The Great Closet Clean Out: On Downsizing & The Need for Stuff

When I started writing this post, I had just read I Have Nothing To Wear!: A Painless 12-Step Program to Declutter Your Life So You Never Have to Say This Again! by Dana Ravich and Jill Martin (which I highly recommend, by the way). I had started evaluating my style and my closet, using what Dana and Jill wrote about in the book, as well as my desire to make some changes in my life.  I’m about 3 months into the progression, and having gone from “I’d better hang onto this in case I need it for a shoot/event/something” to “This can go, and this, and this, and certainly that” has been liberating, but also extremely challenging and, at times frustrating.

While I’d love to write a single post on the process, it’s proven to be a much longer journey than I planned. So instead of one post talking about how I easily cleaned out my closet based on a simple style profile and suddenly the stars have aligned and my closet looks like this…

Organized Closet
Image source unknown… click it to go to my pin.

I’m going to be writing a series on my journey, taking you step-by-step though The Great Closet Clean Out. I’ll be figuring out who I am style-wise, and taking my closet from hundreds of items, down to… far less than that.  It’s going to be… interesting, that’s for sure!

That above picture?  Never going to happen, by the way.  Never. I’m completely incapable of staying that neat and organized.  I’m a creative-minded whirlwind and have never been able to keep a space clean for more than a couple days.

Let’s begin, shall we?

After reading I Have Nothing To Wear!: A Painless 12-Step Program to Declutter Your Life So You Never Have to Say This Again! I was in closet clean out mode. I closed the book turned off my Nook and immediately went to my closet and decided I would get rid of everything I knew I wasn’t going to wear.  All of that stuff I’d bought for a shoot, never wore outside of being in front of the camera, but hung on to “just in case” I needed it again?  Yea, all of that stuff would be the first to go.

It was a blitz attack on my closet.

I went through my closet fast and dirty. I started out getting rid of all those things I knew I wasn’t going to wear.  Things that I knew didn’t fit right, weren’t age-appropriate, and items that I hadn’t worn in forever (but hung on to “just in case”) went into a bin in the spare bedroom.  Nothing was spared–shoes, dresses, tops and bottoms, belts, scarves, and even bags made it into the pile.  If my gut reaction to something was “I’m never going to wear this” it was tossed into the bin.

Because I had so much stuff, it actually took quite awhile to go through. I probably spent a total of 30 hours on the initial closet purge.  When you think about it, that’s a crazy amount of time going through things, especially when you consider this was an initial “get it out” blitz attack.  I wasn’t trying stuff on, or going back-and-forth on things during this stage of the closet clean out.  If my gut was “this can go”, it went!

Then I took a breath…

Once I couldn’t get rid of anything else easily, I decided it was time to start trying to wear what I had left. Though that proved to be harder than I thought it would be, because I still had a ton of clothes left.  I hadn’t even gone through my laundry yet, where a bunch of items sat at the bottom of my hamper unwashed for various reasons–off season, not needed, not my style, whatever.

But, I had empty hangers, and I could move things around in my closet easily, so in terms of cleaning out, I had made significant progress. I figured that if something made the cut, it had to be worn.  If I could wear it to work, I’d give it a shot.  And for those items I couldn’t wear to work, I tried to wear on weekends.  I started wearing a lot of closet orphans, making things I hadn’t worn in ages work.  If I found that something didn’t fit, didn’t look good, or just wasn’t “me”, it went into the pile of stuff to be gotten rid of.

Despite this, I didn’t really think I needed to do more cleaning out. I’d made a good dent in my wardrobe, after all, and figured I could wait until the next season.  I’d narrowed my shoe collection down to around 80 pairs, gotten rid of piles of clothes and accessories, and was really proud of myself.

But then one night, I walked into my closet, stopped, and thought, “This is stupid“.

I stood there looking at my overflowing hampers, a pile of “ugh this doesn’t work with that” castaways, and, just… shook my head. I realized I still had too much stuff. Way too much stuff.  I can barely keep up with my laundry, yet I have (what may very well be) hundreds of pieces of clothing sitting in my closet, unworn and totally disorganized.

Pause: In case you aren’t aware, I have one of our spare bedrooms converted into a closet, or “boudoir” as I like to call it.  Before we moved, my argument was “we have the space so why not?”, but as we started moving in, various things popped up that pretty much made it our only option.  While I’m a fan of it, it didn’t help in terms of keeping things manageable.

This is what I was looking at.

I took this picture over the long Thanksgiving weekend, standing at the door to my boudoir. I can’t lie, I thought about cleaning it up and making it look halfway decent to share here, but if I did that, you wouldn’t understand exactly why I stood there shaking my head.


Sharp contrast to the photo above, huh? Yea… that’ putting it nicely I think.  I cleaned it up once since this picture, but it didn’t last long, and the room looks pretty much the same right now because of my packing frenzy.

Prior to taking the above photo, I had been thinking of doing a wardrobe challenge I had dubbed The Closet Orphan Project. The plan had been to wear one closet orphan a day for a full month.  Just one, and it could be anything–jewelry, clothing, a bag, some other accessory.  I figured it would be relatively easy, with all the closet orphans I had, and that at the end of the month, I could get rid of more items I hadn’t worn or used.  I even had the post draft started and some rules laid out so you all could join me.

But as I looked at everything, I realized that it was silly to do some challenge to try to convince myself to keep stuff. I shouldn’t have such a hard time parting with things.  It should be easy to go through my closet and say, “I never wear this any more,” and “this isn’t my style” and “this is old and worn” and get rid of it.

I had to slim things down.

Before I tackled that, however, I decided that I needed to sit down and really figure out who I am style-wise. I couldn’t get rid of stuff without knowing who I am, and without completely defining my style.  So next, I’m going to walk you through how I took what I learned about personal style from I Have Nothing To Wear!: A Painless 12-Step Program to Declutter Your Life So You Never Have to Say This Again! and used it to figure out my own style.

In the meantime, if you want to see some of what I’ve pulled from my closet (and maybe even buy it), check me out on Poshmark! I’m still listing a bunch of stuff as I have time, but there’s a fair amount of great stuff listed already.  And if you don’t have an iPhone, and therefore can’t get the Poshmark App, feel free to email me if you’d like to buy something, and we can go the PayPal route.

Let’s get social!

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You can always email me at suburbanstylechallenge@gmail.com

18 comments for “The Great Closet Clean Out: On Downsizing & The Need for Stuff

  1. December 28, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    Such a complex interesting process. I read it with gusto and a bit of voyerism too!

  2. December 28, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    I go through my closet every year and weed out the things I haven’t worn. I had not heard of Poshmark and will tell my daughter about it as well.

    • December 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      I used to go through every 6 months months or so, but always held on to things “just in case”. No more! And yes, Poshmark is awesome 🙂

  3. December 28, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    One thing you do have on your side, you do have a nice sized closet in my opinion. So hopefully that will make your cleaning job easier!

    Dawn

    • December 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      Yea, the size will definitely make things easier, as will (and has) having a spare room to put all the for sale/donation things. Helps keep things separate.

  4. December 28, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    That totally looks like my closet. I really need to do this too.

  5. December 28, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    A whole room as a closet? How glamorous! I envy you, being able to sort your clothing, I cannot even begin to think about getting rid of anything in my closet (even things that are years old and never worn) because I always think about when I *might* wear it! lol.

    • December 28, 2012 at 2:21 PM

      Yup, that was me!! I always hung on to stuff just in case I needed it, or justified hanging onto it in case I had some event come up. Or because I just KNEW I’d need or want it right after I got rid of it.

  6. Jenna Wood
    December 28, 2012 at 2:09 PM

    I know my closet needs decluttering bad. I try to clear it out and make donations twice a year. Last year I missed one of the go-throughs due to a move. Thansk for the motivation!

    • December 28, 2012 at 2:32 PM

      I tried to clean out before we moved last time too, so that I didn’t move stuff I didn’t need. But it was hard! Glad to help! Let me know how it goes!

  7. mel
    December 28, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    I am just about to go through my closet this week! It is a vast undertaking!

  8. December 31, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Thank you for sharing your process. I need to something like this since I complain I can’t find anything to wear because my closet is filled with clutter and things that don’t fit. Can’t wait to see the follow up and see how it all comes together 🙂

    • January 2, 2013 at 10:53 AM

      Thanks! I had the same problem… I would stand there looking for stuff to wear knowing that things didn’t fit, or wasn’t work appropriate, or just didn’t work with anything else I had.

  9. February 24, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    Just found this article.It made me feel better.I have my own downshifting closet blog, as well as at least 200 pairs of jeans….I need to let go

    • February 25, 2013 at 10:45 AM

      I’m still working on it, piece by piece. I’ve added some items as I’ve gone along, and revamped some items as well. It’s a loooooooooong process, isn’t it?

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