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Learning from my clothes closet declutter

One of the daunting summer tasks before me was to declutter my closet. Lest this ordinary task seem uninspiring, I do have some great ideas to share that will make this more than a diary entry. For someone whose ancestry is studded with natural-born educators, life lessons are hidden everywhere, even in an overcrowded closet. So here’s what I learned from my clothes closet declutter.

Break up the daunting tasks into manageable pieces

woman sitting on a bed folding laundry into piles

I think we all know that we can make big goals more attainable by breaking them down into little goals. I had to do this with my clothes closet declutter.

I divided my overall project into three sections – the dresser, the closet shelves, and the hanging clothes. From there, I broke things down even further. Here’s how.

Day One: First the closet shelves got pared down by removing winter seasonals. I separated winter sweaters from lightweight cardigans and boxed these up for seasonal storage. (A new concept for me! It’s usually all in the closet, all the time.) Then I emptied my bottom dresser drawer and moved my tank tops to the emptied closet shelves. This drawer also had all kinds of tights and knee braces, most of which I threw away.

Day Two: Now that I had a completely empty dresser drawer, I worked to spread out my overstuffed items. My top drawer is smaller and wasn’t very well suited to holding bras. These got moved to the second drawer with my pajamas so that the top drawer could be dedicated to all my socks and panties.

Believe it or not, I did eliminate about one quarter of my socks from the drawer. It had been stuffed to the max! The yoga pants moved down to drawer number three to live with my shorts. And jeans moved down to the bottom with belts. I’ll probably switch these two in the winter so that the jeans reside in drawer three and shorts and yoga pants move to drawer four.

Day Three: Top shelf of hanging clothes.

Day Four: Bottom shelf of hanging clothes.

And these days did not happen consecutively! This project took me a few weeks. My photo dates are from May 17th though June 12th.

Make declutter decisions easier with a “maybe” pile

As I worked my way through drawers and closet, I was of course weeding out the unnecessary. To speed the process and avoid regret, I’ve adopted the “maybe” pile. All those pieces that I can’t quite decide on now have a spot to land! The “maybe” pile gets transferred out of my regular living space and into the storage room. If I have a wardrobe crisis where I suddenly wish I had that dressy black shirt I packed up, then I can easily rescue it and restore it to my closet as a necessary item. If I don’t miss it in a year, then away it goes! My other piles include a donate pile and a trash pile.

Two boxes of folded clothes, one labeled "maybe" box and the other labeled "Goodwill"

Take out the trash

And I had to make a point of being prompt to get rid of my piles. Otherwise they would just sit forever under my window. Keep it moving, girl!

Replacing clothes items

Don’t know if I would recommend this. But I did this thing.

One morning during the sorting process, I felt like wearing dress pants. And I realized that I hated every pair in my closet. They just weren’t comfortable. They were all that spandexy material that looks good, but isn’t soft. I wanted dress pants that actually looked good and felt good. I had thinned out the pants in my closet to one pair of black and one of navy that would work in a pinch. But I decided to hit the consignment store (where I do most of my shopping), just to see if there were better options. I figured as long as I was sorting my clothes, I could replace icky pants with yummy ones. If I could find them.

So I went shopping with high standards and came home with better pants. But I’m afraid I didn’t reduce my number. The store actually had a great selection that met my critical standards, and I walked out with five pairs. Out went the two pairs of icky pants and now I have one navy, one black, one plum and two khakis. 

If you need advice on consignment store shopping, you can read my post The Experienced Shopper’s Guide to Secondhand Shopping.

Minimize the multiples

As I sorted clothes I realized that I tend to buy things that I find that fit and look good. Makes sense; sounds like a good idea. But when I have multiples of the same sort of thing at home, I’m really not helping myself. Take my shorts for instance. I don’t need three pairs of white shorts. I rarely wear white shorts, but when I find a pair that fits, my natural tendency is to jump on the opportunity to buy them. Same with khaki shorts. So I seriously weeded these out. And vowed not to bring anymore home.

Getting creative

Remember those five pairs of pants? I’m usually very good at thoroughly looking over my non-returnable consignment purchases, but somehow I missed the fact that the leg hems of one pair of khakis had been split to lay better. If you’re a curvy, you can understand that finding this pair of khakis that looked good was nothing short of a miracle. Who knows, maybe it was the split hem that actually made them work? But I’m an old lady, so I decided to put a blanket stitch on them to keep them from fraying. Which I think turned out rather cute, don’t you?

collage of various stages of project adding a hem stitch to cut slits in a pants leg

Loving the elbow room

So my clothes closet declutter resulted in some elbow room – for my clothes that is – which is what we’d all expect. Before and after shots of the closet wouldn’t really show how much I removed, but I’m loving that I no longer have to hunt for hangers as I put away clean laundry!

And I no longer have to push and shove to shut my dresser drawers. Also a big win.

Did you find any of these clothes closet declutter tips helpful? Let me know what you loved, and share some of your own tips in the comments!

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