Does a visit to your closet give you heart palpitations? Do you stare at your wardrobe, repeating to yourself: “I’ve got nothing to wear. I hate my clothes.”? Join the club. Studies show that 75 percent of the average person’s closet is filled with items that don’t fit, are out of style or both. So how do you sift through your stuff to find items worth wearing? The task may be daunting, but it’s absolutely doable and maybe even fun. Here’s how to turn your closet cleanse into a productive party for all involved.
Step 1: The Guest List
Start by inviting over a couple of your closest girlfriends on a weekend afternoon. These women should be familiar with your style and feel comfortable being brutally honest to help you dump the duds that deserve it. Don’t forget to schedule an out-of-the-house play date for your kids, or have your spouse take the reins to minimize interruptions. You’ll need to focus!
Step 2: Party Prep
Have snacks on hand to keep everyone’s energy flowing — fruit skewers, a cheese platter or mini-sandwiches and iced tea should do the trick. Be sure your bedroom is party-ready, too. Change your sheets, neaten up those piles of magazines and make space for your buddies to sit and speak their minds.
Also, purchase a good supply of large plastic garbage bags and clear a place for the clothes that you’ll be separating into “keep,” “toss” and “donate” piles. For extra laughs, make sets of signs for your gal pals to display as you hold each item up for scrutiny.
Step 3: Making the Cuts
On the big day, work from the front to the back of your closet, which will make access easier. One rule of thumb: Anything you haven’t worn in a year needs to go. But should you toss or donate? Clothes that are torn or stained should probably go in the trash. Anything that’s in decent condition should be donated. Model garments you’re unsure about for your friends, and let them cast their votes. A designer dress that just needs a belt or a hemline raised might be worth hanging on to, but only if it fits. Offer worthy cast-offs to the peanut gallery (and suggest they bring some of their own to swap with you), or bring them to a consignment shop or sell them through an online auction site.
Step 4: Those Boots Were Made for Walking
When dealing with shoes, the same rules apply: Don’t keep any pair that hasn’t stepped out of the closet in a year. If a shoe was neglected because it needed repair, spend the few dollars to get a new heel or a professional shine. But if it goes another year without wear, it’s time to let go.
Step 5: Starting Over
Now that the piles have been established, it’s time to put everything you’re keeping back in your closet. This is where organization is key: Separate the clothes into cold-weather and warm-weather fashions. Place off-season items in storage bins under your bed or in vacuum-sealed packs on the very top shelves. Swap out your wardrobe twice a year as the temperature changes.
Rid your closet of hangers that don’t hold up, and replace them with sturdy ones that maximize space (for example, they hold multiple pairs of pants). Then hang your clothing by category: grouping dresses in one area, blouses in another and so on. Put items you wear often toward the front and special occasion pieces — like black-tie dresses — toward the back. Protect anything really delicate or precious in a plastic hanging bag. Separate clothing you can fold — athletic wear, T-shirts and shorts — and stack on a reachable shelf (Invest in a couple of shelf dividers to keep stacks neat.). Hang an organizer on the back of the door for belts, and stash scarves and hats in open bins. If you’ve got shoes in boxes, label them so you won’t need to pull out the box to see what’s inside.
One last piece of advice: When you do shop for new clothes, choose judiciously. The last thing you want to do is fill that closet up again with stuff you rarely wear.