Closet Purging Tips

Letting go of our mistakes can be very liberating. If an item serves no purpose beyond taking up space, why keep it? If an object is beautiful to look at and gives me joy, it earns a place in my life. If it reminds me of an unpleasant part of my past or the item no longer represents the woman I am now, it is time to release it.

As for my closet and style, a few guidelines continue to be helpful to me. Now that I am in my sixties, some things no longer feel right for me when I put them on. I don’t want to look like I am trying too hard, nor do I want to keep wasting money reinventing myself. I know what works, so I stick with my guidelines.

Yours may be very different, but my golden style guidelines for winter are as follows.

  • Don’t wear clothing with words or logos. Look for handbags and belts without logos or bold metal hardware.
  • Avoid excesses. Too much perfume or jewelry, loud prints, and bright colors or trendy pieces are not for me.
  • Don’t wear distressed anything, ever.
  • Avoid real leather jackets or pants. Leather can look too harsh on my aging skin and softer coloring. I opt for suede or soft faux leather that has a buttery texture instead. (Not black.)
  • Wear sleek, clean neutral-colored sneakers with very casual looks, not bulky white trainers. Streamlined slip-on sneakers are better looking and more understated.
  • Proper fit is critical — nothing oversize and absolutely nothing tight. The front of jackets should never vanish beneath the arm because of the bust or pull tight at the buttons. Clothing should allow freedom of movement without excessive fabric. Never wear pants that puddle on the tops of your shoes.
  • Don’t buy shoes with heels higher than three inches. Block heels are more flattering and comfortable than spiked heels. Flat shoes should always have a visible arch and a pointed or almond-shaped toe.
  • Cheap shoes and bags ruin the best outfit, but good ones can elevate even a T and jeans.

The crew-neck cashmere sweaters I purchased from Everlane have served me very well this winter. I dress them up or down and wear them with a scarf or a necklace, and they keep me warm without adding bulk under jackets. Straight leg dark wash jeans are the only style I buy now. These are a few years old.

Coats that end a few inches above my knees provide the best proportion with flat shoes. The snow-leopard print wool coat came from Ann Taylor Loft a few years ago.

Sunglasses in gray or taupe (not black) with square frames and top mounted temples or slightly cat-eye shapes are best for my plump facial features. The sunglasses shown are by Balmain.

The bag is several years old from T.J.Maxx. The shoes are from last year.

My favorite skincare products and makeup are here. Referral and affiliate links may generate a small commission for me at no cost to you.

  1. Although your “golden guidelines” will be familiar to those of us who have been following you, it is so helpful to see a condensed list to reiterate them. Yesterday I “purged” a bit, which included getting rid of some rather new things that were clearly “mistakes” and some (very) old things including workout pants in totally wearable condition; but since my body has changed, I prefer some of the newer materials and higher-waisted styles that hold in that middle section better and just feel more comfortable. You must be blessed with great feet, because up until fairly recently you wore high heels when most of us had given them up long ago! I am sure I am not the only one that avoids pointed-toe shoes. Podiatrists caution against wearing pointed-toe style shoes that too often tend to be narrow at that big toe joint where bunions tend to form. (I have had the surgery.) In addition to flats and block heels, I also like “kitten” heels which are very feminine (good for petites) and relatively comfortable.

    1. If you have Germanic, Roman, or Celtic shaped toes, pointed toe shoes will never be right for you. I have Greek shaped feet, so pointed and almond toe shoes follow the natural shape of my foot. For more examples of the shapes the human foot visit this page.

  2. This is a beautiful, elegant look, and the coat is the perfect length. Thank you for your dedication to this blog. I thoroughly enjoy reading it.

  3. I am not good at leaving comments, but I look forward to your posts…many times going back and re-reading them. They are so informative and fun to read. I appreciate all the care and attention you put into them. Have a wonderful and blessed day.

  4. I absolutely love your snow leopard cat! The whole look is smoothly tonal which is my favorite style because it makes me feel confident and calm prepared for any eventuality.

    I ,too, have taken out several items recently that just didn’t fit my mind though they still fit my body.

  5. Thanks for your posts!
    I’m in my 60’s, too, and have been purging my wardrobe in the same way. I’m trying more sleek, minimalist lines, staying away from flouncy looks, big prints, oversized tops. I donated all my cropped cargo pants, because I think they are perhaps one of the worst looks for women over 60. Also no more skinny anything! Ugg-type boots gone as well. Tunic tops don’t work well for me as a petite woman.

    1. It is cold here right now so I wish I could go to the beach. Please look back at some of the summer and my two rare vacation weeks from last year, to see how I dress for warmer weather.

  6. I love the longer coat silhouette on you and the length and size of the necklace. I absolutely love scarves, but it’s nice to see an alternative way to make an outfit more interesting without them.

  7. Spot on! Your rules suit me well too. I can’t say enough good things about cashmere sweaters. I bought five simple, cashmere sweaters four years ago and absolutely love them. I was fortunate to have bought them on an unbelievable sale after Christmas. I wear them constantly with casual or dressier pants. Slip an Express Portofino shirt (thank you Susan) under one and I’m ready to go! They are perfect for travel too. I’ve gotten so spoiled. I don’t know what I’ll do when they need replacing. One at a time, I suppose. Or maybe I’ll hit another fab sale!
    You look so chic. I love your coat. Here’s to learning to dress the best!

  8. You give such sound advice, and as someone who is of a similar age and build as you, I appreciate the reasoning behind it. I have a very casual lifestyle at this point, and although I have a smaller budget, I can still apply your guidelines to project a somewhat classic look.

  9. Isn’t it awful how we can get taken in by the “trends”. I have adopted many of your rules. They work for me and I am 5’1″. But every once in awhile I’ve slipped up and have regretted my choice. I’m in the process of eliminating the tunic tops with the leggings too. They aren’t bad on me, but other things are so much better! Fortunately I’ve never liked big prints. I like small geometrics and subtle prints such as your smashing animal print coat. Very chic, Susan! Thank you for focusing on classic looks and staying away from unsuitable trends.
    Someone mentioned beachwear. Oh my, Isn’t that hard. I do have several one piece suits that are darker on the bottom and slowly lighten towards the top with lovely color. I wear them with a tied scarf/skirt and a good instant tanning product. This look has served me well since I moved into my 60’s. I really hope ladies don’t stop doing the things they love, like swimming, just because our bodies have aged.

  10. I always appreciate your tips and ideas and have made many of them “my own”! I’m just hovering at the 60’s and look forward to continuing to be and look better than ever. I’ve followed you for awhile and appreciate your sense of style and your sensible outlook on clothing, makeup, and accessories. Keep it up…and thanks!

  11. You look fabulous as always. I haven’t commented in a while but always read your posts and this one is a great summary of your style guidelines. Although I am a different height and shape to you your posts are always helpful and I appreciate the time and effort you put into these posts.

  12. What a great outfit Susan! You look stylish and sooo classy!
    I’m going to keep my eye out for a similar coat because I wear mostly grey & black.
    Such good advice, as always!

  13. Hi Susan. I absolutely adore your coat and your whole look overall. I am about to turn 50 and follow most of these guidelines, though I will sometimes wear higher heels and I still love my darkwash skinny jeans rather than straight ones. I wore straight ones for years and then found skinnys and love the way they tuck into tall boots and ankle boots. I prefer block heels. They are so much more stable. Thanks for your blog. I don’t comment often but I really appreciate that you post so wonderfully and so often.

  14. Thank you! You are so inspiring. I’m also in my 60’s and trying to stop reinventing myself every time new styles come along. I am trying to define my style and stick to it. You look fabulous, and you look comfortable in your own style. I’m not there yet, but trying to follow your example. This is a wonderful blog and I also appreciate making the effort to keep it going.

  15. One other thing, I meant to say on last comment. I cannot wait to see your style guidelines for summer. I hope you will do the same thing for hot weather.

  16. Love, love, love the coat. I am 59 and need to start staying away from so many black clothes in my wardrobe but it is so hard. It was a staple most of my life. I know it’s harsh on my older skin but such a hard habit to break.

  17. First, Thank you for the time and effort you put into this, I find it helpful. The only tip I deviate from is the bright prints on occasion, I love chicos, and do have a few pairs of their fun palazzos. In my defense, I pair with neutrals, and very basic jewelry, and frankly, I love them. If I may chime in on the beachwear subject, I discovered swim shorts a few years ago, and with tankini tops find that I can read on a beach chair in nearly any position , and get in and out of the chair, the pool or the sea without flashing anyone…..

  18. Whilst I always enjoy your Blog this edition really resonated with me as so logical. I see so many women our age who are just trying “too hard” and I’d hate to fall into that category (here in Australia we refer to it as “mutton dressed as lamb”). My wardrobe is the bane of my life – overflowing with clothes and never anything to wear is almost my motto in life. I keep so many items because either I might fit back into them or I feel guilty as I’ve spent good money on them and I don’t like to wear them……… thanks for your inspiring words. Joy

  19. I love this list! I just turned 60 a few months ago and have been purging my closet and drawers of things that no longer suit me. I am more careful when I shop now. I used to make a lot of purchases of clothing or accessories that I just liked or had to have but often never wore or were wrong for me. I find that less is more now!

  20. Someone requested warm weather looks and you referred them to your warm weather looks EXCEPT I couldn’t find out how to get to them.

    You look wonderful as always.

    1. There is a search icon at the top of the page (on my PC). You can keywords or you can scroll down to the bottom of the page and go to previous posts. Here is the vacation post that might be helpful.

  21. Love your look! I love that necklace and am tempted to treat myself! You have sparked a fire in me and I have joined WW and am losing weight. I thank you for all your advice! I have Greek feet too, how fun!

  22. Very good guidelines. I enjoyed seeing that written out. I do still wear a heel but only for evenings or more formal occasions. Never in the day.
    Today’s look is very elegant, I particularly like the embossed design on the coat, adds depth and dimension to your outfit!
    Thanks for all your tips!

  23. Susan, Thank you for introducing me to Levis jeans. In a recent post you wore a pair of Levi’s straight leg jeans and so I tried them. Since then, I’ve purchased three pairs. They fit me perfectly, look good, and are always comfortable. Thank you for this tip. I love reading your blog. Regards, Melissa

  24. For those who requested information on beachwear…I’ve been pleased over many years with Lands End’s selections of mix and match tops and bottoms. I’m in my early 70’s and usually opt for one of the Tankini tops over swim-mini or boy short bottoms…always with a coverup when not in the water!

  25. When going thru my closet, I try on everything before it’s in a donation bag. I try to figure out why I don’t wear it – it doesn’t go with another piece of clothing or the fit is off. If I can’t figure out why I don’t wear it, I put those clothes in a different place in my closet and try to wear them thru the week. If I wear them and something is itchy, the top turns to one side after wearing or rides up, I wash it and write a note why I’m giving it away. So my purging process can take 2 weeks with wearing some items and washing. I have a large bag ready for donations and then leave it for a week or so after I’m done. If nothing has left the bag because I had a change of heart – then out it goes. I do the same with my shoes or boots. Try all of them on and decide.

    Thanks, Susan for all your help. I love to spring clean way before spring too. I was wondering if you wear your scarves AND your necklaces? Any tips for wearing both would be appreciated. Thanks again.

  26. I really appreciate your advice on how long a coat should be to look good with flat shoes… a few inches above the knew. I LOVE this!! Thank You Susan.

  27. Thank You for your wonderful post! Purging my closet is always an ongoing project. I checked out the Everlane website for the cashmere sweaters. I’ve never owned one but would like to purchase in the future. I wanted to let everyone know that I happen to see on the cashmere website something I was curious about. Under the add to bag, it lists information about the sweater and where they are made. You can actually view the factory where the cashmere sweaters are made. I found that very reassuring to see the quality and cleanliness of the factory. Thank You, Susan, for all your time and effort.

    1. One of the many reasons I shop with Everlane is their transparency but also because of the very high-quality basics, I have been getting from them for the past couple of years.

  28. I wrote everything down, Susan, and thank you for everything that you do! You look beautiful, and inspire us to be understated and elegant in our appearance. I often talk to my sister, 350 miles away, about how lovely you look. She is who told me, and our other sister, about your blog, and we three try to dress and behave, elegantly, like you. We are 70, 65, and 60. Thank you again!

  29. I am 67 and am a soon to be mother of the groom. I am shocked by the formal dresses for mother of bride or groom. The selection is geared towards red carpet runway….body conscious sheaths, cut out backs, strapless etc. Then there are the fussy lace jacket dresses that look so horribly matronly, but cover up everything. It seems there is nothing in between. One must coordinate color, length etc. with the rest of the wedding party. Also very few in the petite range so alterations are necessary. Would it be possible to do a post on formal dresses as many of your readers are either mother or grandmother of bride or groom. Thank you so much.


  31. Thanks for such a great blog.
    Great blog. Where are you located? I work for an upscale boutique in Phoenix and would love to know how to get mentioned on your blog.

    Thanks very much for your time.

    Maureen Short

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.