Closet Maintenance: Consider A “One In, One Out” Policy

June 6, 2013

Closet Maintenance: Consider a “One in, One out” Policy

When I began thinking about my clothing purchases beyond “Hey I like that shirt,” and building a wardrobe thoughtfully, season by season, there were lots of holes to fill. Dozens of resources offer advice on how many suits, jackets, shirts, shoes, belts, jeans, sweaters, ties, watch bands, collar pins, camp caps, regatta-striped blazers, etc. etc. a man must own, and because acquiring cool stuff is fun, I quickly overdid it a little. (Celebrated illustrator and dandy Richard Merkin, pictured, would recommend at least a dozen sets of braces.) An occasional ebay selling binge or donation to Goodwill can dispose of the shirts that don’t quite fit or shoes on which I gambled and lost, and some treasured items eventually wear out beyond reasonable repair, but even so I continue accumulate stuff more quickly than I can realistically wear it out or tire of it.

Once you reach critical mass, whether that means enough stuff to make it to laundry day or enough to require a second storage unit for seasonal pieces (and who am I to judge), a policy that can prevent hoarding is “one in, one out.” For example, I have enough sweaters—basics; cotton, wool, cashmere; tasteful intarsia and an ugly Christmas sweater just in case. My sweater drawer is full. Should a top-quality, beautiful piece really strike me (say an Inis Meain or Inverallan), I can buy it; but only if I get rid of a sweater I already own.

Using the one in, one out policy makes editing a reasonable wardrobe easier. It cuts down on impulse purchases (i.e., do I really want to get rid of any sweaters in order to buy a cardigan on deep sale?), eases seasonal transitions (less stuff to store or pull out of storage), and helps keep a closet refreshed rather than just bursting.