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A Beginner’s Guide To Decluttering Your Closet

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A change of season is the perfect time to declutter your closet. And that includes a major life change like moving, change of job or retiring. I’m not going to lie. It’s going to get messy and some decisions will be hard. But in the end, purging your wardrobe will make your life easier and you will be so glad you did it.

I have to admit. I am no fashionista. Ever since I quit my job and became a full-time blogger, my go to outfit is a sweatshirt (or T-shirt) and yoga pants. Oh, who am I kidding? Pajamas. I wear pajamas a lot. And don’t tell anyone, but I have snuck to the store or done a quick drive thru wearing them.

And yet, until I did an evaluation and declutter of my closet a few months back, I still had tons of suits, dresses and what I would call office wear. I spent a lot of money on those clothes so I was tied to them. Like they were a bank account or something. Except their real re-sale value was zero. Yes, there were items I was hanging on to that had shoulder pads. Am I dating myself?

The thing that prompted me to finally get rid of most of my wardrobe was the fact that when I did have to go out to meet friends, go to a conference or go away on vacation, I usually went out and bought something new just for the occasion because I couldn’t find anything in my closet. And I am not a good shopper. I literally hate shopping. So chances are I brought home something I would only wear once, maybe. What a waste of money and time! 

The benefit of decluttering your closet is getting a real time snapshot of what you have, what you like and what you need so that when you do go shopping, you are not picking up stuff willy nilly. You have a game plan and that means anything new you bring into your closet will be versatile and co-ordinate with the items you already have. 

Are you ready to get started?

First, make sure you have a whole day set aside for this decluttering project because it is going to take a lot of time. I don’t want you to have to stop half way through and then end up throwing everything back into your closet because you have some other commitment. That would be frustrating as hell and you will probably not want to go back at it again when you get back. Trust me, you will feel so good if you get this all done in one fair swoop.

Second, you need to gather all the supplies you will need for this task. That includes garbage bags for trash and donation, as well as a few plastic totes for maybe items and seasonal pieces. Make sure you have labels (or masking tape) and a black sharpie.

How To Identify The Core Essentials Of Your Wardrobe

1. Empty out your entire closet.

I told you it was going to get messy. Now, I want you to take a moment and look inside your nice, clean empty closet. Looks pretty big now yes? Sit in it. I want you to appreciate the space. Really enjoy it. Think about how you want it to look so that you won’t be tempted to just jam pack it with stuff again. 

This process you are about to start is about choosing what to keep, not what you want to throw away. That is why it is important to revel in your empty closet. Items have to be worthy to go back in.

2. Separate by category.

It is really difficult to look at all of your clothes at once to get a true sense of what you have. Tackling one category at a time will help you see duplicates and missing essentials.

Divide your clothes by these suggested categories:

  • strappy or strapless tops
  • sleeveless tops
  • short sleeve tops
  • long sleeve tops
  • summer sweaters
  • winter sweaters
  • dressy tops
  • layering tops (cardigans, jackets, shrugs, etc.)
  • casual skirts
  • dress skirts
  • casual pants
  • dress pants
  • casual dresses
  • dressy dresses
  • beach shoes
  • casual shoes
  • dressy shoes
  • casual boots
  • dressy boots
  • any other category of clothes you have in your closet

3. Tackle by category.

Start the following process with your tops, then move on to bottoms, dresses and any other category you have.

  • Make a pile of tops that you wear every single day. (Or at the very least, once a week.)
  • Remove and place in a garbage bag any clothes that are too small, too big, too short, too long, stained or need repair. Let’s be honest here. If you wear these items everyday without thought, they need to be pristine. No one wants to look unkept.
  • Remove any tops that will not be worn this season and place them in a correctly labeled tote.
  • Hang the tops that are left on nice hangers and place them back into your closet.
  • Repeat above steps for all the categories.
  • Be sure to hang the clothes back in your closet by category, one after another. This will keep your closet organized.

Your closet should now be filled with your core essentials. On average, people wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time so about one-fifth of your wardrobe should now be hanging back in your closet.

How do they look in there? Do you see a pattern? Do you see a colour scheme? Do you see a style preference? This hanging group of clothes can be viewed as your typical daily uniform. It really isn’t a bad thing. These are the items that feel comfortable on you and make you feel good. 

Make a shopping list for things that are missing if you had to put them in the garbage bag because they no longer fit right, were stained or in need of repair. For example, a plain white t-shirt is an essential for me for the summer season. Because I wear them so much and wash them often, they get pit stains (yuck!), shrink or loose their shape. At the beginning of each summer season I always buy a new one and get rid of the old. Having a list when you go shopping will help you not only choose items that you really need but will save you money! No more whim shopping for you!

How To Quickly Declutter Your Closet Of Things You Don’t Need

With 80% of your clothes still lying on the floor, you want to pick up the speed don’t you? Let’s try and get 50% of that stuff outta here fast.

  1. Going through one category at a time, remove and place in a garbage bag any clothes that you know without trying them on, are too small, too big, too short, too long, stained or need repair.
  2. Remove and place in donation bag any clothes that you really don’t like, are out of style or you don’t feel comfortable in. You know the items I mean. Every time you wear them, you regret it. Get rid of them now! 
  3. Remove and place in donation bag, if you are brave enough, any clothes you haven’t worn for 2 years. If you can’t bring yourself to donate some items, put them in a plastic tote labeled with today’s date. This tote will either go to the back of your closet, the basement or the attic. In a year if you haven’t had to go into this tote to retrieve anything, you should be able to donate it then without opening it or having any remorse about getting rid of what is in there.
  4. Repeat these steps for each category.

How you doing? Are you still with me? Do you feel good so far about the process? I hope so cause now it is going to get hard.

How To Complete Your Wardrobe

Hopefully you are now left with less than 30% of your closet contents to go through. This part is probably going to take the longest. These are items that you don’t wear everyday but are still in great shape and you really like them. These are the clothes you are most tempted to hang on to.

  1. Work through one category at a time. 
  2. I’m going to assume you haven’t worn these pieces in awhile so you need to try them on.
  3. If they don’t fit, look great or feel comfortable, place them in the donation bag or the tote labeled with the date. 
  4. If they do fit, I want you to evaluate each piece. Does it fit the colour scheme of your core essentials hanging in your closet right now? Does it suit your style? Can you pair them with any core essentials? Do I have occasions coming up that I could wear this at? The more yeses you get to those questions, the more likely that piece deserves to be a part of your wardrobe.
  5. If an item has passed the test, place it in a keep pile till you have completed going through its category.
  6. Once you have gone through the whole category, look at your keep pile. Are there any duplicates? If there are, let’s try to pair down some more by evaluating how many you actually need. Choose only the favourites or toss the ones that are ho-hum, whichever is easier.
  7. Now you are ready to hang your keep piles back in your closet in the appropriate order or in the seasonal tote for storage.
  8. Anything still left on the floor? There shouldn’t be but if there is, it is safe to say they can go to the donation bag.

Phew! That was a lot of work! But wait…don’t forget to throw the trash out, get those donation bags into your trunk and store any totes of clothes you are keeping (seasonal and potential donation) under your bed or any other out of way space.

Now stand back at look at your closet. How does it look? Do you know everything in there and is it arranged in such a manner that you can find what you need in a snap? I bet it is. It feels good doesn’t it?

Decluttering your closet can be an over-whelming task. But if you set aside the appropriate amount of time and get into the proper head space, it can be a most rewarding experience. You will find getting ready to go out for dinner or pack for a vacation is now a breeze. You will save so much time and you will have less stress. I promise you!

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