How to Clean the Closet for the (Slight) Hoarder

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If your closet is out of control, you’re not the only one.

Recently, I was doing a little housecleaning when a friend dropped by to chat. She offered to lend a hand as I collected items to get rid of from shelves and the abyss beneath the racks in my closet. As I hemmed and hawed over the logistics of tossing various tchotchke and faded T-shirts, she suddenly paused. “Do you have trouble throwing things out?” she asked.

Cleaning out the closet never was a strong suit (or suit) for me, but last year I was ready for a change.

Understanding I had a problem with saving things I didn’t wear was crucial. If you have a hard time getting rid of clothing, ask yourself why. I’m into DIY projects and upcycling clothing, or saving it for emergencies to make sure I get full use out of it. I had to give myself permission to get rid of things.

Maybe you, too, feel guilty over throwing things out, or maybe it’s something else entirely, but determining the reason you want to keep everything is key to letting it go—otherwise you’ll probably end up in the same place again. If you’re like me and just hate seeing things go to waste, try to donate to second-hand stores, or give pieces to friends.

After I had determined I could throw clothing away, I resolved not to buy clothes for a year (unless I found a sale on one of the red leather jackets I’d been drooling over forever). No shopping for a year might sound extreme, but I made use of the time to build a virtual wardrobe on Pinterest and really think about my style, not just in terms of what I liked, but what I would actually wear. I’ve discovered that I will always choose the more comfortable option when picking an outfit. Therefore it is pointless for me to acquire cute winter dresses, because I will pick pants over tights every time when it’s cold.

I’m not encouraging everyone to swear off shopping, but if you tend to buy pieces you don’t wear, consider taking a break from buying and working with what you have for a while. Put parts of your closet on a probationary period. I would pull several items off the hangers every week or so and see if I had any occasion to wear them. If I didn’t, I would send them off to the donation pile. As my closet shrunk without being replenished, I had to become creative with the clothing I owned. If you experiment, you’ll probably discover dozens of new outfits already in your wardrobe.

As I neared the end of my ban on buying, I made several wardrobe resolutions. The most important of these was that I am going to wear jeans that fit. For some reason, it’s easy to accumulate clothes that almost work: pants that sag a little, shirts that just barely strain on the bust, that sort of thing.

Now I’m finished with wearing things that are simply convenient. I want to actually like my wardrobe, and to use everything in it. If you have a collection of button-ups, but you only wear the one that flatters you, then replace the others (assuming you still like wearing button-ups). Why waste space on things you don’t use? There’s something freeing about winnowing out old cardigans and holey socks until you have only the things you would wear today. An overflowing closet might look scary, but clearing it out bit by bit makes it perfectly manageable.

Besides, everyone needs room for a red leather jacket.

I'm a lover of words in all forms, sweatshirts in all conditions, and God in all circumstances. I particularly enjoy working collaboratively on the written word and wearing microfiber robes (preferably at the same time). Most of the time I don't get enough sleep, but I make a valiant effort.

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