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How to Clean Out Your Closet – declutter and organize your wardrobe

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At the start of every season, I try to do a partial closet clean out. This is when I evaluate everything I had in my closet from the past season, and decide whether to keep, sell, or donate. As a fashion influencer, I accumulate clothes like no one’s business. I buy a lot of items to try on and recommend for you all, and I’m also gifted clothes as well. That combination results in a bunch of items that I end up collecting but not wearing as often as I should.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that if I don’t see something hanging in my closet, I usually forget about it. When my closet is too full, I stop wearing certain pieces just because I can’t see them! Cleaning things out helps me create physical space in my wardrobe so that I can actually see everything I have. Decluttering after each season is also a way to ensure that I have more items that I love, and fewer items that I just like vs. love.

In today’s post, I’m sharing my step by step routine when it comes to cleaning out my closet. I filmed a video while I was doing this, so if you prefer video format to reading a post, you can watch me declutter on YouTube! Or, you can press play on the video below to watch as well.

How to Clean Out Your Closet

First, let’s walk through when to clean your closet.

How Often Should You Clean Your Closet?

I clean my closet out four times a year. Two of those clean-outs are full-blown closet clean out sessions, usually at the end of the summer season and then again at the end of the winter. I swap out my seasonal clothes at this point, pulling sweaters to the front and moving sundresses to the back (or to a different closet entirely). The other two times I clean out my closet are less involved and take less time. I usually do this in the spring and in the fall to make sure I’m not accumulating things I don’t wear.

Alright, now I’m breaking down exactly how I clean out my closet in the steps below. I follow these steps in this specific order since it’s how my closet it set up. My workout gear and shoes are in separate areas of the room, so I do those towards the end after fully decluttering the hanging clothes first.

Okay, let’s do this!

Step 1. Remove stained items

First things first, I go through each item hanging in my closet and take out anything with a stain. There are usually a handful of these items that I told myself I’d still wear but never did. I like to think a tiny stain won’t bother me, but I’m not going to choose it over something that’s clean.

If I run across something that I haven’t tried to really clean yet, I put that aside and commit to trying to remove the stain before I get rid of the item.

Once I’ve removed everything with a true stain, I put those things into a pile to throw away or donate. I won’t try to consign clothes with stains since I wouldn’t want someone to pay to wear something that’s dirty. But depending on how small the spot is, I may donate it.

Step 2. Purge clothes that don’t fit

Next up, purge clothes that don’t fit. This is the hardest one of all because it’s so easy to hope or wish that you’ll fit into those items one day. I’ve found that trying to keep too-small clothes is much more harmful than helpful. If I do end up wishing I had kept a pair of jeans that don’t fit me right now, I will buy them again when they do fit! Simple as that.

But don’t keep clothes that are too small in hopes that you can wear them again one day…that is, unless you’re pregnant. In that case, maybe give yourself one more year to decide if you need to get rid of those items.

There’s nothing more freeing than a closet full of clothes that you can actually wear.

Step 3. Get rid of anything you don’t wear regularly

I love this step, mostly because it helps me hone in my personal style. At the end of each season, I go through my clothes and pick out items that never made it out of my closet. Sometimes (rarely) it’s because I had forgot about it and I know I will wear it the next year. But more often than not, it’s clothes I loved a year prior that I had just grown tired over over the present year. Time to go!

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It’s always fun to look back on what I wore SO often one year and how my style has evolved since. And it also helps me notice if there are any gaps in my closet that need to be filled.

Step 4. Consider how the item makes you feel

On to the next: evaluate everything. This will take a little practice, but as you do it, you’ll learn which pieces spark joy (Marie Kondo anyone?), and which ones irritate you. I noticed this about a year ago. I had just bought a new top, wore it one time, and then every time I’d consider wearing it again, I felt annoyed that I didn’t really want to. Also, I realized that for some reason, that item was not my top choice (or second or third), so it had to go. Trust me, I had no problem replacing it with someone new and fun that I DID want to wear. And, I was able to sell it via a local consignment store for a great price.

If there are items in your closet that are made by nice brands, high quality, and still in good shape, then consign them. Make some money so that you can get something you will love. You can wait years and years, but if you know you’re not going to wear it, get rid of it.

Step 5. Remove worn out workout gear

Now it’s time to move to your dresser drawers. I keep my workout clothes in drawers, and if I’m not careful to clean these out seasonally, they get crowded quickly. When I clean out this drawer, I look specifically for items that are worn out. If there is a running top that has seen better days, I get rid of it. I have enough workout clothes to warrant purging a few items per season. And, if I realize I’m low on workout tops after getting rid of the ratty ones, then lucky me– I get to order a new one! I also ditch any shorts that consistently chafe or are shorter than I now prefer.

Step 6. Move out-of-season and special occasion dresses somewhere else

Dresses seem to be one of the hardest parts of my closet to declutter. I have a difficult time getting rid of them for some reason! Maybe it’s because dresses usually have the biggest memories attached to them: weddings, parties, special dates, etc. Or maybe it’s because many dresses are worn just a few times a year and that’s okay based on the nature of the item. So I give myself a little more grace in the dress department.

One thing I do stay on top of, however, is moving the out-of-season dresses (and anything super formal or special) to our guest room closet. There’s no sense having to move them out of the way of my in-season dresses every time I’m looking for a dress, so I keep it somewhere that I can easily access it when the day comes. And then as the season turns, I swap the once out-of-season dresses into my closet. It feels like I have an entirely new wardrobe each time I do this!

Step 7. Remove shoes that aren’t worn regularly

Getting rid of shoes is hard too because they’re practical and expensive. But every season, there are at least 2-3 pairs of shoes that I didn’t wear or that were uncomfortable to walk in. Those are the ones that have to go. I rarely get rid of boots or booties, but if I do, I give myself permission to replace them with a new pair since I wear booties so often in the fall and winter.

Step 8. Evaluate accessories

If you notice any hats or bags that you haven’t worn in months, it’s probably time to retire them.

Step 9. Donate, sell, or throw away

Now that you’re done with your closet purge, it’s time to take everything you removed from your closet to one of three places: Goodwill, a consignment shop, or the trashcan. You’ll have a good idea of what should be consigned (anything high-end with a resale value) or donated. And if something is in truly poor condition, it does to the trash. (If you’re local to Winston-Salem, I highly recommend Winston Wardrobe for consignment. For donations, Redress Clothing Boutique is a great option that’s part of The Dream Center. )

That’s it! Cleaning your closet can feel like a massive undertaking while you’re in the midst of it, but you’ll be SO glad you went to the effort. Not only will you feel organized and clean, but you’ll be excited about what is hanging in your closet instead of feeling like you had a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. And, the more you do it, the easier it becomes since you know what to look for, what feelings to pay attention to and because you’ll simply have fewer items to sort through!

If you have any other great tips for decluttering your closet, I’d love to hear them!

What I’m Wearing

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    4 responses to “How to Clean Out Your Closet – declutter and organize your wardrobe”

    1. Before throwing things away, I would really encourage you to look at how to get rid of garments more sustainably. Companies like H&M will allow you to recycle any clothing (even stained) as well as fabric scraps. Anything that is truly unwearable is repurposed as textile fibers and used for insulations.

      • Oh that’s so cool!! It’s really rare that I throw something away rather than donate, but that’s such a good thing to know before I toss anything. Will H&M accept any brands or only their own?

    2. Yes! The H&M recycling program takes any brand of clothing. They’ll also take fabric scraps from sewing projects.

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