Weekend Goal: Clean Out My Closet

Tips for cleaning out your closet Sometimes I just feel like I'm in a clothing rut, you know? Here's how it usually happens. I realize I'm wearing basically the same thing everyday. I simultaneously realize my closet is basically full. My closet isn't massive like Cher Horowitz's. As if. But I still feel like if my closet is full, then I have enough clothes. So then I start to feel really guilty for owning plenty of clothes but wearing the same thing all the time. And I feel like I shouldn't buy anything new since I already have tons of stuff… I just don't wear all of it. 

Ugh. 

This is how I know it's time to clean out my closet. Cleaning out my closet accomplishes two main goals. First, I can get rid of anything ill-fitting or that I just don't feel confident in. Second, it forces me to go through all my clothes, which reminds me of what I already have (and love!) and need to wear more. 

Here are four steps I usually go through when I clean out my closet (usually twice a year).

Tips for cleaning out your closet1. Remove Clutter.

This is tough as it involves getting rid of stuff. The cheap gal inside me wants to keep everything. I feel like I'm throwing money away if I get rid of something that I didn't wear very many times. More guilt! But the truth is, if I keep lots of clothes that I don't wear, then I'll never have room to store clothes that I do wear. It's that simple. So I try to keep this in mind while I go through everything. 

I love these seven questions to ask yourself while you clean out your closet. I could not agree more. I try to go through all my clothes, shoes, purses, tights, swimsuits, and jewelry asking these types of questions. One thing I learned this time around was that I got rid of quite a few items I had thrifted but never wore. This bummed me out because I LOVE thrift store shopping. I've been addicted since high school. But I need to make sure that items I buy are either the perfect fit or I need to learn to alter clothing. I had a lot of items with cool patterns or that were really interesting garments that didn't quite fit, but they were so inexpensive I just couldn't pass them up. But then I never wore them. So, I need to pay attention to this more next time I'm thrifting. I did keep a really amazing black velvet dress I thrifted but haven't worn yet simply because it's long sleeve and kind of fancy. So I plan to wear it to our company holiday party this year. 

The other thing I learned… I don't need to buy any more tights this winter. I think they get buried and I forget I have them, but I have plenty in lots of different colors (and about five different black pairs too). So next time I see some cute tights, I'll remember this and skip it. I don't need anymore right now.

2. Evaluate Where Clutter Should Go.

I very rarely throw an item away. Usually it has to be really stained or just generally trashed before I'll throw it in the garbage. I usually sort items to give to friends or take to the thrift store (and then go shopping, circle of life!). Another great option is to sell items.

Random story: We actually had grand plans to host an IG sale (for charity) from donated items from our staff at ABM. Everyone at the office brought their items in, but we've just never found the time to take all the photos, post them, run the sale, and then we'll have to ship stuff. So, it's kind of turned into an ongoing clothing exchange, which has been pretty fun. I guess my point is, get creative with donating clothes, and when all else fails, take it to a thrift store.

3. Organize What's Leftover.

I feel like most people stop here. Or at least I have before. I clean out the closet, donate those items I don't need, and then I'm done. I've learned over the last few years that it's best, for me, if I take the extra time to organize my closet. I've tried different things, but this time around I organized everything by what the item was. So all my dresses are hanging together, all jackets together, all tops together, and all skirts together. I also have a dresser for underwear, pajamas, and sweaters that I don't want to hang because they will get stretched out. 

You could also organize by occasion (all office wear items together, etc.), by color, or whatever method makes the most sense to you and will help you find your clothes quickly. I don't like standing in front of my closet for ten minutes in the morning before work wondering where my X is. Make everything easy to find, accessible, and (if possible) visible.

4. Make Some Goals.

Here I go again talking about goals. Sorry guys, it's just how I understand the world. Maybe you're wondering what the heck kind of goals I might need to make at the end of cleaning and organizing my closet. I mean, that was just a goal we finished, right? Let me tell you the two goals I made this time around and maybe that will help. 

First off, I decided that sometime this week I'm going to spend a couple hours one nigh to make up a bunch of outfits, and then take cell phone pictures of me in them. Lots of ugly, dimly lit selfies are in my future this week. 🙂 The idea is, I have lots of clothes I love, but sometimes I pick out a skirt in the morning and feel totally stumped on what to wear it with. My brain just doesn't work well until I have coffee. But when this happens, I can just review my library of dim selfies and find something that works. No brain power needed. 

Second, I identified a need in my closet. I need to purchase a pair of tall black boots that will last me multiple winters. Last year I wore the same pair of black boots over and over again. I wore them with jeans, leggings, and over tights with dresses. They kept my feet warm and dry while also matching almost everything I like to wear. The only problem was, I bought a pretty inexpensive pair last year (around $50), and they did not hold up to all the wear I put them through. They were coming apart and some of the faux leather was flaking off. I still feel like I got my money out of them since I wore them so much, but this year I think I'll save up a little more and try to invest in a pair of black boots that I can wear for lots of winters to come (provided I care for them).

Ok, that's about it. Thanks for letting me ramble on about cleaning out my closet. If you have any closet cleaning experiences or tips you want to share, feel free. xo. Emma

Credits// Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • Thanks for posting this Emma! It must be the change in the weather, because going through my closet is on my todo list too. This post is a big help. I also wanted to recommend a pair of boots. I’ve had mine for about 4 years and they are still going strong! They go with tons of outfits and plus sometimes they make me feel like I’m in a 60’s mod motorcycle gang. Who could ask for more?! 😉 Good luck with your closet!
    http://www.merrell.com/US/en-US/Product.mvc.aspx/35255W/87674/Womens/Captiva-Launch-2-Waterproof?dimensions=0

  • I’m preparing for a move to another country, so cleaning out my closet(s) is my main goal for the next month. I need to pack everything I have (clothing, shoes, books, kitchen supplies etc) into one car eventually, so I’ll have a lot of cleaning out, donating and selling to do. I’m such a hoarder plus a self-proclaimed thriftahaloc, so it’s going to be tough, but the best thing is that my new closets in my new home will be filled with the things I love most.

  • Thanks for this, I’m a major hoarder and can never bear to clean out my closet more than once every few years…it’s awful, I know. I also love the “dim selfies” idea, haha – I definitely blank ALL the time when I’m in a rush and need an outfit!

  • I really like to do that when the season changes. I see that i have a lot of winter clothes that i wouldn’t wear anymore or the other way around. I’ve really been wanting to sell some clothes online but I still don’t know how to do it safely so I’ll have to get some more information about the subject.

    xx Cecil

  • Great post , I am facing this challenge this weekend.
    I have a pile of clothes that I am sentientally attached to, I think, I will wear, someday.

    Time to be ruthless . I will still keep the awesome thrifted canary yellow leather biker jkt, even though I am yet to wear it.

    Good luck with your sorting and clearing.X

  • Love the idea of planning out your outfits and taking photos – I need to do this! I’m always panicking last minute about what I can wear with which top etc..
    I’ve been cleaning out too and have two bags for the charity shop – I like getting rid of the stuff I never wear/use.
    Rachel x

  • Cleaning out my closet is one of my all time favorite stress relievers. It feels so good to declutter & give back by donating all my clothes.

    Connie | Sponsored by Coffee

  • Wow I love this! I am constantly cleaning out my closet (I like to shop, A LOT), but I love your idea to make goals.

    I am a list person, and literally have lists for everything to keep myself organized and functioning; yet I never identify items that I actually need in my closet and add them to one of these lists.

    Love this! I’m going to my closet now, Bye!

    http://www.littleblackshell.com

  • I love doing closet clean-outs! It’s a great way to start fresh and recreate some new outfits!

    xx alyssarachel.blogspot.com

  • Indeed. I tend to wear the same outfits on repeat for the following reasons:
    1. Horrible organization (can’t find what I want)
    2. I love a few items so I want to wear them until I am sick of them
    3. I convince myself that I have to purchase a few more items until I can make what I already have “work.”

    I think the highest rated reason (at least for me) is that I think I have to buy more clothes in order to switch up what I already have in my closet. But I agree with you, organizing your closet after you clean it is a must. Have you ever organized by season? Spring wear/summer wear and fall/winter wear together? I just made the switch and it was like my eyes were opened to the outfit possibilities.

  • My favorite way to tell whether I need to ditch items or not is by hanging everything in my closet with the hanger going the opposite way, like I’ll hang up the items by hooking the hanger onto the bar instead of just putting it on the bar like you’re supposed to. Then once I wear an item I rehang it the way you’re supposed to hang up hangers. At the end of the year I see what items are still hanging in my closet backwards and I’ll reevaluate, donate or gift it.

  • To avoid staring blankly into my closet pre-coffee, I set out my outfit the night before! It has saved me so many times and it actually helps me pull together full ensembles that are creative and exciting. Try doing it right when you get home from work or after dinner, before you’re so tired you just want to crawl into bed 🙂

    Good luck!

  • Thank you posting this! Hopefully it will inspire me to clean out my own closet – which is in desperate need of a clear out!

    -Rebecca
    Idealism never goes out of fashion

  • Some friends of mine regularly schedule clothing swaps–it’s a great opportunity to clean out a closet and “shop” someone else’s for free. When we finish, everything left goes to the thrift store.

  • My closet could really do with some organising, and after reading this I feel more inclined to do it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Have you ever heard of Unfancy? I just discovered it. Each season Caroline curates a capsule wardrobe of 37 pieces (minus accessories), and then wears them for three months with no shopping. That way she only wears what she loves, and doesn’t have a cluttered closet (she stores the rest of her clothes after the end of each season). It sounds a little nuts and slightly impossible, but she photographs all her outfits and she definitely doesn’t look boring! I’m trying to work up the guts to do it myself. She’s just posted about her capsule for fall, so now’s a great time to check her site out!

    http://www.un-fancy.com/

  • I try to keep my closet organized, but it sometimes overflows. I am lucky that the previous owners of our home had a lot of shoes and built floor to ceiling shelving in part of the walk in closet. I store my purses, hats, sweaters and shoes on the shelves. I fold my pants and keep them in stacks according to what kind they are….jeans, pants, etc… I might be a tad obcessive here, but everything is rainbowtized and I hang my shirts on color coordinated hangers then in order of sleeve length. I started color organization years ago after spending too many mornings looking for X. It really helps and it looks lovely. I just did a huge sweater refresh and purge. It felt amazing!

  • I have a great tip……you turn all your hangers the wrong way, and once you wear something put it back the right way. Then in a year if you have been through all the seasons and the hanger is still backwards…….it goes.
    xx

  • Fab post emma, thanks. I am like you and do this about twice a year. It has really taught me to be more mindful when shopping for clothes and I also buy less as I have lots of fab outfits that I love wearing. However, recently I have been struggling to find stuff to wear in the morning. So I know it is time to do some decluttering again 😉 This post just given me the motivation to do it!

  • Rather than the dim selfies, I’ve been dying to try out Stylebook to help with the outfit dilemma – haven’t gotten around to it yet, but it’s on my list for my next closet cleanout. Then I’d really feel like Cher Horowitz! I love the idea of the packing list function as well.

  • I recently did a HUGE overhaul of my closet. The biggest thing for me was letting go of the things I liked, but just weren’t “me”.

  • This is one of the things on my “to-do-list”. My closet is loaded with too much. When I have to choose the outfit for the day – I can hardly choose as there are too much.
    But when the job is done – my sisters and friends look through the pile(s) of clothes and take what they like – rest goes for thrift store.
    Thank you for inspiration…

  • Great post, I am completely agree withit and with your suggestions (especcially because in the morning my brain is completely off until I have my daily cup of coffee), I am going to do the same, cleaning and reorganize the closet, plus I am organizing a little thrift store in church (to help church’s finances)!!!
    HAve a nice day!!!

  • This is on my list of things to do as well! I have so much that I don’t wear but just can’t seem to get rid of! My closet is full of white & black t’s that I don’t seem to get around to wearing and it is another reminder that I don’t need half of what I own. It helps to go through everything so you can see what you do have to maybe start wearing more of it…good luck!

    charity 😉
    lifeafterbaseball.net

  • I think I’m with a lot of commenters today – I love clearing out and organizing any space. Ok, I’m a professional organizer, but still. I really do love it. I always say that organizing brings tremendous freedom!

  • I have a super small closet that I share with my husband, so I definitely have to clean it out on a regular basis. I find it’s getting easier and easier because the older I get, the more I realize I don’t need a lot of clothes and am a lot more thoughtful when buying new things (I had the same problem of a closet full of thrifted things that didn’t quite fit, but I bought because hey! three dollars!!)

    If you’re looking for quality boots, I cannot recommend Frye enough. They really are the best. I also have a pair of J.Crew riding boots that have been through TEN midwestern winters and still look pretty good. It makes way more sense to me to buy one new pair of $300 boots every 3 years, then a lot of cheapies that fall apart after a season.

  • And then you give your awesome clothes to your amazing readers?! haha Cleaning out the closet [and really anywhere in the house] always makes me feel lighter. 🙂

  • As a manager of a thrift store, I would also say that the most important thing to do is stop shopping so much, because we can only sell or display so much of what we get in. A lot of it is passed on to other clothing charities and after that, a ton of it is thrown away. We consume too much in the first place and a lot of that ends up in the landfill. Donating makes us feel less guilty about consumption, but imagine how a thrift shop worker feels when they’re forced to get rid of the stuff you just donated? All the guilt lands on us.

  • I have to say, I love all these “Emma” posts lately! You have such a great voice–relatable and funny and smart. So thanks!

    I have a question about boots: I just moved to Colorado from Los Angeles, and have never actually *needed* boots. I’m wondering about boots that will actually keep my feet warm and dry, and keep me from slipping on ice or whatever, and still be at least kind of cute? I’m not looking for Target boots (word on the faux leather flaking off!) but also not bank-breakers.

    Thanks!

  • I JUST finished updating my closet, blogged about it and came on my computer to read this : ) Last fall I finally invested in a nice pair of tall black boots after years of just buying the cheap kind and wearing through them too. I bought a pair of Fryes which are SO EXPENSIVE but I justified it by saying that if I take care of them they will last me forever. Which I kind of hope they do. And I’ve been super happy with the quality and look of the boots. I wore them so much through the fall, winter and spring because they go with everything – pants, dresses, skirts. Let us know what boots you end up getting!

  • I like to get my work outfit ready the night before. If the weather’s changeable I get two ready! I can definitely recommend the purchase of good quality leather black boots – go for a classic look. Comfort is the main issue for me these days 🙂 We have a brand called Green Cross – super.

    Also good quality socks (bamboo or cotton) to wear with the boots – feet can breathe and be comfortable.

    Thanks for the other good advice!

  • I really like this post. I follow some of the same steps with my clothes about twice a year too. And I did the same thing with my outfits!! Except I didn’t think to do the selfies — I just wrote a list out of all my outfits for late summer/fall/winter. It was really helpful in putting together good work outfits and utilizing all the clothes I had.

  • I just cleaned mine this summer, and it felt SOO good! I def do the whole buy because it’s so cute and cheap at the thrift store…and then dream of re-doing it and it sits there. This time I kept a “must fix” box of these items that I really truly still love, and have until January to fix them. After that, it will become apparent that I never meant to get on it seriously.

  • Emma, thank you for your post! It’s this time of the year to change wardrobe (from summer clothes to winter clothes) and time to see what you really have. I’m so bad though to really decide “Should I keep this another year (because something is telling me that I’ll wear it this year -almost never the case)”?

  • I know I must be in the minority with this but this kind of posts is the reason why I still read your blog ! I feel that since you have to post multiple time a day to keep your numbers up (I guess, I’m not sure how this works) you can’t make them as meaningful or as full of content as they once were. And although I love to make my own decorations, clothes and food, I do not own any power tool so part of the most interesting DIY I can’t do and I have no need for as many fast DIY to decorate my home since it is not that big (plus I like more polished end-product than what you usually go for).

    It is lovely when I read something like this which is truly useful and interesting !

  • If you take these pictures in different outfits with one common piece do you think you could share them ? That is one of the thing I struggle the most with my wardrobe and I like to get inspiration whenever I can !

  • I dreaded this SO MUCH when we moved… but I feel like it was much more worth it than I imagined! Not only did I de-clutter and get rid of tons of stuff I didn’t wear anymore, but I rediscovered pieces that I had shoved to the back of my closet/mind for years, and now they’re some of my favorite go-to items. Plus, all that empty space can be filled with NEW clothes 🙂

    <3 dani
    http://blog.shopdisowned.com

  • I feel the need of cleaning my closet more and more recently, so I guess that after this post I have no more excuse to procrastinate! The 3rd tip is great, I had never thought of this but this is brilliant! Organising your closet after cleaning must feel so good, and with this I’m sure I’ll take advag=ntage of what’s left! Thanks for sharing!

  • I just made an across-the-other-side-of-the-world move (Australia-Germany) and it sure opened up my eyes as to what’s in my closet. I had to do some seriously tough moves on myself to sort everything properly. Definitely know what it’s like with the thrifted clothes! I had so many and never wore any because I wanted to take them apart for DIYs (which inevitably never happens). But I am so pleased to see that many items of clothing I have had for over 3 years now and are only just starting to need their first repair. Buying quality has really helped me wear these over and over again and a little fix-up after a few years always helps.
    x

  • Doing the un-fancy.com wardrobe capsule has really helped with the problem of wearing the same few things and having a cupboard full of clothes. Now it has only clothes I love, and it’s so easy to get dressed, even when sleep deprived! Awesome stuff.

  • great post emma! i defo need to clean out my closet–i work at sephora so i wear a costume 5 days a week, but my closet is bursting with things that never get worn.

    i’d like to recommend the frye harness boot, i got a pair about 5 years ago and it’s one of the best investments i’ve ever made! they’re a little butch, but the heel keeps them from feeling too masculine. so so comfy, easy to care for (and break in), and they get better with age!

    http://www.thefryecompany.com/harness-12r/d/77300

  • Cleaning out your closet regularly is the best way to ensure that you look fantastic all the time, and are able to do this within your budget. Having an organised closet that only includes items that you love and wear all the time will save you money and stop you from impulse buying things you don’t need. This is so much better for your wallet and the planet. I share lots of great tips on how to create a wardrobe that looks great, and takes care of the planet in my 20 Day Sustainable Fashion challenge. I’d love to know what you think of it! http://www.tortoiseandladygrey.com/20-day-sustainable-fashion-challenge/

  • I am trying out a capsule wardrobe this fall/ winter (Michigan weather…). It’s all about wearing what you love and feel confident in everyday and not having excess that sits around in your drawers and closet. Check it out!!!
    http://www.un-fancy.com

  • Hi Emma

    I’ve been using an app called Stylebook. It’s amazing and keeps a catalogue of your wardrobe items and outfits. There’s even a calendar to help you plan that you can refer to each morning!

    Happy shopping!

  • Hi Emma

    Check out Stylebook the ap. it’s amazing and perfect for cataloging all your wardrobe items and putting outfits together for everyday.

  • I seriously need this in my life, and your timing is perfect! I’m immigrating to the US very soon, and this is what I’ve been working on for the last six weeks or so since I quit my day job. If only I could take everything with me when I leave, then I’ll be problem-free.

    Jae
    http://www.gorjaeous.com

  • I´ve cleaned my closet a few weeks ago, after I had thought about it for month. I just couldn´t do it, since I was afraid to loose the memories that come with certain pieces of clothing. And then there´s always this “I´ll wear this again sometime, for sure”-idea.

    When the back of my closet came off, just because I had pushed the pile of sweaters back in, did I take that as a wake up call and invited a friend to watch over me (so I´d really do it) and help making decisions. I was surprised how easy it was for me keep or not to keep the pieces and put away a huge pile. And I was ashamed too, because I found too many pieces I´ve worn only once or twice.

    I´m now organizing a swap party from which I won´t take anything home. If some pieces should be left will I give them to charity.

  • I totally agree. We wouldn´t have to clean our closets so often if we would buy less and be happy with what we have. And take good care of it. Not throw it away because of tiny holes. Maybe recycle. This would be much better for our planet earth too. Thrift stores everywhere have the same problem, also in Europe, and I see a huge problem in this development. I mean, this is kind of crazy.