How to Kickstart Your Closet Clean Out
You've been talking about doing this for months now, so what's holding you back from FINALLY cleaning out your closet? No time? Procrastination? Whatever it is, here's some streamlined motivation that will help you finally get started on what you think is a beast of a project, but can actually be accomplished in half a day using these steps.
Trust me, they work. Case in point, the seven bags I cleared out and donated last weekend:
Ready? Here we go. I'd suggest doing a quick scan of the next seven steps before you dive in. Come back to the top when you're ready and make your closet clean out move.
1. PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR
Pick a day, preferably when you know you'll have a few hours to yourself, and book it on your calendar. A start time is just as important as an end time. Giving yourself a time limit will help you keep moving so you don't get stuck deciding on what stays and what goes. Another thing to help you keep moving is having everything you need before you begin.
2. SUPPLY LIST
You may already know the drill, but just in case you don't, here's a quick checklist of what to have on hand before you start your closet clean out:
- trash bags: pony up a few bucks and get the reinforced bags so nothing breaks
- a solid playlist to keep you moving: music is pure motivation
- no-slip, space saving hangers if you don't already have them: these are what I use
- a donation strategy already figured out: same-day donation is a MUST, so knowing where you can drop items off will help
I recommend dropping off donations piles immediately after everything is finished. This is also why I suggest taking advantage of donation pick-up services if they're available in your area. The last thing you want is to have these bags laying around. You will start to waiver on your decisions and the clutter will drive you nuts. Spare yourself the emotional rollercoaster. Do some quick research and get your donation strategy set up.
3. KEEP IT HERE & NOW
In the past I've suggested dividing up the closet into segments. Now I say, just go hanger by hanger. Yes, you will look ahead at everything lurking in the dark corners or dusty drawers and start to feel defeated. The walls may start closing in on you.
Expect that feeling, know it's coming, and when it does, simply focus on the hanger in your hand. That is all that matters, the present moment. Keep going hanger by hanger and you'll get there. For everything that isn't on a hanger, just stay present. When I do a closet clean out, I cover EV-ER-Y-THING. We're talking clothing, shoes, seasonal items, makeup, jewelry, workout clothing, the whole nine. Go big or go home.
*Another pro tip: you'll want to eat before you begin. I know it sounds simple, but it's really important. Low blood sugar does not a good closet clean out make. Coffee is also a good call if you love a little boost as much as I do.
4. TWO GOALS, THREE PILES
Knowing your goals before you begin is an absolute must. Asking them while you clean everything out will help you get to a final decision on what stays and what goes so you don't waste any energy on indecision. These were my goals. You can use them or make your own, just make sure you really understand them and above all, keep it simple!
1. Fewer, better: only keep items that are of better quality
2. Confidence boosters: only keep items that I felt confident in.
I went another step and defined what being confident felt like with a real-life scenario that I could come back to when I got stumped. There's a striped shirt that I own and always gravitate to. It isn't fancy. but it's well made, comfortable, and I feel good in it. Actually, I feel great in it. I'm not tugging throughout the day, it falls perfectly, and after it goes on, I don't even focus on what I'm wearing. All of that energy goes towards enjoying my day and keeping up my hustle.
As I went hanger by hanger, when I was on the fence about letting go, I'd ask myself whether the item in question felt as good on as that striped shirt. If it didn't, it was a goner.
You'll end up with three piles.
The first pile will be your donate pile.
Then there's the trash pile.
The third pile is your try-it-on pile. Keep that to the side so you don't get stalled along the way. When you want to take a break or if you see that pile is getting way too big, go try everything on and remember the goals you started out with. Ask those questions and make a final decision (or you can always call that honest friend you know will tell you like it is and do a quick Facetime session).
5. SPECIAL ITEMS, SPECIAL MEMORIES
There are going to be special pieces in there that may not be everyday pieces, but they hold emotional memories for you. Some people will suggest following the "six month rule" and letting them go after not wearing them for that long, but I don't think it applies here. Keep those special pieces, tuck them away and store them well. But limit yourself to about 10 or so. Moving right along...
Then there's the case of items you love but can't fit into. I call these, the Just-A-Few-More-Pounds pieces. Limit yourself to a few here. In the past I was pretty tough about this. Nowadays, I've loosened up my perspective and recommendations. If you have a pair of jeans you know you'll get back into within the next six months to a year, keep them. But be realistic and make sure they are aligned with your two big goals.
Life happens. Babies happen. Health fluctuates. I get it. Use these pieces as a motivator to evolve instead of a reminder that you are not enough. Put them in a section that isn't front and forward, you'll want to save that for items you use every day.
6. YOUR CLOSET, YOUR BOUTIQUE
It's time to merchandise! No, it's not as tedious or boring as it sounds. This is my inner-retailer coming out so stick with me. Once you've cleared everything out, you should have a few extra hangers and definitely more space. Move the most frequently up front. Keep what you love but don't wear as often (a good example would be formal dressed or vacation picks) in the back (unless you're testing yourself). And if you want to go all out, pull a Brittany, and organize first by category, second by color. I find it super helpful when I need to grab and go in the morning.
This is where having all the same hangers comes into play. It should be a happy experience when you walk into your closet so take a minute and line things up from your shoes to your tops. You don't need to do this every day of course. But make sure you set aside about thirty minutes to shift items around until it feels right.
I group my tops, pants, dresses, skirts, and other categories together. Then I rearrange them by color. There are two wild-card sections. One is the "special pieces" section where I keep my rarely used picks (there are very few). The other is front and forward in my closet where I keep my everyday favorites. These are the jeans I wear all the time or the tees I grab when I'm in a rush. They are my go-to favorites that hit the mark for one part of an outfit when I can't figure it out in the morning. Then I go to the rest of the closet to complete the look.
Meet my 111 Rule.
- Buy one box of hangers a month (until you are fully fleshed out with no-slip hangers).
- Let go of one small bag of clothing/accessories/makeup/jewelry a month (wait two months after your major clean out to start this).
- And finally, treat yourself to one reward a month. Not all budgets are the same. Some of us have time to shop, some of us don't. Some of us love to spend all day shopping, some of us would rather go get a root canal. But there is one thing we can all agree upon, and that is, a healthy reward system that reinforces good behavior. It's important to celebrate small steps forwards with a small reward. It could be anything from nail polish to that bag you've been eyeing that just went on sale. Whatever it is, treat yourself alongside the donation you'll be making for the month.
A few out, one in. It's a ratio that will keep your closet in check so you can avoid a full closet with nothing to wear. Welcome to the streamlined life!
RINSE & REPEAT EVERY 3-6 MONTHS
Every season I try to do a clean out. It is a gut check for what I actually own and whether or not I really need it, whether or not it really serves my everyday life. I recommend doing the same with your wardrobe!
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