Gaining control of your clothes closet kind of feels like a lifelong battle, doesn't it? You try to declutter some pieces, but feel like you might need them if you can just lose those ten pounds. Or you move things around to try to get better organized but the clothes you moved to the front inevitably just get squished to the back again before long because you never end up wearing them. You store things away, rotate seasonal stuff, take a few things to the donation bin, but then end up buying more stuff and ending up back in the same place again (but it was 50% off!!).
It's a vicious circle. But it can be stopped by cleaning out your closet once and for all. And then putting strategies in place to never get to this point again.
I've done this process myself and have taken a few friends and clients through it (check out this case study on one friend and the progress she made). It's tiring, emotionally draining...but sooo worth it. In the end, you'll have much less anguish in the mornings when trying to choose what to wear, plus less guilt about clothing that you spent money on but never wear. And best of all you'll have more time for the good stuff in your day.
Are you ready to stop the cycle for good?
Here are the steps that will get you to a decluttered wardrobe that will stay that way.
1. Clear a whole day - you'll probably need it. Have nothing else on your schedule, no kids to entertain, no emails to respond to. Dedicate a day to this and think of it as something to enjoy because you'll never have to do it again!
2. Get ready. Load up a fun playlist of your favourite high-vibe music. Get some snacks and drinks ready. Maybe even invite over an objective friend who can help you (but not lead you off track with other things!). This is a marathon, so prepare for it!
3. Set up bins and label them 'Donate', 'Toss', 'Maybe', 'Mend', 'Store'. You may even want two separate 'donate' bins - one for regular donations and one for nicer things that could go to a local consignment store or be sold online.
4. Get in the right mindset. It may be difficult to part with your clothes - you did invest in them after all. But you need to get practical and look at the return on your investment. Get into an objective frame of mind and make sure that the opportunity cost of keeping an item is worth it. For example, how much space does it cost that could be used for better pieces? How much time will it cost you each day to decide what to wear if this is a choice? How much clutter will keeping this piece create in your mind every time you glance in your closet? You need to be brutal here - if you want more space, time and peace of mind, get rid of anything that will keep you from those things.
When evaluating your pieces, ask these questions:
- Do I absolutely love this item?
- Does it fit me?
- Have I worn it in the past year?
- Is it stained, worn or damaged?
- Does it make me look and feel good?
- Does it make me feel uncomfortable or self-concious?
- Is it me? Is it my style and does it go with the rest of my closet?
- Would I spend money on it again today?
- Is it truly important for sentimental reasons, or am I just hanging onto the past?
- Will it make someone else happier?
5. When pulling everything out of your closet and dressers (by category, as per below) pile everything on your bed to go through it. You'll have to clean it up by the end of the day!
6. Bring any clothing that's not in your bedroom/wardrobe area to the room. Make sure you've got everything - check spare room closets, seasonal storage and the laundry room.
7. Now pull out everything in your closet that's on the floor and shelving - you want to clear out anything that's not hanging. That includes shoes, bags, belts, etc. Put it on the bed or the floor next to the bed.
8. Sweep or vacuum the closet now that you can see the floor. Wipe down shelves and maybe even freshen the closet with some DIY natural essential oil spray.
9. Now we begin. Start with your tops - bring out every top that you own and pile them on your bed and separate them by blouses, t-shirts, tank tops, sweaters and blazers. Try them on if needed, and put any that just aren't right or that you haven't worn in the last year in the 'Donate' bin. Toss any that are damaged or worn. Any that you want to keep but that need repair put in the 'Mend' bin. Put any off-season clothes that you are keeping neatly into the 'Storage' bin. If you really can't decide, put the piece into the 'Maybe' bin to come back to later. Then, put all tops that you keep back onto hangers or folded neatly on shelves in your closet. Try organizing them by colour category, or by short sleeve vs. long sleeve or by another category that suits you.
10. Take a break! Have a snack or some lunch, get outside for a little walk or doing some stretching.
11. Then repeat the process above with all your bottoms - jeans, comfy pants, shorts, dress pants and skirts.
12. Repeat the process again with suits and dresses. When you hang the ones you keep back up, organize by colour or season or casual vs. dressy - whatever will make things easiest for you when finding the piece you need.
13. Do it again for all workout clothing.
14. Pull all your remaining articles out of your dresser. Then go through all lingerie, camisoles, socks, pj's, etc. using the process above. Add dividers to your drawers - you don't need to buy them; make your own using cardboard or old shoe boxes - and arrange everything that goes back in by category. You might want to use the roll method (roll each piece like you would when packing a suitcase) or just stack like with like - whichever works best for you.
15. Oh boy, now comes the shoes. Use the same process as above, and be really critical here. Shoes can be a weakness for many of us, but keep only those that you truly will get lots of wear out of, that are still in good shape and that will make you happy (not tearful with pain while wearing them)!
16. Same goes for bags, jewelry, belts, scarves and other accessories. When putting these things back, find a good way to organize them so they don't end up on dresser tops, chairs or the floor. Install lots of hooks inside and outside of your closet, use dividers or dishes for jewelry and accessories, and perhaps use your bags or scarves as artwork on the walls (ready when you need them).
17. Go back to your 'maybe' bin and go through it. Do you still have five little black dresses? Will you really wear them all could you live with only two? Compare the 'maybes' to what you've now got in your closet. Are they really worth hanging on to? Try to let them go and feel a little more weight come off your shoulders.
18. Get what you're not keeping out of the house. Make sure to take all 'donate' bags to the car and get them to the consignment and/or goodwill shops right away. Trash what can't be used by someone else. Return anything borrowed to its rightful owner.
19. Jump with joy that you're finished and feel so much lighter!!
20. Now, evaluate if there is anything essential in your wardrobe that's missing. Do you need a classic crisp white collared shirt? OK, then put it on your shopping list and feel good knowing that it really is a need, not a want or a duplicate of something you've already got.
21. Finally, here's how you keep your closet decluttered and organized for good: make some rules.
-Establish the 1-in-1-out rule. Every time you purchase something new, you must get rid of something you already have in your closet. So when you're standing in front of that sweater that similar to one you already have but is nicer, decide if you're ready to donate the old one if you bring the new one in. It will make you stop and question every purchase with a more critical and objective mind.
-Establish the "everything back in it's place" rule. No throwing clothes on chairs or the floor or stuffed onto a shelf. Everything goes either in the dirty clothes hamper or back on its hanger or folded into the drawer or shelf. A few minutes each day/laundry time to do this will save you so much anguish and time in the long run.
-Consider implementing the "backwards hanger" rule. Hang everything today backwards on the rod, and when you wear a piece and put it back, hang it the right way. At the end of a month, you can easily see what you haven't worn yet and maybe get rid of even more.
Phew! Now sit back and admire your cleaned out, decluttered closet. Be mindful as you get ready in the mornings of how much easier and pleasant it is to find an outfit that you love and feel great in. It will help you stay focused on not cluttering your closet back up again.
Once you've finished your closet, if you'd like to simplify more areas of your life so you can lead a less busy and more beautiful daily existence, make sure to join the 7-Day Simplicity Challenge - the steps each day will only take 15-30 minutes but will make a big difference.