There's an old expression that applies well to the kitchen closet . . . When in doubt, throw it out . . . but not to the clothes closet.

A better one might be: When in doubt, ask a friend.

The most valuable shopping time spent at the start of any season is in your own closet. It's the cheapest and most challenging shopping spree around, one you can do with friends, where you can't be tempted by something beyond your budget. And you don't have to take your checkbook.

As designers play to the multitudes -- skirts long and short, pants wide and narrow -- the wide margin of choice can help you make do with things you already own.

Here are some pointers to help you cleanup on you own closet:

Invite a friend to help. Pick someone who will be honest, has taste in clothes you admire, and ideally can wield a straight pin to start you on your way to adjustments. If the person is your sized it is an advantage; she might try on a garment to give you a different view. (But she also might try to talk you out of something -- to stash in her own closet.)

Bring out everything from the back of the closet, or the attic. This is the moment for your clothes' second (third or fourth) and final chance.

Have on hand your currently favorite blouses, sweaters, basics, to team with former pet garmets. A new piece of jewelry or belt could breathe fresh life into the old thing.

Use a three-way mirror, or concoct one with crafty placement of several. (The rear view, remember, is just as important as the head-on.)

Don't count on losing -- or growing -- to fit into something. Chances are your figure won't rearrange itself to change your opinion of a garment.

Don't put off for another season utlizing something you might wear at once.

Be brutal about disposing of things. (Is the item fresh enough to pass along as a gift of something special that you love and want someone else to enjoy?)

Consider making contributions to organizations like Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army or AMVETS, for which you may take a tax deduction.

Try packing your things off to resale shops. Among the many are Encore, Geraldine's . . . And Furthermore (just opened in Takoma Park).

And don't forget to chill the wine, preferably white. It will not only make your own things look better, but if you spill white wine the stain is less drastic than from red.