Streamline your wardrobe in 5 easy steps

Last Friday, the mood to clean hit me hard … it was time to tackle the wardrobe.

I have “cleaned out” my closet before (usually before we’ve moved somewhere new) and will occasionally toss/donate a few items here or there as they get old and worn out.  But this time was different.

The following step-by-step guide explains exactly how I minimized and consolidated my closet by removing and rearranging half of my wardrobe – Perhaps it may be of some use to you too!


1.  Categorize your wardrobe.  Step away from your closet and create a list of situations in which you wear your clothes.  This may seem silly, but I actually found it quite useful.  The majority of my wardrobe fell into the following categories:  lab-appropriate, field trips, running/equestrian, weekend/evening wear, committee meetings/conferences, footwear.  Under each category, I figured out how much of each item type I would need based on activity level and how many times we do laundry (which is about once every 2 weeks).  Here’s an example of what my lab-appropriate and weekend/evening wear lists looked like:

Lab Appropriate

  • jeans (5)
  • t-shirts (15)
  • hoodies (4)

Weekend/Evening Wear

  • jersey dresses (4)
  • casual skirts (2)
  • chino/denim shorts (3)
  • shirts/tops (4)
  • knit tank tops (8)
  • linen pants (1)
  • handbags (2)
  • evening dress (1)

This list will likely change during the sorting process, but at least it gives you an outline of your closet essentials objectively based on what you actually wear.

2.  Remove all items of clothing from your closet.  You will be less likely to keep unnecessary items if you sort your clothing pieces away from where they are stored.  Spread your wardrobe out on the bed/desk/sofa/whatever so you can visualize it all.

3.  Quickly sort each item into a KEEP, TOSS or MAYBE pile.  Don’t take more than a few seconds to make decisions – This will prevent you from lingering on items that really should be let go and coming up with excuses to save it.  Use the following rules as a guideline to help you:

If you haven’t worn a particular piece of clothing in the last 2 years and don’t see yourself wearing it in the upcoming month, TOSS it unless the item:

  • … has significant sentimental value.  I have about 10 t-shirts from college that elicit specific memories from my time as an undergrad (ie. football games, festivals, intramurals, etc).  Though I don’t wear them on a regular basis anymore, these shirts represent some of the best years of my life, therefore they went in the KEEP pile.
  • … is seasonal.  I have a few winter-specific pieces (ie. snow pants, winter coat, thermals, etc) that I haven’t worn since moving to Florida 2 years ago – But these key items were kept because Jim and I will definitely be moving somewhere with 4 seasons again after I graduate.  They may be taking up precious space, but it would be silly (and financially impractical) to give them away now only to have to buy replacements in a few years.
  • … is for a special occasion.  KEEP any evening dresses/special occasion attire that still fits and looks good.  If the item is out of date, fits poorly or you just simply don’t like it anymore – Get rid of it.

4.  Sort each of your KEEP, TOSS and MAYBE piles:

  • MAYBE – Start with this one.  By now you should have this sorting thing down pat – Take a few minutes to separate these items into the KEEP and TOSS piles.  Remember to stick to your outline from step 1 and the guidelines in step 2.
  • TOSS – Split up this pile into DONATE and TRASH.  DONATE items that are unworn or have been gently used.  TRASH pieces that are obviously worn out, stained, etc.
  • KEEP – Separate these items into AVAILABLE and STORAGE.  AVAILABLE items are clothes you see yourself wearing on a regular basis.  STORAGE items are the sentimental, seasonal or special occasion pieces you will not likely wear everyday.

5.  Re-organize your closet.  Hang/place all items in your AVAILABLE pile in areas of your closet that are easily accessed and arrange them in a way that makes sense to you (ie. color, occasion, type, etc).  STORAGE items can be folded into boxes to be put on out-of-reach shelves or hung in the back of your closet for future use.

Bask in the joy of your minimized and organized closet!



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