In honor of National Clean Out Your Closet Week … yes, that’s apparently a thing … today’s post is all about my great closet clean out.
This is a project I started two years ago. You can read about the start here – or I can just give you a quick summary. I felt like I was constantly “editing” my closet and trying to whittle my seasonal swap into one (small) closet. I was holding on to pre-pregnancy clothes and other pieces I would never wear for all the wrong reasons. It was time to shake things up. #AndCleanThingsUp
So why didn’t I go all Marie Kondo on my closet – toss anything that didn’t spark joy and just start over anew? Because it would not have worked. Yep, I said it, Marie Kondo does not know all. She knows how to declutter a house (that I give her) but in order for that to really work you have to address the root cause of the clutter, or it’s just going to come back all over again. I needed to figure out why my closet looked the way it did and make some behavioral changes along with the purging process. #CounselingSession
My Great Closet Clean Out
The first pass of my closet was the easiest. Acknowledging that my closet isn’t a place for contingency planning, I removed all the pieces I have never worn or will never wear (for the first time or again). The gorgeous dress that I have no occasion for. The shoes that only go with that one suit that no longer fits. The shirt I spent too much on and have never worn but felt guilty getting rid of. The skirt that fit so awesome five years ago when I was five pounds lighter. #KeepOnlyWhatFitsYouAndYourLifestyle
Now onto items that required action on my part. Everything in my closet was there because I purchased it, but why I purchased pieces offered insight into areas where I could make improvements. Some small changes in behavior on my part would leave me with a closet curated to my personal style. #BehaviorImprovementEqualsClosetImprovement
Behaviroral Changes Required
My Behavior Changes
Solving the Dry Cleaning Problem
I had (yes, had) a dry cleaning problem. My dry cleaner was located near my former office (sounds convenient) but with all my travel and client site visits, I rarely went to the office. Which means I rarely went to the dry cleaner. When I would finally go – I would take months (yes, plural) worth of clothes in one drop-off. What that really meant was that I had to have month’s worth of clothes in my closet (contingency pieces). A back-up black suit that is starting to show its age. Blouses that were purchased in a pinch because nothing else suitable was clean. #ClosetFullOfBackups
You see where this is going. In order to purge my closet of a good thirty shirts and a few suits – I needed to solve my dry cleaning problem. It took me lots of tries, but I have finally found a new dry cleaner that is significantly closer to my house AND I manage to get clothes there at least every other week. #DryCleaningForTheWinForOnce
The Problem of Good-Enough
I had (although I am still working on this one) a problem of purchasing pieces that were “good enough.” When I needed a new white blouse, I ordered five and kept the one in five that fit my need (or budget) the best – even if it wasn’t perfect. This typically would cause me to order another five pieces five months later because the one I purchased didn’t actually fit my need (or fell apart). Thus, I had accumulated a closet full of almost-good-enough pieces. I didn’t love them but still used them on occasion. #ClosetFullOfTemporaryFixes
I am still learning to recognize when a piece is just a temporary fix or should become part of the permanent collection, but I’ve gotten better about not keeping the “good enough.” I now return WAY more than I keep and while a few good-enough pieces still slip through on occasion, I have made vast improvements! #MoreWorkToDo
Sales and Discount Store Shopping
In the past I shopped sales and discount stores without purpose. If a piece caught my eye I grabbed it. This left me with a closet full of one-offs rather than a collection. I still do this on occasion but I’ve implemented the Law of Three (if the new piece can’t create a least three looks with items already in my closet – back it goes). #ByeBye
And I haven’t stopped shopping sales and discount stores, I just try and do this with purpose now. Lists and specific pieces I am looking for have become my friend. #PlanningAndPatience
I stopped shopping final sales. It seems like a good idea. Really it does. The prices are so good. But I can’t tell you the number of pieces I removed from my closet that I had never worn. Three-fourths of them were pieces purchased as final sale. I had convinced myself I would absolutely love them and didn’t. No more. Unless that item has been on my body and I’ve been stalking it all season, I no longer purchase ANY final sales items. #HardStop
Lastly, let’s talk trends. Trends are fun and fashion-forward. Trends come and go. You don’t want a closet full of trends. What you need first is a closet that you love and will wear season after season, and then you can sprinkle in the trends you love. Did you catch the last part (trends you love)? Just because something is trendy (or not) doesn’t mean you have to wear it (or can’t). Create a wardrobe that represents your style, take a look at the trends for the season, and buy only the ones that make sense for you.
I didn’t have a huge issue with this one, but I did have a few pieces in my closet that were purchased simply because they were the NOW look or everyone was wearing them. They really just took up valuable hanger space because I didn’t wear them tons and didn’t love them. The Law of Three really helps here as well! #TimelessTrends
Why It Took Two Years
My original goal was not just clean up my closet but to declutter our WHOLE house. We have come a long way in two years with doing this. While I have been cleaning my closet, my husband and children have been cleaning theirs’. We sold and donated more than 10 large bins of children’s clothes, books and toys from the attic and their rooms. My husband emptied our two storage rooms in the basement, added shelving, and only put back the things we need and use. Doing all of this in one weekend would have been overwhelming. We did things in chunks and moved from the top of the house down … on the weekends when we had time. #AlwaysBusy
Sustainable Clean Out
There was also the desire to do this in a sustainable manner. When I think about the amount of stuff we removed from our house – it was a lot. Dumping that in the landfill was just not an option. I also know that donated items also often end up in the landfill – Salvation Army and Goodwill can only process so much. So it was two long years of eBay, Craig’s List, Facebook Marketplace, friends and Free Cycle. Basically anyway we could ensure the pieces went to a new home – we did. This also takes time. You have to take pictures, describe the item, measure the item … you get the idea. #StillAlwaysBusy
It also took some time for my necessary behavioral changes (see above). Had I purged my closet in one fell swoop, I would have been filling it the next day using the same poor cycle of bad habits that got me there in the first place. I needed time to access my closet as a whole, to play with pieces I thought I wanted to keep, and create lists of pieces I was missing, and that took time. I wanted to be thoughtful about the process and I also still needed to get dressed every morning and go to work – which means I still needed clothes (even if they didn’t all spark joy).
And now you know why it took two years.
My original goal with my closet clean-out was to eliminate my seasonal swap and fit all of my clothes into one closet. In the clean out process, I discovered this was somewhat of a superficial idea. I was looking for a specific size closet rather than creating one that fit my style and lifestyle. About halfway through the process, I modified my goal to simply remove the unnecessary filler from my closet AND if I got all of that in one closet – great. If I didn’t – it would not mean I failed. I’m not down to one closet yet but I’m not upset about this. #MyClosetFitsMe
Before I started I had my closet (which I share with my husband), my oldest son’s closet (he only lives with us part time) and three large storage bins in the attic. I now have my closet (with the exact same amount of space I had previously) but significantly less stuff in it, my oldest son’s closet and one storage bin in the attic. The only seasonal swap I still have to make is one bin of shoes. I simply do not have enough room for booties and sandals to live in my closet simultaneously (nor do I have a desire for this). If I’m wearing sandals then it is NOT the season for thigh-high suede boots. I am okay with swapping one bin. #IBlameMotherNature
My oldest son’s closet is currently holding summer dresses (which have not been through the final sorting process), special occasion dresses and off-season suits and jackets. There are also some special occasion shoes in there. I think it will eventually happen that I get all but the special occasion pieces out of his closet but I no longer feel the need to make this a must-do! #TinyClosetCompromises
What My Closet Looks Like Now
My closet looks mostly like it did before but with about half the amount of stuff in it. #BigChange
It has always been organized … that was never my problem … but it now has only pieces that feel like me. Gone are the back-up shirts and suits, the pre-pregnancy skirts and jeans that haven’t fit for years, the maternity leggings and dresses (I’m not sure I wanted to know fit) and all the other items just taking up hangers. Along with removing the unwanted items, I also I swapped all my plastic hangers for velvet flocked hangers to let the clothes have more breathing room. And it just looks pretty. #PerfectlyPretty
There are still about twenty pieces that survived the process – barely. I call them “on probation.” They are pieces I just don’t wear for one reason or another or pieces I wear all the time but don’t love (good-enough survivors). They get a few more months to earn their hanger or they too will be gone. I also have some summer pieces in my oldest son’s closet (mostly dresses) that haven’t really made it through the final sorting process. It’s hard to sort summer pieces in the dead of Winter. And I didn’t really sort sweaters and denim (there storage space really wasn’t the problem). Their day is coming. #Forewarned
What Is In My Closet
I know people are dying to know … what survived. What is in my closet?
While I fully believe a closet isn’t a number, I did do some calculations to give you an idea of what my closet now holds. Before you see the numbers, remember … I wear suits EVERY week. I used to wear them FIVE days a week. That has relaxed a little this last year but they are still a large part of my wardrobe. If I’m not wearing a suit I am absolutely wearing a blazer. This is why I only own 1 cardigan. #BlazerGirl
I LOVE dresses. They are pieces in my mind that can stand alone and I wear them tons (especially in the summer). #DressGirl
I love SHOES. I shouldn’t really have to type that … but anyway. A good portion of my closet is devoted to my love of shoes. It is not uncommon for me to wear a different pair every day of the week. This inventory came mid-swap. With my trip to Miami, some of my summer shoes came out early and some of the winter boots went away, so this is not a full inventory of either category. (No, I’m not going back into the attic just to count boots and sandals – sorry). #ShoeLover
Okay, disclaimers in place …. here are the numbers:
- Suits – 14
- Blazers/Jackets – 21
- Dresses – 14
- Separates as Dresses – 5 (skirt and shirt combinations worn together to look like a dress or separate with other pieces)
- Skirts – 14
- Pants – 14
- Long Sleeve Blouses – 25
- Short Sleeve Blouses – 13
- Layering Shells / Camis – 8
- Boots/Booties – 14
- Heels – 34
- Flats – 12
- Rothy’s – 5
- Casual Sneakers – 3
- Casual Sandals – 3
The Process Going Forward
I finished with the major clean-out but that doesn’t mean I won’t be constantly editing. There are a few categories I didn’t heavily edit yet (sweaters and jeans). There are a few items on probation that need to earn their hanger. I will deal with those in the next few months. Going forward, I plan to evaluate at the start of each season what should go and what is missing. I will remove pieces from the previous season that I didn’t wear and I will evaluate if I have any gaps to make it through the next season. I will look at the trends to see if there are any pieces I want to add, and I will shop with purpose when I look for those gaps and trend pieces. I’m not perfect, so I know there will pieces that slip through the process, but I’m hoping I never have to do another major closet clean-out again!!
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