09 Dec Top tips on how to clean your closet (and set yourself free)
In our post on how to set goals for your wardrobe detox, we mentioned creating activity wheels. Let’s look at this wheel again and keep this image in mind when you go through each item in question. Turn on your favorite music, put makeup on, style your hair as you normally do, and put on shoes with the heel height you usually wear. This will help you set up the scene and prepare for at least a couple hours of fashion modeling in your private clothing collection.
What you will need: 6 to 8 bags or boxes, 1-2 trash bags, a mirror, your favorite music
The basic rules of closet cleaning
1. Start closet cleaning with removing seasonal items.
2. Follow your “lifestyle wheel” diagram: if you have 10 gorgeous evening dresses but your Social events activity is only 5%, leave just your best evening dress.
3. Start cleaning with dresses, then move to the tops, bottoms, followed by shoes, bags, and accessories.
4. Remove items that don’t fit anymore.
5. Remove things with bad associations or bad energy (remember that unlucky dress you were wearing on your last failed date?). Let’s be honest, you probably won’t wear them.
6. Remove items that look beaten up and old. Some of them you’ll be able to fix, some can be reused as home outfits. Find a similar replacement for your favorite items that are beaten up.
7. Try not to think about the money you spent on an item – it’s not a reason to keep it.
Try to leave your best and most favorite 40-50 seasonal items which will later form the foundation for your capsule wardrobe.
We tried to make this process as fun as possible and came up with 7 questions you have to ask yourself as you are questioning every single item.
Let’s start with your “hanging” closet, and you can repeat the same steps for the items that are folded on the shelves, and for shoes, bags and other accessories. Don’t remove clothes from the closet just yet. For some people the very thought of facing the impressive amount of their garments can be so daunting that they will put closet detox off for later – the “later” that never comes. We recommend just leaving the closet as it is as you go through the first two questions so that you don’t get discouraged.
Question 1. Is it seasonal?
The first task is to strip off all seasonal items – there are probably some items that are still lingering here since the previous season – Christmas sweatshirts, summer dresses, or not-relevant swimwear. Remove all of them and pack into your first pile – “Seasonal”. This will leave you with just the relevant garments for this season.
Question 2. Did I wear it last year?
Now it’s time for the second and the most important question. Did you wear it frequently in the last year? The beauty of this question is that it requires a simple “yes” or “no” answer and eliminates sentimental feelings and other arguments that might pop-up in your head. There is probably a good reason why you didn’t wear these items in either 365 days.
With brutal honesty, remove all clothes that you didn’t wear in the last year and place them on a bed. This is your “under investigation” bucket. Now we’ll be further dividing it into smaller chunks. Put aside clothing that you frequently wear into a “Favorites” bucket.
Question 3. Is this an absolute must-keep?
Look at your “under investigation” bucket. Some of these clothes will travel back to the closet forming your capsule wardrobe, while some will be packed in the “Keepsakes” pile, and the rest will continue getting filtered. Look at each item, and first decide if you are willing to give it a second chance. Why didn’t you wear it last year? Maybe you were not able to fit into it? Maybe you just never liked it? Or maybe you already have a couple very similar things and you prefer them better? Try it on and see how it looks on you. It’s a good idea to give an item a chance.
What if you probably won’t wear it next year either but you just need to keep it? Each one of us has these cherished garments that we want to keep for sentimental purposes but will probably not get into in the forthcoming future. If you really want to keep it, please do. We get it.
There’s no point in feeling guilty if you suspect an item is made in a sweatshop or is from 100% polyester. Your conscious closet starts with the next thing you buy. In fact, your most sustainable closet consists of things you already own and wear.
Pack all must-keeps into a separate pile “Keepsakes”. Those are the clothes that you will hide somewhere safe until the next closet evaluation – say, in half a year from now. You also might have some clothing you like and could potentially wear but that is damaged. You can also put it aside in the “Repair” pile and fix it later.
Question 4. Am I ok with selling or renting it?
Look at the remains of your “under investigation” pile. Now it’s time to select all items it will make sense to sell. Use your best judgment on this depending on how much time you have and how expensive the garment is. For example, while it might be worth selling an expensive designer jacket for $200 on Ebay, TheRealReal, Tradesy, Material Wrld, and Poshmark, you probably don’t want to go through the hassle if something is $30. If you have lots of cheaper items, it might be better to sell them to your local consignment store.
Another great option, if time allows, is to rent your clothing through peer-to-peer platforms like Tuleri. Renting clothing has been becoming more and more popular nowadays as it helps leaving minimal environmental footprint.
Put all clothing that you can potentially sell or rent into the “For sale” pile.
Question 5. Can I wear it at home?
How do you evaluate your “home” look on the scale from one to ten in comparison to what you wear out? If the rating deviates at least 3 points (ex. your outside look is 9 while your home look is 6), you might want to reconsider some things. If you have a family, we bet everyone wants to see you look as beautiful and stylish as when they don’t see you! If you live by yourself, why not celebrate each day of your youth with a striking and comfortable outfit? After all, you don’t dress for others, you dress for yourself.
Select all clothing from your “under investigation” pile that you can wear at home and lovingly place them in the “Home” pile.
Question 6. Can I give it away to people I know?
If selling or renting is too much of a hassle, why not give away some stuff? Think about what a great time you can have with your girlfriends at a “swap party” where everyone brings at least ten items along with wine and snacks? Or maybe you have some relatives who are not as lucky as you are to have all this amazing clothing? Put everything you think you can give away into the pile “Give away” and move on. You are almost done.
Question 7. Can I donate it?
Look at what you have remaining. Is there any clothing that is not damaged and can be donated to your local thrift store? Dropping it off will take half an hour, and will help local communities and the environment. Put it aside into the “Donate” pile. Check out our blog post with top tips on how to donate clothing.
Everything else left on your bed will go to the “Trash” pile. Please be very considerate with the amount of clothing that you end up throwing. While in general textiles are biodegradable, they can clog up the machinery at the recycling facility, and someone will have to manually pull out errant clothing. Look at the hanging items in your closet again. Is there another seasonal garment lingering there?
By now you might have these clothing piles: Seasonal, Favorites, Repair, For sale, Home, Give away, Donate, and Recycle/Trash. Pack them up in separate bags for now and give it a couple days.
You might realize you want to let more things go. Do not throw anything away just yet. And make yourself a cup of tea to celebrate the liberation. You can also look into clothing storage options for Keepsakes and Seasonal items. If you want to save space, check out storage vacuum bags that you can easily slide under the bed.
To get you inspired, here is the famous Sex in The City scene where Carrie Bradshaw gets her dream closet from fiancé Mr. Big, and has to decide her keepers.
Curious what to do with the extra clothing you might have? Check our post on how to manage clothing after a closet detox.