During the extremely steep learning curve incurred during the first few years of child-rearing, most of us let little bad things happen. We let the house get dirty, the dishes pile up, and some of us ban bed-making altogether. This is a generally awesome parenting skill that has helped me in many other areas of life, because it has allowed me to focus on the big things that matter.

My closet was not one of those big things.

As I color-coded my toddler’s t-shirt drawer, my own closet eroded into a jumbled dumping ground that ended up costing me time when I had to wade through it every day.

That is when it became a priority. Anything that costs me time drives me nuts. I turned to wardrobe and style experts, as well as productivity gurus, to come up with an easy closet maintenance system that would only cost me a few minutes a day.

To get started, I recommend first decluttering with a Closet Outbox.

This little tool becomes the filter for anything you’re unsure about discarding along the way. Think of it as the liver of your closet (a gross, but effective visual), so it will be living and changing with you.

If the image of a human organ isn’t working for you, maybe think of it as a growing, breathing garden that has a few weeds crowding out the good stuff. (That’s much nicer. I should have said that first. Oh well.)

Follow these steps to decide what to donate:

(This is important because it’s hard to organize at all when your closet is too crowded.)

Answer these five questions about each item:

Antique illustration of 18th century clothes

1. Does it fit?

 

 

Yes


Move to question #2.

No


A) Too small? Donate your clothes.

B) Too big? Are you willing to have it tailored this week?

  • If no, donate.
  • If yes, put it next to your purse/shoes/keys, now. Add a calendar reminder to go to the tailor this week.

women fashion from the 1920s

2. Do you know how to wear it?

 

Yes


Move to questions #3.

No


Challenge yourself to wear it this week. If you still don’t like it after its debut, it goes in your Closet Outbox.

1950s fashion

3. Does it need a repair?

 

Are you willing to have it tailored this week?

Yes


If yes, put it next to your purse/shoes/keys now. Create a calendar reminder to go to the tailor.

No


Not willing to repair it this week? Donate it.

1970s vintage fashion

4. Is it too worn out to wear or ruined with a stain?

 

If yes, does it have sentimental value?

 

Yes


Consider one of these options:

  • Have a quilt made from your castoffs.
  • Take pictures and start a memory album on snapfishsmugmug, or your computer.
  • Try withoutatrace.com for tough custom reweaving jobs for knits you love.

No


Donate

1990s fashion
Really consider those shoulder pads…they may come back around.

5. Is it worn out or ruined, but you still love the way it fits?

If yes, it’s time to measure & record.

Bonus: Measure & Record

Before you donate your clothes, use a paper notebook, a notes app, a Google Doc, or the free MySize app to record:

  • Item Name
  • Brand Name
  • Size
  • Measurements (you can record this all in the “Size” field in MySize)
  • Garment length
  • Width of opening (waist for pants, or neck for shirts)
  • Width of midpoints (under the armpits and shoulder to shoulder for shirts, hips for pants)
  • Any other measurement that pertains to a feature you LOVE about the fit. This could be the sleeve length, the width of a pant leg, whatever it is (you can even take a pic for posterity)

Now use these measurements as an easy guide for shopping for a replacement. Just keep a measuring tape and your notes in your purse, and refer to these measurements the next time you shop.

Final Step: Enjoy Your Finds!

Anything that’s left should go back in your closet. Consider each one a find you forgot about. Treat it like something new.

If you like the Closet Outbox idea, each week you should clear your outbox of one clothing category (tees, blouses, skirts, etc.) and fill up on another. You’ll be through all your clothes in a few weeks with your sanity intact and a supremely uncluttered closet.

If you get stuck, here is the full “Sane Closet Cleanout” Series:

Step 1: The 5 Minute Closet Cleanout

Step 2: How to Declutter Your Wardrobe with the Closet Outbox

Step 3: Donate Your Clothes, or Don’t: How to Decide What Goes

Step 4: How to Organize Your Closet in 3 Steps

Do you have additional ideas on how to declutter your closet? If so, please leave your suggestions in the comments section below.