Closet Cleanse (steps + tips to streamline and de-clutter the dreaded wardrobe)

Are you ready for the new year?  It’s the start of 2020 and I can tell you want a change in your life!  What’s a better place to start than your closet. Who’s up for a closet cleanse?   I’m not talking about your linen closet (though I definitely won’t stop you there.  In fact, I highly encourage it if that’s where you want to start). I’m talking about the dreaded bedroom clothing closet (and drawers). 

Photo by Adrienne Leonard on Unsplash

Are you nervous? Feeling slightly embarrassed of what you might find? Shaking in your boots?  Well, get over it and get excited because I’m so excited for you! I want to see before and after photos!! 

My Journey

I used to shop online or go to the mall out of boredom just to wind up with clothes that I rarely wore but bought because there was a good sale or the item looked cute.  Who doesn’t like shopping therapy? I think we all crave it once in a while.

I’ve been streamlining my closet on a regular basis ever since I moved from my home to my condo in 2015 and haven’t slowed down.  Well…I’ve slightly slowed down because I have way less to sort through BUT, there are a few things I am still hanging on to.

When I first started purging my clothes, I found so many items that I hadn’t worn in forever.  My closet definitely fell in line with the statistics – we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. I found clothes I didn’t even remember owning and some with the tags still attached.  Zoikes.

I started giving clothes to my roommates and my friends.  Then I had a clothing swap. Yes, I got a few old ‘new’ pieces but I got rid of way more!  I highly recommend clothing swaps as it’s a good excuse to hang out with friends, drink coffee, grab some clothes, and just have a good time. Everything not swapped is then donated. One friend had a great idea where everyone had to bring a pair of hosiery or some change that would then be donated to a women’s group.  Much love to her kind hearts. At these swaps, it’s funny how there are pieces you love that you think are going to get picked up fast but turns out, no one likes them. AHAH… Makes you think twice about your taste on clothing.

Currently Every month or so (sounds extreme but it’s become a habit) I’ll do a closet cleanse every month or so (sounds extreme but it’s become a habit) Sometimes I take everything out or just refold everything, while searching for things I could get rid of. Other times I’ll randomly graze through the closet to take note of what I haven’t worn in a while.  And other other times, I’ll go through bin of clothes I can’t quite yet get rid of. You’re probably not at that stage or don’t care to be which is completely okay. I don’t even think I would recommend it to anyone either. I do, however, have some steps you can take and some tips that can help you on your journey to cleanse your closet.

6 Steps to Cleanse Your Closet and Rid Your Clothing Chaos

  1. Set aside a good chunk of the day so you don’t feel rushed. Depending how many items you have, you may want to make this a 2 day process.
  2. Have a clear and distinct donation, toss, and maybe pile. Want to add extra steps to your step counter? Put the donation and toss bin by your front door where at the end, you can easily take to the car and drop off at a donation bin
  3. Clear the Closet (and drawers). Take everything, and I mean EVERYTHING out and put them on the bed.  This includes clothes in other rooms, dressers, closets and the dark confines of your basement. If clothes overflow to the floor, let it be! This includes scarves, belts, and socks. Make sure you get ALL your clothes – remember, you may have some hidden in the basement or another closet
  4. Divide and Conquer – aka Start sorting
    • If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the pile you’ve amassed, start with pants then tops then workout gear, etc.
    • Keep -The obvious are the gems that you for sure want to keep.  Ie. they fit well and are worn frequently
    • Maybe – The not so obvious clothes that you like but rarely wear
    • Donate – The obvious items that you can’t believe you own and never wear
    • Toss – These items should not be worn by anyone.  They have stains or holes (t-shirts can be used as rags)
    • **I also have a pile of clothes that are too nice or expensive and would rather give to my friends (or at least have them go through it first).  Does this make me a horrible person? It sort of sounds like it but I’m donating one way or another**
  5. Move the donate and trash pile to another room so you don’t have to look at it.
  6. Store everything in their respective places 
    • Unsure items can be stored in totes which you can revisit at a later time but if afterwards you’ve found you haven’t opened that tote in a few months or even a year, pretty sure it ALL can be donated. Check out these foldable storage bags that allow you to see what you’ve got stored in them. Hopefully by the end you won’t have THAT many clothes that you need to store a ton away. These totes are also great for storing seasonal items.

Kazaa!  Give yourself a high five, do a little dance and admire your hard work in cleansing your closet.  

It’s Not As Easy As It Sounds…Or Is It?

Okay, so to even begin to think about starting this big project could be exhausting.  I get it. The thought of how much time and energy it’s going to take do conquer a proper closet cleanse probably doesn’t sound like fun. It’s kind of like going to the gym. They (whoever ‘they’ are) say that getting out that front door is the hardest part and I would have to agree.  But once you start I bet you won’t be able to stop. I have to warn you that the process can be pretty addicting. 

Being able to see ALL your clothes and not having to worry about sorting through them to figure out what to wear is so Rewarding.  When your closet only has clothes that you love and enjoy wearing, deciding what to wear in the morning will be a breeze.

Everything that you toss or donate or recycle, think about how much money you spent on the item and how much use you got out of them and it all up…that should put things in perspective. It can be a hard pill to swallow when you add everything up but, hopefully it acts as a deterrent and reminder to purchase responsibly!

For example: Find a piece that is fairly expensive and that you’ve barely or never worn.  Now, lets say it was a $75 sweater that you’ve worn once and you make $25/hr.  So, in an 8hr work day, you’ve worked 3 hours to buy a sweater you barely wear.  Looking at where and how we spend our money is kind of funny and again, an eye-opener.  Instead of buying useless things that tickle our fancy for a day, perhaps we just save our money and retire early.  Looking at items you don’t wear and adding up the cost you paid may help you in the future when you go shopping.

After you’ve de-cluttered, organized and removed the chaos of your clothing mound, trust me, you’re going to feel so much better…like you’ve shed 10lbs (of clothes) off of you!! You Got This!

Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Tips to Help Make the Process of Cleansing Your Closet Not as Overwhelming

  • Take Photos of the pre- and post- closet cleanse. For your pre-cleanse photo: display all your clothes that you just emptied from your closet that are on your bed (don’t forget the clothes you have hidden away in other closets or rooms or basement). Let it all sink in how you how much time and money was spent on that pile of clothing. This is a real eye-opener. When it’s all said and done, take a picture of your newly cleansed closet and remind yourself of your accomplishment.  Let this post-cleanse picture be motivation to start on your shoe collection 😉
  • Don’t spend time looking for a fancy bin to put the items you want to donate or trash.  A large plastic bag or empty tote will do. But, if you’re in search for a new laundry basket that could double up as a donation basket, check these large canvas storage baskets.
  • Keep a water bottle handy (and maybe some snacks). It’s great to keep hydrated and take breaks!
  • Put on some tunes. Whether you listen to upbeat or classical music, it can really set the mood to a fun day!
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself. Cleansing your closet shouldn’t put immense pressure on yourself. Save the bags/purses, outdoor jackets, and shoes for another day.  That can be your second project of the new year. Just remember for next time that EVERY pair of shoes, EVERY outdoor jacket and EVERY purse/bag needs to come out so you can see everything all at once. Hope I didn’t just freak you out. But if I did, you really need to put this on your list of things to do.
Shoe Closet Cleanse
  • If in doubt, TRY IT ON.   Trying your clothes on will give you a better idea if they fit or not.  It may look cute on the hanger but ghastly on –There have been many times I would save items because I really loved them and couldn’t part with them even though I had not worn them in a while…and then I put them on and easily decided to toss them.  Sometimes our taste in clothes don’t change over time, but our bodies do.
  • It’s okay to let go of clothing you got as a gift. Don’t feel obligated to keep them.  Be grateful for the generosity of your friends then move on.  Or, lie to your friends and mention how you’ve worn it multiple times but it shrunk and then just donate it.  No one has to know.
  • Let go of items that make you feel sad or reminds you of a crappy time in your life.  Give it them up along with all the negative emotions that come with it. Not only are you cleansing your closet, you’re kind of giving yourself a spiritual cleanse.
  • It’s okay, you CAN let go of clothes associated with great memories but you never wear. You don’t need to keep clothes to help you remember the good times. Those memories are embedded in your brain already. Take a picture of them instead. If you really want to keep them, I challenge you to move them to the forefront of your closet and put them in your rotation! As for the clothes you don’t want to just ‘give away to some random’ because you spent a lot of money on it – pass along to friends or family. There has only been one instance where I asked for a piece of clothing back. I wore the shit out of that item.
  • Let go of items that you would only want to wear on very specific future occasion…like going to FolkFest.  I’m sure you had good intentions but, if that’s not how you would normally dress then don’t waste your money. Going forward, don’t purchase anything for a single event.  If you need, borrow!

Postscript: After Thoughts

If after reading this you think I am being a ‘Minimalist Tiger Mom’?  You’re correct. I am and am not embarrassed by it! You also probably think I come off being a little judgemental of people’s jam-packed closets and clutter.  No lie there but, people still come to me exclaiming how they’ve cleansed their closets and are so happy they got around to doing it. I love sharing that moment with someone who has found what they thought was lost!  A guess a little judgement helps some people in a good way. You’re welcome!

Many of you with children probably think I am crazy. How does any parent have enough time in the world to cleanse a closet? I’ve heard there are things called ‘play dates, partners, and grandparents’ as well as the ever so elusive ‘babysitter’. I’m just saying that it can be done and I believe in you!

Good Luck and please let me know how it goes for you and what worked and what didn’t! I’d really love to hear about it!

NOTE: If you’re like me and don’t own a dresser but rather a shelf unit like the Expedit Kallax shelving unit from Ikea, I highly recommend getting foldable rugged canvas cube containers.  They are great for holding socks and undergarments!

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Hey there, I'm Cristine (aka Nomadgirlfriend). I want to quit my job so I can travel more. I just need to figure out the digital world so I can start making money to feed my wanderlust with my digital nomad partner. I welcome you to join my on this journey of self discovery and new adventures!

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