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Do you have an over-crowded closet? Do you struggle to find what to wear in the morning? Do you once in a while find clothes you don’t even remember you have and have never worn for years only to find that they no longer fit or you no longer like they style?

Well, if your answer is yes to one or more of the above, it may be time to closet-cleanse! If you have thought about it previously, but were paralyzed by the paramount piles of closet-dwellers.

Here are some easy steps to follow that will help you get a cleaner, leaner closet, which will in turn, improve quality of life or at the very least, the time you spend getting ready in the morning 😉

1. Set aside a clean space

A clean bed, a clean floor space…no matter what it is, make sure that it has enough space. I used my queen-sized bed for this and put away my blanket and pillows so I have a large, clean and flat surface.

2. Decide the categories and lay out the zones

The categories should be:

  • Sell/donate. I have shared my criteria for putting items in this pile, and my method for selling/donating
    • Thredup
  • Keep. The keep pile will be sorted to be put back into the closet later.
  • Undecided. So I know that some items will bear sentimental value, such as a shirt given to you by a close relative, or a varsity jacket from school. My rule is to get rid of these since I know I don’t wear them if they don’t already make my ‘keep’ criteria. Some people may choose to store the clothes, out of sight, out of mind, right? I think this is a lazy way of thinking, since, from my own experience, I would always find something I like, but don’t wear, in the ‘undecided’ pile, which became the largest pile. This defeats the whole purpose of closet cleanse and I found myself not much better off. With that being said, though. I do believe that not everything can fit neatly into the keep/get rid of categories, and some pieces just have more mental/emotional holder. Therefore, I think it’s beneficial to have this pile. However, the criteria which will decide what goes in here really need to be stringent, and you need to be really aware of and honest about why you decide to put something here.

3. Mental Preparation

For those who are making the transition into having a leaner closet, this process may cause a lot of distress. You have to keep your goal in mind, and remind yourself the reason you’re doing this.

4. Take out all the clothes

Yes, and I mean EVERYTHING. You have to get to the point where your closet is ABSOLUTELY devoid of all items. If you have shoes, take the shoes out. If you have purses, accessories, take all of them out. Find a home for them somewhere else for the time being. A clean slate will enable you to envision what a clean closet will look like. While you’re at it, don’t forget anything that’s in the hamper, laundry, or laying about somewhere.

During this step, if you can, sort all your clothes by categories. People may have different ways of sorting but here’s how I did mine:

  • Professional tops
  • Professional bottoms (pants and skirts)
  • Professional dresses
  • Professional jackets (blazers)
  • Casual tops (sorted by sleeve length)
  • Causal bottoms (sorted by pants, skirts, and shorts)
  • Casual dresses
  • Active tops
  • Active bottoms
  • Sweaters
  • Jackets (sorted based on the level of warmth they provide)
  • Winter coats
  • Occasional dresses
  • Underwear

5. Ask yourself the all-important questions

  • Does it fit?
  • Is it comfortable?
  • Have I worn it in the past year?
  • Is it still in perfect condition (i.e. no holes, no stains, etc.)?
  • Do I look good in it? Is it still my style?
  • Is this piece the only piece in my closet that serves a unique purpose (is there another duplicate or similar item)?

If your answer to ANY ONE of these questions or a single item is ‘No’, then put it in the ‘sell/donate’ pile. If you’re still not sure even though you have a ‘No’, and you just can’t bear to part with it, put it into the ‘undecided’ pile and move on. The point is to categorize everything first. We will leave the soul-searching to later.

Now, just because all the answer is ‘Yes’ doesn’t mean that it automatically goes into ‘keep.’ Really take a critical eye to every piece, making sure that you are finding a legitimate reason for it to stay.

6. Taking care of the ‘undecided’

After you go through everything, and you have your preliminary ‘keep’ pile, take a second look at the ‘undecided’ pile. Again, is there any duplicates already in the ‘keep’ pile? Will you REALLY wear it to the next company event? This is the time to get really honest with yourself and make sure you’re not falling for any of the common excuses.

If you’re like me, the first pass resulted in the following distribution:

Sell/Donate: 30% of all my clothes

Keep: 30% of all my clothes

Undecided: 40% of all my clothes

I did a few iterations and finally got rid of 70% of all my clothes, which means that eventually most of my ‘undecided’ items were gone, and I rid of some of my initial ‘keeps’ as well.

7. High-Level Review

After you have gotten the majority, if not all, of the ‘undecided’ pile, you should not only have 2 piles: Keep and Sell/donate. Now, put the pieces back into the closet and step back, take a good look at the ‘keep’ and ask yourself these high-level questions:

  • Is there any piece that are no longer my style? Does anything look out of place?
  • Did you keep too many of the similar pieces now that you’re looking at it holistically? If so, select one or two from the similar pieces.

8. Organize the closet

People tend not to remember the things they don’t see often enough. Period. Therefore, make sure that all clothes are visible to you, not tucked in a corner or hidden on a top shelf to be never seen again. On top of that, organize the pieces so that the categories of your choosing are together. This way, the next time you decide to wear something, you would not be tempted to buy a similar piece because you can’t find it in your closet.

9. Get rid of the ‘sell/donate’

Don’t look back! Just do it! I made the mistake of looking at the pieces from this pile, and some of them really made me pause. I probably wasted more minutes in my life than I should have mulling over a pair of flare jeans that made my legs look short. It felt like another new battle in itself, trying to convince myself of the same reason I put them in the ‘sell/donate’ pile in the first place. I will share how I sell and donate my pieces in another post.

10. Maintain

For those of you who LOVE to shop, like I once did, maintaining will be a continued battle. I will write another post about how I maintain my minimalist closet, and my mental checklist when I am deciding on buying a piece or not.

Do you find this article useful? What are your experiences like arriving at a minimalist wardrobe?