Spring Cleaning: Wardrobe Detox

Spring Cleaning: How to Detox your Wardrobe

Traditionally, spring cleaning was meant to rid a house of its wintery layer and prepare it for spring. I don’t own a house, but I do own a closet, and the principle is the same: you can’t put your new spring clothes into a jam-packed closet full of knits, tights and other cold-weather items, right?

Along with a seasonal turnover, now is a good time to do a general big edit and purge your closet of everything that’s only wasting space. I have to confess, I love the editing process. I think my wardrobe should be a reflection of my style and my aesthetic judgment. Every item that I don’t really like or that just doesn’t look good on me, is tainting that reflection a little bit, and throwing it out feels like a detox.

Once you’ve detoxified your closet, you might be left with a lot less clothes, but at least they will be things you truly love and want to wear; and you can gradually add more of what you like. You will also have a much better picture of what you own and never feel like your closet is full but you still have nothing to wear. Psychologically, the satisfaction we get from getting rid of stuff makes total sense. Things in excess, even seemingly trivial ones like clothes, are burdensome and stress us out. This effect is amplified for people who are into fashion and see it as a means of self-expression: for us a closet filled with clothes that aren’t our style is literally restraining our ability to express ourselves. So, less is more. Or more is more. It’s fine if your closet is close to bursting, as long as everything in there reflects your style.

Wardrobe editing is an ongoing job. We all make some bad shopping choices from time to time,  items need to be replaced and our taste might evolve, so even if you have a perfect closet now you will have to edit it every few months to keep it free of style-toxins :)

Since I’m a bit of a wardrobe editing addict, I wanted to share my method with you in case you are looking for some tips. If you haven’t done this in a while, I’d suggest reserving an afternoon to go through your entire closet, but once you do this regularly, about an hour every 3-4 months will be all you need. You can also split the detox into little increments and e.g. tackle your pants/skirts one day, tops the next and accessories another day.

Step 1

Clean up the area around your closet, because it will get messy and your clothes will probably touch the floor. Put on something that you can take off and put on quickly as you are about to try on lots of clothes.

Step 2

Get some trash bags, three storage bags/boxes and some post-its. Label the boxes with ‘Give away/Sell’, ‘Maybe’ and “Alter/Customise”.

Step 3

Pick a category (like jeans or dresses) and put every item belonging to that category on the floor or on your bed. Now comes the fun part/hard part: examine every single item, perhaps try it on and then put it in one of these places:

  • Trash bags – Toss anything that is ripped or stained, super dirty or too worn to give to anyone.
  • Giveaway/Sell box – Collect anything that you never wear, doesn’t fit or you just don’t like anymore in this box. Be absolutely honest. If you haven’t worn an item in the last year, you will probably never wear it again. If you have multiple very similar items, like five white tank tops, consider whether you need them all (at one point I owned 13 pairs of opaque black tights :)).
  • Maybe  box- If an item fits and is in good condition, but you cannot decide whether you like it or not, put it in the ‘Maybe’ box. This category is like a trial separation. You can put the box under your bed for a while and see whether you really miss an item in there. Chances are you will forget about them and you can throw them out or give them away after a few months.
  • Alter/Customise box – Put all items that you like but that don’t fit you quite right in this box, to have it tailored. Of course, only do this if the cost of getting it tailored is less than buying another size (or if it’s a question of shape rather than sizing), not if it’s just a plain H&M top for 6 £ that’s a bit too big. Also, keep an eye out for things that you don’t like, but that might make good DIY candidates, e.g. jeans can be turned into shorts, tees can be dyed, etc.. Put items that require a simple repair job, like hemming or replacing a button in this box as well.
  • Back in your closet – Anything that you love and wear a lot deserves to go back into your closet. This also includes any clothes that are a necessity in your wardrobe (like a black blazer for work/ a nude bra or some plain blue jeans) but that either don’t fit right anymore or are simply worn out. Take your post-its and note down all items that need to be replaced asap. For now they may stay in your closet but only until you buy a newer version. Stick the post-it on your closet door.
Step 4

Repeat step 3 with every item category in your wardrobe. Don’t forget your underwear, leg wear and accessories.

Do this right after the editing process
  • Throw away the thrash bags before you change your mind.
  • Put your maybe box away for storage.
  • Write down all items that need to be replaced on your to-do list.
  • Organise the clothes that you are keeping in your closet and note down any obvious holes in your wardrobe (read: things you need to buy).
Do this within the next few days
  • Decide what to do with the items in the give away/sell box: If an item is in very good condition, consider selling it on ebay or to consignment stores. If you know a friend who might like the item, give it to them, and take everything else to a charity.
  • Deal with the alter/customise items: Take designated items to the tailor. For the rest, buy materials (fabric dye, sequins, whatever your DIY plans need), get out your sewing kit and start repairing/customizing.
  • Plan additions to your “purified” wardrobe

196 comments

  1. I thought it would just be interesting to add to this post, that H&M (I found you through their website) has a clothing recycling program… you can donate ripped/unwearable clothing, as well as good condition clothing (basically any condition) and they reuse it in various ways. To find out more, you can ask in-store… I’m sure they have information on their website too. They give you a coupon for 5$ off a 30$ purchase when you donate, so you get something back for all those totally outworn items (or things that are just not selling, if you decide you want to try and sell)

  2. One of my favorite things to do! I moved around so much last year that the shipping costs was getting to the point of craziness, so I purged my closet. It’s crazy how much I still don’t use!

  3. Fabulous! A woman after my own heart!
    That is exactly the principle behind my blog – http://www.fashionmashie.com – and the different outfit everyday – to prove that mixing and matching makes your wardrobe last for ages..well in my case hopefully a year! I am already looking forward to being able to shop again next year because I know what I need now.
    I am surrounded by women telling me they have nothing to wear but there are so many clothes in their wardrobes – I will recommend they check out your system.

  4. Great post! Thanks for sharing your process. We are sharing a post in a few weeks about spring cleaning and giving away excess clothes and other items. We might have to link to your step-by-step guide!

  5. Who doesn’t need a wardrobe detox especially we are such a fashionable bunch. :) Maybe someone should host a wardrobe swapping event so we can all get a fresh look!

  6. That opening comment is sooooo familiar!
    I really must do something about my wardrobes. In the second year after coming to live in Cyprus from UK, I sorted my wardrobes into Summer and Winter clothing as it makes life so much simpler here. But now they’re all jumbled up again plus the wardrobe for my every day work stuff is full to busting – so why do I wear the same clothes week and and week out?
    Time to peruse and chuck out methinks. We have a clothing bank not too far away so I reckon it could be full to bursting very soon.
    Great idea and thanks for sharing!

  7. Detox of the mind, body, and closet. I love it! Your organization strategies are really helpful, and have inspired me to put my “cleaning of the closet”at the top of my “to do” lost. Thanks!

  8. I love this post. It really makes the whole process less overwhelming. I cleaned out my closet over the weekend but I was much less organized about it than I could have been. I will your your guide next time :)

  9. Reblogged this on lindsaycolle and commented:
    A bit off topic today to share with others…everyone needs a good detox or cleanse once in awhile. Whether that be your wardrobe or your life. Evaluate who or what is truly important in your life and rid yourself of those things that leave you worn out or discouraged. Words for thought…Maria Robinson said “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

  10. Great post! I thoroughly enjoy a good detox whether be it my clothes, diet, or an emotional detox…I will be using your tips to downsize my closet this spring. Thanks and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  11. I totally agree. I have moved so often over the last few years that I have had a natural srping clean every few months. It does feel great and you don´t feel so bad when you buy something new as you know there is room for it and you have more of an idea what is in your wardrobe to wear it with!

  12. Im in the midst of writing my Spring Cleaning post. Like many fashion devotee’s it’s impossible for us to part with our clothing because of our emotional attachment to them. My tricks were if it pinches, pulls, has needed an alteration for more than 6 months…toss it. Or sell the pieces that are in good condition to fill in those spaces!

  13. this post is right on. I really need to clean my closet soon when I find time. It is so refreshing when you get rid of what you don’t need, though sometimes it’s difficult to figure out what to part with :/

  14. I recently cleaned out my closet and now is much easier for me to get dress in the morning. I always complaint that I have nothing to wear and the closet is full. Since I live in the US but I’m originally from the Dominican Republic, I sent the clothes to a family member and they give it away to people that needs it. That makes me feel better because I’m not throwing anything away and someone else can enjoy what I don’t anymore!!! : )

  15. Wonderful post! As I am limited on space I learned to do this regularly a few years back but can always use a kick-in-the-butt to remind me to do it again… I’m just waiting till warmer weather is here to stay so I can actually stop wearing winter clothes. Look forward to digging through your blog’s “closet” some more.

  16. If there is anything in the “Maybe Box” that has not be worn in the past year…it should really go in the Giveaway/Sell Box. In addition to the Spring Cleaning…a small mid-year clearing should be scheduled (should only take 1 hour of time). Also, since I think that I have too much stuff….I made a deal with myself that if I add things to my wardrobe, I am to give/sell/throw something away. This deal has prevented me from having too much in that I buy only something I love. It has also saved me $$.

  17. Cleaning out my closet and drawers is one of my most favorite spring cleaning to-do’s! Especially because more space = more reason to shop = new clothes to fill the empty spaces ;D

  18. I do not wonder why this blog got picked for Freshly Pressed! Great post! I am a personal power coach and one of the major tools we all can use to help us achieve our goals is to always make room for new stuff. If our areas all get full, the Universe takes that as a sign we do not need anything else. No matter if it is a closet, drawers, vacuum, dusting, whatever, we make room when we clean and clear.
    Also the thing you said about clothes affecting your confidence is true on a personal power energy level as well! Our energy is more vibrant when we feel comforatable and natural.
    This is such a great post that I am now going to create a new spot on my blog page for my favorite posts and yours will be the first I link to!
    Have a wonderful week and enjoy your FP stay! AmberLena

  19. I cleaned my closet a few weeks ago and organized my dresser droors. It was seriously one of the best days of my life. I’m so glad you’re encouraging others to get their closets in shape for summer!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! :D

  20. I love this post! I live in a 200sq foot apartment with no actual closet – just a bar in the bathroom that I can hang stuff on! Closet editing is therefore VERY important and I have finally gotten to a point in my life where I am comfortable letting go of things I don’t love. I have three things I do with clothes I don’t wear much:

    1. If I don’t hate them, I’ll put them in a box to take to my boyfriend’s house for when I forget to bring pajama pants (it’s a 3 hour train ride so I can’t just run back).

    2. If I can use them to decorate my house, I do.

    3. Donate!

    May I link to this post?

  21. Yes! it’s therepeutical. I do the “spring wardrobe clean” once a year (ok not often but i am not mad about clothes shopping and I have been doing it for so long that what I have and don’t use is stuff I don’t want to get rid of …yet at least) and I give away lots to friends, and … before I sell/give/throw away something i really like but don’t wear anymore, I either make sure i have a picture of me wearing it or take a picture of it. Some things have memories attached to them. When i was little I remember someone saying that you’ve got to declutter, throw old things away to make space for new ones and this just stayed with me!

  22. Great post! You are exactly right – there is something very psychologically healthy about purging unnecessary things from your life. Moving from one house to another is great proof of this. You throw things out when you pack up, throw them out when you first unpack, and then throw more out as you get truly settled. Great tips and cute pics – love the heart post-its!

  23. Love your ideas for tackling a full closet! I am so in need of this. The only thing I would change is the throw away bag. You have all that great fabric that can be used for a number of crafts! Why not re-use and recycle those old worn out duds?

  24. My closet is full but I have nothing to wear…this could not be closer to the truth in my case. I really should clean my wardrobe…but as it’s autumn in Australia, can I be excused for a little while? :P

  25. Congrats on being pressed! I’m always looking for helpful articles for my readers. I plan on reposting this one on my blog Marti Ink under “The Week’s Head-turning Headlines” this weekend (by Sunday). Great post!

  26. Hey this was great. I also have tons of clothes but when I open my closet I have nothing to wear. It’s stressful but true that I have things that I haven’t worn in awhile becuase my style is forever changing like the seasons. The advice you gave was good.

  27. Great post! Closet editing revealed that I had 6 black short-sleeved shirts. Boy, do I need some color in my wardrobe, especially this spring :)

    I also found nearly 5 different sizes of jeans (most of which I will never wear again)! Great tips for cutting out the clutter.

  28. Wow , inspirational ! Hahah no really ! I actually want to head home and clean my closet. I am very particular about being neat and clean but also end up neatly ‘hoarding’ last season wear or the season before that in the hopes that I will use it in a few months ! Some items I do but most I don’t. Maybe this approach will help me clear out my cupboard and help me make a difference too ! :)

  29. i absolutely loved your post! you put in words what i sometimes struggle to express… i regularly do “closet detoxes”, or as i call it “closetoxes”! its such an amazing way of feeling lighter! and, yes, you’re left with the things you actually wear and like!
    the designer or brand names, i sell on ebay, the rest goes to charity or is handed down to younger cousins :)

  30. We are going into Autumn here in South Africa and my closet definitely needs a “spring-clean”. Thank you for this lovely, informative and very well-written post. It has helped me a lot.

  31. This is great! What a timely reminder. :) I may be a messy person half of the time but when it comes to big-time organising I become as excited as Monica (in “Friends”)!!! :) It’s definitely therapeutic and I love how you termed it ‘wardrobe detox’. Thanks for the post! :)

    P.S.: When I’m doing such ‘wardrobe detoxes’ I sometimes start a mini fashion show in front of my mirror (for myself), hahaha!

  32. This was a great post. Definitely some inspiration there! I also think I need to be a bit more ruthless, some of my more impulsive buys are sitting in bins from college in the garage…time to tackle those as well! :D Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  33. I am almost afraid, no terrified to read this blog post as I am in serious need of a detox of my five closets (yes, I did say 5 closets). Truth is I awoke this morning and seriously entertained the thought of tackling one of my closets, but then common sense set in and I realized that hanging out on FB for three plus hours would be far more productive….*note to self, it wasn’t.

    The sad thing is that I still have new clothes, never worn, with tags attached clothes (doesn’t every woman) in my closet. Every spring I pronounce that I will attack my closets and every spring I fail and fall short…tomorrow just never seems to be convienent enough. “sigh”

    So, here is my promise to myself and everyone who reads this post. When I climb into bed tonight and once I am nestled securely in the warmth and softness of my fleece sheets I plan to read the contents of this blog from start to finish and I will devise a plan to detox my overruneth closets.

    My word is my vow!

  34. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
    I just went through my closets and did almost this same process. I cleaned, sorted, and donated, but I didn’t really keep a list of what I need to buy/replace. That’s a good idea.

  35. Could not agree more. Even as a guy, styles changes almost quarterly.

    I recently did a major overhaul of my own closet, getting rid of most of my argyle sweaters and not-so-skinny ties.

    Not only does closet editing provide a reason for a stylish update, I also feel really good about bringing my old clothes to our local Goodwill. Knowing someone else in need is going to be able to afford some clothes they might not otherwise would have had the chance to really makes me feel good.

    Great post.

  36. detoxifying your closet sounds like a great idea.. I’m slightly a bit envious of it. When you live in Ohio, you are quite limited as to what you can “detoxify” I can rid my closet of what’s possibly ratty.. and all of those winter coats.. but I can’t box much of anything up. Our weather is what we like to call, “bipolar.” One day it can be mid 80 and the next day be low 30’s. So it makes it impossible to pack away those winter items for spring. My closet will forever be stuffed.

    -Great blog :D

  37. I love this idea. I got rid of a bunch of old summer clothes, as well as, put away all my winter clothes, but I still have barely ANY room left for new clothes!! I am most definitely going to do this!

  38. I would add;
    Mail some clothes to various old friends whom you have shared clothes with as college roommates or neighbors.
    Its a great way to keep in touch with a special friend and make more room in your closet and yet not technically giving up an item you really love.
    Love your term -“editing your closet”
    copyright it?

  39. I can NEVER throw anything away. I grew up poor and wore hand me downs and the thought of throwing away something perfectly useable makes me anxious. I can, however, DONATE items if I know of someone in need. We had a family at work who were victims of a house fire. They lost everything. I was able to donate 3 big bags because I knew they needed the items more than I did.

  40. Brilliant post, and just what the doctor ordered!! Detox is right, and in my case, carrying out this desperately needed operation will give me a great opportunity to stare down my fear of not having enough money to replace all the stuff I’ll be getting rid of ;) Can’t wait to get started!!

  41. :) Jeeezzz! No way Anuschka, I am already scared that if I do this, I’ll have nothing to wear..really.. but I still have to do it at some point.. I actually do it every year,and I end up giving many of my clothes..cause I never wore them, so why keep them? but this year..I’m afraid there will be not much..as I haven’t really upgraded my wardrobe for about 2 and a half years.. more precise since I got pregnant..

  42. You have me inspired. To bad it is Winter here in Melbourne :). I find it so hard to give things away. Always feeling wasteful and that maybe I will wear it someday. I have to start being more ruthless! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  43. This is a great article! I have been recently spring cleaning my clothes and possessions and this is a wonderful guide for those who may need a little bit more help starting :)

    One thing that I would like to add though~ instead of throwing away old/ripped/stained clothes and underwear, why not send them to a recycling program?

    PACT, an organic underwear brand, has one where they take old PACT brand underwear, along with other brands, and old clothes as well (I’m sure other companies out there have recycling programs too. This is the only one I personally know about though :/ ). I just sent some old underwear and old clothes to their recycling program about a month ago! It made me feel so much better about getting rid of these items than just throwing them away. :)

    You do have to pay shipping yourself, but it helps to lessen the burden on landfills and the Earth, and makes you feel even better about your spring cleaning! :)

    Have a sunny day!
    ~Kim

  44. Love these tips! I recently cleaned out my drawers and it’s amazing all the stuff that was clogged in there. Then cleaned out my son’s closet; now there’s enough room in there for clothes for 2 kids!

    My closet’s next. . .

  45. I do my closet cleaning in a very similar way but this gave me a few tricks I haven’t used before (like the post-it for replacing items – love!) This was also a great reminder that I need to get on this asap. It’s been way too long and I know I have a bunch of clothes that doesn’t fit since I recently loss some weight – what feels better than getting rid of your fat clothes?! Nothing! And they say psychologically you shouldn’t hold onto that stuff, just in case you put some extra pounds on, because that’s giving yourself an excuse to gain the weight again.

    Anyways – great post and perfect timing – thanks for the tips!!

  46. Ok, you just inspired me. My closet is my most neglected space because I know house guests won’t see it! Also, making a replacement list is genius!!!

  47. I have definitely been working on my closet. It’s surprising how long I’ll hang on to something. Some of my stuff is actually so out it’s in!
    Happy Pages,
    CricketMuse

  48. I clean out my closet once a year … and I try EVERYTHING on before I decide what to do …I have one pile keep, one give away (charity shop) one bin and one I need a few days. The first three are easy the last one is a bag (small) that I keep for 2-7 days and if in that time I want to wear or use something in that bag it gets to stay, otherwise it has to do. :-)

  49. For once, I’m ahead of someone. I already started. I removed 5 sleeping bags from my RV, winter coats and sweaters and stuff and women’s clothes I’m not ready to wear in public…yet…I set up my two person dome tent next to my 24 foot rig. First I laid down a large tarp wrapping a sheet of plywood in it for support. Then set up the tent and put the bulky stuff in there. I have more to go but it’s easy when I can just throw it in a bag then itno the tent (hopefully while not being too lazy to label…I’ll have to now since the next bag will be #2 and indistinguisable from bag #! otherwise. Last night a homeless VET with 2 tours to his credit got to be the first occupant of my storage tent which, as I said, already contained 5 sleeping bags, an air mattress and winter clothes galore! I intend to do the “thorough” cleaning within the next couple of days just in case I get a surprise, really beautiful visitor who not only can put up with my shit but train me in the super quantum sciences of housekeeping…which, by the way, I have mastered many different times during my 56 years, but, I admit, I’ve been mired down a bit lately in a deep existential state of despair rooted in the repeated observation: “this doesn’t look good on me anymore…what’s she trying to do to me? Make a sex symbol out of me? Sneaky as Tennessee whiskey…Indeed!!!

  50. I like your post! Though the past few years I’ve consciously downsized my life to one suitcase full of clothes that I probably shouldn’t part with, I remember going through my things every few months when I had a closet and overflowing dresser full of all sorts of fabrics and yummy things to wear. I used to love doing that, because I would find things I totally forgot about and have a fashion show with myself and then call my friends to tell them how I went shopping in my own closet and found SO MANY new THINGS (I used to be a shopping junkie and had everything to suit my vavious moods). Have you heard of the clothing swaps? It’s a neat concept with the idea that someone else’s trash is another persons treasure… (honestly, if something is too worm or trashed in your opinion, there is a chance that someone may still want it (I was one of those people that would lend my new clothes out to friends to break in because I cannot stand the feel of fabric that feels too new… I like anything I wear to be worn, soft and essentially feel like a cozy home for my body no matter the occasion fancy or not so fancy… to me, brand new fabric feels toxic and uncomfortable). Anyway, if a clothing swap is something you want to explore as a new addition to your detox, here is a website: http://www.clothingswap.com/ (there are a plethora of other websites too. :)

    Thanks for your post. I am reminded how much I enjoy dressing up and having new to me clothes and how much fun it is to go shopping. :)

    Have a great day,
    Currie

  51. Im so glad I moved to costa rica and wear the same thing every single freaking day of the year. I hated having to “get things done” … this American says peace out to spring cleaning! :-) you are cute, congrats on the post.

  52. well I’m a guy but I chucked a shirt today because it had a whole in it, does that count. haha. Actually though I kind of like throwing stuff away in my closet but after I’m done I know I have to go to the mall and drop some cash.

  53. I do this for myself and my kids and I feel like I can breathe easier in my house when we’re done. I love your approach! I’m gonna try it this way next time. Thanks!

  54. I’m kind of addicted to organizing and editing my wardrobe. >.> Just say the word’s “Rachel’s System” to any of my friends and you’ll know it’s really out of hand, haha. I have an insane system of organization that allows me to wear EVERY SINGLE THING I OWN before starting over again – that way I don’t just wear the same outfits every week. If I come to something I don’t want to wear (note: this is different than something that comes up that’s inappropriate to wear due to weather or social occasion) it gets the boot.

    O_O I love my system. I might blog about it someday….but I’m not sure I’m bold enough to share my crazies with the world yet. ;)

  55. What a brilliant advice. This is what I am going to do next weekend… And I am sure to find some more places in my house that need a spring “detox” (kitchen-cupboards, book-shelfs, cellar…

  56. I love this! I really need to do this more :) It is just so hard to do. I think would love to get some new clothes, but I am super excited about the new purses I got that are really bright they can add color to a boring look. Maybe I won’t have to get rid of the boring colors or maybe I still should. Mostly I should go through and get rid of all the clothes that don’t fit. :)

  57. Great approach, I just give to charity all the rest is simply to much trouble. My rule is simple, if I am out of hangers it is time to clean. Same with shoes, if I am out of space I am not allowed to buy more till I make space for them.

  58. I’m in the middle of a blog series on this right now! My goal is to have five “no repeats” outfits by the end of my series that can be mixed and matched. Of course, I’m kind of on the other end of the spectrum. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so right now I only have a few items I wear out of the house. I desperately need more, but I’m committed to getting the most mileage out of each purchase.

  59. This is great! I actually just went through my closet a little today. It always feels refreshing to get rid of things I know I won’t miss. Also the idea of getting to shop to replace things is fun ;) like giving away 4 pairs of shoes so I can get one new pair without feeling guilty! Haha.

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