In the short life of this blog I’ve already received a lot of questions about how to decide what to keep in your wardrobe and what to ditch. (*For a note about pregnancy and what to hang on to midst multiple body shapes and sizes, see the end of this post.)
To be honest I set about to produce this post using other blog references as fodder rather than my own photos or direct experience. There are some really good articles out there about closet organization. Like Mackenzie Horan’s, Design Darling post, “The Easiest Way To Clean Out Your Closet“, or The Every Girl’s article, “7 Questions to Ask When Cleaning Out Your Closet“. These set me on a good track toward the happy ending. But we’re not quite there yet!
I simply intended to highlight those conversations, or even just link those articles, steal their pictures (with attribution, of course), and call it a day. In other words, I was trying to take the lazy man’s way out. That’s not exactly what happened. In fact, it is the OPPOSITE of what happened.
My googling led to a COMPLETE closet clean out. Please don’t believe I think I am reinventing the wheel here (or continue reading because you believe I have some revelatory way to clean out your closet that doesn’t involve at least a little bit of TIME, EFFORT, WORK, and yes, maybe even a little PAIN, eek!). If you’re here for some reality, read on!
As previously stated, I set about to curate all of these other voices on the subject of closet clean outs. What should I keep, sell, donate, toss, or move. I went to my closet to take pictures… and realized that I should really just DO what I was talking about myself.
So I did.
Here is the state in which I found my closet last night around 9:00 p.m.
Hello shoe problem! Hello awkward pajama problem! Hello shoved in corners problem!
At this point, just looking at my closet, my resolve to clean and post weakened quite a bit! I was feeling sort of sensitive about the state (read: the messiness) of my closet. I was felling a little shy about sharing my dirt (read: I was edging away from putting messy closet pictures on the internet.) Bah! But if I didn’t get in there and clean it out myself, guess what, no one would else would be!
In the name of de-clutter, in the name of Spring Cleaning, in the name of whatever Saint watches over wardrobes and home organization, I stepped back into my closet and went to WORK.
1. Empty. Empty out your entire closet.
2. Zone. Take different sections of your wardrobe and clean each one out as time allows.
Here you have really got to pick your poison, your method based on 2 factors– time allowed, and desired depth of this clean. Are you going to take the ENTIRE contents of your closet OUT of the closet as many organizational experts recommend? Would it be best for you to work in sections and split this job up over a few days.
In the past, I have definitely stayed with the ZONE approach. Taking one evening to clean out and straighten my shoes, another afternoon to go through my t-shirts and sweaters, another to tackle shorts and pants. One of the problems this poses is that I often don’t clean the shelves themselves properly, and the floor doesn’t often get a thorough once-over as I am usually using the floor space to stow the contents of the particular section I’m cleaning.
At this point, however, I believe it was time to rip the band-aid off and give it the FULL GO in one shot. To prove that I really did empty out the entire sucker in one punch (and as a cautionary tail that your entire wardrobe cannot be held up by your shower curtain rod), see the picture below. Sad.
The story gets better from here on out!
I began by making areas for each of my categories: 1. KEEP, 2. SELL, 3. DONATE, 4. TOSS, 5. MOVE. After collapsing my shower curtain, I moved the “keep” pile to my bed!
If you’re going to experience the fully cleansing effects of this clean out, you might as well stick with the full monty (after extracting it from your wardrobe) and put each and every article of clothing to the 5 pronged question. Are you going to KEEP, SELL, DONATE, TOSS, or MOVE this item? You can do this on the way out of your closet (recommended), or on the way back in. You can ask that 5 pointed query both ways if you want to further cull your KEEP pile as you return it to it’s home.
Now hear this: this has got to be QUICK. No dilly dallying! The more quickly you can do this, the more quickly your clean will go. You should not hem and haw for more than thirty seconds, that’s right 30 seconds. The longer you spend deliberating the more likely you are to end up right where you started. With a closet full of keep, sell, donate, and toss items right where they were when you began!
You wear it? You like it? You fit into it? You can HONESTLY see wearing it in the next six months? (This can then account for seasonal change.) It makes you feel SPARKLY and HAPPY– keep it. No questions to ask.
You are hanging on to that sweater your first boyfriend in high school gave you for Christmas that you shrunk in college? You are saving that cocktail dress you wore three years ago before you were married, had a baby*, moved to Northern Michigan and don’t see wearing it in the next three? 30 seconds. Sell or donate!
That AMAZING GUCCI shirt you bought in college as a splurge, or with birthday money from your boyfriend? Do you wear it? Or do you hang onto it because the tag reads GUCCI. Cause here’s the thing. If it says Gucci, but it sits in your closet then it might as well say nothing. Brand doesn’t matter at this point, folks. The great thing about BRAND is that it can sometimes hold some value long after it’s season has expired. I like this article about white glove consignment from Ann and Liz. The difference between donating and consigning might only be a few dollars, but that’s more than what was in your pocket before that item exited your closet. And once you’re hooked up with a great consignment store I feel as though it is almost as easy a process as a donation (almost, but not quite).
Most of the goods culled from my closet are put into a great big black plastic trash bag for donation. Now don’t mis-read, I donate only clothing that is in good condition that I can see will have a happy life beyond me. There is no point in donating worn-out, ripped (we’re not talking tasteful slices here), stained, or otherwise trashed clothing. But there are plenty of clothes in my closet that simply don’t suit me anymore. Donate away!*
For me, this pile is probably the smallest. I don’t hammer very many of my clothes, but I’ve had a couple pairs of running shoes that turned into dirt shoes that turned into cut-the-grass-shoes that turned into… well, you get the idea. Throw them away.
I pulled this section from a really great cleaning article “How to Clean Your Closets“, and honestly, I had sort of scoffed when I read it originally. The move section is to REMOVE any item in your closet that should be in another area of your home. I actually had a lot of junk in my closet that needed to be MOVED. For some reason, I had been ferreting away some random keepsakes in my closet. I found my oldest son’s baby book under a pile of sweaters. I had stowed my college diplomas behind my scarves. RANDOM! 🙂 Where else do you keep those babies? Move ’em.
Then came the scrub down. This actually went rather quickly. I used a solution of 1 tsp. dish washing soap, 1/2 C white vinegar, and 2 quarts hot water for all of the shelves. Then I dried them all with paper towels. (I needed to get my crap back in and usable quickly!) I vacuumed and edged the room. I even wiped down the base boards. This is serious business, people! Clean.
This is where everything started to feel really, really good. It got even better the following day when my three-year-old walked into my closet and said in aw, “Mom! Your closet is SO clean!” Seriously. Those were his words. Then he put the cherry on top with this, “Mom, you’re a really good cleaner!” Thank you son! You made your moma’s day!
Good luck, wonderful readers!
*Oh sweet full of life (literally) people! Oh pregnant friends and loved ones. This have a 3 or 5 size wardrobe is SO HARD! Especially those of you trying to cram even a small slice of curated clothing goodness into a micro IKEA wardrobe. Here’s the thing. You’ve got to be even more picky, and even more creative with your pregnant wardrobe (and pregnant closet clean out). Honestly, don’t let the fact that you are 3, 7, even 9 months pregnant discourage you! In fact if you are nesting like crazy, maybe you will end up hell-bent on cleaning your closet. SO, be easy.
Here was the question that sparked this tangent: I have a linen white jacket that I LOVE and have been saving for “when it fits again” which leads me to a question (and perhaps a future post for you???!!!): How do you rotate your wardrobe? When do you get rid of clothes? How many clothes is too many? At what point do you say goodbye to favorites?
KEEP your pre-pregnancy favorites! Keep them even if you have no clue if you will EVER return to them. (I said favorites, not fall-backs.) I say, keep that white linen jacket until you are out of your “child bearing” years. Until your body has a chance to settle back into a more stationary size. This takes time! You don’t have to be hasty! (Unless you have HUGE space issues. Then you have to ask yourself if it sparkles enough, does it make you sing!)
KEEP those first maternity clothes you got when you realized that pants with a stretchy tops are seriously a little piece of heaven and easily hidden by a tunic. You will use those babies (even after baby), I promise. (Here is my dirty little secret. I continued to wear multiple items in my pregnancy wardrobe as every day clothes. GASP! HORROR! For years after I’d had my babies. A black lace skirt, that looked just like it’s non-maternity counterpart minus the more expandable waistband; a brilliant striped top that just looked long when I was thin again; and the most adorable white shorts that seemed to fit no matter what size I was. No one ever knew. Or if they did, it didn’t matter to me. Incorporate, gals. Enough said.)
DONATE. Skip goodwill. Instead, donate to your best friend who is having a babe right after you. Donating your pregnancy clothing to family or friends can often mean that you create a maternity wardrobe LOOP. All you moms know exactly what I’m talking about!
If in doubt, one more courageous clean out article to keep you convinced!