Making A Habit Of Cleaning Out My Closet Each Season



6 min read

I have a love/hate relationship with cleaning out my closet. I get anxious every time I think about purging items, especially if I have a memory or emotion tied to an item. But at the same time, I love the feeling of clearing out and refreshing my wardrobe so I can focus and get re-excited about the items I really love (the ones that make the cut!).

Each season I challenge myself to complete a closet purge in one day. No joke. I even calendar it so that I’m forced to face it. I’ve streamlined the process with the help of my mom, who loves to organize and loves to clean-out my stuff when she’s here, which I love because that means I don’t have to!

My system is relatively simple and takes some “pain” out of the process. Prior to the start of each season (roughly 4 times a year), I set-up 4 “bins” (plastic ones and extra large garbage bags work well – make sure to have plenty on hand). Also have a pad of paper and pen (or cell phone, laptop or iPad) ready to jot down notes:

  1. TRASH – Items that are stained or damaged beyond repair.
  2. DONATE – Items I haven’t worn in a year. Items that I no longer like. Items that do not fit well and never will.
  3. MAYBE – Items I’m on the fence about giving away. Could be sentimental, could be that I think I might wear it again. Could be that I will get it altered. (This is where having a second person present helps).
  4. KEEP – I make a commitment to myself that I will wear these items again.

Starting at one end of my closet, I quickly sort through each piece, asking myself these 5 questions:

  1. Is it shrunken, faded, stained, torn or missing something?
  2. Did I wear this in the last year?
  3. Do I like the item?
  4. Does the item fit well? I may try it on to see.
  5. Do I have more than one of the same or very similar style? Do I need more than 1? Denim is a good example. Of course I need more than one pair of jeans. But do I need five pairs of distressed boyfriend-cut cropped jeans? Probably not. So I select my top two that meet the above criteria.
  • TIP: Get rid of the oldest, truly worn-out items first.
  • TIP: Write down what needs to be replaced (my favorite nude Chloe flats are a good example. Since I wear them everywhere all year long, I need to replace them every once in awhile).
  • TIP: Do not allow yourself to linger on an item – set a timer if you have to, or put it in the MAYBE bin to revisit later. The process is intended to move quickly.
  • TIP: Remove hangers as you go and place all hangers in a pile or in a trash bag.

Once I’ve made it through the closet, I move onto shoes, then bags, then items in drawers, including underwear, sleepwear, swimwear, workout wear, socks, jewelry, accessories, etc.

  • TIP: Make sure to purge intimates as well! While most people purge their clothes at one time or another, few purge their intimates – underwear, socks, sleepwear. Why? I have no idea, but I am guilty of this as well. Why do we spend so much money on our clothes, but still wear old undies and mismatched socks? 99% of these, by the way, should end up in TRASH, unless they have never been worn.

As “bins” fill-up, I move items into the extra large trash bags, making sure to distinguish between TRASH and DONATE.

I sort through the MAYBE “bin” quickly, either moving to DONATE or KEEP until the MAYBE “bin” is empty.

Then I take the KEEP “bin” and left-over hangers and start putting items back where they belong.

  • TIP: Make sure to make note of these items, or take a picture of them so that if you pull the item out again during the next closet purge, you’ll know that it’s probably time to donate it!

I make sure to haul all DONATE items to a local charity that same day (if you have a lot of items, some charities will come to you) and dump all TRASH.

At the end of the day, I sit down, relax, look around and smile, knowing I’ve made it through another successful closet purge. And I promise myself that I won’t buy as many things next season…