The Rub: When it comes to closet organization, Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up set a high bar for the right way to discard, hang and fold clothes. I tried her closet cleanse and it worked for me...to a point. To be honest, I never reached the state of permanent clutter-free joy that she promises.
The Remedy: Short, seasonal clean-outs have helped me feel better about my closet and my clothes, as long as I'm not too perfectionistic about the process. So, here's my modified approach to sparking something that's more akin to satisfaction than joy...
My closet is a pretty good indicator of how I'm feeling about myself and my appearance. When I like my clothes, I like the way I look. When I let go of things that don't really fit or make me feel my best, I get the sense that I'm inching closer towards self-acceptance.
I've also realized that it's easy to get perfectionistic about decluttering and fall into the trap of feeling like I need all new things to really be happy with my wardrobe. By limiting my time and attention, I can get things done without getting stuck in the search for perfect order.
I've also learned that there's one exception to the "accept things just the way they are" philosophy. If you haven't already, invest in matching hangers. It's hard to really love your closet when it's full of warped wire hangers from the dry cleaners.
What You’ll Need
A clean bed or floor to lay out your clothes
A bag or box to put old clothes
A sense of humor about yourself
What You’ll Do
- Set a timer to one hour.
- Take everything out of the closet and lay it on your bed or floor.
- Hold each piece and ask if it’s a pick-me-up or let-me down.
- Put the pick-me-ups in one pile and the let-me-downs in another.
- If you've still got time, move onto your drawers and do the same.
- Stop when the timer ends.
- Put your let-me-downs into a donation box or bag.
- Put your pick-me-ups back in the closet and in your drawers.
Sorting The Pick-Me-Ups from the Let-Me-Downs
While Marie Kondo's criteria that any clothing you keep must "spark joy" is useful, I've found that it helps to get a little more specific for those moments when something leaves me feeling neutral. (Not all my socks spark joy.) My definition of clutter is anything that no longer serves a purpose in my life—when I keep something ‘just in case,’ I'm usually planning for some kind of future that I secretly hope will never come.
It manifests in different forms, but in working with clients, I've found a few examples that occur frequently, and usually point to a blocked area in someone’s life. For instance, holding onto clothes in a smaller size because you hope you'll lose weight might mean that you're having trouble with self-acceptance. (By the way, acceptance can be a much more more effective motivator for healthy living than self-criticism!)
For the purposes of this project, I just hold each object and ask yourself it drains or energizes you.
Common closet let-me-downs include:
- Clothes that are too small or too big
- Extras or multiples you don’t really need
- Gifts you don’t like but feel guilty getting rid of
- Stuff you’re tired of seeing
- Stuff you’ve been hiding from yourself because you hate seeing it
Pick-me-ups are the things you love and use. They usually fall into 2 camps:
- Stuff you wear a lot because it makes you feel good or it's essential...
- Super-special stuff that you absolutely love
Put everything you don’t want in your box or bag for donation. You can either put it outside or just inside your front door (so you’ll see it and have to deal with it). Either take it out and donate it now or schedule a date to drop it off or have it picked up.
Tips For Putting Your Clothes Back
- Hang jackets, coats, cardigans, dresses, etc.
- I like to hang from dark to light, with prints and patterns in the middle, but use whatever system works for you.
- Fold the clothes that will go back into drawers. Marie Kondo's KonMari method is great for folding...in my book, that is the true genius of her method.
That's it! A fast, easy and effective seasonal closet cleanse. There are lots of good strategies out there, and it's perfectly OK to change a rule or two to make it your own. Besides the KonMari method, other popular closet-cleaning ideas include the ongoing outbox and the zero-waste wardrobe. The important thing is to do what makes sense for you. Caring for your closet should make you feel better. What to do if you try a process and it's not for you? Let it go.
Written & Photographed by Sarah Coffey