

I wasn’t entirely sure what the unpacking process would feel like. Would I be excited to be reunited with my clothes? Overwhelmed? Though I already base my wardrobe philosophy around a capsule wardrobe, I still probably have more clothes than the average person. But since I did a decluttering session before I moved, I would just unpack everything and hang it up – right? Well, not exactly. Here’s how it really went as well as some lessons I learned (and was reminded of) after this intense unpacking journey!

What I Learned After Taking (About Half of) My Clothes out of Storage

1. Declutter Before You Move

As I was drowning under boxes, bags, and bins for the new house, all I could think was, “I’m glad I decluttered before we moved.” When it was time to tackle my closet, the process felt easier because I had put in a lot of the work before. There were fewer clothes to deal with and fewer decisions to make, making the process more manageable.

So, speaking from experience, decluttering your closet before packing, moving, or even storing off-season clothing will save you time, effort, and unnecessary stress! Take the opportunity to go through each item of clothing and ask yourself some tough questions. Do you really wear that old sweater from five years ago? Do those jeans still fit? Be ruthless in your decision-making process. If you haven’t worn something in 6+ months or it no longer excites you or serves a practical purpose, it’s time to let it go.

Decluttering before I moved lightened the load, but it also gave me a chance to donate some of my clothes that were still in good condition, giving them a new chance at life. But, decluttering before I moved didn’t guarantee everything was still a winner…

2. There’s Always More You Can Get Rid Of

When you finally arrive at your new home and start unpacking, it’s tempting to simply put everything away as quickly as possible. However, this is the perfect opportunity to continue decluttering and make sure you only keep what you truly need and love.

As I unpacked my clothes, I was surprised to find that my feelings had changed towards certain items. I could pinpoint a lot of these purchases to a certain time in my life (coming next), but as I was looking at them again in a new light (literally), I realized I didn’t want them to continue on this journey with me (dramatic).

It’s a good idea to take the time to reevaluate each item. Ask yourself if it still fits, if you still love it, and if you have actually worn it recently. Be honest with yourself and don’t hold on to things just because you feel guilty getting rid of them.

Remember, the goal is to create a curated wardrobe that reflects your style and makes you feel good. Holding on to unnecessary items will only create clutter and make it more difficult to find and enjoy the pieces you truly love.

3. Don’t Use Shopping as a Way To Take Your Mind Off Things

There were a good 11 months in this 15+ month process that were just, rough, to put it mildly. Even though I “knew better”, there were times that I used shopping as a way to take my mind off the current situation.

New clothes meant new outfit ideas, new pictures to take, new posts to write…which isn’t a bad thing in my job, of course, and it’s natural to want to find a way to escape from the chaos and uncertainty. Retail therapy, as they call it. But using shopping as a way to take your mind off things is a slippery slope.

When I first started unpacking, I kept finding newer clothes that felt very random to me. They were clothes that were an impulse purchase, worn a few times, and then not a good fit for me anymore. Once the initial excitement wore off from these clothes, I was left with more stuff to pack, unpack, and find a place for in my new home. Ultimately, I ended up donating these items because the goal is to have a more intentional and curated wardrobe.

But here’s the important thing: I didn’t feel guilty about it. I just saw it as a learning moment and a reminder that shopping is not a good coping mechanism. I reminded myself of the healthier ways to deal with stress, such as taking breaks to go for a walk, getting lost in a good historical fiction book (by Kristin Hannah), and even just sitting down with a cup of tea and a journal.

These activities allowed me to take a step back and breathe instead of accumulating more stuff. Not only that, but it allowed me to appreciate the items I already had before rushing to add more to my collection.

Related: Ready To Get Organized? Here’s How To Get Past the Mental Hurdles of Decluttering Your Wardrobe

4. You Don’t Need As Many Clothes As You Think (Don’t Give Into the Temptation To Hold On to Everything)

The temptation to hold on to everything is strong, especially if you have a sentimental attachment to certain items or fear that you might need them in the future. It’s easy to think, “What if I regret getting rid of this?” or “I might wear this someday.” But in reality, holding on to everything can lead to clutter and unnecessary stress.

During my move, I faced this temptation head-on. As I packed up my clothes, I found myself hesitating to let go of items. I had to remind myself of something that I teach and preach – if I hadn’t reached for them in the past, I probably wouldn’t in the future! It was a challenging process at times, but it forced me to be honest with myself about what I truly needed and loved.

After all, holding on to everything holds you back from embracing a more streamlined and intentional wardrobe. And on the topic of intentional wardrobes, it’s easy to think that we need an abundance of clothes to feel satisfied. We fall into the trap of believing that having more options equals having more style. But the truth is, we don’t need as many clothes as we think.

Through my experience of moving and living with a smaller wardrobe, I was reminded that having fewer clothes can actually be liberating. It forces us to be more intentional with our choices and to truly appreciate the pieces we have. Instead of mindlessly shopping and accumulating items that we rarely wear, we can focus on curating a collection that reflects our personal style and makes us feel happy to wear.

5. The 80/20 Rule Is Real

When it comes to our wardrobes, the 80/20 rule is real and it’s a game-changer. This rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, states that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.

Packing up most of my clothes was a little sad, truthfully, and I thought I would miss a lot of them. But I got to be reminded of how much I reach for my same favorite wardrobe basics that are stylish yet comfortable enough to be worn regularly.

Think about it: How often do you find yourself reaching for the same favorite jeans or that one cozy sweater? Most likely, it’s a small portion of your wardrobe that gets the most use. Understanding the 80/20 rule can be incredibly liberating. It means that you don’t need to have a closet bursting with clothes to have a stylish and functional wardrobe.

In fact, having fewer items can actually make getting dressed easier and more enjoyable. By focusing on the 20% of your clothes that you truly love and wear regularly, you can create a curated collection that reflects your personal style.

Give it a try yourself. Take a look at your wardrobe and consider the items that you wear most often. What do they have in common? Is it the fit, the fabric, or the style? Use these insights to guide future purchases and declutter any items that don’t align with your favorites. Embrace the 80/20 rule and watch as your wardrobe becomes more streamlined, versatile, and effortless!

outfit details (right)

6. Distance Can Help You Rediscover Old Favorites and Find New Ones

After unpacking my clothes and finally settling into my new home, I couldn’t wait to rediscover my old favorites and “find” new pieces to love. As I started to sort through my wardrobe, it was like reuniting with long-lost friends.

Rediscovering old favorites brought a sense of nostalgia and comfort. I remembered the special occasions when I had worn these clothes and the confidence they had given me. It was like reconnecting with a part of myself that had been temporarily hidden away.

But the best part of unpacking was the opportunity to find new favorites! As I organized my clothes and put together new outfits, I discovered pieces that had been neglected and overlooked in the past. I realized that my wardrobe was full of hidden gems, waiting to be worn and appreciated.

In the process of rediscovering old favorites and finding new ones, I developed a deeper appreciation for the clothes I already owned. It wasn’t about having the latest trends or the most extensive collection, but rather about curating a wardrobe that reflected my personality and made me feel confident.

Being separated from your clothes during a moving process gives you the opportunity to truly appreciate and reflect on each item. As you unpack, you may come across pieces that you forgot you had or ones that hold sentimental value.

Rediscovering these old favorites can bring a sense of nostalgia and joy. Plus, the physical distance between your old and new home can provide a fresh perspective on your clothing collection, allowing you to approach your clothes with a new set of eyes!

7. Never Pack Away the Wardrobe Staples

When it comes to clothing storage during a move, you might be unsure about what’s worth keeping in your closet and what you can live without. It can be tempting to pack away all of your clothes, buy new temporary pieces, and leave the old clothes in storage until you’re settled in your new home. Though I never considered packing away my wardrobe staples, keeping them accessible proved to be the right thing.

Your wardrobe staples are those timeless pieces that you reach for time and time again. They’re the reliable go-tos that can be styled with other things in your closet and always make you feel comfortable. Packing them away and not having them readily available can leave you feeling like something is missing.

Instead, prioritize your wardrobe staples and make sure they’re easily accessible when you move. Whether it’s your favorite pair of jeans, a classic white t-shirt, or a cozy sweater, having these items at your fingertips will make getting dressed in the morning a breeze.

Plus, they’ll serve as the foundation for creating a variety of stylish outfits. When it comes to clothing storage or decluttering during a move, remember to keep the basics close and let them be the anchors of your new wardrobe.

outfit details (left) | outfit details (right)

Though I hope I never have to move again (joking but not really), the lessons learned in a decluttering and moving process can be invaluable!

Do you want to get started on a minimalist wardrobe journey? I created a free shopping checklist for you that will get you started on the wardrobe basics!

In the meantime, keep reading: Everything You Need To Get Started With Your 2023 Capsule Wardrobe


Founder and editor of My Chic Obsession, Carolyn is your trusted fashion maven. Carolyn's drive to help others achieve a classic and timeless wardrobe fuels her posts, making mychicobsession.com a go-to resource for style seekers worldwide. Beyond the wardrobe, she resides in the heartland of the Midwest, dreaming up new ideas and raising her two lively boys - her biggest fashion critics.