3 Things to Do When Cleaning Out Your Mess of a Closet – For some of us, an afternoon dedicated to organizing tees and sneakers is the stuff of color-coded daydreams. For others, taking stock of our closets can be a straight-up nightmare—a dreaded chore that you keep avoiding for fear of ending up sobbing into a pile of mismatched socks. Regardless of whether or not you get off on putting things in their place, closet organization can be incredibly overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you figure out what stays and what goes? Most crucially: How can you make it more functional so it doesn’t turn into a hot mess again in a couple of months—thereby having to start the hellish process all over again?
To help sort out your wardrobe woes, SELF asked therapist KC Davis, LPC, author of How To Keep House While Drowning and creator of the mental health platform Struggle Care, for her best advice for organizing a closet without wanting to give up halfway through—or lock the door and throw away the key. Oh, and if even thinking about your closet already has you feeling overwhelmed, take comfort in this reminder from Davis: “Any amount of excess [clutter] you can declutter will make your life more functional—so aim for progress, rather than perfection.” On that doable note, let’s get organized.
Ditch anything that’s torn, stained, or doesn’t fit.
It can be hard to let go of old clothes—even ones you don’t wear anymore. Davis recommends starting with the simplest decisions to help ease yourself into the closet organization process. That trusty pair of walking sneakers with the way-worn-out soles? Your beloved threadbare sleep shorts that now have a hole in the crotch? That half-zip pullover with the ink stain that just won’t budge (and frustrates the hell out of you every time you see it)? Put ’em in the trash pile to lighten your load. “This is an easy step, and you might be surprised by how much you were holding on to,” Davis says. Same goes for socks without mates: Even if you do find their other half someday, they’re probably not worth your physical or mental space.
Add anything that’s too big or small, stretched out, or otherwise not working for your body to the donation pile, Davis says. This should be simple, too, but thanks to diet culture and its oppressive body ideals, it’s completely normal to feel attached to clothes that you wish still fit. Of course, you may need different sizes for practical purposes (pregnancy and PMS come to mind), but if you’re keeping a pair of jeans that make you feel uncomfortable every time you try them on, Davis strongly advises that you free yourself from their torment by giving them away to someone who might be a lot happier to wear them. “You may experience weight fluctuations and legitimately need a couple of sizes on hand, but you deserve to have a closet that dresses the body you have,” Davis says.
Set aside any items that simply aren’t your style.
If you’re not going to wear it, it probably shouldn’t be taking up your precious closet space. “Remove gifts you didn’t love, trends you’ve outgrown, and, most importantly, anything you bought to cover up because you didn’t believe you deserved to look stylish or sexy or handsome because of the size or shape of your body,” Davis says. “In my case, this was the step where I finally pitched all the oversized matronly shirts I was using to hide my belly.” Ideally, you want to fill your closet with clothes that fit you—both physically and emotionally. (We’ll briefly come back to this step in a second, though, so don’t actually get rid of this pile just yet.)
Decide how many outfit options feel right for you.
“You may decide you want to pare things way down so you aren’t as overwhelmed with laundry or paralyzed by decisions when it comes to getting ready in the morning,” Davis says. “Or, you may decide you love to have a lot of options, and that a bigger wardrobe is functional for you.”