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It's time for a fresh (and organized) start.

By Julia Guerra
Dec 28, 2020 @ 11:30 am
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As we welcome 2021, the sentiment “out with the old, in with the new” has never rang truer. If you have a dire need to purge yourself of the past year, you’re far from alone, nor are you without an array of options to go about doing so. For instance, you could always cement your breakup from 2020 with a new haircut and color (classic), draft a list of “new year, better you” intentions you actually plan to stick with (ambitious), or, my personal favorite, begin with a closet purge and clean out your wardrobe.

Jen Rowe, a professional organizer and owner of NEAT Method Toronto, tells InStyle that cleaning out your closet can be a daunting task, and oftentimes people will avoid doing it altogether because it’s emotional. Whether it’s the outfit you wore to a close friend’s wedding or the jeans you wore on your first date with your partner, these types of connections make parting with clothes difficult. However, the secret to a successful closet purge isn’t disregarding these emotional ties, says Rowe. Rather, the key is to dissect your wardrobe piece by piece.

While it sounds like quite the undertaking, Rowe is confident that cleaning out your closet can be done in just four easy steps. Read on to find out how.

Closet Purge
Credit: Getty

First, Take Everything Out

Be honest: How many times have you rummaged through your closet looking for a blouse or sweater, only to come across a garment you hadn’t seen, let alone worn, in months (maybe even years)? Probably too many to count. That’s why the first step to a proper closet clean-out is emptying it — as in, taking clothes down from the closet hanging rod, out of drawers, and off shelves, says Rowe. This way, you can take inventory of what you own, uncover hidden gems, and eliminate items you’ll realistically never wear.

Next, Set Up a “Zoning” System

Once everything’s out of the closet (and probably in a heap on your floor or bed), sort items into categories such as tops, denim, workout, etc., to get a sense of structure. From there, Rowe suggests creating what she calls the “discard zones," like a pile to donate, a pile to consign, and a third pile to toss, marked off by DIY signs.

“[The zone method] prevents items from getting mixed up as you edit,” Rowe explains. “Donation and consignment items should include items that are still in good condition that just don’t work in your wardrobe anymore. Also, consider creating a category for items that you’re not wearing because they need to be mended or tailored.”

Establish Critical Criteria

Now that you have a foundation to build off of and designated categories to assign items to, the next step is to actually edit your wardrobe. The best way to do this is to assess each item individually and make a list of critical criteria that needs to be met. This ensures you’re considering more than whether or not something fits or if it’s still in style.

“Consider if an item is your best, your favorite, or necessary,” Rowe tells InStyle. “If it doesn’t fall into one of these categories, consider parting ways with it and put it into its appropriate discard zone.”

Also keep in mind that this process doesn’t have to happen all at once. Rowe says that if you need a bit more time to think about a particular item or items, take it. You shouldn’t feel pressured to make quick decisions.

Embrace the “One in, One Out” Rule

Once you’ve successfully condensed your wardrobe, the real challenge begins: Maintaining it. Easier said than done, I know, but as long as you follow the one in/one out rule, Rowe swears it’s absolutely doable.

“[The one in/one out rule] means that you don't bring more items into your home unless you're intending to part with an equal number,” she explains. “Keeping this in mind will not only help to manage the size of your wardrobe, but will also help to curb impulse buys in favor of meaningful purchases.”