Here’s something you probably didn’t know about me: I’m a little bit of a hoarder. Not the kind that keeps old newspaper clippings about cats and old cereal box tops that needs an intervention or, at the very, least, my own special on TLC, but the kind that doesn’t like to throw away any old clothes. Seriously, I’m pretty sure I still have things in there that I got during my freshman year of college. And God knows I don’t dress like that anymore.
The thing is though, every time I try to go in and clean out my closet, I find myself getting nostalgic and can’t give up past attachments to items that I know I’ll never wear again, and some that I even forgot that I owned. Also, I’m inherently lazy, and I don’t like taking on such time- and labor-intensive endeavors. I did a pretty big closet purge when I moved into NYC with my mom’s help, but it’s been almost a year since that happened, and I think the time has come to do it again. Mostly because my old Forever 21 tank tops that worked for frat parties really don’t fly in the real world. And also because, weirdly enough, I have no basic white T-shirts. None. Zippo. I have no idea how that even happened, but it’s time to make room in my closet for things I actually want and need.
So, this is where you come in: Since my version of cleaning out my closet is picking up a dress, getting agitated, hanging it back up, and going off to find a cookie somewhere, I need your advice: How do you clean out your closet? What are some of your best tips and tricks, and is there a tried-and-true method you go for every single time? I’m at the end of my rope, and the only way I can refresh my wardrobe is with your help, so tell me your thoughts in the comments below!
A Clothing Hoarder’s Guide To Cleaning Out Your Closet
During my roughly biannual (twice a year, not once every two years) closet purge, in which I give away a hefty portion of clothes, there are two types of items. First, the items I got a great few years out of—that black biddie skirt I wore freshman and sophomore year of college, destroyed boots, etc. Then there are items I vaguely remember buying or getting as gifts and thinking maybe just maybe an occasion would arise when I’d think “Hey, where is that long-sleeved floral cashmere nightie? That’s exactly what I need right now.” (That’s not a joke, I still own that.) But alas, the magical occasion never does roll around, and the clothes end up collecting dust.
When I graduated from college and returned home in May, my room required a closet purge to end all closet purges. Mainly because my clothing could no longer fit in my room. Here are two images from that time in my life. The stars denote containers of clothing that had to be moved into my closet and armoire after I had already filled them both to capacity.
As you can see, I had some work to do. Luckily, a lifetime of hoarding and then cleansing had prepared me for just this moment. And now, with six bags of my clothes off to goodwill and one in a dumpster somewhere, I bestow my knowledge unto you.
Step 1: The First Pass
In your first pass through, eliminate the easy stuff: things that are ruined and anything you’ve come to hate or know beyond a shadow of a doubt you will never wear again. Piece of cake.
Step 2: Undergarments
Step 3: Old Shoes
Worn out, scuffed up, or otherwise wrecked shoes need to go. There will be no point in your life where you’ll really need your filthy Sperrys from college. Also, a note on painful flats: they just sit there, lying in wait for the day when you forget how much they hurt and give them “one more try.” For the sake of your poor toes, just toss those suckers.
Step 4: Get Serious
Unless you are absolutely sure something is a keeper (i.e. you’ve worn it very recently), try it on. It takes awhile, but it is a crucial step. If you look in the mirror and think, “meh,” get rid of it. Why should you wear something that makes you feel meh?
Step 5: Accept That People Grow
It does no good to pine over the fact that you actually fit into this dress in middle school. Unless it’s an exceptional piece you want to give to your daughter or something, get rid of it. If you are in the process of losing weight, box up clothes that don’t fit and put them in storage. Staring at them every day is just demoralizing – you should be able to open your closet at any time and see only clothing you can actually wear.
Step 6: Ride The Adrenaline Wave
At least for me, once things start going and my closet starts opening up, the adrenaline starts pumping. I become crazed, adding items to the giveaway pile of my drug. While you’re in this groove, take the opportunity to buck up and get rid of everything you have not worn in a year or more. If an entire winter season came and went without you touching that sweater, it’s just taking up space.
Step 7: Fight The Backslide With A Friend
If you are anything like me, here’s where you’ll start to backslide. Okay I know I haven’t worn this in three years but… a. I might want it someday b. it was expensive c. I used to really love it d. someone gave it to me. I actually like it I just never wear it. All of these reasons feel compelling, but none are valid. This is where you have to bring in the big guns: a friend who wants to do a closet raid. Having a friend sitting on your bed as you go through clothes is the best way to make yourself part with clothes you like but never wear. Also, there’s something about giving them to someone you know that makes the splitless painful. Hey, if you really want it someday (you won’t), I’m sure she’ll lend it to you.
Step 8: Think Ahead
Now that you can actually see the clothes in your closet and they are all items you would actually put on your body, be more wary about new additions going forward. Don’t just buy things to buy them. Don’t buy things you probably won’t wear simply because they’re on sale or on-trend. When deciding whether to purchase something, think about that next closet purge and ask yourself: “Will this be in my giveaway pile in a year?”
The 15 Thoughts That Go Through Your Head When You Try to Clean Out Your Closet
Cleaning out your literal closet is often more difficult than cleaning out your proverbial one. It’s not as though scrubbing, organizing, dusting and the rest of those processes are actually hard; it’s the fact that throwing anything away is…well, it’s impossible, at least for people like me who have a tendency to keep everything ever, even in my tiny Brooklyn apartment. Going through one’s closet is stressful because then you have to make decisions (seriously, when will they make an app for us all that just decides everything for us?), particularly choices about what to toss, donate or give away.
Fortunately, Kelsey wrote a post a couple of weeks ago detailing exactly how to go through your closet and clean it out, even if you’re a bit of a hoarder. Here are the thoughts you’ll almost certainly have while trying to make it all clean, clear, and under (moderate) control.
1. “Okay, I can totally do this.”
Determination! Drive! Perseverance! For now.
2. “How did I accumulate this many ugly button-downs?”
All those “work clothes” you swore you would totally impress your boss with have done nothing but build a healthy layer of dust.
3. “Wait, I haven’t seen this in forever! I’ll totally wear this.”
And then you set it aside in the “keep” pile despite not having worn it in over a year.
4. “Oooh, this is the perfect date night dress, why don’t I ever wear this?”
Answer: Because you look at it every time you’re about to go on a date and then wind up wearing jeans instead.
5. “But my mom got me this, I can’t throw it away. Ever.”
I, too, feel guilty whenever I consider getting rid of something I don’t wear if a relative bought it for me, but it’s important to remember that giving away a sweater is not the same as disowning your firstborn.
6. “Ugh, this is so ugly..”
You’ll find at least one or two horribly ugly things, but the problem is then you have the next thought.
7. “…I should save it for Halloween!”
Or an ugly sweater party, or an ironic photo shoot.
8. “I can’t throw my prom dress out. I need it for the memories.”
To be fair, I did actually wear my prom dress at Cannes, but it was completely untouched for six years in between.
9. “How is everything covered in cat hair?”
You don’t even own a cat right now! Explain that, closet.
10. “I should donate this, but I feel like a jerk giving them something so hideous.”
You might donate it regardless, but you’ll still feel kind of like a jerk.
11. “This is so sheer, but I’ll get the proper undergarments someday, so I should keep it.”
Hint: You will never feel like wearing a strapless crossover backless bra thing.
12. “That stain isn’t that bad.”
If you noticed it, yes, it is.
13. “Holy crap, my high school shirts are older than some of my coworkers.”
Does that technically mean they’re vintage? I guess you should hang onto them forever.
14. “Oh, this will be perfect once I bring it to a tailor.”
Spoiler alert: That will never happen.
15. “Well, that was probably almost successful! I should lay down and watch Netflix.”
You will think this thought after discarding approximately three items.
The Semi-Lazy Girl’s Guide To Cleaning Out Your Closet
I’m about to move cross-country, so in addition to all the holiday craziness, I’ve been giving away my possessions left and right. Because that’s what you do if you’re paying for square footage in a trailer going over 1800 miles. You give non-essential items away! Including clothing, as sad as that is for someone who hoards clothes as much as I do.
But also, I’m lazy. Spending tons of time thoughtfully analyzing which dresses I should keep and how I can better store my sweaters is just not something I’m interested in when I’m up to my ears in packing paper and cardboard boxes. Enter this, the semi-lazy girl’s guide to cleaning out your closet, whether you’re moving or not. You’ll need an afternoon, a full-length mirror, some good tunes, and enough energy to power through your wardrobe.
If you’ve ever read anything before about cleaning out your closet, I’m sure it was along the lines of “Toss everything you haven’t worn in a year! All you need is one pair of black pants, one white shirt, and some black flats! Cultivate a uniform!” I’m not saying that’s bad advice. It isn’t. But, you’ve probably heard it all before. I’m not saying my way is going to be anything crazy different or groundbreaking, but it’s definitely not for Type A organizers or serious downsizers.
Before we get into it, let’s talk a little bit about that standard advice to just straight up toss clothes you don’t wear or that don’t fit you. While usually a good rule of thumb, Laurel Kinney, the personal stylist behind Trophy Boutique in Austin, Texas, says it’s also a little bit outdated. She told me:
I don’t ever recommend throwing something away/donating an item that has tons of positive sentimental value, or is a few sizes off (if you’re in the process of weight changes). I just recommend putting them in a tucked-away place so your daily selection is easier to get at. The best closets are the ones that have only the pieces that look good on you at arm’s reach.
With that in mind, here’s how to makeover your closet without too much effort.
- Try things on: Kind of a no-brainer, but it makes sense to take a second and actually try your clothes on before you get rid of them. You might see an old piece through new eyes, or you might realize your standard LBD is hopelessly out of date. But don’t get rid of anything without putting it on your body and giving it a glance in the mirror.
- Purge: This is, again, not new advice. Hell, you know you need to purge your clothing and that’s probably why you clicked on this post. But seriously…purge. Would you buy that peplum top again? If not, purge. Did you get broken up with while wearing that dress? Purge. I have a tendency to hold on to clothing, but it really does feel good to get rid of items. Or at least put them in out-of-season storage!
- Enlist a friend: Ask your bitchiest and most blunt friend to help you organize your closet and watch your pseudo mirror fashion show. Not only will he or she be brutally honest about the clothes you should be getting rid of, but you can also force them to help you haul stuff to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Repay them with pizza, booze, coffee, or any of the discarded clothing items that might fit them.
- Don’t forget the small stuff: Go through your jewelry, belts, bags, socks, bras, workout clothes, and even pajamas and see what’s worth weeding out, bringing back into the rotation, or donating.
- Divide and conquer: Divide everything you have into a few piles.
- Definitely keeping
- To sell
- To give away
- To get tailored
Then, actually do those things with the piles. But if you are the kind of person who keeps a pile of dresses that need to be professionally hemmed in the corner of her room for two years (ahem, self!), it’s probably in your best interests to just give that ish away. Don’t underestimate your potential for procrastination, if you are, in fact, a procrastinator.
6. Organize: If you’re not moving, it makes sense to spend a little bit of time reorganizing what you are keeping. You know, putting tights in boxes, getting new shoe racks, that kind of deal. If you are moving, get yourself some Space Bags and start packing that stuff down. Trash bags work, too, but I prefer Space Bags because they are thicker, take up less space (hence the name), and can fit easily into suitcases and boxes.
If you are looking for a more involved, more comprehensive, less lazy way to clean out your closet, I think this Gardenista post has some interesting advice, especially if you are looking to seriously edit, rather than just seriously purge.
It’s Time To Toss These Items From Your Closet Right Now
We’re in serious spring cleaning mode over here. We’ve tackled everything from our kitchen pantry and home décor to our digital life. And now, it’s time to take on the biggest beast of all—our closets. That’s right; we’re going to help you figure out exactly what you need to toss from your closet! If you haven’t Marie Kondo’d your life already, now’s the perfect time to face the challenge head-on and toss the clutter. We’ve created this handy infographic to help you figure out what should stay and what should hit the donate pile:
We recommend donating to your local women’s shelter or other crisis centers that could use the items that no longer work for you!
How to Spring Clean Your Wardrobe Ready for your Spring Capsule Wardrobe
The start of a new season is the perfect time to spring clean your wardrobe to prepare it for your new season capsule wardrobe. It’s a job that I love doing, although I know many women hate it and put it off for as long as possible. I, however, love rediscovering what I packed away from last year and working out how I can update it this season with new colors and styles.
Rather than write a very long blog post, I have created a “Spring Clean your Wardrobe Tips Booklet” which you can download below (you will be emailed with the link) and then keep referring back to.
Before you get on to that, though, you will want to be prepared, so here are some suggestions for what you will need to carry out your spring clean.
- Black sacks – one for recycling/rubbish, one for donations
- A free-standing rail if you have one or somewhere to hang anything you want to sell so that it doesn’t get too creased
- Mild bleach-free cleaning fluid, duster, and hoover
- Drawer liners and scented sachets
- Cedar balls – to prevent moths from attacking your precious clothes
- Storage solutions – consider drawer dividers, trays for jewelry, build your own kits, vacuum bags, and hooks
- Hangers – banish all wire hangers and replace them with the right ones for the job – see below
You could also add some music and a glass of something chilled to help the process along!