Wardrobe Spring Cleaning: Tips and Tricks from the Trenches

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My Great Closet Cleanout started when I was doing laundry. Laundry is, possibly, one of my least favorite chores around the house, after vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom. But, well, eventually the wardrobe runs dry and it becomes a question of "is Jeanne taking a sassy fashion risk today? Or is it laundry day?" More often than not, it's laundry day.

I've been wanting to clean out my wardrobe and start over for a while now, and spring cleaning has provided a good opportunity. While I don't have the money to hire a professional closet shopper or even a professional closet organizer (like FabSugar did), I did make way for extra cleaning time and found some tricks to help clear out the wardrobe, including some great closet cleaning tips from Apartment Therapy.

A good place to start is to go through your closet and see what you haven't worn in a year. Kelly of Mocha Momma suggests using safety pins in the linings  of your clothes to help guide the yearly inventory of what's actually getting worn. Lifehacker recommends a similar trick, only it involves flipping the hangers once an item is worn. Honestly? I would never remember to flip them the right direction, and would probably even forget to check in a year later. But having a system to track what you're wearing and what you're not is a step in the right direction.

I found that my dirty laundry was a good guide to what I was really wearing: the laundry pile included things that had been worn recently enough that they landed in in the "needs to be washed" pile, as opposed to all the pieces that lingered in the dresser.

And that was my revelation: if I would rather go through the whole laundry ordeal instead of wearing what's in the dresser, maybe it's time to clear out the dresser. Bonus: if I find that something I did wear recently is something I'd prefer not to wear again, it's freshly washed as it goes out the door.

Another good time to clear out your wardrobe is when the seasons change. Granted, living in San Francisco and working in an air-conditioned office five days a week, there's never really a good time to put away the sweaters, but again, seasonal changes let me see what I'm really wearing. I keep one drawer in my dresser for sweaters, and when it's time for tank tops, I switch out the heavier sweaters for the tank tops into that seasonal drawer. And, of course, to get rid of sweaters I'm not wearing.

Finally, I also just keep a Goodwill-ready bag at all times. If I find a sweater was too itchy, or a pair of shoes weren't fitting right, it's just time for them to go. My last cleaning spree, I wound up with three bags of cast-off clothing heading out the door.

clothes to be donated

And if you don't run directly to Goodwill once the bag is full, you still have time to give something an extra chance, much like the judges' ability to save someone on American Idol. However, I found that there wasn't really anything I wanted to keep -- once it made it into the bag, it stayed in the bag. While I do feel a little guilty about some of the barely worn things that I donated, I do feel good knowing that the shoes that were too tight for me will be someone else's amazing thrift find. With that donation, my own thrift karma will increase.

While my closet isn't anywhere near Nan Kempner's famed wardrobe, I feel good about the progress I've made. I've cleared so much out that I can actually see -- and wear! -- what I own now. Maybe there are fewer sassy laundry day fashion risks now, and maybe I have to do my laundry more often now that there's less wardrobe buffer, but I honestly feel great with my clean room and closet.

Next up, I tackle the cosmetics situation.

What are your tips and tricks for wardrobe clean-outs? Have you already done your spring cleaning, or is it a never-ending process for you?

Jeanne also writes for The Periodic Elements of Style.

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