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There was a point toward the end of last year where a pang of anxiety bolted through me every time I looked at my closet. It was an ongoing reminder of just one more thing on my to-do list that I still hadn't got around to tackling. Moreover, it distressed me to see this corner of my house in such disarray because this kind of mess isn't very "me." You see, I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to cleaning—even with a 2-year-old toddler, where my expectations are low. I somehow always manage to clear up all toys and most mess in our general living areas every night before I tuck into bed. (Otherwise, I can't sleep.)
As a fashion editor who buys, receives PR, and is generally surrounded by a lot of new clothes, brands, samples, etc., I end up just throwing things in my closet without giving much thought to the matter. And while I used to do regular closet clean-outs, juggling working-mom duties plus a general dip of energy levels meant I let my closet reach a state of chaos that I could not bring myself to confront—until now, that is.
It's well-known that a clear space equals a clear mind, so at the beginning of January, I made it a priority to clean out at least one small area or section of my closet every day of the month and discard at least one item a day. Not too demanding, right? In fact, once I got stuck in it, it was much easier than I imagined. Below, I wanted to share what types of items I allowed myself to discard (or donate) and how I got my wardrobe—and mind—into a more productive, creative, and clear state.
Keep scrolling to see the discard pile.
As I was cleaning out my closet, I noticed a running theme. I tend to stock up on multiple items that serve the same purpose (perhaps a little too much). My husband still doesn't understand why I own 10 pairs of black boots that all look the same to him or 15 white T-shirts that, again, all look the same to him. I work in fashion, and of course, I appreciate the slight nuances of each item. But as I sifted through nine white lace tops that look practically identical, I realized that I need to cut down drastically. So I pared back on items like little white dresses, striped tees, jeans, pajamas, button-downs, white tees, and floral dresses—keeping only the ones I love and use most often.
The Key Items I Kept in the Multiple Category
I will admit I own a lot of jeans. What can I say? I am a denim devotee, and pre-pandemic, I wore them practically every day. But out of the 29 pairs I own (gulp) I only really wear the same seven pairs on rotation, which include the jeans that fit the best, the brands I love the most, and the pairs that feel the most current.
We all know it's not easy to find a pair of jeans that fit your body perfectly, and there are many pairs in my closet that don't suit my body shape or fit quite right. So I decided to donate the jeans that blatantly don't fit and the pairs I haven't worn in at least six months, which has happily freed up quite a lot of space in my closet.
Great-Fitting Jeans I Kept
There are some stains I've managed to remove from clothes that I really love, but I still have a handful of tops with armpit stains as well as other items that have blemishes that I've never managed to remove. I decided that pieces that are past the point of cleaning or fixing shouldn't be taking up any more room in my closet.
Help Remove Stubborn Stains
Do you ever buy clothes and never get around to wearing them, only to realize months later they're still hanging in your closet with the tags on? I will admit I am a culprit of this. I assessed all the items I owned that still had their tags on and only kept the ones I really loved and planned to wear soon. I donated and sold the rest.
After all these years of working in fashion, I still fall for buying things online that look so ridiculously good on the model yet look the opposite when I actually put them on. I have several pieces in my closet I've "hoped" to wear over the years but never gotten around to because they do not suit my body shape (read: column T-shirt dresses). I'm learning to resist those Zara models and shop for my body type more. So I've said sayonara to pieces in my closet that aren't flattering and that I don't feel my best in.
I tend to hang on to things for a long time, which means many items hanging in the back of my closet feel "outdated" (shoes, bags, and accessories, in particular, which I don't take inventory of as often as my clothes). I've been able to free up a good amount of space in my closet by removing accessories that feel old and dated, from colored bags to studded belts.
Timeless Accessories I Kept
There are plenty of items in my closet that I like but don't wear very often, whether it's because they don't feel current or they don't suit me very much. So I decided to finally let go of items I've been holding on to "just in case." I mean, I like this bright-orange pencil skirt (pictured above), but I've probably only worn it twice over the past five years. Time to let go!
There was a time and a place when I really appreciated and loved super-high heels, but it's safe to say they no longer hold a place in my lifestyle anymore! I much prefer heels under three inches that I can walk comfortably in. Also, I'll be honest. Ever since the pandemic hit, I've only ever worn flats. I said goodbye to my über-tall heels and kept the more comfortable heels instead.
Comfortable Shoes I Love
I honestly feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders since tackling this closet clean-out. I finally enjoy going into my drawers and wardrobe again. Because I can see everything more clearly now (I organized everything by color and item), I've been using a lot more of the clothes I own and love.
I feel less paralyzed by clutter, and my mind feels more relaxed, less stressed, and less distracted. It also feels amazing to have accomplished this now in January to start the year on a clearer and more peaceful note.
Shop Helpful Items That Will Get Your Closet Organized
Using uniform non-slip hangers will allow you to see items more clearly.
These ones get great reviews for skirts and pants.
If you have a lot of open shelves like me, shelf dividers can be really helpful to separate categories such as bags, shoes, and folded sweaters.
I have a lot of accessories, and this hanger rack is great for holding them in an orderly way.
I'm a big fan of clear shoe boxes for blocking out dust and keeping shoes in good condition. These can fold flat when not in use.
These useful organizing bags are perfect for storing out-of-season or special-occasion clothes that you don't need regular access to.
A stackable shoe shelf will keep shoes organized and off the floor.
In small spaces, opt for a clothing rack where you can keep your everyday essentials.
This story was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Judith is the senior fashion market editor at Who What Wear and has worked in fashion for nearly a decade. Judith started on the Shop Who What Wear team, creating content and managing a team of merchandisers for the Who What Wear shopping app. She later crossed over to the editorial team, where she shares the coolest, most desirable fashion market finds and brands in her shopping-focused stories and social takeovers. She has become one of the top affiliate earners during her six plus years at Who What Wear. Before working in fashion, Judith was a TV host on the PBS travel show Globe Trekker (airing on Netflix and Amazon Prime) and shared her passion for travel and food. She studied at the prestigious London Academy of Dramatic Arts as well as Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York. She later studied fashion merchandising and design, which laid the foundation for her career in fashion.
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