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I Always Ask These 5 Questions before Cleaning My Closet

It’s not as hard as you think.

I Always Ask These 5 Questions before Cleaning My Closet
When I was five my mom loved dressing me up in tiny shirts that said things like “Addicted to shopping” and “Future shopaholic.” Now I’m an adult and the doors of my closet just broke because a sweater fell from a massive pile of sweaters and got stuck in the hinges. I’d like to use this time to remind you it is summer and my sweaters should (key word here is *should*) be completely out of sight and out of mind. After I realized they were very much top of mind and (literally) stuck in between me and my outfit for the day, I tried to force my closet open. Not only did the doors break but I couldn’t even make out a pair of white jeans from a leopard mini skirt. There was just so much stuff everywhere. My mom thought those tiny shirts were all fun and games but who’s laughing now? Hint: It’s definitely not me.

Whether or not I was influenced by my early childhood outfits is irrelevant, I love both shopping and clothing and somehow cannot find a way to properly contain it all within the constraints of my closet. Some people may say I have a shopping problem but I’d like to think I’m just overly prepared for every possible weather or party scenario. As much as I love always having something to wear, I’ll even admit there are definitely things I can get rid of. I try to clean my closet out every two months which is usually the amount of time it takes to get completely out of control and also the perfect time frame to refresh my wardrobe for a new season.

Having cleaned out my closet many times, I’ve started to realize there isn’t so much a set of steps to follow but a series of questions you have to ask yourself. Talking yourself through it instead of holding yourself to a rigid set of guidelines will make the whole thing feel a lot less overwhelming, I promise! Here are the five questions I always ask myself when I desperately need a closet refresh. Honestly, being organized and talking to myself has never felt so good.

1. First things first, what are the things I hate in here?

I think it’s best to immediately open up your closet and get rid of the pieces that are top of mind when you ask yourself this. There are things in my closet that I never ever wear but I also never get rid of them. That’s dumb! I know what they are almost immediately because I consistently pass them over every single morning. If you have something in your closet that you know you dislike and you never feel inclined to put it on, you should start by getting rid of it.

2. I’ll probably fit into this eventually or need it for a themed party, no?

NO! The last time I went through my closet I noticed a lot of things that made it through multiple closet reorganizations. I find myself thinking things like “That yellow silky top always looked kind of weird on me but maybe I just haven’t found the right outfit?” Or “I really hate that black ruffle dress but there has to be party I can wear it to.” Instead of reasoning why you should keep something ask yourself: Why are you waiting? They must go! Never ever keep things just to keep them. I do this all the time and regret it. The amazing themed party you’re imaging that weird jumpsuit in your closet collecting dust would be perfect for will probably never come (sorry to break it to you!) And if I’m wrong and it does, you can just use that as an excuse to invest in something you really love instead.

3. Should I throw this away?

Also NO! You should donate it. Just because all this extra clothing is taking up space in your closet doesn’t mean there aren’t people and organizations out there that could really use it. Personally what I always do is take everything I know I hate and that I don’t need to keep just for the sake of keeping (see questions 1 and 2) and put them all into a large trash bag. I’ll go to my local Buffalo Exchange and try to see what they’ll buy off of me. More often than not it’s like that episode of Broad City where they’ll take a very small fraction of what I bring in and offer $1,000 in store credit (okay maybe more like $100), which is equivalent to very little actual money. Of course I don’t mind and I always take the store credit so I can continue feeding my shopping habit (no shame!) The best thing is that they will then take all of the clothing they don’t buy and donate it to a variety of amazing causes. The one in my neighborhood switches it up every week—so the love (and my clothing) gets spread to many organizations! Other great places to donate to are The Salvation Army and Housing Works.

4. Should I put everything back the way it was? Should I put everything in color order? I should probably organize my jeans by wash shade, right?

Every time I clean my closet, it’s almost as though I pretend I am someone I’m not. I suddenly make piles of red shirts and purple sweaters. I organize my jeans by wash, color and cut. I insist that cropped turtleneck tops and regular turtlenecks can’t coexist on the same shelf. The next day I find myself looking for my favorite pair of overalls and I cannot find them. This is not fun, especially since I just spent hours of my life trying to fix the mess that is my closet so that this kinda thing wouldn’t happen.

I’ve found that the best thing to do is of course to organize but don’t feel the need to reorganize based by regulations that don’t apply to you. I never wake up and think I need something purple or red or yellow—I’m not motivated by the color or the wash or the type, it’s more so the pieces that resonate with me. In that case, I put all of my favorite things at the front and most accessible part of my closet. This is very helpful for the times I wake up late because I can just open my closet and know that instead of a random sweater falling out of the sky, I’ll easily find my favorite go-to outfit.

5. Wow. I am so amazing. I never have to do this again, right?

Wrong! After years of reorganizing my closet I’ve come to accept that I will have to clean it out every two months. Find a timeframe that works for you and commit to it. Also accept that there are weeks where everything is terrible, free time becomes a distant memory and your closet will become one big colorful pile of stuff again. It’s okay! Instead of beating myself up for it, I set a reminder to clean it out every two months and I’ve actually started to look forward to it. Instead of getting annoyed with how out of hand I let things get, I think of it as an opportunity to rediscover my favorite pieces, donate to some great causes and make room for the things I really want. Liiikkeee this oversized Alexachung face sweater or those Raey wide leg jeans. Too soon to be talking about shopping again? I was practically brought into this world with a shopaholic shirt on so as far as I’m concerned, it’s never too early–more room for more stuff, that’s the best part of reorganizing your closet after all!

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