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5 Step Closet Clean Out

February 03, 2022

One myth associated with ethical fashion is that you have to have a closet full of clothes made from ethical brands to participate. Nope, not at all. The most "ethical" wardrobe you can have is using the clothes you already own! If your closet feels overwhelming, here's a 5 step process to help you clear the clutter and allow you to shop your own closet with ease. 


The biggest step in the whole closet clean out process it to JUST START! Starting is always my biggest hurdle to overcome when I need to clean out my closet. I make excuse after excuse about how I need more time or the kids are going to interrupt or all of my clothes aren’t clean to even see what I have and the list goes on and on and on.  My first step is to always pick just ONE category to start with, for example: bottoms. Gather all of the pants, shorts and skirts, including athletic wear. One by one, pick them up, unfold them and decide if you are really going to wear them. And be honest, if you haven't worn it in the last probably needs a new home.



This part of the process starts early on and evolves as the clean out continues. My piles generally are: clothing swap, recycle and sell. 


An absurd number (in the billions) of textiles end up getting thrown away every year by Americans, and a lot of it ends up wasted and sitting in landfills. I’d love for my ripped, worn out t-shirt to be recycled and given new life in some way or another. Textile recycling is growing, but it's not as easy to come across in most cities. ReTold Recycling and For Days are great options for items that need to be diverted from the landfill. 


My sell pile always gets me into trouble. I stack up clothes I think I’m going to photograph and sell on Poshmark to make lots of money to stock my closet or fund my espresso habit…wrong. Usually, this pile sits and sits and sits until I’ve forgotten about it and now it’s not even cute to sell and rewashed it as dirty laundry. I've limited myself to one small box of items to list on Poshmark. If it gets too full, I need to figure out a new plan. I've also used ThredUP's Clean Out Kit as a quicker way to remove piles. 




I usually have several items of clothing that are middle ground. In these cases, I perform the “wear it around” test. Fancy name, right? Basically, all you do is put on the item in question and wear it around for at least 5-10 minutes as you continue the closet clean out. If you don't enjoy wearing the item around the house or envision an outfit with the item, send it to the clothing swap or resell pile!




One of my first signs that I need to do a major closet purge is when I run out of my hangers. I’ve never counted, but I know I have more than enough to house a full wardrobe of options. So, when laundry needs to be hung, and I can’t find any hangers, I know I have too many clothes.


Why not buy more hangers, you might ask? I know if I buy more hangers, all of these unworn clothes will just hang out in my closet forever and become so crammed that I don’t even know what clothes I own. I know because it’s happened, and I swore - NEVER AGAIN. My goal after I’ve gone through all of the clothes, is that I’ll have a nice tall stack of empties to hang back up in my closet. 




You’ve started. You’ve got your piles. You’ve done the “wear it around” test. You’ve assessed your hanger situation. Now it’s time to go back through what you’ve kept and arrange it by category. I always have visions of Pinterest closets in my head once I get to this point.  I’ve learned that no amount of scarf hangers and fancy organizing tools are going to fix a messy closet…only I can do that with regular clean outs and maintenance (keep an eye on those hangers!).


This is actually my favorite part of the process: putting each clothing item in their own group on the rack. I usually group items by category and type of sleeve.


For example, tops start with camisoles and tank tops and move into more fitted short sleeved shirts and into looser, casual t-shirts. I keep my long sleeve items on a separate rack and arrange them by weight with lighter tops on one end all the way down to my heaviest sweater.


I fold all denim now and place them on a shelf in my closet, and I keep all workout pants in a drawer together in my closet. 


Dresses get their own rack and are arranged shortest to longest, with pantsuits at the end of the long dress section. 


Jackets get their own little area and are arranged by weight also, the lighter on one end all the way up to my heaviest coat. 


There’s a special little category in my closet that I save for special occasions. My Christmas sweatshirt lives there - this beauty was hand painted and sequined by my sweet grandmother, and I wear it as many times as festively possible during Christmas time. My old high school uniform is also there along with my middle school cheerleading uniform which my daughters think is so funny. These aren’t everyday items or even completely necessary, but they’ve provided some great memories and entertainment thus far, so they’re staying tucked back there for now.




Take a step back and admire your hard work! There's nothing quite like a freshly purged and rearranged closet. This always inspires me to start shopping my own closet again to find new ways to wear my tried and true favorite clothing pieces. Happy closet cleaning to you!


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