Closet Cleaning

Five tips should you find yourself at the helm of spring’s inaugural cleaning period


There comes a time in every woman’s life when she must attempt the impossible. While staring at what used to be the temple that contains her clothes, but now more closely resembles the aftermath of a violent hurricane, it is inevitable that she will finally concede to making like Eminem, and cleaning her closet out.

For me, this happened last Saturday. While looking for a pair of white sneakers, I happened upon a green toothbrush. This would have been fine and well if the circumstances of my closet allowed for the co-mingling of shoes and dental accoutrements but such is not the case and you know what that tells me?

I should probably see a dentist.


Illustration by Elizabeth Tafaro

Staring at the pile of clothes accumulating under bigger piles of clothes and my unintentional beginning to discern the pants from the shirts from the dresses from the belts, (useless fact: I counted three butterflies on three separate garments in one such pile,) I was almost sure that the task of cleaning this particular closet on this particular day was an insurmountable one. I am historically pretty good at keeping shit clean–if not for the sake of my own sanity than because I respect my belongings. I’m not exactly sure what drove me to begin subsisting among such an utter mess but with summer about to usurp spring’s marginal throne, it was clearly high time I get my shit together–literally.

And so, I began blasting Drake’s Started from The Bottom (I couldn’t wait to be capital-H-Here,) and started from the bottom. Here are five tips I gathered in my quest to clean my closet.

1. Tackle what is directly in front you. Now, I can’t speak for you, but I know that when I see a big ass mess, I often have a hard time determining where to start the clean up process. I also know it’s fairly futile to put effort into stressing myself out. Just start with what’s in front of you–begin folding or laundering, or creating a new throwaway pile and watch the mess begin working itself out.

2. Yes, color coding is fun but it’s also a little aggressive. I can’t speak for you on this front either but I tend to do this really ambitious thing when while folding my shirts and replacing them on their shelves or in their cabinets, I color code them. In my head, I think I believe that if they’re separated by color, I’ll have an easier time finding them but maintaining a rainbow closet is not easy. Creating cleaning algorithms that you can’t follow through with is silly. Ultimately, we really shouldn’t be having a hard time finding our shirts to begin with. If this is the case, creating larger throwaway piles is likely in order.

3. Of course, when I say throwaway, I don’t actually mean throwaway (unless the garments in question are stained, wildly old or perpetually smelly). Clothing donation funds that I am particularly keen on include The Salvation Army, Housing Works, and Yeshiva University’s ongoing drive. When considering precisely what to throw away, ask yourself this question: if I haven’t worn it in at least two seasons, will I ever wear it again? For the often hyper trendy, fleeting items, chances are you’re thinking: what if it comes back. Am I right? But even if it does come back, it won’t be for a long while and by then Zara will be creating a far superior iteration of the precise garment and you won’t even deign to reflect on what’s lost.

To resell your clothing, I suggest visiting Copious, where I’m reselling mine.

4. When considering what to keep, implement this rule of thumb: There are obviously garments that remain in our closets until death do us part and the previous tip does not suggest those tangible memories take a backseat. If we’re speaking in terms of, say, the formal dress or jacket your grandmother gave you, or that old blouse from when your dad was 30 pounds lighter, you’re far more likely to harbor the memory and subsequent item. If you’re having a hard time letting go of something, ask yourself how many ways you can wear it incorporating additional clothes still alive and kicking in your closet. If the answer is upward of three ways, keep it.

5. Maintain your new closet. Cleaning your closet is a lot like getting a bikini wax. If you neglect the targeted region for too long, the next time you commit to, you know, cleaning it up, it’s painful, frustrating and time consuming. If, however, you vow to maintain its cleanliness (so to speak), it almost feels effortless when you confront the hardship which, at this point, isn’t even really all that hard. (Give or take a wax strip or two).

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  • Reptilia

    iΒ΄m going to clean my closet right now! Thanks for the tips!


  • It’s basically just a game of kill, fuck, marry with clothes. (trash, donate, keep).

  • Very cool post ! My closet is not that big, so even a big clean-up only takes an hour or so πŸ™‚

  • what with summer coming i think it’s high time i booked that bikini wax and cleaned the furs out of my closet.


  • MichΓ¨le
  • I move apartments so often that I usually clean out my closet while packing! As I get older, though, and I have the money to buy quality clothing, it gets harder and harder to get rid of stuff. Alas, I should just shut up and get to it – we’re planning to move again this summer (hopefully somewhere very far away from where we are now), which means I have to edit the closet down a TON, or I’ll just be pissed off when we move at how heavy my clothes are!

  • I’ve been dreading doing my closet cleanup… there are so many things buried there that I have to do it.. and as for the color coding it never sticks

  • RobinH

    Curious – what % commission does copious take?

    • Hi Robin, Emma from Copious here πŸ™‚

      Short answer: We take less than 10% of your proceeds.

      Long answer: We take 3.5% to cover credit card processing fees + a 6% marketplace fee that you can either have the buyer pay, or take out of your cut of the sale. A little confusing, but we like to give our sellers as much flexibility as possible.

      You set all of your own prices.

      Hope that helps! Feel free to email me at if you have any questions.

  • Lilya Horowitz

    The dentist you love to have you πŸ™‚

  • Maggie

    Great tips! Some sites like have a closet confidential, for any items of high value you’re willing to part with, totally worth it!

  • Such great tips! I would add that having some nice animal friends would also help too πŸ˜‰

    Snow White
    Prince Repeller

  • The emotional attachment to pieces is the toughest part for me (especially when handed down by my mom or bought from a very special trip!). But I agree one must be sensible in what to keep and declutter.

    Colour coding has always worked for me, easier to regularly put things where they should be, makes for less big overhauls!


  • amanda perry

    Cleaning my closet always makes a bigger mess before it gets clean so I must devote a weekend to the task. I actually color code my clothes otherwise, shirts tend to stick together or get hidden making it harder to find everything, so color coding works for me πŸ™‚

  • Anna Black

    Great tips, I’m notorious for leaving my wardrobe in an absolute state!

  • J

    I agree closet cleaning is a must and ahh i need to start colour coding! Thanks for the tips!

  • I am moving soon and am absolutely dreading having to pack up my couture cesspool of a closet. Oy. Hopefully these tips will prevent me from having an existential closet-cleaning breakdown.

  • Love the cleaning tips, I feel like my throw away pile every year leaves me confused as to what I was previously thinking when I purchased everything!

    I have a special personal request! Obliviously I’m sure this is beyond a long shot, but I am such a fan, I am a devoted fashion fanatic and I think you seem like my absolute fashion soul sister and such a fun and amazing person! I have been a HUGE fan for years I am headed to NY next week for my 24th Birthday and it would be like BEYOND dream come try status to meet you! Please please make a fashion girls dream come true?!?

    My instagram and twitter handles are @ckdoesitright

    Seriously, please! πŸ™‚

  • After coming back home from college, I did a total closet clean out because all my clothes no longer fit in my room. One of the reasons I like to do closet cleaning is that I often disregard garments that I don’t like as much as others, even though I haven’t even worn them that often. My cleaning takes such a long time since I try on my disregarded pile and rediscover my old loves. I don’t color code that much (I have my B&W section and color section) but I do like to put solids, stripes, and patterns separate.

  • oh i didnt know about copious! i have been listing clothes / accessories on threadless, which seems to be along the same lines…

  • Phantomo Aguilar Cebreros
  • alcessa

    Ha! It’s been 4 weeks (4! weeks!) since I put my closets (all 2 of them) in order, enjoying every bit of it, making a huge pile of T-shirts to wash just because they hadn’t been worn or washed since autumn, to wear them this spring (though they are mostly cotton basics, I love my T-shirts).

    4 weeks … and it is still too cold to wear them, most days. I’ve been heard to say “Winter’s coming” a few times since and I may or may not have earned a few frightened looks by claiming that.

    Freezing. It is 21. May, this is southern Germany and I am freezing. And heating my home office. And being deprived of that special pride that comes with having washed your favourite T-shirts …

    I’ll be careful around my closets next year and start spring cleaning them in … August? What say you?

  • Nico
  • I either sell my stuff on eBay or give it to my niece and cousin, my closet looks so empty afterwards, that I feel the urge to buy new stuff… And I can tell my husband I’ve got nothing to wear without lying.

  • theparisshopper

    Great article, I am in the middle of mine right know not seeing the end of it yet…
    Check out my blog !

  • ccmendez

    wanna pics of your closet!

  • anonymouse

    A post about how to make wise decisions when shopping will prevent one from having to clean out the closet every year. I just bought an old house (new to me) with much smaller closets and realized as I was unpacking that I have a lot of crap clothes. They seemed like a good idea at the time, but after 1-2 wears I want to throw them out.

    I’m planning on buying new clothes much more judiciously in the future.

  • Jamie

    Wait, real butterflies were on your clothes?

  • I have exactly opposite problem: I am doing closet-cleaning way too often.(that makes me realize why am I spending so much on clothing..)

    Any suggestions?

  • Avice

    This was an amazing post! I love you’re writing style! I’m a teen blogger who is starting a blog and I’d love assistance so if you could check it out and comment your thoughts I woudl LOVE it!

    • liv

      Love your blog! Keep at it!

  • erica jensen

    Ahaha. This is my closet/Ebay room. It has the effect of a hurricane.

    Courtney sums it up pretty well I must say lol

  • sonal

    Great tips! To make it easier and less painful one can also hire a professional stylist like me.

  • s

    unpacking my passive boxes of clothes after moving out of my dorm… this will come in handy


  • Hehe, started from the bottom… Great post! I’m still not motivated to start working on my closet but at least it’s a reminder πŸ˜‰

  • Tunie

    What if your’e stuck in the nineties and you’re clothes make so much sense the older they get, do I simply just throw out the overly smelly stained and holy (whole-eey) shit?!

  • DNA (designers+artists)

    Printing this out as this weekend is “find your favorite vintage chambray button up” closet clean up day. Wish me luck.

  • mint_maison

    Having read this and Jayne’s feature on Vogue Daily (, a wardrobe overhaul seems like a really good idea right now, especially because I’ll no longer be throwing everything into a pile, crying for a while then putting it back in my closet without having done anything.

  • marvelocity

    I cleaned my closet about 2 weeks ago and went through the very same thing. I’m definitely looking into the Copious – I have a basement full of vintage clothes that need to go.

  • olivia


  • This is such a very important post. I actually started my blog, because I was editing my closet. I normally never have a problem editing my closet: donating this, and trashing that. I only have a few items that I never wear but can never let go of. That old and super faded college tee, that tunic my friend bought me in India, and a peasant dress from a foreign land given to me by one of the parents of a student at my mothers old Head Start center who thought I was pretty with nice teeth. My only real problem with editing is when I look up and realize I actually…truly do not own much.


  • Kate Brown

    It’s that time of year I think, I just did mine at weekend too πŸ™‚ Katie B @ Minerva Collection – UK Handbags & Jewellery

  • Paperstarz

    I wanted to check out your “for sale” items, but Copious is being gay. I’m not on facebook nor Twitter………should not prevent me from signing up. WTF. Kick them for me. plz.

    • nycmum

      ditto! is there no way to sign up for copious if you’re not immersed in social media?! annoying!

  • Thanks for these great tips. I recently cleaned out my hat collection and donated some of the fancier hats to my niece’s dress up box. Fashion can start early in my family!

  • Mary – The Classy Cubicle

    Thank you thank you thank you for these tips. It was just the motivation I needed. I’m going to attack my closet this weekend. God help me.

    The Classy Cubicle

  • Naomi

    Heyo Leandra! I swear, every time I read one of your posts its like a learning a new vocabulary word – suddenly the topic is showing up everywhere! When I checked my email this morning (after reading Closet Cleaning last night) I couldn’t believe the timing of the link my BFF sent me. Its for a new site called Bib + Tuck and it made me think of you and your blog immediately! So here I am sharing, Fyi.

  • Sanjushka
    I think this would be more appropriate πŸ™‚

  • I love these tips! I should link my hoarder friend this article.

  • Jessica Jesse

    Sage advice…cleanliness is next to godliness

  • Anna Lila
  • haha I’m such a packrat with my closet. I keep everything until they don’t fit anymore!

  • Marissa Joy

    I clean my closet pretty often, and I follow a similar set of guidelines. I think its so important to do this often, and really think about what to keep and get rid of.

  • Leigh Harding

    Oh dear. Been dreading doing a clean up but I need to. Thanks for the tips and a giggle or 6.

  • I cleaned my closet recently and color coordinated all my clothes. It took me one month to do and one week to destroy. Giving away my clothes is hard… the moment I think I will give away something, I get 10 new combinations of how to style it fashionably…Oh, I don’t know about you but bikini wax is far more easier…



  • Mariam

    Resolving this problem how to clean the closet is having small clothes amount.

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    look for an credible alternate platform for online buying and selling! :The best free online selling solution

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  • Roberta Bradley

    I organize all of my clothing by type, both in my drawers and in my
    closet, which makes it easy to break up the purging process into chunks.
    For example, just this morning I went through all of my cardigan
    sweaters. I hope to tackle my pants this weekend. I pull the clothing I
    want to try on out and leave it folded on a chair in our bedroom. My
    goal is to go through the pile and try everything on within a day or
    two, so I am not leaving piles out for weeks on end. I usually only
    keep one crunch can in my closet, but for this big clean out I am using
    several. I have filled two to the top with items to donate already! I
    keep one in my bedroom right next to my mirror where I try on my things
    so it’s easy to just toss in what goes. I think the third bin will be
    filled by the time my purging process has ended.

  • Jill

    Just read The Life changing magic of tidying up. Check it out!! Game Changer.

  • Arianna

    “that old blouse from when your dad was 30 pounds lighter”? Loll do you mean a t shirt or something?