The Easiest Way to Clean Out Your Closet

So, I have a new itch: downsizing + lightening up my stuff. If you follow me on Instagram, I shared the process of cleaning out my closet the other week. It was in dire need. Like, Mayday! SOS! I hated going in there because it was a hot mess. I had SO many clothes, many of which I hadn’t worn in over a year (or longer…). It was overwhelming and disorganized, so I decided to make a change!

how to clean your closet - before

I came to the conclusion that my time and brainpower are too valuable to be spent weeding through this huge wardrobe. I don’t want to wear that… or that… or that. My day should not start by walking into a chaotic closet. Am I right? Or am I right??

A few of my top problems…

  1. I had too many “sentimental” t-shirts and sweatshirts from high school, college (and TBH, middle school, too – embarrassing!), and other misc. events.
  2. What if I need pants (or shirts) in a certain color for some event in the future??
  3. “But this article of clothing is cute!” …even though I hadn’t worn it in over a year.

Before you start…

I strongly believe that you need to be in the right frame-of-mind before cleaning out a closet. Less is more. You have to want fewer clothes in your closet and feel motivated to downsize. It should feel liberating for you afterward – clean, nicely organized, and easy to digest. Figuratively. LOL.

Also, you need to decide on the right amount of clothes for you. I read other articles where they kept 7 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, and 4 pairs of shoes. That would absolutely not work for me. I don’t like doing laundry, so I need at least 10 days worth of everyday clothes in my closet… but that might be different for you! Think about your lifestyle and come up with some numbers for you. Everything I post here is just my suggestion!

It’s better to donate than accumulate. <— Yassssssssssss.

Now, this post isn’t super glamorous. I didn’t do an entire closet renovation, but it’s easy to see how much “thinner” my wardrobe is and how much lighter it looks + I feel LIBERATED! I turned that overstuffed walk-in into this!

Okay, let’s doooo this!

Step 1: You must remove your clothes from the closet.

I was skeptical of this philosophy, but now I’m ride or die. Take your clothes OUT of your closet and set them on your bed, THEN start going through them. I did this in sections so I wouldn’t get too overwhelmed.

It’s weird, but your clothes have a different feeling when you’re looking at them in a new environment. It gives you a new perspective. So please, PROMISE ME you will do this! It’s well worth the hassle!

The #1 Rule: To keep it, you have to LOVE wearing it.

Seriously. I don’t just mean, “But it’s cute!” Nope. When getting dressed in that outfit, you have to think, “I get to wear this today!” You have to feel confident and comfortable wearing it. An unequivocal favorite.

I had lots of clothes that were cute, but they weren’t necessarily cute on me. I liked the idea of wearing it and I could picture what I wanted it to look like, but I couldn’t quite pull it off. OR I thought it was cute, but I hadn’t worn it in over a year – there was probably a reason! To the donate pile!

With that in mind, I made 4 piles of clothes:

  1. LOVE and can wear now (back to the closet!)
  2. Maybe?? Not sure! (more on this next)
  3. Donate
  4. LOVE but it’s not the right season (pack away for the right season)

I also had to give myself a little reality check. Do you dress your age? I had a lot of clothes from 5-7 years ago that I really liked wearing, but I’m in a much different stage of life now. I want to start dressing like a 25-year-old. Even if that means a 25 y/o mom who mostly wears yoga pants. LOL.

Use this rule for everything. Pants, shirts, jackets, shoes, jewelry, the whole gamut. It is truly a game changer.

That “Maybe” Pile

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll have a pile of clothes you’re not quite sure about. You have two options:

  1. Pack them away in a box – a Maybe Box! If you think about something in the next 6 months and go to the effort of getting it out, keep it! If not, donate.
  2. Let it gooooo! Just donate it now. Less is more. If you’re questioning it, there must be some reason. Donate it with the rest of your clothes now so you don’t have to make another decision about it later.

If you still have a lot of clothes you LOVE…

If your LOVE pile is huge and you’re having trouble downsizing, try this: Think about how often you do laundry. If it’s once a week, scale down to 10 of your most favorite Monday-Friday outfits and put the extras in the Maybe Box. If you get through those clothes and it feels like you need more variety in your closet, take out your next two favorite outfits. Wait at least 10 days before taking out another outfit (if you need it). After 6 months, donate whatever is left in the Maybe Box.

I. Do. Not. Need. Memorabilia. Clothes.

I had in the ballpark of 30+ t-shirts and sweatshirts from different events in my life and a lot of them were fairly sentimental to me. From Iowa State to races I’ve run to ones with my maiden name on the back. Here are a few things that helped me let go:

  1. My memories + pictures are a much better reminder than a t-shirt.
  2. These t-shirts are doing no good taking up room, hardly being worn.
  3. Almost no one that I see on a daily basis knows what these shirts are about.
  4. I am a 25-year-old woman who doesn’t need t-shirt reminders from when I was 19 (or 13, lol).

So, my rule was to keep 2-3 “memorabilia” t-shirts that mean the most and I still enjoy wearing. Donate the rest. Uh huh. Donate. It will be okay, I promise. You still have memories.

Special Event Clothing

“What if I need a black long-sleeved shirt for an event in the future?” Here’s the deal: If you can’t think of a time in the past 2 years that you needed it AND it’s not a LOVE in your wardrobe, donate it. If something comes up in the future and you needed that, go out and buy what you need, on-the-cheap. In the meantime, it shouldn’t be taking up your precious closet space.

Clothes that Don’t Fit

Maybe you have a box or two of “skinny clothes” that fit you a few years ago, but now? Not so much. Two options: 1) Start working towards fitting into these clothes now, or 2) Start LOVING who you are today and donate those clothes. We’re not in the business of keeping “someday” clothes – your closet space is too valuable! If you need smaller-sized clothes in the future, then you should reward yourself with a new wardrobe, anyway! Not clothes from years and years ago.

In addition, if you lose weight and you’re left with clothes that are too big, DONATE! It will help keep your closet decluttered and you’ll stay motivated to keep the weight off when you don’t have the larger-sized clothes at your fingertips.

Advice on Shoes

My best piece of advice is to match your shoes with the outfits you have left. Now that you’ve scaled down your wardrobe, it should be easier to weed out your shoe inventory. They should be shoes you LOVE wearing, so if they’re not very comfortable, donate! If they don’t match anything, donate!

Aside from that, you shouldn’t need more than one pair of exercise shoes, dirty/work shoes, and wear-with-anything flip-flops. Yes, I give you permission to get rid of your 15 pairs of Old Navy flip-flops.

Don’t forget the hangers!

I took a few minutes to clear out all the super-cheap plastic hangers in my closet. Decent plastic hangers are inexpensive and my closet felt less chaotic when my clothes were all on the same type of hanger. Am I weird? Maybe a little.

If you want to go the extra mile, I had a friend suggest investing in nicer hangers, as it gives your closet an even cleaner look. She found black hangers with rose gold hooks at Ross – talk about fancy!

Where should I donate?

If you have good quality, name-brand clothing, consigning your clothes might be a great option – hello, monneeyyyy! Make sure to look up their rules and guidelines before dumping clothes at a consignment shop.

The most common place to donate clothes is Goodwill and Salvation Army, but have you looked for other charities in your area? What about a women’s shelter? Do a quick Google search to see what other charities in your area could benefit from your donation.

Now, Treat Yo’ Self!

Once you have successfully cleaned out and decluttered your wardrobe, go buy yourself a new LOVE outfit. I’m serious! Go shopping with your new frame of mind: I only buy clothes that I LOVE. I get excited to wear this outfit. I feel confident! I went out and bought this dress + shoes at Kohl’s (+ accessories from Old Navy) for an event we had that weekend. My husband kept saying, “I love that dress because I can tell how much YOU love it!”

You can do this, I promise.

Taking your closet to the next level can be intimidating, I know! Especially if you have years and years worth of clothes built up. Trust me on this: the hardest part is getting started. Once you see a section of your closet empty, you’ll have a hard time re-stuffing it with clothes!

Cleaning my closet has drastically simplified my morning routine and made it easier to start my day. Pick a day and get started!

Questions? Need more advice? Drop your question in the comments and I’ll lend a helping hand.

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2 comments

  1. I just wanted to thank you for the inspirational post!
    And I thought I didn’t really have any clothes to get rid of…well, I decided to take another look right after reading. I pulled out a few things I never or hardly wear because they didn’t fit or I didn’t like them anymore. Then I thought I’d try on a few, look for my clothes in other rooms, find that item I always meant to mend or alter so it would fit, etc, etc. A few hours later I counted 60+ items I didn’t want anymore. I found a few I’ll try selling on EBay too. Now I can actually fit my clothes in my room. Hooray!

    1. Thank you, Faith! I’m so glad I provided some inspiration to get your clothes cleaned up. It’s truly refreshing to have a lighter load! No matter how you go about it! 🙂

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