I have a secret, very effective way to do a closet clean out.
I don’t do the typical thing where you take everything out of the closet, try it on, decide if you will wear the item or not, then put it back as the decision is made. Even though this appeals to my completist brain & I do love the closet montage from the Sex & the City movie, just like any fashion girl, that’s not how I do it.
I also don’t do the method of, as I’ve seen suggested, turning hangers backwards & then seeing what you haven’t worn in a certain period of time. This could work if you are looking to only have easy pieces in your wardrobe, a la a capsule wardrobe (which there is much to be said about & I pack for vacation using this principle – a post on that coming soon). But this makes me feel like I’m not stretching my creative muscles with the pieces in my closet & I might let go of things that could be great with a new way of styling.
The real trick is to cull items AS YOU ACTUALLY GO TO WEAR THEM.
I force myself to attempt to put together an outfit with every piece for REAL LIFE as I am going through this process. I start with all clothing on the bar. As I wear items, I move them to the right side – I keep them in the same order so there are basically 2 sections of closet – one that has been worn (left side) & one that has not (right side). I choose items from the “not worn” section as a jumping off point for the outfit. Then I choose from the “already worn” section along with the “not worn” pieces to fill out the outfit so that I have the most versatility in putting it together. Sometimes, this will confirm that I can’t wear a piece one more time, just can’t do it – it is either too uncomfortable, too off-trend & outdated or I’m just sick to death of it. OR oftentimes, it forces my creative hand & I come up with a completely new outfit, that I may not have come up with from a static closet.
That way I know I will (or absolutely can’t bring myself to) wear an item because I am forcing myself to make a real decision, in real time. The choice isn’t based on a hypothetical. Also, it helps me confront fit issues & outdated trends in the moment. I feel like if it doesn’t fit my body right in this moment, it goes. (If you are actively losing or gaining weight, I would loosen this rule – just move the too small or too big items to another location for now as they are not readily wearable & try them on at intervals till they fit.)
Anything damaged goes in a pile to fix, with a deadline. If I don’t make time to fix it within X days, it goes because clearly I don’t love the piece enough to put in the work.
As I launder each piece it goes on the right side, of course. And when I get through all the clothing, I start over again. I am in constant purge mode & it definitely helps me from being overwhelmed with stuff in my closet.
A big part of my fashion philosophy is making it work. (This comes from growing up fairly low income & having to do this with hand me downs, garage sale & later, blue light special finds. I believe it’s part of my unique take on fashion now & adds to my creativity in putting pieces together. I still love a hunt through the Goodwill Outlet or any clearance section. Hand me any odd bit & I will try to “make it work”, in the infamous word of Tim Gunn.)
You can do this same slow purge with shoes or bags or literally anything. You can either be nice & neat & wear the next one in line each time or even move them all to a different space or carefully arrange them on the floor & use them one at a time to be put away (only if you are keeping). I am currently purging my lip gloss/sticks right now.
Separate from sorting through & culling items, it’s also important to have a well organized closet. Below are some items similar to what I use to keep my closet ship shape & easy to navigate:
Shoe organizers – I have four of similar ones to these 2 with & 2 without drawers & have had them in my closet for years now. After having them through 4 moves I am afraid they will disintegrate any day now.
Velvet flocked hangers – Love these for the fact that nothing slips off them & they give you more room than thicker hangers.
Velvet pants hanger – I use these for scarves but they are obviously great for pants or other items as well – tights, leggings, etc…
Lingerie bags – I use these for bras & for my insoles I wear in shoes that I can’t do socks with as well as peds style socks. This is so I can pull them out before the dryer & let them air dry. Also, it prevents sock loss.
Non slip pants hanger – This is similar to what I use to hang dry my bras so they don’t lose elasticity from being dried in the dryer.
Hat organizer – I use a different belt hanger right now for my baseball caps but I’m tempted by this one – it seems like it would be a more natural fit!
Bins with lids – I have all different bins in my closet – one for wallet & clutches, one for soft crossbody bags, one for all my oversize totes. These are the best for corralling like with like so you know exactly what is where!
Tank top hanger – I just bought this & I use it for my camisoles. Prior to this I was hanging them three to four to a hanger & it was a mess to get one off to wear. This hanger lives at the front of my closet now so I can grab an extra layer last minute for a too lowcut top or as a top for yoga class.
Hamper – This is similar to what I use. I like that it’s plastic so I can disinfect it easily. Also the holes are helpful for air circulation.
Drawer organizers – These are life savers for small items like underwear, bras, socks, masks, etc… so that they stay organized! This is extra important if you only have big drawers that they would flail around in otherwise.