Closet Clean Out 101

Ralph Lauren Blazer

The new year is upon us which means it's time to clean out my closet! As you know, I aim to keep my wardrobe at a minimum and only fill it with classic, high quality essentials that I can mix and match for endless possibilities. To maintain this approach, it's crucial that I clean out my closet at the start of each year with a critical eye. This yearly purge allows me to donate, sell or trash any pieces that are past their prime and to see which pieces are in need of mending or tailoring to extend their lives. Plus, a January clean out helps me create space for any Christmas additions from December and to start planning for the upcoming spring and summer seasons. Staying on top of this "one in/one out" mentality each new year ensures I am never left with an overflowing closet of wasted items and can instead enjoy my wardrobe to the fullest. To help you tackle your own closet clean out and start the year off on a streamlined foot, I have outlined the steps I take below. 

Step 1: Empty Your Closet and Drawers

The first step in a quality closet clean out is to completely empty everything. Remove all the clothes from your closet and drawers and lay them neatly in piles on your bed to sort through. I like categorizing my clothing in like piles to make the next steps easier - i.e. blazers with blazers, t-shirts with t-shirts etc. This helps the next step move more quickly and feel less overwhelming. 

Step 2: Try Everything On

The second step in this process is definitely the most time intensive, but it is critical to ensure that you have a successful clean out. To make this step as painless as possible, I typically put on music or a movie to keep me from feeling trapped in the task and go to town trying everything on. To help me keep everything straight in my mind, I try on like with like - all of my t shirts or blouses and then move to blazers and jackets followed by pants, skirts and shorts and then finish with shoes and bags. I also try to try on blazers with shirts and sweaters underneath so I can accurately evaluate how they wear. Finally, while trying on each item I try my best to evaluate it with an honest, critical eye and ask myself a series of questions before making a final decision. These questions are as follows.

1. Do I love it? 

2. When was the last time I wore it? If I haven't worn it in the past month or so and it isn't out of season, (i.e. a spring piece I haven't worn in a few months because it's January) then it goes. 

3. How many other items can I wear it with? I like to be able to mix and match as much as possible so it is imperative that all of my clothes can be worn with at least two other pieces. 

Step 3: Sort Your Clothes Into 5 Piles - Toss, Keep, Donate, Mend or Tailor and Revisit

As you go through step 2, sort your clothes into 5 separate piles for the third step. 

1. Toss: This pile is for anything that you no longer wear and is beyond repair for resale or donation. 

2. Keep: These are the items you love and do not need to be tailored or mended. These are typically the essentials that you come back to time and time again and are the first to pop in your mind when you envision your wardrobe. 

3. Donate: This pile is for anything you either no longer love or doesn't suit your current lifestyle, but is still in good enough condition to be loved by someone else. 

4. Mend or Tailor: This category is self-explanatory but is crucial for maintaining a well-rounded, timeless wardrobe. Whether an item has a small tear, you have lost or gained weight or it just needs a little oomph to be perfect again, tailoring and mending helps to extend the life of your wardrobe without having to buy a bunch of new items.  

5. Revisit: In this pile, put any items you don't instantly go crazy for, but can't part with yet. I like to put these items in a suitcase or at the back of my closet and then revisit them a few weeks to 2 months later. During this waiting period, I can usually distance myself enough from the piece to re-evaluate objectively later. Another thing I like to do when I revisit this pile is to honestly gauge how many times I thought about each item while they were out of sight. If the answer to this question is none, I know it's time to say goodbye. 

Step 4: Put It All Back and Plan for Tomorrow

The last step is certainly the most fun and rewarding. Now that you've successfully sorted the items that you will keep, toss, donate and mend, you can effectively evaluate where the holes in your wardrobe are. It's at this time that I pull out my pen and paper and list out what I need to extend the versatility of my existing items, as well as which classic and trendy pieces I need to keep everything current for the upcoming seasons. Once I'm confident that my list is complete, I put everything back in the closet and dresser and start mentally preparing outfits while I enjoy my new organized wardrobe. 


Until next time, happy closet cleaning!