A Simple Tool to Help with the Keep or Purge Decision Process

Do you have things in your closet that you can’t decide whether to keep or purge?   Most of us have at least a few such items and sometimes we’ve been on the fence about them for months or even years.   Perhaps you’ve already tried the “first impression test” and still feel stuck, but you’re not ready to undertake a full KonMari Process just yet.   In today’s post, I’m going to share a quick and easy method to help you finally get off the fence and make a decision about those “maybe” pieces.

To use this process, you will just need one thing, a coin.   That’s right, you’re going to flip a coin in order to make your decision, but there’s a twist.   Which side the coin lands on is not nearly as important as how you feel about the outcome of the toss.  Let me explain, and then I’ll give some personal examples.

flip a coin

Can flipping a coin help you decide what to keep or purge?

Here’s a common scenario… You have a garment that’s been hanging in your closet gathering dust, but you’re not sure whether to keep it or let it go.   So you decide to flip a coin and if it lands on heads, you’ll keep the item and if it lands on tails, you’ll pass it on (or vice-versa, if you wish).  As the coin lands, pay close attention to your immediate reaction.  Do you feel relieved at the outcome or does it lead to disappointment or remorse?  Do you find yourself wanting to flip again and go for the best two out of three?   Your gut feeling about the coin’s disposition will tell you a lot about how you really feel about the item in question.

If you want to read more about this method, here are two great articles that elaborate on it:

Some Personal Examples

In order to make things clearer for you – and in the service of my getting off the fence about a few items, I’m going to offer some personal examples of the coin toss decision process.  I went to my closet and selected five questionable pieces (four garments and one pair of shoes) that I wanted to decide whether to keep or purge.  Here’s a quick look at them:

coin toss items

     I have been on the fence about whether to keep or toss these five items. 

Now let’s look at the items one by one. I first list what I see as the pros and cons of each and then reveal the result of my coin toss.  Please note that I wrote the commentary on each item before I did the coin toss.  I also show outfits featuring most of these items (the moto jacket was purchased last month and has not been worn yet).  Many of these outfits are from a few years ago and do not represent my current style but do show the items in question, which is why I have included them here.  I cringed at a few of these ensembles, but style evolves. I’m much happier with how I’m dressing these days, which is a testament to my hard work and the progress I’ve made (read about my style evolution here).

Item #1:  Black Peep-Toe Sling-Backs

black Beautifeel slingbacksThese shoes were given to me by my mom back in February 2013.  The fact that they were a gift and were expensive is the main reason I’ve kept them despite their rarely being worn.  Here are a few outfit photos which feature these shoes:

black slingback outfits


  1. They’re very comfortable.
  2. They’re black (and thus coordinate with much of my wardrobe).


  1. They look very dressy due to the glossy finish and velvet areas.
  2. They’re quite conservative in style.
  3. The sling-back style makes them difficult to wear with trousers (the pant legs gets caught in the straps).

Results of the Coin Toss:

I did the coin toss with heads for keeping the shoes and tails for selling them on eBay.  When the result was heads, I immediately felt a sense of heaviness and burden.  I clearly wanted permission to sell the shoes, which makes sense because I feel guilty every time I see them in my closet.  I think of my mom spending her hard-earned money on these expensive shoes that I have rarely worn, but my style has changed and the shoes are really too dressy for my lifestyle.   I’m going to sell these shoes on eBay.  Case closed!

Item #2:  Black Long Blazer

black long blazer

I bought this blazer over five years ago and have only worn it twice during that entire time!   Although it has landed in “benchwarmer” territory each year since I started the blog, I’ve kept it as a “just in case” item for occasions such as job interviews and dressy events.  The outfits below include the blazer, but I don’t think I actually wore any of them outside of my apartment.   The look on the left is a recent idea, while the other two were from 2012 and 2013.

black blazer outfits


  1. It’s a good length to wear with pants and jeans.
  2. It can dress up a casual outfit when necessary.
  3. The ruched sleeves are kind of cool.


  1. The sleeves are somewhat too short (3/4 sleeves are often more like 2/3 sleeves on me).
  2. The material doesn’t include any stretch so it doesn’t “give.”
  3. I have a very casual lifestyle and don’t have much occasion for blazers.

Results of the Coin Toss:  

I used the same designations for the coin toss as for the black shoes above and again the result was heads.  Although I didn’t feel the same heaviness about the prospect of keeping the blazer as I experienced with the shoes, I was definitely disappointed at the outcome.  I just don’t love this blazer, which is why I’ve rarely worn it.   I think I would wear a blazer with longer sleeves and in a more comfortable fabric, but this is not the blazer for me. If a dressy event comes up in my life, I have other things I can wear, so I don’t need to keep this one around “just in case.”  Since the blazer is in excellent condition and is a classic style, I plan to sell it on eBay, too.

Item #3:  Black Woven Moto Jacket

I just bought this jacket last month, with the idea that it’s a different silhouette and would pair well with jeans.   It hits me at around hipbone length, which looks nice with boot-cut jeans as well as slimmer fits.

black woven moto jacket


  1. The silhouette is flattering and looks good on me.
  2. The fabric includes some stretch, which leads to increased comfort.
  3. The jacket will work well with many items in my closet.


  1. The jacket doesn’t look good worn open, so it needs to be zipped up all the time.
  2. When zipped, I can’t really see my top underneath the jacket.
  3. Even with the added stretch, it’s a woven fabric which isn’t as comfortable as a knit.

Results of the Coin Toss:

For this jacket, I designated heads for keeping it and tails for returning it to the store.  My result was tails and I felt at peace with that.  I would much prefer to find a jacket that can be worn either open or closed. The fact that this jacket can only be worn closed is a liability in my eyes, as I’m someone who wears my jackets and coats open most of the time.  I will return this jacket in favor of an alternate style, perhaps a field jacket or anorak that will pair well with jeans.

Item #4:   Black and White Print Top

black and white print Loft topI’ve had this top for almost eight years, as I purchased it in June 2008.   However, it has only been worn once or twice per year since I started tracking my wears in 2011, so it’s still in excellent condition.  It’s a jersey material with some stretch in the fabric.   Although I’ve worn it with skirts a few times, I prefer it with jeans and trousers.  The outfit on the left was from a few weeks ago, while the one of the right was from last June:

black and white top outfits


  1. I love black and white prints and the turquoise piping is a nice special detail.
  2. The tie at the waist is flattering.
  3. Most of my short-sleeved tops are ultra-casual tees and this top is a bit dressier.


  1. The sleeve style may look somewhat dated.
  2. The top is a bit shorter in the back and I wish it was longer.

Results of the Coin Toss:

Since this is an older top, I wouldn’t try to sell it on eBay, so I indicated that I would keep it for heads and take it to a local consignment store (or donate it) for tails.  The coin landed on heads and I felt okay about it.   I will give the top at least one more try within the next month or so and see how I feel about it then.  I might like it better with boot-cut jeans or perhaps my black skirt that I had shortened last fall.   If I try it again and am not happy with it, however, I’ll be fine with letting it go at that time.

Item #5:  Grey Tank

grey JJill tank

I’ve had this tank for four years, but have only worn it one to three times each year. I think I’ve only ever worn it with my burgundy open cardigan, as shown below:

grey tank outfits


  1. The tank is a soft, comfortable fabric.
  2. The fit and length are good.


  1. The color isn’t all that flattering for my skin tone.
  2. It doesn’t look very good on its own, so I must wear it with a bold colored topper or else I will look washed out.

Results of the Coin Toss:

I proceeded with this coin toss as with the last item, with tails indicating that I would sell the tank on consignment or donate it to charity.  When the coin landed on heads, I was disappointed.  I think that I had already decided I wanted to pass it on after writing the pros and cons above and seeing that I’ve only ever worn the tank with my burgundy cardigan.  I would prefer to pair the burgundy cardigan with my cobalt, black, pink, or red tanks instead.  I just don’t love the way I look in grey anymore and feel that I have better options in my closet.   I’m going to take the tank to my local consignment store and will donate it if they don’t accept it.  I feel at peace with this decision.


This was a very helpful exercise and I’m glad I did it.  The end result is that I’m keeping one item and selling or donating the remaining four.  The decision was quite clear each time the coin landed and I saw the result.   In truth, I think I had already made up my mind after writing down the pros and cons for each item before tossing the coin.   I’ll admit that I was a little surprised at how I felt about keeping the black and white print top.  I fully expected to be okay with passing that one on, too, but I think the fact that it’s a black and white print and an alternate style from my other short-sleeved tops motivates me to give it one more chance.

I may do a part two of this post, as I found the process of formulating my thoughts and tossing the coin very beneficial.   Even with the shoes, about which I had the most emotion, I felt a release after seeing the result and noticing that I wanted the opposite outcome. Somehow, the clarity I gained through the process has helped to alleviate some of the guilt I’ve been experiencing at the thought of letting go of the shoes.  The same thing was true of the blazer, jacket, and tank.   I had already been thinking about purging these three items, too, but the coin toss gave me the added push I needed to go from pondering doing so to actually making a commitment for action.

Now It’s Your Turn…

I highly recommend that you give the coin toss method a try.  It’s quick and easy and you don’t need to precede the toss with listing pros and cons like I did.  You can simply think of the item in question, decide what heads and tails mean, and toss the coin.  Notice how you feel immediately upon seeing the result and you’ll have clarity on your best course of action.

If you do opt to take try the coin toss, I invite you to share your experience in the comments section of this post.   I hope the process will be as helpful to you as it was for me.   Life’s too short to feel guilty and flog ourselves over shopping mistakes (as long as we learn from them, of course).   Freeing yourself from negative feelings can be as simple as tossing a coin!

37 thoughts on “A Simple Tool to Help with the Keep or Purge Decision Process

  1. This method seems great! I will try it.
    I have same feelings with gifts: I feel guilty when I don’t wear them but also when I want to sell or donate them. It is easier to let go something that we bought using our proper money.

    • I hope you will find this method helpful, Dory. If you can, please share how it goes for you. I agree that it’s a lot easier to let things go that we bought for ourselves, even if they were expensive. There are a lot of potential issues with gifts and guilt is a big one…

  2. I also feel guilty about gifts, especially ones that cost a lot of money because my family doesn’t have much. I started to train my immediate family and closest friends to not give me gifts, or if they really have to, just give me a gift card. A nice side effect is holidays have become much more about getting together and having a party, and less about things. After all, life is a fleeting joy.

    I’m noticing that some of your gray items are just not getting much love. Maybe gray just doesn’t do it for you. Personally, I thought the gray top looks great in the pictures, maybe because it’s so flattering next to that burgundy open cardigan. But black seems to be a core color that you are more comfortable with.

    I’m with you on toppers that you can’t wear open. I also live in Southern California (OC) and I never buy double breasted jackets or coats for that reason. Also the ones with the asymmetrical zip that look so cute online, they just look weird on me since I have to wear them open or risk sweating to death.

    • I agree that gift cards can be a better way to go, Jane. Alternatively, we can share experiences (such as a meal out together or a play or concert) instead of buying each other gifts, as the holidays are more about spending time with loved ones anyway.

      Yes, I’m not feeling it with gray anymore. I’m okay with it in prints, but I think I’m going to stay away from gray pieces, at least close to my face. As for the toppers, I’m glad I realized that the moto jacket just isn’t going to work for me. Not only does it get too hot sometimes with coats and jackets done up here, I also find it a pain to HAVE to button or zip things as the only viable option to wear them.

      • I like the idea of having a meal out together or a play or concert instead of gifts. I’ll have to try that.

  3. You know, as I see these pictures, I can’t help but think that the show “What Not To Wear” did a lot of damage to a lot of people. Honestly, I feel like a lot of the older outfits would have done very well on the show, but they don’t reflect your true style. I wish that show had been more about creating a wardrobe that made the person happy, and less about fitting into a cookie cutter style that doesn’t fit into that person’s lifestyle.

    • I know they had good intentions with that show, so I wasn’t intending on bashing Stacey and Clint. That said, if we’re not dealing with customers every day, why not wear clothes that really speak to you personally? I know a lot of offices where standard dress code is hoodies and jeans. Mostly tech offices obviously, but I work back office (compliance) at a major bank and my coworker wears jeans and a Hawaiian shirt every single day. I personally have come in wearing jeans and a hoodie. I typically work from home, but occasionally I do come in and if I come in on a Friday, I see all manner of funky get-ups. Hey, as long as they’re productive and not being disruptive, why not?

    • Yes, I was definitely a victim of “What Not to Wear,” Jane, and I’m sure I’m in good company there. I agree that the intentions of the show were good, but they did tend to dress everyone like corporate New Yorkers. I remember they did some shows in San Diego and the women ended up being dressed up far more than most people are here. They didn’t seem to pay enough attention to the women’s actual lifestyle sometimes. I got the idea that I needed blazers from watching that show and ended up buying quite a few that I never wore. The same with pumps and blouses… My life is really more t-shirts and jeans and although I like to dress up, I need to do it in a way that is appropriate for where I live and what I do, like your co-workers at your office. I used to work in high-tech and I would have been very out of place in some of the outfits above. If I loved them, great, but I was more following Stacy and Clinton’s advice rather than my own inner muse.

      • I do recall one guy, one of our lawyers actually, coming into the office wearing these ultra-tight bicycle shorts that were very…revealing. I guess he had been cycling that morning and was too tired to change or something.

        That is the only time I’ve ever seen HR ask someone to go home and change. LOL

      • That’s a funny story, Jane! Some people don’t have a good sense of what crosses the line. Bike shorts in a business office is definitely inappropriate and most people should know that! But I increasingly see people (men and women) wearing pajama pants and even slippers in public, so the line has become fuzzy at best 😦

      • I hate to say it, but I’ve seen the pajama pants and slippers too…more than once. I wonder if it’s because I live in So Cal. I can’t see people in for instance, Dallas doing that.

        Speaking of which, I took the California bar exam a while back. Don’t be impressed, I hated that test and didn’t do well in school. So obviously this is a huge test and nerves are frazzled. You would think that for a really huge, serious test, people would wear serious clothes or at least normal clothes. Or at least could shower? Right?

        Two rows ahead of me sat a girl wearing –I am not joking or exaggerating here–a negligee. Unfortunately, she was seated so I was unable to see if she was also wearing fluffy slippers. I do recall that she was clutching a teddy bear, however. She turned around and I realized she was a classmate of mine….

        I then went to the bathroom and along the way ran into another classmate. He was wearing the dirtiest t-shirt I’ve ever seen in my life. It might have been white at one point, but it was definitely closer to charcoal gray when I saw him. He was also wearing dirty shorts and old flip flops. I’ve seen cleaner homeless people. What’s odd is he was typically very well-groomed when attending school, and in fact was typically one of the handsomest guys in our class. I actually thought it was cool that one of the “beautiful people” could go so grungy so fast, but I would guess the transformation would shock others.

        Who the hell wears a negligee in public? Why is a grown woman clutching a teddy bear? Does taking a hard exam preclude showing and washing of clothing? So…many…questions….

  4. I am with you on the gray – I love how it looks on other people, and it doesn’t look bad on me, I just finally realized I get depressed when I wear it. Facing up to this and getting rid of my remaining gray tops was a good decision. It’s not logical though, because I have some tweedy gray jackets that are favorites and I did keep a soft gray scarf that I love – these have varied textures and interesting trim, so I guess they are in a different category!

    • I have learned that I like gray in prints but not so much by itself, Murphy. By itself, it does seem to drag me down, but I didn’t always feel that way. In fact, I have a gray coat that I wore MANY times a few years ago but rarely reached for last year and this year so far. I don’t plan on eliminating gray completely from my wardrobe, but I will be more strategic with it, much like you have been.

  5. I like this! It’s something I haven’t tried, but I can see how it might work for me. I’ll see if I have any on-the-fence items to try this with~

    • I’m glad you like this, Diane, and I hope it works well for you. If you do give it a go, I hope you’ll come back and report on the process – or share it in the “End Closet Chaos” group.

  6. I do a version of your coin toss by asking my husband his opinion. I find it always helps me when I can’t make up my mind to hear what he thinks because I pay attention to that intial reaction you mentioned. Unfortunately, it’s given my husband a complex. He thinks I just ask him so I can do the opposite. 🙂 Perhaps I should use a coin next time.
    I thought it was interesting your blazer outfits probably didn’t get worn out of the house. I too try different outfit ideas at home and so many of them (cute ones too) never make it out the door. I’m working my way up to letting go of those clothes.
    BTW, I loved all three of recent outfits photos you posted here.

    • I have done the same thing with my husband, Heather, but he does seem a bit frustrated when I don’t heed his advice. There are a few things of mine that he doesn’t like at all (jean jackets for one) but I really like. The coin doesn’t have any feelings that can get hurt 😉

      I periodically put outfits together and take photos, especially for items I find I’m not wearing. It’s a helpful activity and sometimes it pushes me to wear things more. Obviously, that wasn’t the case for the black blazer, though! Thanks for your compliment on my recent outfits. It’s interesting to see my newer looks side by side with the old ones. I am much happier with my more recent ensembles, but I’m still ready to let the blazer go…

      • Haha, coins definitely have it over husbands when it comes to not getting frustrated when we don’t take their advice.

  7. Hi Debbie. Great idea, I can see how it removes the burden of guilt & making the decision to cull items. I have recently passed on a number of bags, that whilst I love the look, the functionality is not great. If I use a bag & find myself fumbling for car keys, mobile etc I immediately take it out of rotation. I find going about my daily duties during times of stress, it’s essential that I maintain a degree of calm. Panic attacks in car parks over ‘lost’ car keys is detrimental to this. I’ve gifted a number of bags to my grateful teenage nieces so it’s a win win & I feel pleasure passing these items on. I’m very much a ‘love it or lose it’ girl these days & have come to appreciate a more pared down wardrobe.

    • Good for you for passing on bags that don’t work for you, Sharon. I get frustrated with bags that don’t have compartments for various items, too, and have culled some of mine for that reason. I have one now that I love, though, so I’m going to try to find a purse organizer to see if that might help. How great that your teenage nieces are benefiting from your cast-offs. I’m appreciating a more pared down wardrobe, too, and I think I’m ready to pare down further now, as I’ve been at the same basic closet “set point” for a while (I wrote about that concept here: https://recoveringshopaholic.com/do-you-have-a-closet-set-point/). Being a “love it or lose it” girl is a good way to be and I hope to be more like that soon as well.

      • I’ve just been reading about Oprah’s closet purge. It’s interesting to note that she believes holding on to clothes were about a dream she had for herself. I can identify with this as I still tend to want to buy clothes for a former life.

      • I can identify with what Oprah said, too. I have to stop myself when I feel drawn to fancy clothes. I find that asking myself Bridgette Raes’ question, “Where are you going in that?” helps, as I’m forced to admit that I my life is not a good match for certain clothes. I still make mistakes at times, but I have improved.

  8. I’ve been having good luck with the “does it spark joy” test. The other thing that has worked well if I’m really on the fence is to move it out of my closet and put it upstairs in the guest room closet. If I don’t go get it out of the closet for the next year, I know it’s time for it to go. Great post as usual.

    • The KonMari Method is very helpful, Beth, and your comment is a good reminder that we can use the “sparks joy” test on individual items without having to pull everything out of our closets like Marie Kondo recommends. Another good question is “Does this add value to my life?” That’s the question “The Minimalists” use and it’s been useful for me. I have moved items out of my closet, too, as a test to see if I still want them. That’s typically what I do, even just as a transition before taking them for consignment or donation. I very rarely “rescue” such pieces from my holding zone, but it does happen. I think it’s a good method in general but particularly for those who get anxious about making culling mistakes. I’m probably going to do that with some more items soon, including summer pieces that I think may not work for me anymore.

  9. My big spring purge is coming up next week and I am already chomping at the bit to purge some items I just know no longer “spark joy”. Lots of my things spark guilt and I can imagine how the coin toss test would work with these items. I feel guilty about letting things that still fit but don’t fit my lifestyle go. Wish me luck!

    • Good luck with your spring purge, Lori! I really hope the coin toss test will help you pare things down. I’m definitely going to use it again myself, as it simplified matters quite a bit. Down with guilt!

  10. Debbie– I smiled at your coin trick; it is the same as just thinking hard about giving up an item, but it forces you to focus on not having it.What about not buying anything at ALL till you have completed a heads/tails thorough closet purge? Go through EVERYthing and then fill in any missing areas without overdoing it and using your own pre-determined numbers in each category?? You can use your wonderful statistical mind to determine what and exactly how much needs to be added. Or maybe I am missing something{:o)
    Continued good wishes on your purging and on balance and good health. Keep writing for us!

    • I don’t think I will use the coin toss method with my entire closet, Helen, but I think I will definitely use it again with the “on the fence” items and I will likely write about it. I’m still working on balance, but I’m getting there, both in terms of my closet and (more importantly) my life.

  11. I was inspired to use this today to finish up a drawn-out (read: 4 months) purge of my books, to great effect!

    I had long since tucked favorites back onto the shelf and donated the unloved. The leftovers were things I kept changing my mind about- should I keep this? donate it? give it to a friend? They were sitting on my living room floor for several months of indecision. I used all kinds of metrics to try to sort them, spark joy, last read, added value, etc. etc., and never got anywhere.

    I modified the coin toss rules to fit my own particular psychology on this project:

    Heads = keep, tails = go.
    The outcome of the coin is binding.
    I can re flip the coin until I get the outcome I want.

    In practice:
    I usually knew which outcome I was hoping for before flipping the coin.
    I kept flipping the coin until it aligned with my internal desire.
    Because the outcome was binding, it re-enforced my decision so I couldn’t second-guess myself.

    The coin toss was fast & effective. The majority of the bench-warmers are now bags to be donated, and the few keeps are put away. That part of the living room floor is now visible again.

    I will likely use this to deal with similar situation I have going on with a pile of clothes, also in purgatory for several months on the living room floor, for which I have been indecisive.

    • I’m so glad my post inspired you, cm, and that you found the coin toss method helpful. I love that you modified it to best suit your needs. I found that I knew which outcome I was hoping for as I was flipping the coin, too, which is the beauty of this method. It bring clarity in a fun and easy way. good for you for finishing your book purge and best wishes in paring down your clothes, too. Please let me know how it goes for you. I will very likely revisit this method in a later post, but you can chime in with an update anytime.

      • I ended up doing more work on the clothes purge, and took two big bags to Goodwill. It was all stuff I knew I shouldn’t have- worn out, didn’t fit, didn’t use- but was having a hard time letting go of it anyway. I sort of used a hybrid of coin toss / KonMari, which helped me stick to my resolve in getting it gone, but also acknowledging the emotional role of some of the items.

      • Good for you, cm! You should feel good about yourself for this excellent progress. Sometimes we need an extra push to let go of things that we know aren’t working for us. I’m glad my blog post helped you in that regard. I like the idea of using a hybrid of the coin toss method and KonMari and I may use that myself.

  12. That seems like a good way to get yourself off the fence.
    I don’t ship items I’m removing from my wardrobe out immediately so I sometimes put things in the bag that I dig back out again. Knowing that if I want to reclaim it I can helps. In truth I don’t reclaim things too often, although I did just rescue a full slip. If I get dressed and look for something that I find I’ve put in a give away bag I feel like it’s justified itself.

    I do like the black/white/turquoise top. Maybe you could pair something black/white with a turquoise accent and reclaim the color combination. I am with you on the black shoes. I think they were a little church-lady.

    • I don’t tend to remove things from my house right away, either, Ginger, and sometimes I also change my mind. But I’m guessing I change my mind 10% of the time or less. Still, it helps me to have that short period of “purgatory” time for my cast-offs. I am keeping the black/white/turquoise top for the time being and will push myself to wear it again soon. I actually tried it on at home with different jeans recently and liked it better. It may still work out for me, but if it doesn’t, I do plan to revisit that color combination because I really like it. Yes, the black shoes were “church lady” but I didn’t want to fully admit it because of the guilt.

  13. Hi Debbie,
    I have a gray textured moto jacket I bought from Loft several years ago that looks good open or closed. (I generally wear it open but can zip it up to the neck if I get cold.) I was looking around for something similar in a darker shade, maybe a brown?, and happened to see a fleece one by Isaac Mizrahi on QVC.com. That day, QVC had an easy-pay option on everything so I ordered the jacket in three sizes to see what fits. I did watch the video of the presentation and one model had it open and another model had it closed. Anthropologie also has moto jackets but they can be pricey.

    • Thanks for the jacket recommendations, Maggie. A fleece moto jacket sounds great, as I like to have jackets that are stretchy and comfortable. I have seen some nice moto jackets on the Anthropologie website, but yes they can be pricey. I will check out QVC and Loft and keep my eyes open for moto cardigans (sounds like a nice option). I appreciate your help!

Comments are closed.