The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Out Your Closet

Photo by  macbeth Photo

Photo by macbeth Photo

Got the urge for a little spring cleaning? Just think how good it will feel to purge your closet, make some room, and develop a game plan for spring! It may not seem like fun at first, but having a well curated closet that makes you feel happy and excited - not stressed - is one of the most important elements to loving your personal style. It won't magically make you into the perfect dresser, but it will give you the space (both physically and mentally) to feel more creative and put together fun outfits. You may also walk away with some spending money from your unwanted items, and some clarity on what to buy this spring - kind of like taking inventory of your fridge before you go grocery shopping. 

First, let's conquer this easy list of things to eliminate from your closet:

  1.  If it’s stained, worn out, or damaged beyond repair. Add that item to your shopping list if you'd like to buy a replacement, and then remove it from your closet to resist the temptation to wear it in a shabby condition.
  2.  If you don’t like it anymore.  We all grow out of styles eventually and our taste changes. Be sure to differentiate that between what's “out of style” though. A hasty toss just because you've haven't worn an item in the last year, could wind up costing you more money in the long run. Everything comes back in style and from my experience, you'll be glad you kept it. I find that work pants and white items (which turn yellow) are the hardest to hold onto, and blazers, special occasion items and denim are the easiest things to hold onto.
  3. If it doesn’t fit. If you're in the process of losing weight or having children, then keep items in several sizes, but store those items in a separate place. You want only things that fit today within immediate reach.
  4.  If it’s nostalgic. You know those items from high school/college that you hang onto purely because they bring back good memories? My suggestion is to take a photo. All you really want is the memory, but it's taking up valuable space in your closet. Or find a local seamstress to create a memory quilt using your old t-shirts.
The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Out Your Closet

Let’s make four piles:

  1. Sell – Take your best items - anything with tags, or designer brands - and make some money. Try consigning online with sites like Poshmark or ThredUp, or take your clothes to a local consignment shop. 
  2. Donate – Take any items that doesn't sell to a charitable organization like Goodwill, Salvation Army, or your local homeless shelter.  If you itemize your taxes, you can take deductions for anything you donate to a charity.
  3. Toss – There are rare occasions when clothing items should go into the actual trash. Almost anything (even if it's ripped or got sweat stains) can be donated to charities that recycle clothing, so that your clothing items don't wind up in the landfill.
  4. Maybe – This is your gray area that you're not sure what to do with. Use the questions below to evaluate further, or put these items in a spare closet. If you don’t think about or retrieve that item in the next few months, then it's time to get rid of it. 

Pit stop: Take a moment to learn some lessons from your donate and sell piles: is there a brand, clothing shape or fabric type that you never wind up wearing once you get it home? Make note for future purchases to avoid those styles or stores.  

Overall: How much should one person have in their closet? It all depends on how much space you have, and personal preference. Some people prefer having very few choices and a streamlined closet (like a capsule closet), and others enjoy having lots of choices. My own preference (which is probably pretty obvious from the photo below!) is to have lots of choices. But my personal guide is to only keep as many items as I can store in my memory. If I can't recall everything I own, that’s when I know it’s time to edit. I also won't buy new hangers so it's a matter of "one in, one out" anytime I bring something home.



Next, let's evaluate the gaps and what’s missing from your closet:

  1. Replacements - What items do you love that need an upgrade? Items that are worn out, don't fit anymore, or don't get worn much for any number of reasons.
  2. Missing - Are there basics missing from your closet like black pumps, a trench coat, or a great pair of jeans? Make your own "10 Basics Every Woman Must Own" list based on your occupation, climate, lifestyle and personal preference.
  3. Companion pieces - Consider the “maybe” pile you created, or any other items you're not wearing enough. Would adding another item to your closet make it work in an outfit?
  4. Special occasions - You may not go out to dinner or attend weddings very often, but if you received an invitation today, would you turn it down, based solely on not having anything to wear? There’s nothing worse than shopping last minute for an occasion (it never bodes well), so consider adding some categories to your shopping list that may be missing from your closet.
  5. Trends - Is there a type of clothing that really appeals to you but is non-existent in your closet? Maybe it's a color, a trend, or a shape. Consider adding that type of clothing to your wish list.
  6. Multiples - Take note of the items you wear the most, and consider getting another version of that item. Like if you wear your leather jacket constantly, consider buying one in another color. 

Not sure how often you're really wearing what's in your closet? Turn all your hangers backwards. As you wear each item, turn the hanger around. At the end of the year, consider getting rid of any item on hanger that's still backwards. Also, as you organize your closet, consider uploading photos to an app like Closet+ that will help you make outfits and keep track of items. 

Last but not least, how often should you clean out your closet? I recommend a deep clean once a year. Pruning, for me, takes place on a daily basis though. I keep a "donate/sell/maybe" bin in a spare bedroom closet and add items any time I come across something that doesn't feel right. I then go through that pile once a year to disperse those items to the appropriate places (sell, donate). I did a clean out this week and it feels great to head into spring with a clean slate! 

 What are your favorite methods for closet clean outs? I'd love to hear your tips!