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9 Closet Cleanout Tips, According To The Style Experts

Don’t underestimate the power of a wardrobe cleanse. Far from a mundane chore, a proper closet cleanout is a transformative ritual of self-care, setting the stage for your daily sartorial adventures. “You should be able to walk into your closet, and it looks like a boutique,” says virtual stylist Naina Singla. A tall order, for most of us, but by editing and curating your closet, you can breathe life into a capsule wardrobe that resonates with your authentic self.

Follow our step-by-step guide, guided by four wardrobe experts, as we bid farewell to a wasteful past and usher in a stylish future. 

Step 1: Take a step back

“Pause buying anything new, and stop the habitual ways you buy fashion,” says sustainable stylist Kerry Wilde. “That way, you can see things for what they are instead of bringing lots more newness in, which gets really confusing and distorts what you’re trying to do.” 

Elizabeth L. Cline, author of “The Conscious Closet,” agrees: “People have a tendency to use a closet cleanout as an excuse to purge and buy more, but the closet cleanout is partially about getting back in touch with what you own and pulling things back into rotation.” 

Step 2: Start with a purpose 

Identify the reasons behind the decluttering. “Let’s say you have a new job, or you don’t fit into your clothes, maybe you had a baby, or your style has evolved,” says Singla. Either way, your motivations will shape your approach. In our post-pandemic reality, also consider how you want to update your work attire. Do you work from home? How often do you commute to the office? 

Step 3: Define your personal style 

Curate a Pinterest or mood board for fashion inspo, including a balanced mix of visuals that mirror your daily wear and those that encapsulate your style aspirations. “I recommend thinking about your style aesthetic before jumping into a closet cleanout,” says personal stylist and wardrobe consultant Grace Thomas. “Which colors inspire you in your closet? What colors have you enjoyed wearing over the past three to six months?” 

Step 4: Allocate time in your busy schedule

A proper closet cleanout cannot be rushed or executed without thought, making it imperative to dedicate time for a mindful wardrobe edit. “You need to make space and time to do it responsibly,” says Cline, adding that the ethical and sustainable steps of a cleanout are often overlooked. “Think of ways you can integrate things, upcycle them, repurpose them, or restyle them, etc.” Also, as this process carries spiritual significance, it demands your undivided attention. “When you’re going through your closet, it’s an opportunity to rediscover pieces that you already own.” In other words, refreshing your closet is a way of getting back in touch with your personal style. 

Step 5: Arrange four distinct piles 

To kickstart the actual closet cleanout, start by setting aside your “go-to” or “keep” items. These are your most-worn pieces, and those that align with your personal style.

Next, individually assess each remaining garment, sorting them into one of four piles:

Resell

Valuable items that you hope to recoup some of your expenses on. “Those are the pieces that I would maybe take to Beacon’s Closet in New York, or to The RealReal, or put on a resale app where I could make some money,” says Cline. 

Donate

Before you donate, ensure your clothing is in its best condition to minimize the risk of rejection. Make sure to wash all pieces intended for donation. Use a fabric shaver to remove pilling from sweaters, and a lint roller to remove any pet or human hair. Tie shoes together to prevent separation. Keep in mind that presentation matters. How you fold and present your donations can inspire the next wearer to buy secondhand.

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