Spring has traditionally been the time for deep cleaning and purging, but for my money, fall is the season best suited. It's the one time of year when all your layers are on display. You've pulled out your wool sweaters and heavy coats for the winter, but your short sleeves are still lingering in the closet. Only now is every single item you own in the same place. This, truly, is the time to assess what you have, and to what you can say goodbye.
1. White Cotton Tube Socks
Are you an eight-year-old boy in gym class? Then stop covering your feet like one. Cause here's the truth: if your clothes fit properly, someone (including you) will see your socks multiple times throughout the day. And there is literally no time in a man's life where white, mid-calf length cotton socks are the ideal option. If you need cotton, go for a sub-ankle liner sock for warm weather, or for a medium gray or brown tone for a jeans and sneakers day. But, when you buy new socks, buy wool or wool-blend. They're the ones that actually wick moisture away from your feet, and don't get dirty brown dingle-pills all over them.
2. More than One Pair of “Paint” Jeans and Two Shirts
Yes, you need a set of clothes that can get dirty. Believe me – every hobby I have involves something messy: sawdust, glue, bike grease, ink, spray paint, or mud. And it's a natural progression to downgrade a pair of jeans once they develop an unrepairable hole or a spill that will simply never come out.
But you only need one set. One pair of pants, two shirts. These are not your “work clothes,” and if you're a tradesperson or craftsman, you know what you need to do your job. But for DIYing or stuff that you can stain with gusto, you need to cover yourself for a weekend: two shirts and a pair of jeans. Save the nicest ones, or downgrade something else you're getting rid of. Then, let the rest go.
3. T-Shirts with Deodorant Build Up
It's unfortunate, but it happens. If you wear deodorant and/or antiperspirant, it will get on your clothes. And eventually, it will build up to the point that the pits of your t-shirts are covered in a waxy, wet-looking layer, especially on colored or dark clothing. And, when that happens, it's time to move on. Solace: at this point, the collar and sleeves are probably also completely worn out, so at least there are multiple strikes against.
4. Ties or Belts You Haven't Worn in the Last Two Years
Generally, the rule is to move on from anything you haven't used in the last year. With dress accessories like ties, belts, pocket squares, and the like, give them two years, but no more. Uunless you suit up for work everyday, a lot of these items are used sporadically, and might not get called upon seasonally. But if they've managed to stay on the rack for two years or more, their time has come.
5. That Button Down Shirt That's Just So Wrinkly You Never Actually Wear It
You know the one. You liked the shirt at the store, perhaps even shot one of those me-in-the-mirror photos in the dressing room. And you wore it, and everything was great. And then you washed it, dried it, and its 100% cotton-ness and interesting details came back to haunt you so hard that it has lived every other day of its life on a hanger Not even two hours of ironing could help that thing (not that you'll do it anyway). Pass it on.
6. Your Oldest, Most Worn Out Pair of Shorts
Before you put all your shorts away for the season, set your next-summer-self up for success and remove one pair. Preferably, the dingiest one – anything will extra pockets, dangly bits, or longer than a 9″ inseam.
7. Socks and Underwear That Will No Longer Stay Up by Themselves
Shirts rest on your shoulder. Pants fit your whole lower half and have belt loops and buttons. Socks and underwear, on the other hand, use elastic or woven ribbing patterns to stay put. And, because these things are designed to compress and expand, they will eventually wear out. And when they do, it's their time to depart. Yes, it's annoying to have to spend money to replace things you already own. Yes, that is what's called being an adult.
8. Anything You've Ever Worn as Part of a Wedding Party
Yeah, maybe it isn't that bad, and maybe you do like it, but reality check: that tie tack or handkerchief isn't something you bought for yourself, and you probably have a hard enough time remembering to wear those that are. The wedding party asked you to join them on their special day, and to be all matchy matchy in the photos, not to design your wardrobe. You're not going to wear it, and they won't care if you do.
9. Anything With a Hole In
You know why. Yes, you love it, but yes, people can see it, and yes, you can make do without. Rip off the band-aid.
10. Extra Warm Coats You Only Wear a Few Times a Year
It's good to have options, of course, but the truth is: if you own multiple coats that you only wear once or twice each winter, they're not doing their job as a coat. And, most importantly, there are people out there who need a coat every single day to survive and stay healthy. Find out who in your city helps those people stay warm, and give them your extras.
The one exception here might be a classic wool top coat that you'll wear over a suit or tuxedo. Those basically haven't changed in a hundred years, and they're the kind of thing you buy once and use for life, even if only twice a year.
11. Any Piece You've Ever Said “Just in Case” About
You know the item. For when you lose weight, or gain it. For when you might need five different suits for five days. For when you have out of town guests and they need to go waterfall diving with you but didn't pack accordingly, Adam.
If you don't wear it, you don't need it in your life. Let it live its true purpose elsewhere.