10 Closet Clean-Out Tips From A Minimalist Mom

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano
10:00 am
01/18/18

Rati Sahi, Photographed by Maria Del Rio

Now that the holiday hype and travel has settled, there’s no better time that the top of the new year to take a fresh look at the space you live in, and streamline your possessions along the way. If purging your closet and decluttering in general is one of your 2018 resolutions, we’ve got you. Below, we’ve tapped Francine Jay, the author of the bestselling book The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify to offer some ace closet clean-out tips.

Known as Miss Minimalist (she has a blog of the same name) and mother to a 6-year-old daughter, Jay says she doesn’t look at decluttering as a chore. “You can totally have fun with it. Turn on some music, have a little fashion show, have some alone time.” Bonus points: Her 10 easy steps below can surely be applied to other areas of your home (hello toy bins!) once your wardrobe is tackled.

1. Start with a clean slate. “Decluttering is very tedious if you are going through all of your stuff and trying to pull two things out to get rid of. When you’re attacking your closet, literally pull everything out. Strip it bare. Put it all on your bed. Every single piece of clothing. Because you have to decide what you’re going to keep, not what you’re going to toss. I like to think of it like packing a suitcase and you’re just going to keep or pack your very favorite things.”

2. Try Everything On. “Nothing gets a free pass and goes back into your closet without going onto your body first. Because you just don’t know unless you try it on. Some of these things you might not have put on in a year or two. Do you really know it still fits? You like to think it does, but it might not. If you have a friend there, you can get an opinion on how it looks. If you don’t, take a selfie in it. It gives you this really objective perspective on whether something actually looks good on you.”

3. Keep Clothing That Fits Your Body And Your Lifestyle. “You only want to keep clothing that fits you, that flatters you, and that fits in with your lifestyle. Get rid of your fantasy clothes—the cocktail dresses if you never go anywhere that fancy, or the business suits from back when you were in a more corporate environment, even though you now work from home. Get rid of the stuff that doesn’t fit your lifestyle anymore.”

4. Do Good With Your Decluttering. “Sometimes it’s really hard to part with our stuff because we paid good money for it and we feel like it’s wasteful. But if you know that that item is going to help someone in need, it’s so much easier to get rid of. With all of the natural disasters this past year, there are people who need stuff. It’s also great if you can give it to a friend.”

5. Create A Capsule Wardrobe. “A capsule wardrobe is a small set of essential pieces that can be mixed and matched into a variety of different outfits. We wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. So, we’re really living with a capsule wardrobe anyways, and all of that other stuff is just sort of in the way and slowing us down. A capsule wardrobe helps you identify those hard workers in your wardrobe—pieces that are super versatile, that can work in different types of weather, colors and items that can work for different types of occasions and be dressed up or dressed down. Look for those work horses in your wardrobe, as they’re going to make up your capsule. What causes all of this clutter in our closets are the pieces that might go with only one thing. You really want to get rid of those single taskers so that they’re not taking up our space. Make the stuff in your closet justify taking up space and pull some weight. Think about it as curating a wardrobe and choosing the things that are most versatile. That’s really the goal of cleaning out our closets and creating a more minimalist wardrobe.”

6. Keep Things Consolidated. “When you are returning stuff to your closet, put all of your shirts together, your jeans together, etc. Keeping things consolidated really helps you see how many items you have and if you have too much in one category. It helps you from bringing in more, as you’ll realize you have enough and that you don’t even need as many as you currently have. It’ll help you maintain quantities instead of buy more.”

7. Set Limits. “Determine that you’re only going to keep a certain number of each item or how many items fit in a certain space. Maybe you decide you will only keep a certain amount of sweaters that fit into one drawer. Or you might say you’ll only keep 10 pairs of shoes, period. Setting limits will help you keep only the best and your favorites, because there’s a limited space to keep them in.”

8. One In, One Out. Once you declutter, you don’t want to reclutter. ‘One in, one out’ means if a new item comes into your household, a similar one must leave. The more similar the better. A lot of people get discouraged when they declutter, because they’ll get rid of 10 things, but in the meantime they’ll accumulate 15 more things, so you don’t see any progress. But if you follow ‘one in, one out’ you’ll never have more than you do in that moment. From then on, your household will be in a steady state.”

9. Declutter With The Change In Seasons. “When you’re pulling out new clothes for the change in season, try on all of them. Make sure that they fit. Our bodies change, styles change, and our taste changes. It’s a good time before you stick that stuff back inside of your closet to test them.”

10. Curb Temptation. “The less exposure you have to advertising, the less stuff you will accumulate. Advertising and marketing is huge and with social media, it’s put the pressure on even more. Of course, it’s human nature to like novelty, but I’ve found the less exposed you are to it, the less you’ll buy. Stop the catalogs from coming to your house and don’t shop for leisure. If you’re looking for something to do, don’t automatically go to a store. Go to a park, take a walk, get outdoors, read a book, do something that has absolutely nothing to do with consumerism. In general, it’ll be more uplifting for you anyways.”

For more on this topic, check out Mother’s article on How To Be A Minimalist With Kids.

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