I’ve always had a hard time really cleaning out my closet and parting with things. As a kid my mom more often than not had to take part in my closet clean-outs because, I couldn’t be trusted to actually ditch a significant amount on my own. Rightfully so too, I could make endless excuses in my head as to why I needed to keep whatever ill fitting or damaged piece of clothing. My mom has always been great at weeding through crap. She doesn’t get as sentimentally attached to things as I do, thus always making her a necessary part of the ever daunting closet purge.
Naturally, just like any part of learning to adult successfully, I had to figure out how to do a strict closet purge without my mom.
Since I’ve lived on my own for a little over a decade now, I’ve finally come to conquer my two biggest hurdles when it comes to gutting my wardrobe. The first being my tendency to let my thoughts run wild. I’ll see a particular shirt or dress and even though I’m fully aware I haven’t even thought of wearing it in no one knows how long, I suddenly start picturing all sorts of scenarios where it would be “perfect”. *Cough* bullshit *cough*. The second problem being that I would maybe actually do a decent purge, I have a few hefty bags all ready for donation at the front door and I feel pretty proud. Then a week goes by, and the bags are still there. My boyfriend starts reminding me, and that’s never a good sign lol. Finally I realize (like in every place I’ve lived) that I have no idea where the nearest donation center is. I Google it only to discover it’s pretty far, and I feel like a jerk but the bags keep sitting there. Eventually I get behind on laundry and start resorting to the bags. You see where I’m going with this ridiculous cycle, I definitely needed to cut the crap.
I have to be honest, one of the things that helped me the most was when we moved into our current apartment. I’d collected so much crap over the years that when it came time to pack, it really forced my hand on what I was going to keep and what I had to say goodbye to. Lucky for me, by that point I’d developed some pretty great tricks to help make cleaning my closet successful. Plus once we’d moved and everything was neat and tidy I wanted to maintain it, so I kept putting more things in place for myself to make sure my closet didn’t explode for the umpteenth time.
Now, do I consider myself a minimalist? Not so much, I still probably have too many things…but I actually use 90% of them regularly. The other 10% being extremely dressy clothes reserved for black tie events and things of that nature. Which if you ask me, is perfectly acceptable. Unless you have some crazy 27 Dresses style bridesmaids collection going on, then it might be time to get out the XL Glad Bags. The point is, everything in moderation. Maybe I still have a lot of clothes, but if I’m genuinely getting use out of them and they can be easily contained (neatly) in my 750sqft apartment, I’m okay with it.
Here’s how I cut the bullshit and purged my closet successfully!
1) Get Your Donation Plan In Check
Whatever your plan for getting the clothes, shoes and accessories that you are so bravely parting with out of your house, make sure you actually have it in place before you do the clean out. If you intend on giving them all to a niece, make sure you have chosen a day and time to actually do the hand off. Or if you’re planning on donating them to a charitable organization, local community program or church, make sure you know exactly which location you’re going to and how you’re going to get there. Having a final exit plan for everything you’re getting rid of helps ensure that you don’t have the chance to second guess yourself. Plus you get the satisfaction of seeing something through to the end and really getting a fresh start. Think about it this way, you wouldn’t spend your time diligently sweeping your floors only to leave the dust pile on the floor right? Same thing applies here, saying goodbye doesn’t just mean from the closet, it means from your life.
2) Set Up A Successful Cleaning Atmosphere
Set yourself up for success and make the organizing process easier on yourself right from the beginning. Pick a pumped up playlist and sing along while you work. We clean because living in a tidy space helps us feel at ease and relaxed. Our atmosphere greatly affects our mood, or at least it does for me. So get some bags out ahead of time or pick areas of the room for your sorting piles. Do a little hypothetical organizing so that when you’re in the trenches of your wardrobe flinging strappy tanks and old yoga pants around, you have a designated spot for each of them. This helps me tremendously because it gave me a little bit of order to the chaos. I also like to make sure I have either water or tea and a small snack on hand, this again makes my atmosphere more pleasant and gives me very little excuse to quit or give up.
3) Give Yourself A Deadline
Give yourself a time frame for getting the entire project done. Taking into account that you have to budget time for sorting, decision making, folding or re-hanging, potential laundry, and finally getting your stuff to the donation site. I usually allow 2 hours of my day for a good closet purge and re-org but of course everyone’s situation is different.
4) Make One Solid Mess & Dump Everything Out
Now that the prep work is done, the first thing I like to do is take absolutely everything out of the closet. This includes my dresser drawers as well. If your bed made isn’t made, make sure you do so when prepping your organizing space. This is where I like to dump the contents of my wardrobe. To help me keep focus, if cleaning out my shoes and accessories is not a priority or is just not necessary based on my current inventory of crap, then I will leave them in place to avoid getting distracted. By completely emptying out my clothing storage spaces, it helps me see the task as one, which frankly makes it easier for me to take on. Everything has been condensed into one solid location, so my task has become quite simple. Start at the top of the pile and keep going until it’s gone and the bed is again visible. I’ve already designated areas for Keeping, Maybe and Bye! So as long as I don’t get caught up on reminiscing when I look at certain things, I should be able to get this task done pretty quickly! See how the complete disaster that was my closet is slowly becoming an entirely manageable task?
5) Make A Plan To Avoid Lingering & Dragging Your Ass
Just like creating a time frame for the entire task helps provide you with structure, creating time maximums for each article of clothing can be a huge help as well. Now I’m not talking about giving something like 45 seconds to each item in your giant pile, setting a timer every 45 seconds for each thing would be insanely annoying and totally counter-productive. Self-awareness is key here, do your best to be aware of how much time your dedicating to one item. Recognize that you don’t have to rush, but being efficient is still a primary goal. Try giving yourself a max time per item of 5 minutes. This allows you enough time to debate the item and maybe try it on for a final opinion. If 5 minutes have passed it might be time to toss it in the no pile. If you’re spending more than 5 minutes thinking of reasons to keep it or even put it in the maybe pile…it may not be worth keeping after all 🙂
6) Your Maybe Pile Is Not Allowed To Be The Biggest Pile
Your “Maybe” pile is not a cop out pile. This is one area that I had to really force myself to work on. This whole point here is to efficiently and painlessly cut a large chunk of your wardrobe. If you let the maybe pile grow to nearly the same size as the original pile, you are basically trying to run a marathon on a treadmill and you’re not going to get anywhere but tired. Of course the same can also be said of the yes pile. Try to make the goal to have each your Maybe pile and your Bye piles a bit larger than than the Yes pile. This way when you sort out the Maybe pile you have a little more wiggle room to given token items a second chance in the Yes pile. By the end the goal is for your Yes and Bye piles to be nearly the same, if not with the Bye pile a bit bigger.
7) Remember To Be A Human…Drink Some Damn Water
Once your piles have been completed sorted and you no longer have a heap of maybes, give yourself a moment to catch your breath and have some water. ‘Cause now that you’ve got yourself a solid Yes pile…you have to put all your crap away again in the closet. See this is the exhausting part of clothes purging no one ever told me! Once you have completely exhausted yourself going through years of stuff, you then have to muster up the energy to put it all away in a nice tidy fashion. All you really want to do is throw the Yes pile on the ground in the closet and shut the door. I know, I know you’re over it and you want to move onto the part where you’re sitting and watching Netflix already. I get it. That’s why it’s important to take a small intermission. Plus there’s really no bad time to stop and drink some water so just do it, ok?
8) Move The Donation Bag(s) OUT Of Your Bedroom, and Put What’s Left Away (Nicely)
Now that you gave yourself time to catch a second wind, its time to tackle the clean up. Just like I mentioned in the beginning, it really helps me to set the tone of the space I’m working in in order to be successful. Just like when I prepped the area or put everything in one clear spot, it helps to minimize the amount of unnecessary clutter. Before I even start putting things away, I get the bag(s) of clothing for donation out of the bedroom. This bag no longer belongs in your bedroom, you are not allowed to open it again. Be strong, it’s called a break-up because it’s over. Fold, steam, re-hang and organize what’s left until your satisfied and it looks decent enough that you *might* not ruin it all in a week 🙂
9) Evict The Bag From Your Home…Immediately.
The second last thing I do to successfully purge my closet is one of the easiest, and used to be my biggest hurdle. Get the stuff out of your house for good. Whether your dragging the bags yourself, or waiting till next Tuesday when your cousin comes to pick them up. Follow through on this last step!! If you do the (really easy) leg work in the beginning, following through on this task should be a breeze! You have a plan already in place (see how good that feels now?) so you literally just have to act. No thinking or planning involved, it doesn’t get any simpler than that!
10) PRESENTS!! Give Yourself A Gift
Okay so the last thing I do is the most important to my success, the reward. Yes the satisfaction of a nice organized closet is awesome, but sometimes it is nice to reward yourself in other ways for a job well done. For me, it’s usually a chocolate bar on the way home from dropping off my clothes. In the scenario below, it was Rickard’s Red. Whatever blows your skirt up :p
I hope you enjoyed reading my little tips and tricks! Please let me know if you try them out and how well they work for you!