Deeply Closet Series: How to Clean Out Your Closet for Good

Last week, we introduced to you the idea of the lean closet and why we are so excited to embark on this adventure with you. Lean closets mean we do more with less, we own our style, we have discipline and control over our spending and saving, and we strive to be ethical in the way we purchase. One of the best ways you can work towards a lean closet is by starting with a purge. Cleaning out your closet doesn't HAVE to be a drag, and there is a way that you can clean it out for good- once and for all, and for the good of your own sanity!

There's nothing truly ground-breaking in this closet clean out method, but there is a testimonial to go along with it: I have done the below and maintained a leaner closet for 3 years now, and it has transformed the way I approach shopping and style. I hope that knowing it can work and it HAS worked for someone else will be motivation enough in your efforts toward wardrobe harmony.

One caveat- I had to do this method 4 times in one year to get my closet to the point I wanted it to be at, and it may take 2-4 times for you as well. If you're used to having the security net of a full closet, the first run through may be painful. and you may not clean as well as you should on your first go round. No worries- there's no shame in doing it again before the next season starts!

I recommend taking a full afternoon to do this all at one time, by yourself, and without distractions. We're going to get a little ruthless with your wardrobe.

1. Prep work

Before you even get started, I want you to create a Pinterest board. Pin outfits that feel very "you" or that you want to be very "you." Pretend that you have an unlimited shopping budget, and whatever you put onto this board gets to go into your dream closet. Try to focus on colors you feel comfortable in, textures and fabrics that fit your lifestyle, and shapes that flatter your body type. Don't be unrealistic, but do dream a bit. Try to find a commonality and begin to come up with a working descriptor to describe this style. Being able to both visualize and verbalize your style will help a lot when you take a discerning eye into your closet.

2. Take everything out

I mean everything! Take it all out. Have a big, clean and open area available to stack all of your clothes so that you have a completely empty canvas of a closet to work with. That closet is now your sacred space- only pieces that you truly need, love with all your heart, or serve a specific purpose belong in that sacred place.

3. Make 5 distinct piles

    - Keep- anything that goes into this pile needs to fit this description and this description only- I love it, I wear it all the time, it aligns with my style definition, it fits, it is in good condition. If it doesn't meet all of those requirements, set it aside- we have another pile for it. This pile is reserved for items that meet all of those requirements. The only exception to this would be items that serve specific functions, i.e. rain boots, winter coats, evening gowns, etc.

    - Hold- for items that fit perhaps 3-4 of the 5 qualifications above that you set aside. These are items you're not sure you're ready to part with. Have a box for this pile that can fit in a corner of the closet or under a bed- somewhere out of sight and out of mind, but not too cumbersome to access if needed. If you think about one of those items while you're getting dressed one morning, it shows it really was a keep. If in 6-8 months it never makes its way back out, you're probably better off without it, and you can move it to one of the two piles below on your next clean out.

    - Sell- anything that doesn't meet all of the requirements of a "keep" or "hold" but is in good enough condition to resell. There are several options if you are wanting to sell items to save up for identified needs in your closet (another blog post for another day). Poshmark is very user friendly and allows you to upload, sell, and send out items on your own, and doesn't have a ton of requirements. If you have some designer pieces that are still in good condition, consider consigning them through a local shop or a website such as The Real Real. I know in Dallas, stores such as The Buffalo Exchange and Plato's Closet will take your gently worn, fairly new items as well if you're looking to make a few dollars.

    - Donate- anything that you'd rather give away, or items that may not sell through one of the above methods. I know for myself, it's easier for me to just take the great majority of my clothes to a Goodwill or non-profit donation site. I get a tax write-off, and I get to help out those who could benefit from my excess.

    - Trash- this is pretty self explanatory. Anything damaged beyond repair, stained, ripped or too worn to pass on just might need to go straight to the trash can. 

4. Organize your "keeps"

All of the hard work is done! Now you can organize your keep pile in a way that makes sense for you. There are lots of different methods for closet organization- by color, by style, by color and by style, by season, etc. My personal closet is organized by style and then by color- I use the rainbow as my guide (ROYGBIV for the win!) as I organize first by sleeveless tops, then by short sleeve, then long, etc etc. Whatever works for you, is appealing to your eyes, and makes getting dressed a breeze is the right method. 

5. Take inventory of your closet

You certainly don't have to take stock of each and every item (although I know some people that do and love it, so whatever floats your boat!) but do take a mental picture of what you have plenty of and where some holes might be. For example, you might find you are set on white tees, but through the purge you got rid of most of your blazers, and you really need those for your job. Make a list of what you perceive to be needs, based on your personal style and life situation, and keep that in your purse and/or on your laptop so that you can use it as a guide when you're shopping in store or online.

6. Schedule your next clean out

In addition to your list of true needs, set some goals for yourself. Start by deciding when you want to reassess your closet again. For me, I decided that once before each "season" (it's Texas, so seasons aren't hard and fast rules) was a good structure. You won't have to spend nearly as much time on your next assessments because you should have gotten rid of around 1/4 of your closet on the first sweep. Set a date on your calendar for your next assessment, and pull out those "holds" at that time. Chances are, you forgot about most of them, so you should be able to pretty quickly move most of those items into sell and donate piles. Go through your closet again with a fine tooth comb, and reassess your needs. 

Now sit back, grab a beverage of your choice, and admire all your hard work. Next week, we'll go through setting boundaries for yourself post clean-out so that you don't end up with a stuffed-to-the-brim closet again in 2 years! 

love, raegan