How I clean out my closet

Okay, I know those two photos don’t look dramatically different, but I promise it made a huge difference to me! Also, for those of you that have been following AsianCajuns for a while, you know that I KonMaried last year (and Cath did too) and, in the past five years, I’ve moved overseas (and then moved back stateside). Both of those processes means that I have far fewer clothes than I used to – I had about five times the amount of stuff in 2010 than I do now.

So all of that is to say, please don’t be discouraged looking at these pics if you are thinking that your closet is so much larger and has so much more. I was there too! And you don’t need to move overseas or take six years to pare down your closet.

I’ll walk you through my process of cleaning out my closet, and I followed these same steps when I had five times the amount of stuff. The biggest difference is that now I’m a pro at following them. So, these steps seem like common sense (and they are), but I’ll give you my tips and tricks along the way that make things so much easier. 

(p.s. Before I started to tackle my closet, I spent a week daydreaming and pinning my ideal closet – read last week’s blog post here. This really helped keep me focused during the day I sorted through all my stuff).


Closet clear-out steps:

  1. Take everything out of your closet and lay it on your bed (so you might have to clear your bed first — I did) and on the floor. I put all my clothes on the bed and my shoes and purses on the floor.
  2. Give your closet a good dusting and vacuum or sweep the floor.
  3. Now let’s look at our ginormous mound of stuff spread out all over your room (don’t panic — I promise it will get better before we’re done). I started with the stuff on my floor because I couldn’t comfortably get to the bed without tripping over my shoes and purses mound.
  4. Now here’s a great trick from the Kon Mari method. Hold each item in your hands and really look at it. I know that sounds silly or unnecessary, but I swear this makes all the difference. Because there is so much stuff on your floor, you will be tempted to just glance at stuff and say “oh I know I want/wear/love that” or “I’m gonna just toss all this stuff.” Rash decision making, my friends. Don’t be tempted. Hold each thing and give it its due. This totally changes how you think about your stuff. Marie Kondo suggests to ask each item if it “sparks joy” but I don’t think it has to amount to joy. I think of each item and how it makes me feel. Even if it’s a boring white cami that I have no attachment to, I know it goes under my favorite lacy white blouse which I love, so it feels perfect (but does not strike joy on its own). I’ll be doing a post next week about the idea of “sparking joy” because I found that the hardest of Marie’s tenets to follow.
  5. After you hold each item and really evaluate it, put it in one of three piles: keep, donate or maybe. Holding each item and really thinking about, should keep your “maybe” pile pretty small, but if you need to come back to an item because you’re truly conflicted, that’s what the “maybe” pile is for.
  6. Like I mentioned, I started with all my stuff on the floor first, made my piles, and then started putting the “keep” pile back in my closet. I still had all the clothes on my bed to sort, but I find breaking up the process helps prevent decision-overwhelm. Once I had put all my shoes and bags back in my closet, I had a break. Breaks are important. Don’t let that scary mound of stuff on your bed make you rush through. The more thorough you are and the less hangry you are, the better decisions you’ll make. So take a break, eat a snackypoo and guzzle some water — preferably in another room where your mound-o-stuff can’t watch you.Floor-v2
  7. Okay, watered and fed, let’s tackle the bed! You know the drill now: hold each item and sort into your three piles. If you haven’t done so already, put all your “donate” items in a large bag so that you don’t mistakenly mix your piles. If you need to take a break part way through, definitely take a break. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed again, remember to think back to your ideal closet/wardrobe. Refocus on what you want and how you actually live your life now.
  8. Put all your “keep” items back in your closet. I highly recommend grouping things by color and type. I know that sounds really anal, but I swear both steps make such a big difference when getting dressed in the morning. I hang my clothing mostly by height going left to right: skirts, tees and blouses, dresses, sweaters and jackets.
  9. Now, let’s look at that “maybe” pile. You’ve given these guys some time. Hold each item again and now you must chose to put it in the keep or donate pile. My maybe pile consisted of one item (in the past, there have been much larger maybe piles), a very sensible black cardi that was Cath’s. It’s great for layering and more importantly I hate to give anything away that was Cath’s (because she lives so far away and I miss her — sob!), but I didn’t really like the way it looked on me or made me feel. I felt frumpy and rumply. So ultimately I shushed my sentimental mushiness (it likes to rear its head whenever I do any sort of clear-out) and the black cardi went in the donate pile.
  10. Any items your kept from your maybe pile, put those in their proper place in your closet. And guess what? You’re done! Pat yourself on the back, do a happy dance and plop yourself down in front of your closet and gaze in disbelief at the serene scene before you.


9 thoughts on “How I clean out my closet”

  1. Lar, I love this!! Even though I feel pretty on top of the clothes I have, I know I can do another sort-through – maybe once spring comes around. I am impressed how orderly you can keep you closet. It’s so nice to see a closet where clothes can breathe – i know Marie Kondo would approve! Did you end up giving a lot of your shoes and bags away? I know I can get rid of a few of my bags and will probably do that in the next week or so.

    I’m looking forward to your “spark joy” post because I did find that to be a difficult concept. I felt like I was guessing some of the time, but I think that’s because it isn’t an exact science. Sometimes it felt like a gut feeling, other times I would think, “is that joy? I don’t know!”

    1. Hi Cath,
      I didn’t give away too many shoes and no bags (I went through those pretty rigorously in Edi), but it surprised me I still had a pretty big bag o stuff to donate by the end.
      I’m going to write the spark joy postie now! I think I found a way that works for me, so I hope it helps you and our peeps too!

  2. want to come and do mine??? you don’t even want to see our coat closet…it’s 100% a disaster. every weekend i say i’m going to go through it and clean it out…and i never do. maybe this weekend? maybe…

    1. Doooo it, Diane! You will feel so good afterward ;D
      And seriously, if I were in Brooklyn, I would totally come over and help you sort through it!

          1. You did it!!! Go, Diane! I want to see piccies — you need to do a blog post on it! xoxox

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