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Simple Spring Cleaning

This past weekend, my best friend gave me a piece of advice that struck right to the core, and for which I will be eternally grateful. I was lamenting my sluggishness in dealing with a certain ongoing situation, and sharing the all-to-familiar reason I had failed for literally years to address it: lack of time. Her advice: Take nibbles at the issue and stop thinking of it as something that has to be accomplished all at once. Every little bite will help to chip away at it until it’s eventually nonexistent. Genius!!!

Baby steps. We’ve all heard this advice when it comes to pursuing a big goal, but how many of you have found yourself feeling overwhelmed because you could only see a challenge the size of Mt. Everest in front of you? Spring cleaning—our closets to be specific—can often feel like a mammoth task. Great when it’s finished, but a bear to take on. If you’re a fashion die-hard like me, getting your closet in order may seem like such a daunting task that it’s far more tempting to just keep piling new stuff on top of the old so you don’t have to go excavating.

In the spirit of simplifying our lives, I want to share with you several of my own ideas for how to take “nibbles” at your closet clean out this spring. Rather than employing the popular method of dumping the entire contents of your closet on the floor and putting only those things you love back in (who has time for this???), here are five bite-size actions you can take over the course of several days or weeks to reduce your fashion clutter:

1. Reduce your duplicates.

Take a moment to take stock of your belongings. You don’t have to do a full-blown inventory, but jot down those items you have in multiples. White t-shirts? Black blazers? Skinny jeans? Black ankle boots? One item type at a time, remove them from your closet. Separate the ones you’ve worn in the last month from the ones you’ve ignored. Start by keeping only the ones that have seen the light of day recently. These are your “semi-finalists.” If this is still a relatively large collection, see if you can boil it down to its core by taking away anything that’s a duplicate, in poor condition, or doesn’t get as much use as the others. Is there something that you could easily wear in place of that item? If it’s replaceable, maybe it’s time to let it go.

2. Identify your essentials.

Rather than emptying the entire contents of your closet, try removing a large suitcase-worth of your most frequently-worn pieces. If you were going somewhere for three months and could only take one suitcase (don’t panic, this is just an experiment!), what would you put in it? Looking back at suggestion #1, see if any of your favorite items have near-duplicates that you’ve chosen to leave behind. Evaluate whether you really need these items if they didn’t make it into your virtual suitcase. Now, put the keepers front-and-center in your closet. These are the things you know you MUST maintain space for. Anything else in your closet takes second priority and should be the first to go as you continue your clean out.

3. Ditch the drama.

I can only speak to my own lifestyle here, but how often do you really need or use those special-occasion outfits? In my case, almost never. You know by now that I am a sweatpants-and-stilettos gal! Date night for me might involve skinny jeans and fabulous jewelry, or joggers and ankle booties. Only a couple of times a year does a dressy dress make it out the door on my body. And yet, looking at my closet, you’d think I was a high-end socialite attending regular black-tie and cocktail events. Those floor-length gowns take up valuable closet real estate and most of them will never get worn more than once. I find it oddly emotional to let go of these gowns—each of them carries with it the memory of an amazing time and it’s hard to say goodbye. But, as we all know, the item is not the memory itself. Lighten your load and take them to consignment. And, if you haven’t had the joy of shopping, it’s time to familiarize yourself with this amazing site that will give you access to beautiful evening wear for a fraction of the price and no excess closet clutter!

4. Pitch the imperfect.

This is a task that can be done in easy “nibbles.” Scan your closet each evening before you go to bed for a week. Start by pulling out anything that evokes an “ick!!!” response. That’s phase one. Phase two is pulling out a few pieces each day that, being honest with yourself, you know you almost never wear. Resist the temptation to start justifying keeping these pieces “just in case,” or because you suddenly just thought of something they might pair with perfectly. Chance are, if you haven’t thought of these ideas until now, it’s probably because these pieces didn’t really make your heart sing in the first place or you would have been dying to wear them months earlier. Phase three (which will probably overlap with phase two) is eliminating those items that are unflattering, uncomfortable, damaged or all of the above. Again, resist the temptation to try to invent creative solutions for these things to justify keeping them. If your closet is overstuffed, the last thing you need is a collection of items filling it that are high-maintenance!

5. Minimize what’s massive.

One of the quickest ways to create space in your closet is to remove those items that are the bulkiest. Take stock of how many coats you have in your possession (I shudder to think in my case!) How much outerwear do you actually need, and how many of those coats and jackets are extremely similar? Coats are an item you can feel great about donating. You’re not only doing yourself a favor, but you can easily help unfortunate families who are in need of such items. My coat closet is overflowing with heavy winter coats, raincoats, dressy novelty coats, leather bombers, and denim jackets. Honestly, I want to keep each of these types, but how many of each do I really need? If I picked my favorite of each and let the rest go, I’d free up gobs of space. Handbags are another major space-eater. Right now, my purses hang on the back of my closet door, which currently can’t close because I have so many piled up and in the way. Truth be told, I’m too busy to change my purse regularly, and end up rotating between the same three bags over the course of a season. I’d being doing myself a huge favor to take the other bags to consignment, and move the few novelty items (like the straw beach bag) out to the garage where our suitcases are stashed.

As you embark upon your own spring closet-cleaning mission, see if you can come up with other bite-size techniques for creating space and share them here! Happy minimizing, and in the words of my daughter’s favorite Disney character, “let it go…”


Lisa Berry

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