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Closet Clean Out Tips (for the Rest of Us)

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Try a web search for “closet clean out tips” and you’re sure to hit a jackpot of results, everything from professional closet organizers telling you the solution is a trip to The Container Store (and $5,000), to others telling you you can get by on one pair of pants, three shirts, and four scarves (to create new looks, of course!). What if you’re somewhere in between a complete structural overhaul of your closet and having a wardrobe of 10 items? What about closet clean out tips for the rest of us??

Closet Clean Out Tips - SplendryIf you’re ready to overhaul your wardrobe a bit without getting too extreme, I’ve got some tips for you! A fairly easy process (though maybe a bit painful at first), the results will be worth it!

To get started, you’ll need to set aside some time for your clean out. Unless you’re dealing with a very small wardrobe, 15 minutes will not cut it! Allow yourself at least an hour or two to really accomplish the goal! You’re going to need some space for the items you’re getting rid of too. Designate four piles (trash bags, bins or boxes will help) for castoffs:

1. Friends

Do any items fit a friend’s sense of style? This pile is for clothing you think someone you know might like. Make sure to consider size and style preferences.

2. Charity Organizations

Items that are in good condition but might be a little out of style or the wrong size. Clothing should be clean and wearable.

3. Consignment Shops/Online Selling

Anything you invested money in that you would like to try to recover some of the cost.

4. Trash

Items that are damaged beyond repair shouldn’t be worn by anyone. (That t-shirt with the big stain? No one else wants it either!) Turn into dust rags or just toss.

Now, what do you get rid of?

Anything that doesn’t fit (by more than a size)

If you’ve been a size 12 for several years, throw out anything that’s a size 6 or a size 16. It’s time to move on. Hanging onto items you can no longer wear is not doing you any good. Let go of them!

Anything you haven’t worn in a few years

If you’re not wearing it, it’s just taking up space! Try the hanger trick. Hang items in your closet with the hanger backwards. As you wear an item, turn the hanger to the right side. Check occasionally- the items you didn’t move should be removed after a season, and especially after a year. This includes new items you haven’t worn.

Anything that is really out of style

While some trends do make comebacks, your pink 80s style blazer with the shoulder pads shouldn’t be worn for more than a costume. Consider giving these items to your local theater department.

Items that are “worn”

Shirts that pill, pants with hems that are frayed, etc. While some items can be repaired, those that cannot need to go. These items should not be given to charities unless that organization can recycle old clothing. If you’ve got a repair pile at the end of your clean out, make sure you actually act on it soon! If it sits too long, go ahead and toss them. You’re not getting any use from them!

Anything you don’t love! 

While some items are more practical (think layering tanks and tees), wear things that you truly love! That blouse you put on at least a few times a month and then immediately take off because it just doesn’t hang right? Out! The dress you wear because it fits but you just don’t feel like yourself in it? Out! Why wear (and keep) things that you don’t feel good in? Life is too short!


Anything that holds strong sentimental value can be an exception. Keep the shoes you wore the night you got engaged, the favorite bag you carried while you backpacked through Europe, and the dress you wore when you brought your babies home from the hospital. These items shouldn’t remain in your closet, but wrapped in tissue and stored for safe keeping. Unless you’ve got unlimited storage space, you’re going to have to limit your exception pile. Keep the few things that mean the most and for the others? Keep the memories and a few photos!

Made it to the end of your clean out? If you’re happy with your results make sure you get the castoffs out of your house quickly. The longer they stick around the more likely they’ll find their way back into the closet, still not being worn!

If you don’t feel like you’ve made the dent you’d like, repeat the process a few times until you’re at a good spot. Feeling too overwhelmed? Ask a friend over for her opinion on your keep/toss piles! Sometimes another set of eyes makes a big difference!

And just in case you’re more of a visual learner:

Originally published July 24, 2015

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