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Cleaning Out Your Life: One Closet at a Time

Photo by jamelah

A clean and organized closet provides many benefits: better space utilization, your items are organized and accessible, not to mention the biggest gains: an organized closet space adds to the harmony of your home, as well as your mental wellbeing. Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world, and because everything carries with it energy, the mess in our environment can affect how we feel subconsciously. We might suddenly feel very irritable without knowing why. Your closet and the surface spaces of your home are good places to start this cleaning process. This will result in a deeply therapeutic and fulfilling experience.

I did a deep closet cleaning a year ago, and let me tell you, such heavy ‘mental bags’ were lifted off my shoulders. I gave away 11 bags worth of clothing and shoes (see picture) and I felt like a new person: empowered, organized, light and a new beginning.

Here are some strategies for cleaning out your closet space…

Make sure to set aside sufficient time for cleaning. To maximize effectiveness, set aside at least an hour for decluttering and organizing your closet space, or for big cleaning jobs, several sections of time over several days.

Part 1: Sort and Remove Clutter

Step 1 – Get Three Boxes

Removing the clutter is the first step. For this, you will need three boxes and a trash bag.

  • Box A – holds items that belong in a place other than your closet.
  • Box B – is for items you no longer need and will donate to charity.
  • Box C – is for items you should get rid of but feel emotionally unready to give up, i.e., that $100 shirt you bought 2 years ago but never wore.
  • Trash bag is for any trash you find.

Step 2 – Sort Quickly

Sort through each item in your closet and decide very quickly which items to keep and which to give away. As you sort, here are several things to consider:

  • Have you used the item in the past year? If not, it’s probably time to let it go.
  • Do you own more than one of an item? If so, do you really need multiples of one item?
  • As you sort clothing, make sure each item fits and still looks attractive. If not, donate or trash it.
  • For shoes, make sure each pair corresponds to at least one set of clothing you actually wear. If not, there isn’t really a reason to keep them.
  • With memorabilia, decide if you truly need to keep it. Can you take a picture of it instead and give the item away?

Step 3 – Move Boxes

After you’ve finished sorting,

  • Box A – The contents should be distributed to the correct place in your home.
  • Box B – Take it directly to your vehicle to give to a local thrift store or charity the next time you’re out.
  • Box C – Set it aside for a month. If you don’t need the items inside within a month, it’s likely you never will. You can then donate them to charity.
  • Trash – throw away

Part 2: Organize

Because your closet is now cleaned out, it will be much easier to organize. Consider the following organizing tips:

  • Try using stackable see-through plastic bins for your storage items. This allows you to easily see what’s inside.
  • Take some time to organize your clothing in a system that works for you. Many people separate clothing by type – pants and tops, work clothing and casual clothing, or winter clothing and summer clothing. Others separate clothing by color which has the side benefit of making your closet attractive as well as organized. The method you choose is completely up to you; just choose a system that makes sense for your life.
    • For example, I separate my major sections by business casual, evenings and slacks. Within each section, I separate the pants and the tops. Within the tops, I separate button down shirts with casual blazers. I also separate the button-down shirts by blacks, whites, stripes, and other colors. I keep heavier items such as blazers, jackets on the ends of the closet, to keep out of the way from the middle sections, giving the closet a ‘light’ feeling.
  • It may be helpful to purchase organizing tools such as shoe organizers, over the door hooks, and shelving. This helps maximize your closet space.
  • Label your storage boxes. You don’t want to have to open every box to find out what’s inside. And please, don’t use a pen to do labeling. Use a black permanent marker. Sharpes are your friends.
  • Get nice hangers. When I reorganized my closet, I went out and got wood hangers and got rid of all the random miscellaneous mis-matching hangers I had in the closet. This way, all your hangings look consistent (like in a store). It’s very calming for the mind to look at. I feel so good each time I look inside the closet, that I’ve already got my money’s worth after the first 3 days.

After all your hard work, step back and fully enjoy the fruit of your labor. How do you feel? Pretty rewarding, eh? You will suddenly experience a sense of mental clarity and calmness as a result of days.
* How does a clean closet make you feel? Let us know in the comment section.

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Other posts about cleaning and decluttering closets elsewhere:

About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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35 thoughts on Cleaning Out Your Life: One Closet at a Time

  1. jd

    Hey Tina –

    I agree with your staging process for discarding.
    I grew up a pack rat, so throwing away things was tough for me, since I never knew when I might, just might … someday need it.

    I eventually realized that there’s a cost to holding onto everything in terms of maintenance and storage space. I continuously downsize now and I actually like the process of getting rid of as much as I can.

    I’m no pharaoh, I don’t have a pyramid, and I know I can’t take stuff with me when I leave this world, so I travel light, and instead put a premium on people and experiences.

    That said, I stil can’t give up my Smurf collection.

  2. This is a great post! You’re correct when you say one closet at a time.Most of the time,we are overwhelmed by clutter that we don’t know where to start cleaning.whew!
    I’m also a fan of collecting organizing tools and came across a multipurpose memo pad holder. I find it very useful and you might want to try it also:-)

  3. One way that I have always found helpful to get rid of all those extra belongings one doesn’t need is moving. Often when you move you are forced to ask yourself the questions laid out in this article. Do i really need this? When was the last time i actually used this?

    If you aren’t moving anytime soon, try renting a storage locker for a month. Lots of storage facilities offer storage for the first month for only $1 or even free.

    Put everything you possibly can live without in that locker for one month.

    Go back if you need to and take stuff out.

    Whatever is left there after the month is up, take it to goodwill, or your local donation dropoff location.

    Just my 2 cents :)

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