6 Guidelines for Cleaning Out My Closet

So, this week I finally got around to the great closet purge. (By the way, thank you so so much for all the super unbelievably nice comments on my post about changing up my style posts).

I seriously didn’t think I had THAT much to get rid of. A pair of shoes or two, a couple of pilly t-shirts. Maybe that one dress I picked up at a clothing swap and then realized didn’t fit me at all.

You guys. When I was finished, I went through and counted how many items I was getting rid of (each pair of shoes counting as one item, not two).

NINETY! (90!!!)

And I just cleaned out my closet before we moved last summer. My mind was totally blown. No wonder it’s hard for me to get dressed – I can’t even see the clothing I like because there is so much garbage in the way.

Here were the rules I used:

#1: Is it damaged or pilled? 
Seriously, this knocked out .  . . more than I want to admit. I basically have no t-shirts left. (I got a free Pickwick & Weller t-shirt at the Collectively dinner at Alt Summit and I’m planning to order at least one, probably two, more. They’re just so so much better than any other t-shirt I’ve ever owned. I’d rather have three of those shirts than ten that look lousy after the first wash).

Also, sweaters. Should I maybe stop buying $8 sweaters? Probably, yes.

#2: Does it fit well? 
I have stuff I’ve been hanging onto for ages because it’s nice, but it just doesn’t actually fit. I chucked a couple of skirts that were just too short for me to wear comfortably and shirts that were always riding up. Good riddance.

#3: Would I keep this if it’d been free?
I have some things that I just never could get to work well (that pair of polka dot tights? I love the idea, but on me, it actually looks like I have mumps. Which is really the look I’m generally going for). I just decided that the fact I’d spent money on them didn’t matter anymore (I spent $10 on those tights which is like a million dollars for me. I got over it and put them in the donate pile so they can find a good home with someone who likes to look contagious).

#4: How do I feel when I wear this?
I’ve been hanging onto these pink pants for a long time, but every time I put them on, I felt totally frumpy (I bought them right after Ani was born and then lost just enough weight in the weeks afterward that they never hung right again). Also, these brown wedges were just too high and hurt my feet. I always regretted leaving the house in them.

#5: The Bart Test
Bart has a really good eye for colors (invariably, he dresses the girls better than I do), and strong opinions about clothing. After I’d made my first pass, I had him look through everything I had left. He vetoed a couple of other items and I agreed, so into the donate pile they went.

#6: Make a second pass
On the first round, there are some things I just can’t quite stand to part with. “But I MIGHT wear these shoes someday. And they are super cute. . . even if they hurt my feet after three seconds.” But once I’m in the groove, my nostalgia and “maaaaaybe” attitude wears off and I can be ruthless. Goodbye another 20 things.

I felt like this was so super helpful in helping me see what I need (more shirts, basically. A jacket. A pair of sandals. A summer hat), and also making me want to be really careful about what else I buy. And possibly looking very carefully at my Pinterest outfit board.

Now time to do the girls’ clothing (gulp).

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  • Reply Nina B March 12, 2014 at 11:19 am

    I need to clean out my closet. Fact. I have found that it's always good to have someone with you to ask you the tough questions as in: Seriously? When did you wear that last? And where do you plan on wearing that?

  • Reply Paige Flamm March 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    I'm impressed! I don't think I had 90 items total in my closet before my clear out a couple weeks ago, let alone 90 to get rid of!

  • Reply Lauro March 12, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Amazing! Now I need to just actually hold this list in my hand while I clean out my closet so that I actually abide by it…

  • Reply Nicole Murray March 12, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    These are such great guidelines! I have SO many clothes that I don't even like, and I have a really hard time getting rid of some things, because they fit me when I'm pregnant, or shortly after I've had a baby, etc. Do you have any additional clothing storage, or are you just sticking with what fits you right now, that you love? Right now, that idea sounds SO freeing…

  • Reply Shelly March 12, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Good rules of thumb, I just went through my closet the other day and got rid of a significant amount but after reading this I can think of a few more pairs of shoes that I have been hoarding that need to go. Also I share your dread with going through little girl clothing. It takes me much longer to make the decisions to part with their clothing.

  • Reply Jessica March 12, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    One of the things I'm most looking forward to after the baby is born (besides the baby, of course) is clearing out alllll the maternity clothes. They need to go!

  • Reply Erica March 12, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    my closet tends to slowly bleed out clothes. i get restless and then decided to toss a couple of things. a huge overhaul like this is really impressive. and weirdly, i have the hardest time tossing socks.

  • Reply Landen March 12, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Love this. I really need to ruthlessly gut. I always think that I will, but it is hard to part with certain items… 🙁

  • Reply Feisty Harriet March 12, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    I tossed about 50 things from my closet last week (tossed into the donate box, that is), and I still could probably do it two more times. I am FLOORED at how many clothes are in my closet that are left unworn. Lawsy!


  • Reply kimmie March 12, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    I'm sad you got rid of your pink pants because I loved that color on you! but I know what you mean by just hanging onto stuff that doesn't fit anymore. I'm amazed that you got rid of 90 items, since I think you mentioned that you didn't have that large of a wardrobe to begin with! I really like the "Would I keep this if it'd been free?" rule, because I can't stand to get rid of perfectly fine items that I paid good money for.

  • Reply Jodi March 12, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I was JUST about to go through my clothes because we're getting ready to move into our house, but stopped to procrastinate a minute and read blogs. I want to just get rid of most of my clothes. You have good suggestions. I was thinking earlier today that I have some things that have survived many clothing purges because they are cute and in great shape, BUT I just hate how I look in them or they just aren't the right clothes for ME. Here goes…

  • Reply Laura Crowther March 13, 2014 at 12:17 am

    Thanks for this post – it is spot on! I think I am going to print out the main points and tape them to my closet door so I always have the reminder 🙂 You just inspired me to get rid of a bunch of ugly maternity clothes that I got early on in my first pregnancy and have always hated.

  • Reply Mia March 14, 2014 at 1:12 am

    I don't think the "would I keep this if it were free" rule would work for me. I love hand-me-downs, and other people's clothes, mainly because I like that I didn't pay for it. I will wear something that is too big and doesn't fit me right, if it was free, but I refuse to pay for something that doesn't fit me right. Which usually means I don't buy much. And that I don't have much clothing! So, the free thing… usually means I'll wear it. =)

  • Reply Alicia March 14, 2014 at 4:46 am

    Very helpful and timely! Almost makes me excited to do the job!

  • Reply Brynn March 15, 2014 at 1:00 am

    I loved this post, Janssen, just like your first closet post! I think your guidelines all seem really valid and helpful. My husband and I are going to be moving in a couple of months, and I'd like to do a nice closet clean out before then as well. Hopefully I'll be able to be as dedicated as you in getting rid of things!

  • Reply Monica March 17, 2014 at 3:54 am

    Great tips! I purge every couple of months the past few years, but I still am always surprised at how much stuff I still have to give away.

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