Closet Cleaning 101

Can’t find a thing to wear, but your closet is crammed full? Regularly lose your favorite top in the dark wasteland that is your closet? Cleaning out a closet can be an incredibly daunting task. If your closet is anything like most people’s, you have things in there that haven’t seen the light of day since your senior prom. You could go all-out and pay for an organizational guru to clean up your clutter, or you could roll up your sleeves and do it yourself.

First, tackle the clothes. Start with three piles: a “love it” pile, a “hate it” pile and a “maybe” pile. Sort everything wearable that you can lay your hands on. This may sound simple at first, but when you are deciding on your “love it” pile, you must be firm with yourself. If you haven’t ever worn it, won’t wear it again or if it doesn’t look good on you it must go in one of the other piles. You must love the item and you must wear the item. Sometimes this can work better if you have a friend to help you and offer support and make it a fun afternoon. Sometimes you’d really rather not admit you ever owned that day-glo orange sweatshirt dress, let alone show it to your best friend.

You will keep the “love it”, get rid of the “hate it” and that leaves the “maybe” pile. This pile will need to be broken down further. It is okay to keep a few things for sentimental reasons like your wedding gown or the dress you just adore but haven’t been able to wiggle into since little Buddy was born. If you are keeping more than a handful of things for sentimental reasons, you need to stop yourself. Do you really want a closet full of things that you can’t wear? Do you have a closet or a museum?

Next, while you have all your clothes already out, look at your shoes. Again, if you haven’t worn them and don’t think you ever will, get rid of those shoes. For the remaining shoes, make sure they match a few outfits in your wardrobe. If they don’t, you need to get rid of them.

Once you have figured out the clothes and shoes, you need to tackle the other things lurking in your closet. If it doesn’t belong in a closet, it needs to find a new home. Really, do you need a case of olive from the warehouse store in your closet? Toilet paper? Only if there is a bathroom nearby. You get the idea. You may find yourself with a new pile: things to put somewhere else. This is okay; you can blend them into other places later, or maybe throw them out (are those olives really from 1989?).

Finally, you have to put everything away. Don’t just cram your clothes into the closet willy-nilly with no plan in mind. Try, at the very least, to sort like with like. Pants, then skirts, then dresses, then shirts. Some people organize into work, going out, and every day. Choose a system that will work best for you and use it. Invest in a few hanging organizers if you find you need some extra space, or transparent boxes, if you have shelves.

Don’t shove your shoes into the bottom, but try to find a place at eye level (maybe another hanging organizer) where you can put the shoes facing with one front out and one heel out. This will help you tell quickly how high the heel is and what outfits it will match.

The odds and ends that are left can be a real pain to store. Scarves and belts can be hung on a convenient hanger where they won’t slip off and are easy to find. Bed linens can be stored between the box spring and mattress of whatever bed they go on. Hats can be stored on a shelf, in a way that you will be able to see them. Otherwise, they need to go near your coats. Allow yourself plenty of time to deal with your things that belong somewhere else, but make yourself put away at least one item every day. It does no good to simply move the clutter.

Cleaning your closet can be a liberating, exciting thing to do. Be firm, be strong, and remember that whatever you get rid of can be purchased again.

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