Closet Clean Out – How To Do It Effectively!

If your closet is anything like mine was, it is overflowing and not necessarily with clothing that gets worn often. Every year or so I do a total closet clean out. No, not the seasonal rotation of the closet, but a deep, thorough clean out.

These are 5 main justifications that often come up:

1. Emotional attachment.
2. I may wear it somewhere, someday.
3. It’s was so expensive!
4. Maybe I will fit into it again one day.
5. I don’t have anything else like it.

Closet Clean Out - How To Do It Effectively!
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Let’s address each issue and discuss a method that works very well for most people in breaking down what to keep, what to donate, and what to sell, or trade.

1. Breaking it down …


Before dealing with each of the 5 main issues above, create 4 defined areas of your room. For me, it was on my bed in four distinct areas. You can use boxes if you prefer, or any other method of separating items.

Area 1 – Keeping it, plain and simple.
Area 2 – It’s a total waste and needs to be tossed out.
Area 3 – Selling
Area 4 – Donating

Closet Clean Out - How To Do It Effectively!

Having these established areas makes it faster, and easier to cope with letting things go. You know that you have your keep pile, and it feels good to have that in front of you so that you can see you truly are not getting rid of everything.

The temptation may be to just leave all the items in your closet, only taking out the few items you think you can let go of in one way or another, but trust me, take them ALL OUT and put them in a stack! Seeing your closet empty with all that free space encourages you not to put too much back inside, plus you truly get a better perspective when you have each item out, holding it up in front of you.

Now that you have your established 4 areas, Keeping, Tossing, Selling, and Donating, take everything out of your closet. You can do this in batches if you have a huge stock of clothing but be sure you take everything out eventually and go through things one stack at a time.

When looking at your clothing the first instinct is to find some reason, or excuse to keep everything. This goes back to the first list above:

1. Emotional attachment.
2. I may wear it somewhere, someday.
3. It’s was so expensive!
4. Maybe I will fit into it again one day.
5. I don’t have anything else like it.

Let’s deal with #1 Emotional Attachment…

I get it, I truly do! At the age of 47 I have had years upon years to grow emotional attachments to everything, clothing is not void of this! I have faced this even more so with my children’s clothing!

Emotional Attachment Clothing Items
My Daughter’s First Cheer Uniform, First Pageant Tee, and my Grandfather’s Janitor shirts.

Maybe you have a dress you wore on your first date with your hubby, or a sweater that was given to you by your dearly beloved and now deceased Grandmother back in the 1980’s. Whatever the attachment is, the truth is you do not need the actual item to cherish the memory! Ask yourself, will you ever actually wear it again? I mean really wear it, not just think about wearing it. If no then there are a few things you can do without having to actually keep it.


Suggestion 1: Take a photo of it.
Suggestion 2: Cut a swatch from it.
Suggestion 3: Recycle it into a craft project.

Suggestion 3 is only okay if you actually do crafting projects, and will use it in the coming few months. Let’s not create a new pile of unused items as an excuse not to get rid of unused clothing please.

Now, let’s deal with #2 –  I may wear it somewheresomeday.

Really? Will you? Everyone should have a few fancy dresses, suits, or items that they do not wear daily for events that come up, yes, it is true, but if your closet is filled with suits, and you do not work in an office, or filled with ball gowns and you have not been to a ball in years, let it go!

I May Wear it SOMEWHERE ... Someday!
Let me know when you have your next Great Gatsby theme party! I’ll show up! 

In the past I had kept a cute jumpsuit I received from an Amazon seller for far too long. Why? Because I love it and jumpsuits are huge this year, but, I won’t wear it. I mean seriously, I have issues getting to a bathroom fast enough as it is, then to have to take a jumpsuit all the way down? Forget about it! I had to let that one go.

Narrow it down to three suits, three ball gowns, and be ready to assign the others to a pile. Now, obviously if you have a job where suits are required and worn, or if you have a career that requires you to attend Galas and Black Tie affairs often, disregard this step. However, if you are holding onto suits you do not wear, and have not worn in over 6 months, you still need to let them go.

For others this step may be more focused on casual wear, jeans, tee shirts, etc. It all depends on your career, or lifestyle.

The point is, if you have kept it because you might wear it someday, and have not actually worn it in 6 months or so, it most likely needs to go.

Dealing with #3 It’s was so expensive! …

Okay, I get it, it’s not like money grows on trees, but if it was worth it to spend that much on for you, it will be worth it to someone else to spend half that price now, unless of course it is from so long ago it is totally out of style.

There are so many ways to get your money back, or other clothing in exchange for yours! How? Let’s look at a few ideas:

1. Locate clothing shops that buy and sell used items in your area. Plato’s Closet is the big one near my home. These shops buy your used items and resell them. The down side is they do not like to pay you much, but will give more usually in store credit.


2. Clothing exchange groups on Facebook. You may be surprised to know there are plenty of them. I even run one called Aren’t You Beautiful Fashion Exchange. Here you can buy, or trade clothing items with other members. Feel free to join my group, or look around on Facebook for others.


3. Garage sales, Craigslist, LetGo, are just a few examples of ways to sell your used items. There are all sorts of apps, websites, and Facebook groups, non specific to clothing, that you can use to sell your fashions. Experiment by trying to sell them individually, or in groups. You may find someone just your size that is looking to buy a whole wardrobe in one fell swoop.

#4 Maybe I will fit into it again one day …

A totally understandable consideration BUT …

By the time you do potentially fit into it again, will it even be in style? What if you do happen to lose, or gain that weight and suddenly fit into your wardrobe from the 1990’s. So what? You will not want to wear the items, and no one else is going to want to buy them or trade you for them. And before you start to argue with yourself about how fashions are always coming back in style consider this …

Yes, things do come back into style but the cuts are different, the fabrics are different, it’s not really the exact same. Even if bell bottoms do come back and become the latest fad and all the rage, trust me, your bell bottoms from 1970 will not be “in style”. Sure, you can be bold, brave, and pull them off as “originals” and I won’t judge you for it, but holding onto items just because they may become a fad again, that is just an excuse not to let them go and may actually go back to the emotional attachment issue more than that you really think the fad is coming back.

If the item does not fit, and is not remotely close to fitting, and by remotely I mean you only have to gain or lose that 5 pounds of water weight, please let it go.

5. I don’t have anything else like it.

It is okay to cling to a few items that are unique in some way but generally I find that this reasoning goes back to another reason, such as emotional attachment, or that you may wear it somewhere, someday. If you truly have nothing else like it, could it be that is for a good reason, such as it isn’t truly your style?

When I did my last clean out I realized something … I love bohemian styles, but rarely do I wear them. I believe I am attracted to the style, but honestly think it looks cuter on other people. The 1970’s gypsy chick in me wants to buy this style because it is what was in fashion when I was little, growing up, and while it has made a come back, and what I own of the boho style is from today, and not left overs form the 1970’s, I just do not wear them often enough to validate them taking up valuable space in my closet.

My solution was to keep three items that I have worn in the last 6 months, and place the rest in the appropriate piles. This appeases the psychological side of me that wants to love boho clothing, and stands the test of the practical side of me that says “wear it or be done with it”.

Okay so we have faced the 5 Justifications – lets move on and talk about where to place things in the 4 Areas …. Remember those 4 Areas Are:

Area 1 – Keeping it, plain and simple.
Area 2 – It’s a total waste and needs to be tossed out.
Area 3 – Selling
Area 4 – Donating

Pick one item up at a time and assign it to one of the 4 piles. I found the keep pile easy, and of course it was my largest pile but as I went through my closet there were some items I was not sure about. When you get to one of these items use my 3 Step Process:

A. When was the last time I wore it?
B. Where would I wear this? What type of function, event, activity?
C. Why am I attached to this?

A. If you wore it at least once in the last six months you can keep it – guilt free. However, for some of us, wearing an item only once in a 6 month time frame is rather silly. At this point you can either place into the keep pile or continue to steps 2 and 3, which I really recommend for a thorough clean out.

B. This step takes us back to the justifications, specifically 2, and 5.

2. I may wear it somewhere, someday.
5. I don’t have anything else like it.

Remember what we learned above! In short: Filter items down that you are not wearing frequently to 3 items max of each type. 3 Suits, 3 Black Tie Affair Gowns, 3 Pairs of Slacks etc depending on your day to day clothing needs.

I don't have anything else like it.
I have narrowed my suit “collection” down to 2 suits. This one may still get donated because
I am not sure how I feel about the sofa fabric appearance. 

C. Be sure that you are not holding onto an item strictly due to an emotional attachment. I am not saying you can not keep any items for this reason alone, but they should not be in your personal closet!

My solution to this was to assign one smaller closet in a spare bedroom for keepsake items. In the past, when I did not have an extra closet, and lived in a smaller home I used a large plastic storage bin.

Assign some place that you can store away keepsake clothing and do not leave these items in your closet. If you are not wearing them, they do not need to be in there.

As you continue to go through your clothing, assigning them to one of the four piles, keep in mind the donating pile can be to any charity of your choice, and can also mean donating to friends or family members!

Once you have your entire closet gone through, and items separated out, you can later go back through the donations pile and pull out items you think friends or family would specifically love but just be sure that this gets done, and the items are out of your home within one week or less, otherwise they need to just go to Goodwill or another charity.

I do not allow myself to sell, or trade any of the clothing until the donations are taken care of. This keeps me motivated to get things finished.

I personally find trashing items the hardest. No one wants to throw away clothing they once loved, or paid good money for but sometimes it just has to be done. Crafty people can use ripped up and damaged clothing for crafts, or recycle them into new clothing. Some might use them as rags for the garage, or artistic pursuits. Just make sure whatever you do with them is useful, otherwise – in the trash they go!

I hope you found my method for effective closet clean out helpful. It may not be the easiest process but it works. Good luck in your closet clean out endeavors! 

I love comments! Please join in discussion, ask questions, or leave tips for other readers. Comments truly are the driving force behind any blog as it helps the blogger to know what you, the reader want to see more of!

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