How much lingerie do you have? And how much do you actually wear? It’s fine to have some things you save for special occasions – that happens with shoes and clothing and jewellery too – but if those two numbers are wildly different, perhaps it’s time to have a thorough lingerie drawer cleanse.
After all, what use is a pretty bra to you if it just lurks at the back of your wardrobe, unseen, unloved and unworn? Wouldn’t you rather have the wardrobe space to give to, or the money to reinvest in, something else you’ll get more use from?
After recently clearing out my own lingerie collection, here’s my step-by-step guide to whittling yours down to just the pieces that really deserve to be in it…
1. Gather everything together
I think if you’re planning to do a big cleanse / spring clean / whatever you want to call it, you should go all out and do it properly. Decluttering all in one big go means you won’t start and then just forget about it – once all your underthings have been pulled from their boxes and piled onto the bed, it’s a bit late to change your mind! Plus it forces you to dig everything out, so that you don’t forget about things that maybe aren’t stored where your everyday lingerie is.
Tip: I did my lingerie washing on a Saturday and my clear-out on the Sunday so that there weren’t sets lurking in my laundry bag, out of sight and out of mind.
2. Pick out the sentimental pieces
Decluttering experts may disagree with me, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a handful of pieces you keep purely for sentimental reasons. Note the key word there is ‘handful’ so pull out only those items that really do mean something special to you – just rather liking a bra is not enough!
For me these pieces were things like a babydoll of my own design from my first ever collection – unworn to this day, but a memento of how Esty Lingerie got started – and a basque that is no longer comfortable enough to wear but which was both an expensive gift from my now-fiancé and my first ever piece of truly-luxurious lingerie. In the past I’ve gotten rid of things like this that no longer got worn, and I’ve regretted it.
3. Check for things damaged beyond repair
Hopefully this won’t apply to very much of your lingerie, but if something’s absolutely falling apart – if it has holes for example – then it’s time to wave goodbye to it. Even if (especially if) it’s something you wear regularly; there comes a time when the best-loved things need replacing.
Note that if you’re willing to invest a little time, minor damage can often be fixed. Here’s a post I wrote for The Lingerie Addict on how to dye lingerie, a good way to cover up small stains, here’s another one I wrote there on how to replace worn-out bra straps, and here is someone else’s no-sew guide to repairing an underwire that’s poking out. Just be sure you’re actually going to do it, and not just leave that damaged piece of underwear untouched until next year’s clear-out!
4. Sift out what hasn’t been worn for ages (or ever)
This was the hardest step for me! I kept finding myself torn between thinking “I haven’t worn this in eons” and “but it’s just so pretty“. You really need to ruthless here – if you haven’t worn it in a year, you’re not going to wear it. Maybe it doesn’t fit, maybe it’s uncomfortable, maybe it was an impulse purchase that you just don’t like… whatever the reason, I assure you you won’t miss it.
I say a year because I’m including things like thick hosiery and winter robes or nightwear in this, which it’s normal to not wear for 3 seasons of the year. But if you haven’t worn a particular bra or babydoll for 6 months, do think hard about whether that’s going to change.
5. Try the rest on
Okay, we’re down to the last hurdle! Your pile of lingerie should be looking considerably smaller by now – but before you put it away, it’s time for a major trying-on session so make sure you have a large mirror nearby to help you check the fit.
Lingerie can stop fitting you for all sorts of reasons, including both changes in your lingerie – bra bands and waistband elastic can stretch out over time, for example – and changes in your body such as weight loss or weight gain. You can also change shape without changing size (post-pregnancy, or by changing your exercise routine for example) and that might affect how different pieces of lingerie fit.
Take the time to try everything on and be sure it does still fit you. Everyone has their own level of ‘acceptable poor fit’ – if the cups gape a little but you’re cool with that and it won’t stop you wearing the bra, by all means keep it.
If the fit is wildly off however, or poor fit makes it uncomfortable, in the adiós pile it goes. I don’t recommend keeping lingerie that you’re hoping you’ll fit into one day – wouldn’t you rather change it for lingerie you’ll wear and love right now?
What to do with all the discarded lingerie?
Congratulations, your lingerie drawer has now been ‘cleansed’ and you can put your newly-streamlined collection away! Now is a great time to review how you’re storing your lingerie and re-evaluate which pieces should go at the top/front for easy daily access.
Now, what to do with the rest?
- Bin – there’s not a whole lot you can do with badly-damaged pieces or used knickers, aside from throw them away. However for the craftily-inclined, I find it useful to salvage things like wires and strap sliders, as well as decorations such as bows which can be reused for anything from a cushion to a birthday card!
- Gift – if you know someone who’s a similar size, why not pass a few things on? If not, check out Random Acts of Bras where you can rehome bras and have your shipping costs covered by the giftee.
- Charity – of course, a third way to gift is to a charity! Knickers that don’t have tags on aren’t going to be accepted for hygiene reasons, but you can certainly donate lightly-worn (or brand new, of course) bras, slips and the like.
- Sell – sometimes, you want to get your money back on a piece, or at least some of it. eBay is a great place to sell lingerie by well-known brands. Most indie brands however aren’t being searched for, so you may struggle more to get any interest for these – you can also try Bra Swap and Bratabase where people re-sell their bras to a lingerie-passionate audience that’s more likely to have heard of niche brands!
For me, I’m doing a combination of the above – plus running a blog sale. Check it out here if you haven’t already. Oh, and I have plans to turn some poorly-fitting-but-incredibly-beautiful pieces into artwork later this year…
If you have any other lingerie drawer decluttering tips you’ve found helpful, please do share them in the comments below.