Closet Cleanout 2: 3 Essential Questions to a Spotless Closet

Published on September 21, 2015 By Lauren

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    The hardest part of cleaning out my closet is deciding what to keep and what needs to move on.  Here are some tips for how to decide which clothes will make the cut!

    First, make sure that you follow all the rules here for cleaning out your closet the right way.  There is a method to this madness.

    1. Trick yourself into finding out what you will never wear!

    I think we all buy clothes with the best of intentions.  Some things are an amazing color!  Some items go beautifully with exactly one pair of shoes we own.  The list is endless for the good intentions lying around in my closet.  Sometimes I have to trick myself into finding out what I actually wear and what to get rid of.

    Here are two simple tricks for cleaning out dresser drawers:

    • If you don’t fold your clothes, do it once. After a few months, whatever is still folded should probably go!
    • If you already fold your clothes, do it. After a few months, whatever is at the bottom or back you can probably pitch.

    That was easy!  Let’s move on to hanging clothes!

    You might have heard of the hanger trick for deciding which clothes to keep.  You turn all of your clothes hangers backwards in your closet.  If you wear an item, wash it, and rehang it, then (and ONLY THEN) the hanger gets hung up the correct direction.  After a few months then you’ll see the hangers that are still backwards and you’ll know what to donate or give away.

    I’m going to be honest in saying that I couldn’t handle this method for two reasons:

    1. I couldn’t stand seeing all those backwards hangers.
    2. I have multiple places where I keep my clothes so this doesn’t work for my drawers and baskets.

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    If the hanger trick works for you then rock it!  In my opinion, this next tip is actually better than the hanger trick!

    Use ribbon or stickers to mark all of your clothes that you did not wear this week.  Then set a deadline for wearing them. At the end of 1 year (or whatever you set) anything that still has a ribbon or a sticker must go.  See those gold boat shoes, I LOVE them, but the sticker tells you if I wear them… 🙁

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    2. Use simple questions to guide your decisions.

    Since I’m a willing guinea pig, I’m going to show you how I worked through my scarves. I LOVE scarves (you know you do, too!). I wore them all summer, and I always want more. However, if I am being truthful with myself, I realize that I now prefer infinity scarves and don’t wear the others as much. The ones I actually wear are not even in the closet, because they are in the laundry, in my purse, or on top of my dresser. Also, I should only wear the ones that make me look more sophisticated if I’m thinking about the work image I want to portray.

    I started by laying out all of the scarves and folding them nicely. Next, you have to set some simple questions for how you will decide what to keep and what not to. Sounds easy, right?

    I already clarified which scarves I love (infinity), so it seems like the rest should just go, right? We both know it’s not that easy. You start to remember all the feelings and memories attached to each article of clothing… who you were with when you bought it, who gifted it to you, that one singular outfit with which this scarf looks amazing, and all of the sudden you can’t get rid of any!

    So, how do you decide what to keep? I often have to do this activity of cleaning my closet when I’m in a happy but not messing around type of mood. I can be sentimental or too hopeful, so I have to work when I’m in a get-stuff-done type of place. Here’s what I think about:

    • Does this item of clothing serve a realistic purpose?
    • Will I really wear this often in the long term?
    • Do I actually wear it and/or love it?
    • Does it currently bring me joy?

    If not enough of my answers to those questions are yes, it has to go.

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    But where does it go to?

    I’m glad you asked.

    3. What to do with stuff that doesn’t make the cut.

    I make a few piles:

    • Things that are stained or torn and can’t be reused without a miracle
    • Things I am going to sell at a resale shop
    • Items to give away or donate

    So, what became of my scarves? I was able to put a few in the get-rid-of piles immediately. I also put the ones I definitely wanted to keep back in the closet, but folded very nicely. Next, I looked at the ones I wanted to keep, but really was just making excuses about.

    The truth is…I also have a ‘think-it-over’ pile. Sometimes I know an item has to come out of my closet, but I am not ready to let it leave my home (read: my heart). The ‘think it over’ pile is another bag, which I can put in the basement, guest room closet, wherever, until I am ready to totally let go. Usually, when I discover it later and remember that I lived without it just fine and probably forgot it even existed, then I’m ok to move those things to the real pile for getting rid of.

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    I came up with a new trick for myself because I could feel that the ‘think-it-over’ pile wasn’t going to cut it on this one. Also, by keeping a few extra around, I was trying to prevent myself from scarf shopping. I decided to put a post-it on each maybe item with my excuse for keeping it and the deadline by which I need to wear it if I want to keep it. For example, I have one that matches a few outfits and one which was a gift when I was someone’s matron-of-honor.  I put those scarves back in the closet as well and when I fail to meet some of the deadlines, I’ll be able to send them off to a better place.

    Maybe you’re making room for new clothes or just trying to donate to minimize your wardrobe, whatever your reason I hope these tricks help make your decisions easier.

    Stay tuned for a follow-up post about what to do with all of the clothes you weed out!

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