5 Closet Cleanout Tips That Are Recommended By Stylists

If you're looking to get organized, start here.

Closet Cleanout Tips From Fashion Stylists

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In the same way the new year can feel like a clean slate, each change of season can feel like a fresh start, too. Take the transition from winter to spring, for example. It’s a dramatic shift; the days get longer and the weather outside goes from frightful to delightful, with longer days and stronger sun rays that brighten our living spaces. It’s natural that with springtime energy comes the motivation for a closet cleanout as the warmer temps call for a wardrobe adjustment, anyway. 

But before you go ransacking your closet, stylist therapist, Christina Stein recommends a closet cleanout debriefing. “I always tell my clients to have water handy and a positive mindset [before getting started],” Stein tells InStyle, insisting you will need both to tackle the daunting task at hand. Once you’re in the right headspace and have something to sip and snack on, Stein stresses the importance of identifying your “why.” Are you cleaning out your closet to minimize clutter, or do you hate everything you own and want to start fresh?

“Understanding the reason behind your cleanout can narrow down what you need to focus on,” Stein explains via email. “This can lead to less stress simply because you have an intention and plan in place.”

Closet Cleanout Tips From Fashion Stylists

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Step 1: Define Your Style

 If your goal is to edit your wardrobe down so that it’s an accurate representation of your style (aka you look and feel your best in every outfit you can create with the pieces you own), celebrity stylist, Rahimah Yoba recommends pausing to hone in on what your ideal wardrobe looks like. If you’d benefit from a visual component, “create virtual style boards for your new spring and summer fashion,” Yoba says. Personal style advisor at MiKADO Personal Styling, Jordan Stolch concurs, citing adding Pinterest as a great resource of inspiration for the activity.

“Style is visual, so in order to know where you’re going, it’s very helpful to see it first,” says Stolch. “As you work through your closet edit, continue referencing your Pinterest board, asking yourself if the items in question align with the style you wish to create for yourself. If something very obviously doesn’t match the look you’ve built out on Pinterest, then it’s a safe bet that you can let it go!”

Step 2: Identify Your "Go-To" Items

 Wardrobe stylist and founder of BuiltGracefully, Grace Thomas tells InStyle the first step in any wardrobe cleanout she performs is gathering up what she wears the most and separating it from the rest of her wardrobe.

“A simple way to think of this is if you were going out to dinner or getting dressed for work, what are the pieces you always go to first? This should be inclusive of clothing, shoes, and accessories,” Thomas says. “You can see what colors, prints, silhouettes, and styles are making up your current style and this will help you edit the rest of your wardrobe faster. If they don't align with the style, that could be the main reason why you aren't wearing that item.”

Step 3: Divide and Conquer

Rather than split your wardrobe into two piles (keep and toss), fashion expert and stylist Naina Singla says to create four piles of items: keep, donate, sell, and 'maybe.'

‘Start pulling items out one by one, try them on, and begin organizing items into piles,” Singla tells InStyle. “Once piles are completed, place the items for sale and donation into individual bags. Then, try on the 'maybe' pile again and decide what to keep, donate or sell.”

Step 4: Ditch Your Excess Denim

According to fashion stylist and blogger Tara West, when it comes to your jean drawer, less is more. If you can, West recommends limiting your closet to just three pairs.

“Starting with three pairs will establish some “style pillars” to go off of, and you can quickly build from there once you get a sense of which styles you’re wearing more of,” West tells InStyle. The big three can either be broken down by washes (one dark wash, one light wash, and one white pair), or, if your style leans more toward what’s trending, West suggests opting for three different styles, for example, one wide-leg, one high-waisted, and one cropped pair.

Closet Cleanout Tips From Fashion Stylists

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Step 5: Don’t Wait to Donate, Sell, or Recycle

The hard part is over, now you have to get rid of the clothes you don’t want to keep. For “gently worn, high-quality clothing that is looking for a new home,” Carmen Lopez, a retail business expert and the founder of national designer vintage and secondhand e-comm store, Current Boutique, recommends passing along your used items to stores like Current Boutique, Thred Up, and The Real Real. For “good quality clothing that doesn’t meet the standards for selling,” Lopez recommends logging on to Donation Town, “a great website that can help you find charities that accept used clothing donations,” and for clothing that can be neither sold nor donated, she tells InStyle, “there are a lot of nonprofits who will accept fabric and textiles in any condition. This will prevent them from going to a landfill, and contributing to more unnecessary waste.”

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