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9 Tips to Detox Your Closet

Practice
Pile of carelessly scattered clothes

Getty Images/Mukhina1

“A closet detox is not simply decluttering—it’s emotional detox.”

We know. It’s easier to shut the door on your closet than to find the headspace to make closet space (and emotional space) as you face letting go of the past.

So many memories (those first-date dress feels); oh, the nostalgia (I remember when little Emma wore those PJs); so much hope (I can lose those pounds and rock these jeans again); and all the guilt (that jacket price tag hurt). A closet detox is not simply decluttering—it’s emotional detox. This garb isn’t just garb at all. It all represents who you are, and who you were. (Keyword: were.) Recognizing that can help you rev up to finally get it done.

So the (de)clutter countdown is officially over, and you are making the space for clean, healthy habits and practices, and, in this case, paring down the past by parting with pieces you no longer have room for, both physically and emotionally. It may seem like parting is such sweet sorrow, but, remember: In order to be who you are going to become, you have to be willing to evolve and let go of who you once were.

So, channel your inner Marie Kondo and kick off your spring cleaning with these closet tidying tips.

Getting Started

Fact: The hardest part is showing up, so the best way to initiate cleaning is to schedule it. Pick a date, block off some time, tell your spouse or your bestie—whatever you have to do. Make it an official appointment with your closet in the way you would with, say, the dentist. And simply show up.

Be Present

Swap the funeral feeling of letting go of your beloved past with a more festive mood, celebrating that you are making space for yourself in the here and now and what’s to come. This is an epic self-care moment: being present, being you, and taking time and attention to make literal space for it. Make a playlist, grab your wine or tea of choice, and fete the fabulous you of today and tomorrow—the healthier, brighter you. 

Play an Anthem 

Alexa, please play “Fight Song,” by Rachel Platten. With your “power turned up and your will to be strong,” empty the closet out completely. Yup, for real. Then maybe pause for a sip of wine and jam out: “This is my fight song, take back my life song.” How fitting. Feel empowered. Feel the energy of years or decades of dress on your floor. Look at your closet and exhale. You now have a blank canvas to create.

Create a Checklist 

Use this checklist to take stock and determine which one of five piles to sort your wardrobe into:

  1. Keep
  2. Maybe
  3. Store
  4. Donate
  5. Recycle

Like anything else, having a firm checklist can make it easy to make decisions.

  • Have I worn this in the past year? 
  • Does this fit?
  • Would I buy this piece in a store today?
  • Do I feel confident in this piece?
  • Is this an item that represents who I am today?
  • Is this stained, tattered, or worn?
  • Is this item comfortable?
  • Is this item versatile?
  • Does this item have sentimental value?

Process Made Simple

If you answered yes to all of these, she’s a keeper! If your answers vary, throw it in the maybe pile. If your sole purpose for having an item is sentimental value and you truly cannot part with it (say, your grandma’s beloved hat), store it. If you answered no to most, but the item is still in good shape, to the donate pile it goes. And if you answered no to all—especially the question about condition—recycle, recycle, recycle!

Maybe, Maybe Not 

Now, it’s time to revisit that maybe pile to divvy it up between the remaining categories, from keep to store to donate. This is a good time to take expert Kondo’s advice from her best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Simply, if the item does not bring you joy, get rid of it. As you sort through your maybe pile and go over that checklist again, ask yourself if the item brings you joy—and be cutthroat.

As you linger over any piece in your storage box, think about what real purpose holding onto that sweater will serve. As Kondo says, when it comes to sentimentality, “Keep the emotion, not the gift.” But no need to be robotic, either. Let’s be real. These items mean something to you, which is why you held onto them until now and are even placing them in the maybe pile. So, as Kondo teaches us, pay your respect and own the feeling. “Never discard anything without saying thank you and goodbye,” she pens. Every fabric of our lives has shaped us into who we are. It’s OK to own the feeling and discard the item.

Emotional Release

The attachment we hold to items is well documented. And the letting go, essentially of the past, represents a very real emotional release. Instead of falling into fear of letting go, stay focused on celebrating the freeing feeling of making room for yourself. (Read five ways to get closet clarity here.)  

Finalizing and Organizing the Keepers

Most of the heavy lifting is done. Your keep pile is the only one definitively going back in the closet—but not just in any old spot. Establish new emotional order by reloading your wardrobe pieces by group via color and weight (ever notice when you walk into a retail store how easy it is to home in on what you’re looking for? Same system.) Another insider organization tip: Add closet dividers to help create clearer visible divisions by color and/or season. 

Going Forward

Congrats! Your closet is 100 percent full of items that fit your style, bring you joy, and truly represent you, while also leaving space for your evolving self. Bonus: As your wardrobe is now color-coordinated, you can home in on what colors you may want to add to brighten it as you consider your next purchase. Also worth considering? Your carbon footprint. Bamboo, hemp and organic cotton items are the eco-friendliest fabrics you can buy. As a biodegradable and highly sustainable material sans production pesticides, it’s a clean alternative to other fabrics.  

Read the the second story in this series, “Detoxing For Spring: Prep Your Body to Leave Winter Behind.”


Melissa Howsam is a regular contributor and editor for magazines across the country on topics spanning self-care to skincare, workouts to women’s health—and more. She lives in Raleigh, where she thrives on too much caffeine, playing with her pup and daydreaming of her next Aruba vacay.


This entry is tagged with:
MinimalismDetoxSpring Cleaning

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