How To Clean Your Closet (and Ease Into Letting Go)

tips for the closet purge / how to detox your closet and build a capsule wardrobe /

A few weeks ago I asked you guys if you had any questions about capsule wardrobes and the answer was a resounding yes! It was really cool to see your questions come in, especially because I was a little scared that no one would ask anything!

Most of the questions revolved around how to make a capsule wardrobe for the first time and although I tried to record a video of me answering your questions (twice), I realized that while I was answering your questions, the answers weren’t really covering the how to part of how to build a capsule wardrobe. Plus I got the impression that everyone’s questions were coming from people who are interested in downsizing their wardrobe but aren’t entirely sure where to begin or how to go about it.

Enter this series!

This is part one of two in a little series on making a capsule wardrobe for the first time. We'll walk through the closet purge today and Part Two will cover the planning. I'm pulling back the curtain next week and showing you how I planned my summer capsule wardrobe.

Before we get to plan, we have to detox our closets. Watch the video or keep scrolling to read all about how to clean out your closet!

What you'll need:

  • caffeine (JK...but not really)
  • good tunes
  • mirror
  • 3 boxes or trash bags

step 0: do your laundry

Trust me, there’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve gone through all of your clothes than to realize you had stuff in the hamper you forgot about. Make sure all your clothes are clean before you start your closet clean out.

step 1: sort

Take all of your clothes – even what’s stored away – and put them on your bed. 

Someone asked if they needed to include their workout clothes with their casual and work clothes. My answer is the same as Courtney from Be More With Less,  “workout clothes have to work out,” so if athleisure is part of your everyday style, then on the bed it goes. If not, your work out gear gets to hang out with your loungewear and personals (and since it's basically summer, your swim suits).

Without thinking about what season we're in right now, go through your clothes and sort them into 4 categories:

Love -- Your favorites. You like the way it fits, its color, the material, etc.

Maybe AKA Don’t-Love-But-Want-To-Keep -- You like the idea of the item but something's off. Maybe you can’t figure out how to style it, you don’t love the color/fit/fabric but you need the piece for work, someone special gifted you the item, maybe you spent a lot of money on it and feel guilty about letting it go, or maybe you used to LOVE the piece but no longer reach for it

No + Donate -- Clearly not your style anymore. You dislike the fit, fabric, or color but the item is still in good enough condition for someone else to wear.

No + Recycle -- Clothes that aren't your style and aren’t in good enough condition to be donated, like clothes with holes or stains that won’t come out.

My best tip here is to not put pressure on yourself to dramatically give away half your closet. Be as ruthless as you can be. When I did my first closet clean out, I’d never taken a hard look at what clothes I was keeping. My closet purges growing up revolved around things that didn’t fit or were worn out. Developing an awareness for what you actually wear and love vs the clothes you’re holding onto for sentiment requires practice. I’m a mushy sentimental person so you can believe that none of my closet detoxes are cut and dry.

In a nutshell: don’t worry if your Maybe pile is bigger than the Donate/Recycle piles. It’s not a competition. Just do the best you can, especially if this is your first capsule.

step 2: store

Take your off-season items from your Love stack and store them well. Hang up/fold the rest of your Love items. Put your donation and recycling items in bags or boxes.

Then give yourself a self-five because you're doing great!

step 3: fashion show time

Take the items from your Maybe stack, put the Lizzie McGuire soundtrack on (or whatever cooler music you have), and try your stuff on.

Think about the state of each item. Is it worn out? Do you still like how it fits? Is the color one you legitimately wear?

A question I asked myself during this closet detox and that I encourage you to ask yourself is,

if I lost this, would I buy it again?

If your answer is

  • A clear no, it goes into the donation/recycling bag.
  • Yes, but I’d change (something), put it back into your closet and write your ideal version in a note on your phone
  • No, but (insert reason here), off to limbo it goes. Pack it away for 3-6 months. Set the date on your calendar so you don't forget. If you don't reach for them and/or forget about them completely, then you've hopefully convinced yourself that you don't need to keep the items anymore.
    • Even though these items won't technically be part of your capsule wardrobe, you’re totally allowed to wear them if you get a really good outfit idea.

step 4: live with what you've got (for a week)

Take a week to live with your smaller closet and reflect on what's missing. Embrace the limits, get a little creative, and use frustration as an indicator of something that's high priority. Note what staples your closet is missing in your capsule wish list. It'll come in handy when you get to shop!

WOO! That does it! You've cleaned out your closet!

bonus capsule prep step: mindful scrolling

I kind of assume everyone has a Pinterest board full of clothing inspiration, but if you don’t, you should totally make one and pin your heart out with outfits that inspire you. Write specific notes about which details you're drawn to in the description of the pin. Don't worry about controlling yourself, just focus on pinning images that have colors, textures, and aesthetics that you're drawn to. You'll review and edit your mood board before you plan your capsule, so have some fun!

I'll be back next week with a look at the capsule wardrobe planning process. As always, I'm here to answer any questions you have on capsules and easing into eco-friendly living. Come say hey on instagram!