How To Clean Out Your Closet – wit & whimsy

Having lived in New York City for over a decade now, I have encountered my fair share of small closets. It has made me quite a pro at consistently cleaning mine out and I’ve honed my techniques in doing so.

With the change of seasons and a recent weekend at home full of nesting, I’m currently preparing for my seasonal closet swap out. I thought it also high time to freshen up this post with my most recent tips and favorite products for how to effectively tackle cleaning out your closet and begin to build out a more reliable wardrobe.

How to Clean Out Your Closet

I typically clean out my closet quarterly and I do bigger clean outs around the changing of seasons. 

Do it all at once.

Set aside the time to do the closet clean out process thoroughly. For major clean outs, take everything out of your drawers and closet and go through pieces item by item.

Toss, sell and giveaway.

I create three piles as I begin going through my items.

A pile of items to toss (they aren’t suitable to giveaway).

And a pile of items I plan to sell and a pile of items I plan to giveaway/donate.

For selling and donating I recommend using ThredUp. They make it so easy. I don’t personally have time to list and ship items via other platforms available so I like that I just request a mailing label, pack up my items in boxes and send them out for Thredup to sort and list. They send me payment once items have been sold and if something doesn’t sell they will either send it back to you or donate it on your behalf. 

I am also regularly sending out items of clothes to my friends that will give them better homes than I can. 

Try things on.

I can’t stress this step enough.

For items you’re unsure about, trying them on will often answer your internal “yay/nay” dialogue. If the fit is off or if it is uncomfortable, get rid of it. You won’t reach for it if you don’t feel good in it. Period.

Another tip I like? If you’re still debating whether to keep or toss an item, take a selfie in a full length mirror in the item. I actually do this when I shop in person as well because usually in a photo in about five seconds I can decide whether I like it on me or not. 

Let go.

If I haven’t worn something in two seasons, it goes. I know that if I haven’t reached for something in two years it means I won’t in the near future. And I never find that I miss the item after I get rid of it.

And be sure to check any pockets before you do so! 

Store items you hold onto for sentimental reasons.

That being said, some items you may want to keep for sentimental reasons but they don’t need to be taking up valuable real estate in your closets.

If there are items you want to hang onto for sentimental reasons, add them into a pile of their own and find proper storage for them outside of your closet. For me, I usually put these items in a plastic bin or I store them in a space bag.

Set aside items that need some TLC.

During your clean out if you find items that need dry cleaning, seamstress or a visit to the cobbler, set those items aside so you can later properly get them taken care of and begin wearing them again.

This is also your opportunity to steam, fabric shave and wrinkle release items before they go back in your closet so they are more ready to wear! I also personally like to do a little fabric spray on items coming out of storage, too. 

Don’t underestimate the value of good tailoring.

If you try something on and it isn’t perfect, but may be able to be altered, consider bringing it to your tailor. Sometimes items can be updated for fit or to be more on trend just with a few small tweaks.

Force yourself to wear your maybes in the next week.

Unsure of an item after you try it on? Force yourself to wear it out of the house in the next week. In doing so you’ll easily determine whether you want to keep it or not. This is one of my most tried and true tips that I hold myself to. I always know after wearing an item I haven’t worn in a while whether it stays or it is time for it to go.

Part ways with high maintenance items.

Is it not comfortable? Can it not be worn with a lot of other items you own? Are the heels so high you never wear them? Are the pants too short now? Is the zipper annoying? It’s time to say farewell to any of these items. Donate or sell them.

Meghan Donovan Home Tour

Organize carefully.

As you begin to put items back into your drawers and your closet, do so in a way that makes sense and allows you to see what you own. I always recommend Marie Kondo’s folding method in particular. She totally revolutionized how I tidy my drawers in particular.

I also swear by these drawer organizers.


Relatedly, when I moved into my new apartment two years ago I went a bit wild on compartmentalizing things and its made a world of a difference. I use these dividers to keep my bags tidy and I have these organizers in every drawer I own throughout my home. 

Inside my closet I also use bins like these for swimsuits, tights and belts to keep everything easy to find.

In my beauty closet, I have everything organized in bins, on lazy susans and in these drawers so I can see things easily and always find what I am looking for. 

I keep my sunglasses in this sunglass tray organizer as well.

All of these organizers help compartmentalize things so they stay tidy and I can actually find what I am looking for.

I really like the mDesign and Stori brand items that I have found on Amazon.

Meghan Donovan Home Tour

Account for seasonality.

Given the small size of my closet, I put very seasonal items like plaids and flannels and sequins and heavy sweaters in Storage during Spring and Summer and vice-versa throughout the year. In Winter and Fall my favorite lace, eyelet and linen pieces find a home in Storage. It helps ensure I can see more of what I want to be wearing in any given month.

I even put away seasonal shoes. Those that fit into these bins or these bins get put away while they aren’t in use.

Make a list of what’s missing.

An important part of making your wardrobe work for you is having investment pieces that you can rely on. As you go through your closet clean out, take stock of what your closet may be missing.

Do you not have a go-to sweater you love for all of Winter? Begin a list that notes the items you want to begin to purchase in the coming months.

Then, the next time you are shopping, instead of buying several impulse buy items at fast fashion shops, instead look at your list and put that money from three or four items towards one investment item that you’ll be excited to style all sorts of ways moving forward.

If you need help taking inventory in your closet, I recommend you reference my Capsule Wardrobe Basics Guide: High Quality Items To Build On.

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