Closet Cleaning & Organizing

With the Schoolhouse Swap event Friday night, I had to go thru my closet and pull some stuff I was willing to swap.  Typically, I do this every few months, and this swap was timed perfectly because I really needed to go thru stuff!  I will very likely need to go through my closet again soon, but in the meantime, here are some tips and tricks for approaching the daunting and intimidating task that is cleaning out your closet.

Start by figuring out what you’re going to do with everything you don’t want.  I usually put some nicer stuff aside for a few select friends to look through first, but then I lug all my stuff down to Plato’s Closet and Clothes Mentor, clothing resale shops that give you cash for gently used clothes, shoes, accessories, and bags.  Whatever those places don’t buy from me usually goes straight to Goodwill.  Though I have a feeling I might start doing more clothing swaps now too!

Set up whatever area you’re working in for maximum workflow.  Staying organized throughout the clean-out process is key, so make sure the area you’re set to work in starts out free of clothes or clutter.  I make sure I have very distinct spots for my “get rid of”, “try on”, and “keep” piles.  It used to be a bag on the floor for “get rid of”, one side of the bed for “try on” and the other side of the bed for “keep”.  However, with the new setup, I have the space to have a bag for “get rid of”, a laundry basket for “try on” and a light-weight hanging rack for my “keeps” and spare hangers.

Keep distractions to a minimum, but keep yourself from getting bored.  For me, this is essential.  When I do a clean-out, I can’t have the TV on, ’cause I’ll just end up watching whatever’s on.  But if I work in total silence, I get bored.  I put my iPod on shuffle while I work, and it’s perfect.

Sort first, organize later!  Don’t jump around and try to organize while you sort, and definitely don’t bother organizing before you sort.  Going through your closet inch-by-inch and then your drawers one-by-one will free up space you can use for “keeps” right away.  It will also keep you on track and prevent you from thinking “wait, I just organized all this, so it’ll be easier to find things… I can wait to get rid of stuff”.  Make sure, though, that you have something significant to separate the “not sorted” from the “keeps” if you’re going to be putting stuff back after sorting.  I find that for hanging stuff, and empty dry-cleaning back works nicely.  For folded stuff, I just keep the drawer empty until I’m done, either using the top of the unit or an empty laundry basket for folded “keeps”.

Set ground rules for yourself before starting.  Having rules in place in advance will make it easier to part with certain things and will keep you organized as you go.  When I do a closet purge, my 10 rules are as follows:

  1. Everything must be gone through.  This includes shoes, bags, jewelry, and other accessories.
  2. If it’s in the “get rid of” bag, it’s off limits!  No going back and changing my mind!
  3. If I’m not sure, it goes in the “try on” pile, which means the item can be moved to “keep”, but only after it’s tried on.
  4. Formal dresses always get tried on.  They’re worn so rarely that it’s important to make sure they still fit.  Plus, it’s fun!
  5. If I haven’t worn it in over 1 year, it goes in the “try on” pile.  The exception is if the piece has sentimental value.
  6. If it’s out of season and I’m not sure if it’ll be in, it fits, and I love it, it can go in the “keep” pile.
  7. No more than 8 unworn “sentimental value” pieces allowed.  Gotta learn to part with thing some time!
  8. No saying, “I can keep this and get it tailored/work some DIY magic on it and make it wearable”.  That never happens!
  9. If it’s too small, pinches, or otherwise doesn’t fit, it goes in the “get rid of” pile.
  10. Items with impossible-to-remove stains get turned into rags, and single socks become dog toys.  Or dyed if it’s a great piece and will take dye easily.
If it’ll help, write your rules down and put them somewhere where you can see them easily.  And make sure you stick to your rules!  If you don’t, you’ll just end up with more stuff you don’t need or wear taking up space, and the whole reason you’re getting rid of stuff is to make more space.
Try to set aside at least 4 hours initially.  It sounds like a lot of time (and it is), but if you start and then stop after a short amount of time, chances are you’re not going to do very much and you won’t feel very accomplished because of it.  And all that’s going to cause is you to not want to finish what you sorta started.  Generally, when I do a closet purge, I start after dinner on a Saturday night and go until I can’t keep my eyes open.  Sure, not an ideal way to spend a Saturday night, but an organized closet is worth it!
Once you’ve gotten rid of stuff, then you reorganize.  Everyone has their own system for things, so organize in a way that makes sense to you.  I generally keep my in-season work-friendly stuff in the most easily accessible areas of my closet, and sort tops by sleeve length.  I keep off-season or stuff I don’t wear to work either in the back of the closet, or put away in a spare bedroom’s closet.
I know it seems really overwhelming, but it’s not!  Going through your stuff and cleaning out and re-organizing can actually help you save money.  It’ll give you a chance to make some money if there’s a Plato’s or Clothes Mentor nearby, and you’ll be able to find stuff easier, and that means you’ll most likely actually wear it!  And, if you’re doing a clothing swap even, it gives you a chance to get some new pieces without spending much money!
So get moving!  With winter officially here, now is the perfect time to do a clothing purge and spend some time reorganizing your closet.  And if you want to feel really accomplished, take some before and after pics!

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3 comments for “Closet Cleaning & Organizing

  1. December 5, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    These are very good tips! It was good seeing you the other night. If you’re interested, I’ll let you know the next time I have my clothing swap (in the summer, I have one every year).

    • Rachel Jay
      December 5, 2011 at 4:15 PM

      For sure let me know! It was nice to see you as well 🙂 Maybe we’ll see each other again soon.

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