I wish I could work with every single one of you, in your closet, helping you decide what to keep, what to toss, and what to add to make the perfect wardrobe, but that’s just not an option for everyone. In an effort to help as many of you as possible, I’m going to share my three-step system for helping you cut through the clutter, and discover the gems I know are living in your closet.
Things to Consider Before Cleaning Out Your Closet
Before we get started, let’s talk through some of the top questions I get related to your closet and what to do with all of those clothes!
How do you handle seasonal clothing?
Handling the transitioning seasons truthfully, depends on your closet. In our old house, when I had a big ol’ walk-in-closet all to myself, I could keep all my clothes out all the time. In this house, I share a much smaller closet with my husband, so I do swap out seasons.
The answer to when to swap out again depends on your seasons, etc… The rule I use for myself is that when I’m going to my off-season storage more than I’m reaching into my closet, it’s time to fully switch.
What items should I hang up?
How much to hang, what to fold depends on you. I believe in out of sight out of mind. Once it goes in a drawer, most people forget they own it, so I hang as much as possible. If that doesn’t work for your situation, do the best you can, and fold your clothes using a file fold instead of a pile fold.
Where do I start?
Most advice says to organize all your clothes at once, but I don’t agree with that. A lot of the time what happens is you get a burst of energy, you pull out all your stuff, you get tired and then you have a giant pile to deal with before you go to bed. No one wants that! I believe my way is more manageable, but again, do what works for you.
Pre-Clean Out Housekeeping
I know you’re excited to get started, but let’s do a little pre-work before the 3 steps and I promise it will make everything else easier.
Before you clean out your closet, organize it. It’s not counter intuitive, but part of the process, and it will make everything else easier and go much faster.
Here’s how I want you to organize your closet:
- First, group everything together by item. All pants together, tops, etc..
- Then, hang your tops by sleeve length, skirts/pants by hem, and dresses by sleeve or hem, you choose.
The reason this works is it allows you to see what you have. For example, if you have 100 cardigans but no good shirts to go under them, there’s your problem.
Do not organize your closet by color. You tend to get dressed due to the weather or the activity you’re about to do, and it’s better when you can see what you have for those two things easily. Knowing you like blue doesn’t help you.
This should take no more than about 30 minutes and now we can jump into the real stuff.
Step 1: Get rid of low hanging fruit
First step is low hanging fruit. This is when you get rid of everything that you know needs to go.
You can get rid of:
- Clothes in bad shape
- Clothes that need more repair/tailoring than you’re willing to do
- Clothes you don’t like
Do not try items on during this phase. The only things I want you to ask yourself here is “do I like it?” or “would I buy this again, just as it is?”. If the answer is anything short of yes, put it in the no pile.
Also during this step, pull out clothes that are memories and not part of your wardrobe. The dress you wore to your bridal shower 15 years ago is a memory, not a useful part of your wardrobe.
Remember-your closet should be a boutique. The only things in your closet should be clothes that serve you today.
If you use your closet for storage, fine, but don’t put memories in with your wardrobe–separate them, box them up. By wardrobe, I don’t mean the entire contents of your closet. I mean the pieces you actually wear. That’s your wardrobe.
Let’s talk about why we hang onto clothes we don’t wear:
- We have a happy memory of when we did wear them. Do yourself a favor and put it in a box and get it out of your wardrobe.
- We remember when we could wear them. Friend, this doesn’t serve you. If you are not actively working on getting back into them, or don’t want to do what it would take to get back into them, or you don’t even like them anymore, get rid of them
- It was a gift you don’t love. If you can’t just say thank you and donate it, then wear it once, send a picture to the giver saying thank you, and then donate it. Let it be a gift to someone else. Marie Kondo says this about gifts, “the true purpose of a present is to be received, because gifts are a means for conveying someone’s feelings for you.” When viewed from this perspective, there is no need to feel guilty about parting with a gift that ultimately doesn’t spark joy.
- You spent money on it. I get it, you made a bad purchase or you made a good purchase a while ago, but it doesn’t serve you anymore. The reality is, the money is gone, and the item has no value in your closet. You won’t recoup your loss by keeping it. If it was a bad purchase, vow to do better. If it was a good purchase, be grateful for the use you got out of it, and let it go.
Step 2: The Meat and Potatoes
It’s time to try on some clothes.
Again, you don’t have to do this all in one day. When your closet is organized by type, it’s easy. Just take one section at a time.
Select a section to start with, get your full length mirror and start trying on!
With each pieces, ask yourself:
- Do I like the way I look in this?
- Do I like the way I feel in this?
- Is this a piece that reflect the person I am today and the style I have today? Ps. it’s ok to change. You don’t have to keep the clothes you used to love, that don’t work for the you you are today.
- If it doesn’t fit, and you’re not ready to part with it, box it up and get it out of your wardrobe. Clothes that don’t fit don’t motivate–they mock you in the morning, but they don’t motivate you all day long.
- Where will I wear this?
- How will I wear this? For maximum versatility, you should be able to wear things 3-5 ways. If you’ve got a lot of single use items in your wardrobe, you have a much harder time getting dressed each day.
As you go through this, things you want to keep go back on hangers, and things you want to part with can go in a donate pile, or a sell pile. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do with that stuff. If you’re a person with good intentions to sell, but know you’re not going to follow through, just donate.
Step 3: It’s time to prune!
Yay! If you’ve made it this far, you’ve already done the bulk of the work! This last phase happens weeks and months after your closet edit, and it’s an ongoing, very selective process.
When clients are on the fence about a piece, I tell them to keep it…for now.
I tell them to plan an outfit with the piece and wear it-paying attention to how they feel in it. If its a good day, and they like it, it stays. If they felt uncomfortable all day, it goes.
You have to wear those pieces you’re unsure about to see why and understand nothing about that piece is going to change. If the color made you feel blah, that’s not changing. If the sweater was itchy, it will be itchy next time. It’s time to part with it.
For me, cherry picking means I have a small laundry basket in my closet. Every single time I flip through my closet and come across an item I have a negative reaction to, I take it out of my wardrobe, and put it in the basket. At the end of the season, if I haven’t pulled it back out, it gets donated.
Doing this allows me to really focus on getting those “its fine” pieces out of my wardrobe–and if you listened to episode 13, I shared that “ its fine” is what’s between you and great style.
Pruning is what you do to keep from having to do phases 1 and 2 more often. In this phase, it’s important to allow yourself to change and only hang on to what’s serving you now, and to accept that we all make stupid purchases once in a while, but keeping thing you don’t like isn’t going to give you your money back. Accept you made a mistake, sell/donate the item and move on, vowing to do better.
Finally, I want to say this–I know it seems scary to let go of a ton of stuff, but like I tell my clients, in the end, you’ll have a much happier wardrobe. For the full episode, listen to episode 14 on The Everyday Style School podcast below.
If you’re ready to organize your closet, join our live Ultimate Closet Clean Out Challenge starting February 14th!