This post was made possible by my mama who is the queen of closet cleaning and will probably laugh out loud about the fact that I even think I can share with people how I clean out a closet.
Time for a Closet Clean Out
There’s something about the start of school and the beginning of a new season (well, in Texas, it’s supposed to be something called fall, but let’s be honest, it’s more like a “slightly less hot summer”) that makes me want to revamp my closet situation. I’m a little bit of a perfectionist procrastinator, so typically I just think about cleaning out my closet while clothes pile up on the floor and I run out of hangers and dread getting clothes out of the growing floor pile until it reaches critical mass, and I must clean ALL the closets.
Another kick in the pants to get my closet cleaned out is our semi-annual clothing swaps my friends and I love to put together. I won’t leave you hanging on this one - more to come on clothing swaps. So, in an effort to prepare for our most recent clothing swap/stop wearing clothes from a pile, I took to my closet to streamline and simplify this process. Here’s what I did, and to keep me honest, here’s a before photo. My favorite part is the state of the shoe shelves: they're all hanging on for dear life.
1) Just Start
This was my biggest hurdle to overcome throughout the entire process. I would make excuse after excuse about how I needed more time or the kids were going to interrupt or all of my clothes aren’t clean to even see what and I have and yada yada yada. The biggest step in the whole closet clean out process it to JUST START! My first step was to pick just ONE category to start pitching from, and my choice was: bottoms. I went through only pants, shorts and skirts (of which I had like two because Mama don’t have time for short skirts) first and one by one, picked them up, unfolded them and decided if I were really going to wear them, which leads to the next part of my process.
2) THE “WEAR IT AROUND” TEST
I had several items of clothing that were middle ground for me - I would flip flop on whether on not I really wanted to keep it and wear it. In these cases, I performed the “wear it around” test. Fancy name, right? Basically, all you do is put on the item in question and wear it around for at least 5-10 minutes as you continue the closet clean out. I did it with this pair of shorts. These shorts and I have a love/hate relationship - I love the way they look but not the way they feel when I wear them. I found myself always reaching for them and putting them on, only to find myself taking them off 5 minutes later because I was uncomfortable. The “wear it around” test sent them to my clothing swap pile pretty quickly, and now, one of my friends is enjoying them more than I did!
3) MAKE CATEGORY PILES
This part of the process starts early on and evolves as the clean out continues. My initial piles were: clothing swap, recycle and sell. I had a pretty hefty pile for the clothing swap as seen here, but I also had a very small pile of recycle items.
I’ve recently learned of this recycling option in lieu of throwing stained or torn items in the trash. An absurd number (in the billions) of textiles end up getting thrown away every year by Americans, and a lot of it ends up being completely wasted and sitting in landfills. I’d love for my ripped, worn out t-shirt to be able to be recycled and given new life in some way or another. Textile recycling does not seem to be quite as popular as the regular ‘ol green bin recycling we all know so well now, so I’m doing some digging and research to come up with the best option in my city. My recycle pile is small, so for now, I’ve bagged it up, labeled it and stashed it away to add more items to it for a larger drop off in the future.
My sell pile always gets me into trouble. I stack up clothes I think I’m going to photograph and sell of Poshmark to make lots of money to stock my closet or fund my espresso habit…wrong. Usually, this pile sits and sits and sits until I’ve forgotten about it and now it’s not even cute to sell, rewashed it as dirty laundry and finally decide to donate it because I’m never going to sell it. Take these denim jackets - first of all, I don’t need TWO denim jackets that are almost identical - maybe you do, but not this lady. So, I picked my favorite - the plain one on the right because it’s nostalgic: Abercrombie & Fitch circa 2003ish? The other jacket is almost brand new from Altar’d State and worn maybe twice, so of course, I’m like…let’s sell this baby! Well, then I research: how much did it cost originally? how much is it worth now? what’s the condition? And so on and so forth until I realize the time spent on this endeavor is NOT worth the $20 I MIGHT squeeze out of this jacket sale. So, at this time, my sell pile consisted of this jacket and a cute pair of Steve Madden booties that I will offer up to my friends. If they don’t take me up on it, these items will be donated ASAP. My goal is to not have random piles of clothes I’m not wearing just hanging out around my house.
I’m a self-proclaimed weirdo about hangers, and I have my own mama to thank for this. She introduced me to the beauty of the velvet hanger, and I’ve been ruined ever since. She’s helped me stock my side of the closet (Sorry, husband, you’re on your own with those plastic and wire shenanigans.) with velvet hangers since I was in college. It does make me cringe a little, okay, quite a lot, that they’re not all black, but #MAJORfirstworldproblems.
One of my first signs that I need to do a major closet purge is when I run out of my velvet hangers. I’ve never counted, but I know I have more than enough to house a full wardrobe of options. So, when laundry needs to hung, and I can’t find any velvet hangers, I know I have too many clothes. Why not buy more hangers, you might ask? I know if I buy more hangers, all of these unworn clothes will just hang out in my closet forever and become so crammed that I don’t even know what clothes I own. I know because it’s happened, and I swore - NEVER AGAIN. My goal after I’ve gone through all of the clothes, is that I’ll have a nice tall stack of empties to hang back up in my closet. These pretty little velvet hangers keep me and my closet honest.
5) ARRANGE BY CATEGORY
You’ve started. You’ve done the “wear it around” test. You’ve got your piles. You’ve assessed your hanger situation. Now it’s time to go back through what you’ve kept and arrange it by category. I always have visions of Pinterest closets in my head once I get to this point. I seem to think that if I remove all of the things I don’t wear, then my closet will magically grow taller, suddenly have a ton of natural light (there are ZERO windows in our closet) and Container Store itself into an organizational wonder. Nope. I’ve still got my ample sized, walk-in closet that I share with the hubs. It’s more than enough, and I’ve learned that no amount of scarf hangers and fancy organizing tools are going to fix a messy closet…only I can do that with regular clean outs and maintenance (keep an eye on those hangers!).
This is actually my favorite part of the process: putting each clothing item in their little group on the rack. This is my top rack, and starting on the left, I’ve got: long dusters/cardigans, sleeveless short dresses, sleeved short dressed, sleeveless maxi dress and sleeved maxi dresses. Then we move into pants/jeans, casual tanks and casual tees. My shorts are folded up on the dividing rack shelf. I had 3 pair for this summer that I’ll just keep there until next summer and hopefully, they’ll still fit! My bottom rack houses dressier tops from sleeveless to sleeved and then moves into my long sleeved shirts, sweaters and jackets. I could stand to get rid of a few more t-shirts, but sometimes those end up staying for memory's sake more than anything else.
There’s a special little category there at the end that I save for special occasions. My Christmas sweatshirt lives there - this beauty was hand painted and sequined by my sweet grandmother, and I wear it as many times as festively possible during Christmas time. My old high school uniform is also there along with my middle school cheerleading uniform which my daughter found extremely entertaining the other day. These aren’t everyday items or even completely necessary, but they’ve provided some great memories and entertainment thus far, so they’re staying tucked back there for now.
Shoes not worn on a regular basis hide away in this bin stored at the bottom of my closet, and all of my “go to” shoes live on these shelves. Purses, totes and my ribbon sandal accessories stay in these baskets underneath the shoe shelves for easy access. Look at those shoe shelves -all better now!
You’ve done it! This deserves celebration with a sparkly water and a big pat on the back. I love how easy it us to actually use and enjoy my closet after a big clean out and refresh session. Because I like to keep things real around here, I fully know this run out of hangers and wear clothes out of a pile situation will happen again and again.
My goal as I creep into my mid-thirties (that was semi-painful to type), is to create a closet that falls somewhere between a capsule wardrobe and what I have now. I’ve become much more mindful of my types of purchases in the past several years, and I’m hoping to continue that even more so in the future. Since, I’m done having babies, I think I’m finally slipping into a style and system rather than moving back and forth between “maternity” and “not maternity but still kinda like maternity” type clothes. Now that my closet is good for at least a few months, I’ve got my eye on my jewelry to organize next!