Did you know the third week of March is clean your closet week? If your closet is overflowing and you haven’t had the gumption to tackle it, maybe participating in a national event like clean your closet week will help. No? OK, how about some practical advice and simple tips to help you navigate through the process? By answering a series of simple questions, you’ll transform your closet from mayhem to manageable in just a few hours.

organized clothes closetAnswer the first two questions before setting a single toe into your closet. These questions are designed to help you think through what clothing you need and why.

Question 1: Where Do You Go?

Make a list of everywhere you go and all the activities you participate in. If you keep all your clothes in the same closet, your list should include every place you go and all the events you attend in the course of a typical year. Remember to include unexpected and unplanned events like funerals and weddings. If your closet only holds in-season clothing, your list should include every event and activity for that season.

Next, think in general terms about how you like to dress for each place you go and activity you do. For example, my list included the following:

  • Casual events: working in my home office, weekend errand running, and kids events
  • Dressy-casual events: date nights and going out to dinner
  • Business events: speaking engagements and networking

Question 2: What Do You Like to Wear?

For each event or type of occasion, picture yourself getting ready to go. What’s your ideal outfit? What image do you want to portray? What outfit hanging in your closet do you grab first? Why? What is it about this outfit that appeals to you? What makes other outfits less appealing? Are they less flattering? Are they rarely ironed when you’re getting ready? Are they less in style than other items in your closet? Remember to consider what’s appropriate for each occasion. If you work in a conservative business environment, business attire is likely more appropriate than trendy, casual clothing. Jot down notes about your preferences, what’s working in your wardrobe and why.

For the first two questions, the trick is to get clear about the types of clothing you want and need based on the reality of your life — the places you actually go and the things you actually do. Now, you’re ready to go into your closet …

Begin pulling garments out of your closet, sorting by type of garment and occasion. For example, group together all your dress pants. In a separate pile, group your casual pants. And so on. Use the categories you came up with above as the basis of your groupings. You may find as you pull a garment out, you know immediately you no longer want or need it. If so, send it directly to a donate pile.

If you have a really huge closet, tons of clothes, and just a little time, consider purging on a garment by garment basis. On day one, sort and purge pants. On day two, sort and purge sweaters, and so on.

Once you’ve sorted your clothes by garment and occasion, it’s time to start making decisions. Use the next two questions and your notes from questions 1 and 2 as your guide. To answer these questions honestly, you may need to try on garments and possibly seek the advice of a trusted friend.

Questions 3 and 4: Where Will I Wear This? How Will it Make Me Feel?

As you try on each garment, ask yourself where you will wear it. Is the event or activity on your list? Is the garment appropriate for any of the places you go?

Next, picture yourself getting ready to go to the event. How do you feel wearing this item or outfit? Does it project the image you want to project? Does it fit and flatter? Do you feel great? Do you have time to iron it? Compare each item to the preferences you identified in questions 1 and 2 above. If it fits your preferences and meets your needs, keep it. If it doesn’t, let it go.

Why does this work? It forces you to picture yourself wearing something to a specific event. Let’s say you have a cotton turtleneck sweater in your closet. When you bought it you wore it to work (because you work in a pretty casual environment.) Now, two years later, it’s a bit faded, and you want to look more polished for work. So, you rule out this sweater for work. Where else could you wear it? You could wear it on a date night with your hubby — but you prefer to dress less conservatively when you go out. So now, your turtleneck sweater is only appropriate for weekend wear and running errands. This could be reason enough to keep the sweater. However, if you go through this process a number of times with many garments in your closet, you may find you have twenty sweaters for weekend activities and running errands. It’s likely in that group of twenty sweaters you have a handful of favorites. Why keep all twenty and clutter up your closet?

With that said, you may find you don’t have something you love for each and every event or activity you go to. In this case, you might need to keep some clothing you don’t love, just so you have something appropriate to wear for a particular event. This leads us to the final step in the process and the last question:

Question 5: What Else Do I Need?

As you evaluate each garment and decide specifically when and where you’ll wear it, you may notice a shortage of garments for certain places you go or events you attend. Make note of this and create a shopping list of all the items you need to round out your wardrobe.

As you decide to keep garments, return them to your closet. Be strategic about what you store where. Which areas of your closet are easiest to get to? Easiest to see? Put your in season and frequently worn items in these areas. Your weekday clothing should be given prime real estate (a great trick to make getting out the door in the morning easier.) Store weekend wear in harder to reach or see areas of your closet.

All that’s left to do is find a home for all your cast-offs. Make a run to Goodwill or your favorite charity. Remember to get receipts if you can claim your donations on your income tax returns. When you get back home, go into your closet and admire your hard work. You tackled your closet — way to go! As a reward, how about scheduling a little shopping trip? (Remember to take your list!)

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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