How To Clean Out Your Closet


I used to wait too long to clean out my closet. Way too long. One day when I was about 16, I was told I had to, or I was grounded. As I began to dig through it, I came across my old Brownie uniform from about 4th grade. Which I then tried to squeeze myself into for some reason.

I got stuck – seriously, terrifyingly stuck – in that little brown jumper.

My dad was the only one home at the time. He was watching a Civil War show on The History Channel. It had been a nice, quiet Saturday afternoon, until I came flying out of my bedroom screaming like a wild animal trapped in a tiny polyester uniform, arms contorted painfully above my head.

My dad wound up having to cut me out of the thing. It was mortifying.

Let that be a cautionary tale. It’s time to clean out your closest.

You probably feel like you have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear anyway, right?

Most of us do. Until we build a wardrobe that works.

Bridget and I have been working on our capsule wardrobes lately. And it’s become clear that although you’d think that having more clothes would make it easier to get dressed every day, it’s actually the opposite that’s true.

Having fewer options that you love – that fit well and work together – is more effective for getting dressed with ease.

I mean, if you’re being honest with yourself, what percentage of the clothes you own now actually get worn regularly? I’d guess about 20-30%.

The idea behind a capsule wardrobe is to pare down your clothing to only that 20-30%. And curate it with pieces you really love that work together. It’s an intentional way to make getting dressed way more enjoyable – with less. And having a wardrobe you love helps you feel good leaving the house every day, which is priceless.

OK. So where to start? We start by cleaning out our closets! We have to take inventory and get rid of the excess first. See what we’re working with. This is our favorite activity, aside from taking pictures of our dogs.

How to Clean Out Your Closet 

Depending on how much you own, you’ll likely need somewhere between a few hours to an entire Saturday to do this.

Step 1: Pull every single item out of your closet.

When I say closet I mean dressers too. Anywhere you store clothes, even socks, underwear and coats. You want to get every, single item of clothing you own out in the light of day. And go get the stuff in your gym bag and the hamper too. (Just clothing for now though. We’ll do shoes and accessories later.) Put it all in a big pile on your bed. You’ll probably be shocked by the sheer volume you uncover.

Step 2: Divide the items into categories.

Put each piece in a pile of either: tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, sleepwear, work-out clothes, underwear, socks.

Step 3: Subdivide each category again.

Now go through each category again and divide further. Tops you’ll want to divide by tank tops, tees, blouses, sweaters, jackets, etc. Bottoms by shorts, skirts, pants, jeans, etc. Underwear by.. . you get the picture.

The point here is to be able to go through each subcategory and see how much of each item you own. It makes it easier to part with things and to realize how many multiples you’ve been spending money on. How many jorts (jean shorts) do you have? How many black, crewneck sweaters? Or black tank tops? Or black pants? Or black…whatever.

We’re just taking stock at this point though so don’t be scurred.

Step 4: Go through each pile – one. item. at. a. time. 

This is where you’ll need to start making some decisions. If your goal is a better wardrobe, you’re going to have to part with some stuff. But just remember, how much of it do you really wear anyway? And of the portion you do wear, how much do you love? How much makes you feel good when you wear it? Ya know? You know what I’m talking about….

Now, take each item in your hand and look at it, feel the material, picture the last time you wore it, maybe try it on. Then decide if you want to: keep it, toss it or – and only if you really aren’t sure – decide later.  Start getting after it. Go through each item in each pile until you’re done. Feel free to break for snacks.

The Toss Pile:
add to it anything that…

  • you haven’t worn in the past year
  • you hate
  • doesn’t fit right so you never wind up wearing it
  • has stains
  • is ripped beyond repair, or you know you’ll never fix it
  • you know you will never get around to having it tailored
  • is age-inappropriate
  • makes you feel fat (Rule No. 1: Don’t f with anything that makes you feel fat.)

The Keep Pile:
add to it anything that…

  • you love or really like
  • you wear regularly
  • fits well
  • makes you feel good when you wear it

The Can’t Decide Pile:
for each item, ask yourself …

  • Do I really love this?
  • If so, but I don’t wear it, why?
  • If not, why am I holding onto it?
  • Does this make me feel good when I wear it?
  • How often am I actually going to wear this in the future? [A little note from Bridget: The key words here are “actually going to wear in the future” and not some version of  “I could potentially wear this with that one pair of sparkly heels if it was somewhere I wouldn’t have to walk too much and if it wasn’t too cold out and if I was, for some random reason, getting really dressed up that night.”  This is huge for me! I used to hold on to wardrobe clutter for just-in-case outfits, for less-than-likely hypothetical scenarios.] 
  • Is it worth the space it’s taking in my closet?
  • Would I spend money on this today?

Step 5: Donate, Trash or Sell…

Anything you want to get rid of. Goodwill, eBay and Donation Dumpsters are a good place to start.

Now you can put everything back in your closet (neatly and organized by category).

And then maybe have yo’self a cocktail. You’re done! Didn’t that feel good? Don’t you feel lighter and happier?! Next time you go to get ready, with fewer options of only clothes you love, it should be way easier.

Some other afternoon, you’ll do the same with your shoes and accessories too. But for now, well done, friend!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *