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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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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. Thank you for stopping by my blog. It’s nice because now I can check out yours!

    Smiles,
    Holly
    http://theabundanceplace.com/

  2. Great Site! I think I am going to stay here long. There is so much to learn!

  3. another great post Tina!

    Like you, I agree that removing clutter does facilitate a sense of well-being and ease.

    I’ve read a study that says people staying for long hours in an unorganized environment grows more irritable and short-tempered.

    Likewise, a cluttered mind loses focus, gets confuse, and also becomes irritable.

    Other than removing physical clutter, how about removing mental clutter? ;-)

  4. Lawrence, you are one step ahead of me. I have an article on removing mental clutter coming up. :)

    Yes, I hear you. I personally get more irritable and confused when I’m surrounded by clutter. So I make a point to remove them as much as possible.

    Thanks for your comment, as always. :)
    ——–
    Alexandrite & Holly, Thank you! I appreciate you guys stopping by! :)

  5. It’s funny, I was thinking about cleaning my closets this week end but my lazy bone prevented me! Hehe
    I agree that removing the clutter makes you feel sooo much better. This is the motivation i needed, thank you!

  6. Madoka

    I’m going to clean my closet tonight:) Thank you!

  7. Hi Tina!

    “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.”…..that is so true, and when you look at your closets, you could compare then to little compartments in your subconscious mind.

    I also agree with the comments re: I getting irritable and confused when surrounded by clutter…. I’m the same way! :)

  8. Armannd

    He he, I love the way you organized the sorting and removal of clutter!

    When the need for a declutter strikes me, I simply trash or give away *everything* that I haven’t used in the last 2 months (no thinking or organizing). Maybe it’s time to get more organized… thanks for the tips!

  9. Madoka, sounds good girl! Thanks for commenting. :)

    —-

    JoLynn, Thanks for stopping by my little virtual home. I like your comparison to the “little compartments in your subconscious mind.” That’s a very good visual. I’ll start using that as a reminder to myself. :) Thank you!

    —-

    Armannd, hehehe.. I’m a nerd.. what can I say. :) I wish I could just “trash everything I haven’t used in the last 2 months”. I’m a pack-rat, or I used to be.. and with an overwhelming amount of ‘stuff’, I have to get organized somehow.. since I tend to be very attached to my things.. :) I’m working on it. Thanks for the comment Armannd!

  10. Armannd

    Tina, trashing things really isn’t that difficult to do. I even trashed a whole bunch of things that I was attached to!
    I gave away my entire movie collection (300+ DVDs) not long ago, and I haven’t died yet. :)

    I reached a stage in which I give away anything that feels like clutter, regardless of the financial or sentimental value.

    Sometimes it happens that I throw away things that I need later on, but hey, this corporate-consumer society WANTS to help me buy what I need as fast as possible! So there aren’t any issues regarding this aspect. :)

    The ‘secret’ or ‘heartless’ trashing? …don’t think – not too much at least. If you want to get rid of something, don’t clutter your mind with useless thoughts that create friction & resistance, just get rid of what it is you want to get rid of!

    While my approach may seem a bit brutal or even “barbaric,” it works incredibly well for me.

  11. “don’t think – not too much at least. If you want to get rid of something, don’t clutter your mind with useless thoughts that create friction & resistance”

    I love this line. It’s so true! Thank you Armannd for the thoughtful note. I will definitely keep this in mind. So nice to have supportive friends. :)

  12. Hi Tina, I just LOVE your blog, the way you think and focus an issue. I feel inspired by you, I use to keep my whole house pretty organized and I usually find everything I look for, but… my office (I work at home) has an eternal “day after” look, with a clutter I really find hard to manage. I guess I must do a deep cleaning and buy some stuff to help me keep uncluttered in a long term basis. The “unconscious” aspect of the issue really makes me think a lot…
    Thanks, I’ll keep reading you!

  13. Clutter is such an energy vampire! I know that cleaning out a closet gives me energy. So why do we let them get cluttered?

  14. I agree!!! Very nice post. Woofs, Johann

  15. I find de-cluttering extremely gratifying.

    It feels as good as losing 10 pounds.

    Marie

  16. Nice, but I think it is sometimes not enough to get it complete.

  17. Wonderful exeercise!

    Know the word ‘persona’? It means mask. Over the period of a lifetime, we wear many masks, many personas. And like what’s in our closets, these personas don’t always fit after a while. We outgrow them.

    I, for one, highly suspect you had done some inner cleansing and the cleaning out of your closet was a reflection of it. “As above, so below”

    Me? I don’t abide clutter. It saps us energetically. I like SPACE. “S” stands for Sort; “P” for Purge; “A” for Allocate; “C” for Containerize; and “E” for Empty. Works everytime!

  18. I decluttered “the hard way” last year – my house burned and after spending a very grueling day with the insurance adjuster making an inventory of our personal property (amazing how fast you can inventory EVERYTHING you own!), I spent another day throwing it all in a huge dumpster on my front lawn. Out of 1,100 sq. ft., I salvaged 4 large plastic bins of belongings.

    To keep my sense of humor throughout, I joked with my friends helping me that once my house was rebuilt, I would finally be clutter-free! And now, over a year later, I AM! I’ve grown addicted to clear, horizontal surfaces. LOL And I’m even more proud to say my closets are still organized and you can see at a glance what’s in each of them!

    Since the fire, I’ve instituted the rule that anything new coming in requires a predetermined “spot”, else it’s not allowed in.

  19. 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.

  20. 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:-)

  21. 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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