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My Updated Tips For Cleaning Out Your Closet

Eva Amurri Martino sits with a pile of jeans on her lap as she cleans out her closet
Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography

Being home the last couple of months has forced me to take a long, hard look at my closet, and to reorganize and optimize my wardrobe! I’ve been cleaning everything out, storing, and deciding what to sell, keep, or donate.  I decided it was the perfect time to update this blog post!  Check out my tips, tricks, and process, and let me know if you have any favorite ways to clean out YOUR closet in the comments below!

 

1. Be Honest

Stop holding on to the pieces of clothing that you have convinced yourself you’ll wear again…one day…when they fit…and you happen to be on vacation someplace warm…where they will be PERFECTION for that photo opp you have in the back of your mind…

Say it with me: It ain’t gonna happen.

I call those pieces of clothing As If’s because cleaning out my closet reminds me of Cher from ‘Clueless,’ and that is one of my favorite Cher sayings ever. Lol.

My personal rules for the clothes in my closet are that if I haven’t worn it in two years, or if they don’t fit me TODAY, they get put in the Out pile.  I wrote a piece about my journey with positive body image over the years, and one of my biggest promises to myself has been that I will not own any aspirational clothing.  I think this is a terrible idea and only works to make people feel badly about themselves.  No more “My Skinny Jeans”! I think every piece of clothing in your closet should be flattering on your body and make you feel good about yourself.

While cleaning out your closet, try on EVERYTHING, look at yourself in the mirror, and be honest with yourself about how you really feel wearing it.  If the result is less than great, that article of clothing doesn’t deserve you! Additionally, if I’ve held on to something because I’m absolutely positive I’m going to wear it one day, I think that a two year maximum grace period on that is more than fair.

If you haven’t worn something in two years, do you even really like it? Let’s be real.

 

Eva Amurri Martino laughs as she works through piles of clothes during her annual closet cleanout
Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography
Eva Amurri Martino makes stacks of sweaters on the bed at the foot of her master bed
Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography

2. Think About Your Closet as a Curated Wardrobe

I think it’s important to view your closet as a curated wardrobe for your lifestyle, and not as individual pieces you might like.  I’m sure you like ALL those jeans you have, but how many pairs of dark denim skinny jeans do you really need? I know you think they’re all different, but they’re really not.

Instead, go through the jeans and look at it like a collection: 1 perfect pair of boyfriend jeans, 1 perfect pair of distressed denim, 1 perfect pair of dark denim skinnies, 1 perfect pair of wide-leg denim, 1 perfect pair of mid-wash highrise button fly, 1 perfect pair of grey jeans, etc.

If you’re having a hard time deciding on which items to keep, try them on again, and take pictures.  You might be surprised by which ones actually look better on you from all angles.

Also, start paying attention to what you don’t have in your closet.  Are you missing the perfect pair of black pants, or a pretty silk bow blouse, or a classic trench? Start making a list (I use the notes section of my phone for this) of classic pieces that you can invest in little by little.

 

Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography

Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography

3. Make Piles

I split up my “Out” clothing into three categories with three separate piles: Store, Sell, and Donate.

Store Pile:

The clothes that aren’t right for my closet any longer, but also items that I don’t want to fully get rid of go into the Store pile!  For example, any important dresses that I have pictures in (such as, what I wore for both of my children’s baptisms) or maybe just incredible designer pieces that I want to keep for Marlowe one day, these all go in the Store pile! Then I put the finished pile in space saver bags and clothing bins with mothballs or cedar planks so that when they’re placed in storage, that they won’t get damaged or eaten by moths!

Sell Pile:

Then I take the leftover clothes that are like-new, but still not right for me anymore (like a top that I loved when I bought it but I soon realized wasn’t that flattering, or maybe it’s the overflow from my denim addiction – whatever the case) and I put it in the Sell pile!

If you have gently worn clothing with good labels, you’d be surprised how many people would gladly take some of your unwanted items off your hands!  I wrote a whole post about how much I love Thredup for this. I also love selling sites like Poshmark and TheRealReal. TheRealReal, in particular, is great for designer items, and you can even sell jewelry, bags, and furniture! I’ve also purchased great pieces on that site as well! Another plus to many selling sites is that you can also buy clothes with your consignment earnings! Keep in mind that clothing and shoes that are like-new, with designer labels, and in-season will usually get you the highest commission when selling.

Then, after selling your items, you can put the money you earned towards the pieces you determined you were missing in the closet curation in Step 2!

Donate Pile:

More worn-in clothing tends to best to donate. My policy is to throw away anything with a rip or stain on it – but if there are great pieces that probably won’t sell by consignment, I put bags together to drive them to Goodwill! I like knowing that these clothes that are no longer right for my closet will find themselves a much needed new home.  I also love donating kids clothes, since I find my kids grow out of things so quickly!

Eva Amurri Martino makes stacks of sweaters on the bed at the foot of her master bed
Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography
Eva Amurri Martino organizes her sweaters as part of her closet cleanout
Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography

4. Store Out-of-Season Items

Make sure you use space-saver bags, packing cubes, or bins to store clothing and shoes that are out-of-season.  It’s nice to see exactly what you’re working with for the weather you’ve got – instead of sifting through sweaters and flannels in July! Throw some mothballs or cedar planks in your storage containers to ensure that your clothing stays hole-free while it’s put away!

Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography

Eva Amurri Martino organizes her closet and puts pieces away according to color, type, and style
Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography

5. Get Organized

Now that you’ve cleaned out your closet, it’s time to make sure that everything remaining is well-organized! I like to organize my closet by item type, style, and finally color.

First, I put all the clothing items together by item type: dresses with dresses, pants with pants, skirts with skirts, and so on.  Then, I go into each item type and organize them by style. The styles that you choose to organize your closet by will vary depending on the item type.

For example, with dresses, I first organize them by length (short vs. long), and then I organize each length by dress code (casual vs. cocktail). Then I go back in one final time and organize each dress code in each dress length by color.

Then I repeat this same process across all the item categories in my closet!  I find that once my clothing is organized in this way, it makes surveying the closet as I’m getting dressed SO easy, and I always know where to find everything! It also makes me take note once again of any holes in my wardrobe as a whole.  I can tell in a glance if I’m missing a great, simple camisole top, or an LBD.  I can also tell the areas where I might be getting a bit TOO excited.  Once, when I did this cleanout I noticed that I somehow had waaaaay too many striped tops, and I was able to make a mental note to fill in other areas of my wardrobe instead.

Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography
Eva Amurri Martino organizes her closet and puts pieces away according to color, type, and style
Photograph by Lindsay Madden Photography

Here are my favorite closet organization products…

 

Ziploc Space Bag: Clothing (Large Flat, 3 Count)

Ziploc

I’ve been using these for years and they’re my go-to when I’m switching out my closet. They’re airtight, waterproof, & reusable, and they protect your items from moisture, mildew, insects, odors, and allergens. These particular Space Bags are best for bulky clothing items like sweaters, winter coats, and heavy blankets.

Ziploc Space Bag: 6 Bag Variety Pack

Ziploc

This variety pack includes 2 medium, 2 large and 1 XL flat bags, and 1 space cube. It’s a great one-purchase option for a small family.

Tall Shoe Box

The Container Store

Can’t forget about your winter shoes! These boxes are made from acid-free polypropylene, and stack on top of each other for easy storing!

Boot Boxes

The Container Store

These are great for tall boots. They’re also made from the same acid-free polypropylene as the other shoe boxes, and they also stack on top of each other.

Long Under Bed Box

The Container Store

These boxes are great for storing items under the bed. they have an easy-open, locking lid, and they stack modularly with other clear storage boxes, which makes for efficient use of any space you want to store items in.

103 Qt. Weathertight Tote with Wheels

The Container Store

These enormous storage containers are air and water-tight, so they will protect your belongings from moisture, dirt, and fabric-damaging pests pretty much wherever you store it. They are also stackable, so they’re a great option for garage storage.

Clear Weathertight Trunk

The Container Store

Another 100% airtight option, this trunk will protect your items from moisture, dust, and pests while featuring a generous capacity and rugged construction. They are also stackable!

Silica Anti-Moisture Packs

Dry & Dry

Throw a few of these silica packs in between vacuum bags and also inside your boots to keep the moisture out!

Activated Bamboo Charcoal Shoe Deodorizer

Yumybom

These are great to stuff your shoes and sneakers with before storing them away! They will get rid of any and all funky smells!

Cedar Closet System

DeSoto

This 67 piece set includes everything you’ll need to keep moths and other pests away from your stored clothing! It includes 6 hanging cedar blocks, 5 sachets, 16 blocks, and 40 cubes to put in everything from drawers to boxes to bags!

Cotton Under Bed Storage Bag

The White Company

These pure-cotton percale storage bags conveniently fit under the bed and are fantastic for keeping out-of-season duvets, bedspreads, and blankets fresh and dust-free!

Bigso Flax Soft Storage Boxes with Handles

The Container Store

These collapsable boxes are a must-have for clothing storage. Use them when you need them, and collapse them down flat when you don’t!

PEVA Hanging Storage Bags

The Container Store

These are perfect for storing winter coats and jackets. They’re made from heavy-gauge clear PEVA, so you can see your items without having to open up the self-healing zipper.

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10 Comments

  1. Alexandra says:

    I love this post! I’ve mentioned on your Instagram how much of an OCD personality I have. I just like things organized because it makes me feel good. I recently got rid of 8 bags of clothes. Who needs that much? I donated it to my local goodwill but it was like, no, I don’t need the shirt I got 10 years ago. Great ideas. Also, are you still hiring someone to help? I sent in my application and was wondering. Have a lovely weekend!♥️

    02.22.18 Reply
    • Isn’t it amazing when you do a big cleanout seeing BAGS of clothes that were just taking up space?!

      We have officially filled the position but thanks so much for applying! xo

      02.26.18 Reply
      • Alexandra says:

        It’s so crazy! I feel like a hoarder even though I’m probably the most organized person I know next to my dad lol. And awe I’m so glad! Thanks, for reading!♥️

        02.26.18 Reply
  2. Calli says:

    Hello! For those clothing items that aren’t in sell or donate condition – you can take them to H&M to be recycled – and get a discount coupon too!

    03.01.18 Reply
  3. Jamie says:

    Selling stuff to have what I call a “revolving closet” is the only way I can do it. I try to keep things minimal and basic but every once in a while, I try something trendy. Selling pieces to make my money back (I actually almost always make a profit on clothes I wore for like a year LOL) keeps my budget on track!!

    03.12.18 Reply
    • I love selling clothes too– it’s also so “green”!

      03.12.18 Reply
  4. Literally just about to do this! I’ve only been waiting because I want to film a video on it for my new YouTube channel. But I really really need to declutter and throw out/donate clothes that I simply just do not wear. It’s overwhelming to have so many clothes if you don’t wear half of them.

    03.15.18 Reply
  5. Monica says:

    Love this post! It is similar to what I do, except I am guilty of holding on to some items that will fit me “one day”. Love the tip that if it doesn’t fit today it is gone.
    I use Thredup too, so convenient!
    Thanks,
    Monica

    P.S. just curious, what position were you hiring for?

    11.16.18 Reply
  6. Alessan says:

    Love this!!!!! But when are you going to give us a tour of your closet?! I have been eagerly awaiting a tour since you mentioned you had a huge closet 🙂

    05.09.20 Reply