spring cleaning

Spring cleaning your closet is one of my personal joys. It may be your personal horror. Either way, you’re going to absolutely adore the end result of a solid closet cleanse and reorganization. When you makeover your closet, it’s like making over yourself. Your closet and your personal style are an extension of your being and a reflection of your sanity. Let’s stay sane together with my step-by-step guide on spring cleaning your closet.

Spring Cleaning Step 1: Get Boxes + Bins + Bags + Hangers

You are going to need some bigger boxes for donations, resale, and recycling your old clothes (see this post for my advice on how and where to recycle your overworn, stained, or torn clothing). You will also need storage bins for seasonal items, as well as a shopping bag or bin for the items that need to go to the tailor. I prefer you don’t use garbage bags. They often can’t hold the weight of your donations, and can also be confused for trash. I have so many stories of people throwing away clothes they had no intention of throwing away. If you don’t already have these items in your home, purchase them before Step 2.

I also recommend you get a cohesive hanger look. Velvet hangers are wonderfully lightweight and compact, but it can be hard to get the clothing off of them, and they create indentations in the shoulders of tops. Wooden hangers take up too much space and hurt my toes when they fall on my feet, as they inevitably do. Clothing often slips off of old school, heavy-weight plastic hangers, plus they also can create indentations in the clothing. But I do like them for hanging sleeveless maxi dresses.

Here are my favorite hangers for both look, weight, function, and minimal indentations:

  1. Clear Coat Hangers: for jackets, coats, and sweaters
  2. White Coat Hangers: the budget-friendly version of the above
  3. Clear Plastic Dress Hangers: for all tops and dresses
  4. Clear Bottom Hangers: with pinch clips and a padded insert for skirts, pants, and slacks
  5. White Heavy Weight Plastic Hangers: for hanging sleeveless maxi dresses — just put the skirt of the dress over the bar to prevent stretching out.
  6. Mainetti Clear Plastic Sturdy Pant Hangers: for denim bottoms
spring cleaning
The Container Store $29.99-$32.99

Spring Cleaning Step 2: Empty The Closet

Home organizer, Lindsey Renovales, and I agree that after gathering your supplies the first step is to “empty everything out of the closet and wardrobe.” If there is an organization to it already, keep the sections together, and set them down in a room or space that it is not going to be used for the next couple of days, so that you’re not pressured to finish it all in one day.

Spring Cleaning Step 3: Literally Clean The Closet

It doesn’t matter how often or how thoroughly you clean your closet, it is never cleaned properly unless it is empty. With every single garment, accessory, and shoe out of the closet, now is the time to confront unscrupulous dust bunnies. Here is the order in which to clean your closet:

  1. Dust: Always dust before involving a liquid cleanser. I recommend The Swiffer Duster or the extendable Oxo duster. Use it on all the shelves, walls, mirrors, and bars. If you skip dusting, a liquid cleanser will turn the dust into wet clumps. I call it dust mulch, and I hate it.
  2. Windex any glass surfaces: I have a love affair with Viva paper towels, but they leave some residue on glass surfaces. I recommend a stiffer paper towel on glass, like Brawny.
  3. Sweep: If you have hardwood floors, sweep the floors and create a pile of the debris at the entrance of the closet. If you have carpet go straight to vacuuming.
  4. Vacuum: If you have hardwood floors, vacuum up the pile your sweeping created, and do a once over of the whole closet floor. Then, whether you have carpet or hardwood floors, use the vacuum extensions to suck up everything in every corner and along the baseboards.
  5. Wipe Down Hard Services: Mop hardwood floors, and wipe down everything above the floor. Mop the floors however you usually would, but for the walls and shelves, I like to use a spray bottle of 50% isopropyl alcohol and 50% water. I spray it directly onto the shelves and walls, and then wipe them down with a commercial-grade microfiber towel. You could use a standard household cleaner, but I don’t like the smell and toxicity of 409 and its respective competitors near my clothes, and using an All-In-One Soap feels like too much work to ensure the soap has been removed properly from the surfaces.


Spring Cleaning Step 4: Purge Your Closet In Categories

Put all of your closet’s contents into categories — all tops together, all pants together, all skirts together, and so on. Perhaps your past self likes your future self, and all your clothes are already in categories. If they are not organized, organize them now. I know it seems weird to organize before you organize, but I promise you it is more efficient. As you see things you know you don’t want, put them in the donation box. As you see things you absolutely adore AND have worn recently, hang them back in the closet.

spring cleaning
The Container Store $8.24-$20.99

For a printable graphic of these Closet Purge questions, Click Here.

Spring Cleaning Step 5: Try On Every Single Thing

As you may recall from my blog post, How To Clean Out Your Closet, for every garment you are thinking of keeping that you aren’t deeply in love with, I want you to ask yourself the questions below. For a printable graphic of these Closet Purge questions, Click Here.

    • Is it comfortable?

If it’s uncomfortable, just toss it – I am looking at those four-inch heels, friend. You don’t need to be uncomfortable. Our happiness is directly connected to our level of comfort. If it is comfortable, move onto the next question.

    • Are there construction or wear issues?

Does it pucker at the left side seam? Does it ride up when you wear it? Does it stretch out too fast? Droop at the crotch? Is there excessive pilling? If so, toss it.

    • Is it good quality?

Does it look cheap? Is it obvious you got it at Ross? You don’t need to look like you dropped a lot of money on your clothing, but you also don’t need to look like you didn’t. Skip anything that cheapens your look.

    • Is this a good color on you?

There is a right and wrong shade of every color for everyone. Make sure you have all the right hues, which can be difficult. Sometimes the wrong shade happens to be beautiful. Yes, that nude color is gorgeous, but does it wash you out? Everyone can wear nude, but it needs to be at least three shades darker or lighter than your skin tone. Make sure your nude-colored clothing qualifies. Also, black is extremely overrated. It’s best to have a minimal amount of black tops and dresses.

    • Do I already own something just like this that I love more?

Often we have numerous garments that do the same job. Make sure you are trying them all on together so you can compare them. Pick the one or two most versatile, joyful, and flattering versions, also known as your “favorites,” and pass on the rest.

    • Is this a good fit for you?

Is it too tight in the bust? Too big in general? Is it too short or too long? Some issues can be fixed, but many cannot. If the sleeves or hem length is too long, put it in the bag going to the tailor. As long as the garment is not too much bigger on you, most garments can be tailored to your body. The shoulder area is the only real problem a tailor will have a hard time fixing. If you love the piece, and nothing else is wrong with the item, get it fixed and keep it. If a shirt is too short, this cannot be remedied, so toss it in the donation box. As for too tight, if you are certain you will lose weight and you adore the garment, place it in a storage bin and label it with the date. Your closet does not need unwearable clothing hanging in it to quietly mock you. If in 6-12 months, the clothing in the bin still does not fit, donate the whole bin. If you are just hoping to get smaller with no real plan, reason, or ambition, please, toss it.

    • Does it have an outfit?

Is the garment’s only problem a lack of partner? If you have the perfect tunic, but don’t have a skinny jean or legging to go with it, pursue the missing piece. Create a shopping list in the notes section of your phone. Every time you come across an awesome and beloved garment that doesn’t have an outfit, add its missing components to the list. Does this top need a nude tank to go underneath? Does this dress need silver heels? Would grey pants expand your work wardrobe? Add it to the shopping list and either go shopping with your list in hand, or refer to the list when you happen upon a shopping excursion.

    • Is this my current personal style?

You may have loved it in the past, but do you love it today? Ask yourself, if you saw this garment in a store today, would you really buy it? Perhaps your style is evolving. You should dress for the person you are today. Pass on the past.

    • When can you wear this?

You used to be a party girl. You raged with the best of them and have all the dresses and high heels to show for it. Although you still love them and they fit great, you are now a lawyer with three daughters. Keeping a fabulous sexy dress or two is a great idea, but holding onto another lifetime is not. You don’t need 20 mini dresses with your current life. Keep your top 2-3 and make sure your schedule this year requires such a frock. Plan the outing yourself if you have to.

Obviously, this also goes the other way. You used to be in the corporate world and now you make candles in Puerto Rico. Keep your top two professional looks, and donate the rest.

    • Why haven’t I worn this?

If you try something on, find it to be great as well as appropriate for your lifestyle, and yet haven’t worn it in two years, do not just put it back in the closet. Wear it this week. Every now and then this test reminds you of a fabulous piece that accidentally fell out of rotation, but often, you find it just doesn’t feel right. In that case, now you can toss it with confidence.

    • Are there stains, rips, or ugly buttons?

If there are obvious stains and you have tried everything from home remedies to the dry cleaner, toss it in the fabric recycle bin designated for the clothes you’ll be recycling. Is there a tear at the seam? If you love this garment and there is nothing else wrong with it, put it in the bag going to the tailor. Perhaps the buttons are cheesy? This is easy for you or your tailor to switch out. If you love the garment and nothing else is wrong with it, head to the fabric store and pick out more suitable buttons — when fabric stores open again.

    • Is this an exception?

There is the occasional item that can be kept even if it seems silly. If you are big into Halloween or costume parties, that 70s dress can stay. That elaborate fur stole your grandmother gave you — you may never have the occasion to wear it, but go ahead and keep it if you adore it. Just make sure all this fits into one storage bin, or hangs in one small section of an extra closet.

Spring Cleaning Step 6: Purge The Forgotten Categories

In an interview on spring cleaning with The Zoe Report, I mentioned that “So many people {skip purging their underwear and their socks when} spring cleaning. You don’t need 43 pairs of socks and 38 pairs of panties. When purging these items, repeat to yourself ‘I don’t need second-string socks. I don’t need third-string panties.’ Only keep quality items that you actually wear with just a few extras as a buffer between laundry day.” This goes for workout wear, bras, lingerie, and pajamas. I really want you to purge every nook and cranny of your wardrobe.

Spring Cleaning Step 7: Pack Up Winter Items

Time to put away winter items. Gloves, beanies, snow clothes, tall boots, larger coats, etc do not need to be in your main closet anymore. Many of my clients have a closet in a spare room or hallway specifically for seasonal items. In this closet we hang anything that needs to be hung, pack away foldable items in a clear bin and line seasonal shoes at the bottom of the closet. If you don’t have the luxury of an extra closet, put all winter items in a storage bin/s and store it somewhere you won’t forget. I like you to store your seasonal items in the same place each year, so there is never an issue with scrounging up next season’s items, or when a trip to an unusual climate comes up.

Step 8: Organize What’s Left Of The Clothing

Time to organize all the items that get to stay. My preferred method of organization is to divide each type of garment into three categories:

  1. Work
  2. Casual
  3. Party — I use the word party loosely. This could also be called Date Night, Dinner, Drinks etc

Following this manner, line up all of your work tops from sleeveless to long-sleeved. Then all of your casual tops from sleeveless to long-sleeved — and the same with your party tops. It is essential to line up your tops according to sleeve length to avoid sleeveless items getting lost behind sleeved items. Continue to use this Work/Casual/Party method with pants, jackets, and skirts. I personally don’t care for color organization, but feel free to do that as well within each occasion.

Step 9: Shoe Organization

The biggest issue I see in my clients’ closets is piles and piles of shoes. To avoid growing a dusty shoe pile, you need to purchase shoe organizers. But don’t get a shoe rack — the are inefficient and difficult to manage. Here are the best shoe organizers:

  1. Clear Stackable Shoe Drawers for flat shoes
  2. Clear Stackable Shoe Drawers for heels and flat booties
  3. White Shoe Cubby for flats
  4. White Shoe Cubbies for heels

For tall boots, I just line them up on the floor of the closet in the wintertime. But this time of year, they should be in your seasonal storage closet.

Step 10: Identify Hanger Appropriate Items

Not everything belongs on a hanger. For instance, heavy long sleeves dresses will get indentations in the shoulder if you put them on hangers. Most long sleeve sweaters will suffer the same consequences, and some maxi dresses will eventually stretch out if left on a hanger.

Here are the items you should hang:

  1. Sleeveless Tops
  2. Short Sleeve Tops
  3. Collared Shirts
  4. Sleeveless + Short Sleeve Dresses
  5. Silk Dresses + Tops of any Sleeve length
  6. Skirts
  7. Pants + Slacks
  8. Suits
  9. Jackets

Here are items you should fold and put into a drawer or on a shelf:

  1. Long Sleeve Tees
  2. Most Long Sleeve Sweaters

Here are the items you can hang or fold:

  1. Sweatshirts
  2. Jeans
  3. Scarves
  4. Leggings
  5. Workout Pants
  6. Short Sleeve T-Shirts

Step 11: Identify Drawer + Shelf Items

When putting away your foldable items in drawers, fold them into the same height/depth of the drawer and line the garments up like they are files in a file drawer. Marie Kondo refers to this as folding vertically. Miriam Keoshian has a great video for showing how it looks. And here is Marie Kondo teaching you to fold herself.

When putting items on a shelf, chunkier sweaters should be folded in half and jeans should be folded into thirds, and then lined up like books. This makes the items so much more accessible versus sitting on top of each other. Although I know with flimsy long sleeve tees, it is very hard to create the “bookshelf” effect. You can fold those the way you usually would.

Step 11: Hang Your Clothing Up… Backwards?

Home organizer Lindsey Renovales says if you really want to know what clothing you are not wearing, hang up all your clothing with the hangers facing backwards. As you wear items, hang them back in your closet normally, with the hanger hook facing in. “Then every six months check in {to see which hangers are still backwards} and donate those items you haven’t worn. You need to be honest with yourself and get the items to someone who really needs them. All they are doing in your closet is taking space and keeping you from seeing the clothes you truly love and wear.”
how to organize purses

Step 13: Line Your Purses Up Like Books

Clutches and handbags should be lined up like books on a series of narrow shelves. If you don’t have narrow shelves, use a clear or metal shelf divider to create easier to manage spaces on a longer shelf. I do not recommend storing them in their dust bags, because if you don’t see them, you won’t use them. Storing them on smaller shelves as pictured prevents excessive dust. You could also place clear drawers on your shelves and store your handbags there. It prevents dust and now you can see your bags.

Step 14: Jewelry Organization

If you are a real jewelry fiend like myself, I recommend a velvet lined jewelry chest, which is what I own and love. If you are a minimalist, use a drawer you already have and fill it with velvet-lined jewelry organizers. I also adore the Container Store’s clear acrylic jewelry chest. I say get two or three and line them up where it makes sense, like in the bathroom, on a dresser, on a shelf in the closet, etc.

Step 15: Scarf Organization

Scarves are perfect when lined up in a drawer. If you don’t have a spare drawer for them, put them in the large clear drawers I’ve mentioned for purses.

spring cleaning
The Container Store $29.99 $23.99

Step 16: Donation + Recycle + Resale

Here is where I recommend taking your donations:

And don’t forget to recycle all overly worn, torn, or stained items at a fabric recycling location. Check out this post for a full list of all the places you can recycle old clothes.

I recommend reselling quality medium-end pieces with Buffalo Exchange, and higher-end pieces with The Real Real.

Step 17: Celebrate or Sleep

When you’re done, your closet will be a safe place, a haven from the chaotic world. A place to express and enhance yourself. Enjoy.

spring cleaning your closet