Style Quotient | The Big Closet Clean-Out


Well, it's that time of year where we all vow to become more productive and organized. For me, this always translates to a massive closet clean-out! I take great joy in this task, but others might not be as entertained by the notion.

Here are my tips to start off the new year with a closet that works for you rather than against. This format is great once a year but you might need to make some minor tweaks seasonally.

Remove everything from your closet. Everything.

Wipe down the walls, vacuum, repair damages (such as loose screws), replace light bulbs, etc. You might seize this opportunity to paint the walls or install additional lighting or rods, too. A clean, well lit, and pretty closet makes getting dressed each day that much more pleasant. If you do paint, stick with a light neutral or something with a tad more spunk, such as a pastel pink or blue.

Assess your needs.

Once the physical space is clean and clear, decide what necessities are missing. Do you need more hanger space for dresses or would you like more shelves and drawers for sweaters and tees? Chances are that you already know the answer to your problems, but nothing inspires motivation like having all your clothes piled on your bed.

There are numerous solutions to your issues at hardware and big box stores, but do some online research for ideas and inspiration. I adore the Container Store for their many options, including the modular Elfa system.

Sort it out.

Now it's time for the hard work. Create a few different piles: keep, fix, donate/sell, store.

As you go through this process you should always be thinking about the condition and fit of the clothes, as well as the usefulness. Some items might just need new buttons or could see new life after a dye job.

Are you keeping something purely because it has sentimental value? That's just fine, but dedicate a trunk or bin to hold those items in the attic or garage rather than taking up valuable closet space. Better yet, take a picture of the item so you'll be able to look at it from time to time and then donate it for someone else to enjoy.

Stick to the One Year Rule.

The standard rule is that if you haven't worn an item for one year, then it’s time to toss it. I think this is the trickiest part of a closet clean out. Who's to say you won't want wear it again? And, if you tend to buy timeless classics, chances are that the item isn't too far out of style and could be of future use to you.

I say you don't have to be too harsh here. If the item is in great condition, still fits, and can be updated by pairing it with a newer piece, it's a keeper. But be brutally honest when it comes to how it makes you look or feel. Purge the pieces that just…don't…work.

Which leads me to my next point...

Hold a fashion show for yourself.

Try everything on and get wild with your pairings - nothing is off limits! You might come up with some cool new combos.

It’s not a total loss.

Whatever you don't keep can be donated to charity or resold on consignment or both. I recently attended a really fun closet raid party at a friend's house. She gathered everything she no longer wanted, invited friends over for drinks and appetizers, and offered her goods up for sale. She included shoes, accessories, jewelry, and even some home decor items. Everything was priced under $20 with the exception of a handbag or two. Some ladies left with an armful of new-to-them clothes for less than $50. Regardless, find appreciative new homes for your gently loved pieces.

Simplify for the rebuild.

So now you're left with the best of the best; it’s time to reassemble your closet. Make like Mommy Dearest and say, “No!” to wire hangers. I prefer all my hangers to be the same color and I’m in love with the flocked "huggable" variety, which prevent slippage.

Organize like you’re OCD.

I organize my clothes by type then by color: pants, skirts, dresses, sweaters, long sleeve, short sleeve, and sleeveless shirts, each from dark to light. Layering tanks, T-shirts, sweatshirts, leggings, and exercise gear is folded in stackable milk crate style bins on shelves.

Shoes have a dedicated slotted box that sits on the floor, and handbags are stored in their dust covers in a large steamer trunk. I don't like to hang handbags because, over time, it can weaken the hardware or alter the shape of the handles.

Scarves, hats, and gloves get colorful stacking boxes. And care items, such as sweater brushes and lint rollers are stored in another.

Make use of The Look Hook.

I've used this retail fixture for years to help me streamline my morning routine. Install a straight hook or post on a wall near your closet to hang your full look for the next day. I hang the clothes and jewelry and set out shoes and all other accessories the night before.

This isn't a new trick. But the use of a look hook ensures that I employ this technique more often, and it makes me feel über productive. I like versions that fold down or disappear into the wall to avoid accidental eye jabs when not in use.

It goes without saying—yet I'm compelled to say it—that the size of your closet will dictate how you employ these basic techniques. I must also stress this point: If you have a walk in closet, I hate you.


Photo by Tony Frantz