Photo by Xana Silva

How to Spring Clean Your Closet – And a Crucial First Step Most People Miss

As someone who has lived with vitiligo for more than twenty years, I know first-hand that ‘loving the skin you’re in’ comes a lot easier when I’m loving the clothes I’m in. And that’s why spring cleaning my closet is one of my can’t-live-without annual rituals.

Over the years, I’ve developed a routine that helps me refresh my closet whenever I feel like I’ve reached a fashion rut. This process not only makes over my wardrobe but gives me the confidence I need to feel my best as I leave the house each morning.

Here’s how I clean out my closet each year:

Step 1: Set the bar high

When you’re diving into a closet overhaul, your first instinct might be to start throwing out the clothes you don’t like. But what happens when you get to the pieces you just aren’t sure about? That’s where this first step comes in. It’s important to start with setting the bar – and setting it high – as a guide for your closet makeover.

Think about the feeling you get when you love a piece of clothing – and I mean capital L-O-V-E it. When I find something I love, I start to dance – literally. I feel giddy and happy. I want it to wear it right then and there. That’s the feeling you need to zero in on. Find the piece – or pieces – that make you dance, literally or otherwise, and display them in your room to set the bar for success. That’s the feeling you’re going to look for as you clean out your closet and shop for new pieces. If it doesn’t measure up, there’s no space for it in your closet.

Step 2: Purge with purpose

With your bar set, you’re ready to dive in. Go through your closet – all of it. Look at your clothes, jewelry, shoes, scarves and bags. Start by removing easy things like the following: anything you haven’t worn in the past year, anything that doesn’t fit you well, and anything that is worn-looking and needs to be replaced or that doesn’t mix and match well with other items.

The first time you go through your closet, make it a speed round of quick decisions and create three piles: keep, maybe and discard. Put the “keep” pile to the side, box up the “discard” pile to donate or resell, and then focus on the “maybe” pile for the second round. Go through each piece and compare it your “bar” – does it give you that same feeling? If it does, send it to the “keep” pile; if not, toss it in the “discard” pile. The last step is to go through your “keep” pile and double-check your work.

If you struggle with making decisions or have trouble getting rid of things, grab a friend to help you through the process and keep you on task. And if you really can’t part with your “maybe” pile, put it in a box and hid it away for a few months. You might realize that you don’t even miss those clothes and can give them away later.

Step 3: Inventory and plan

Do you feel like there’s almost nothing left in your “keep” pile? That’s okay. In fact, it’s normal. I usually keep less than a third of my clothes each time I go through this process. It’s easy to make a habit of buying clothes you don’t L-O-V-E and not all clothes today are built to last. So if you’re feeling nervous about what you have left, don’t be – and get ready for the best step.

Here’s where you get to dream big. Go through your “keep” pile and analyze your inventory. What do you have for the upcoming season? How many outfits can you make? Does your current closet let you mix and match pieces to create more outfits? What would you need to complete your closet? What did you love – or not love – that needs to be replaced? Create a short list of the things you would need to complete your closet. Think about your lifestyle and types of events you attend. Consider what you’re practically going to wear, verses what you think you would want to wear.

Step 4: Shop with intention

With your list in hand, you’re ready to shop – with two key points in mind. The first is that you need to remember your “bar.” If you aren’t dancing in that dressing room, leave it in the store.

The second point is that your shopping list really should be short. The Today Show reported that only 20% of clothes make it off the rack. Why? I don’t have a scientific, well-researched answer, but I’m willing to bet it’s because most people don’t L-O-V-E all of their clothes. As a result, they only wear the ones that they do L-O-V-E. I leave the store empty-handed 90% of the time when I go shopping. And that’s because I know that there are few pieces out there that I actually love. If I can stick to my bar, I end up with a closet I love while spending less – and that’s worth it.

Did you use this guide to clean out your closet? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Photo by Xana Silva.

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Erika Page

Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. Her first spots appeared on her spine when she was seven years old and today vitiligo covers her entire body. Based just south of Washington, D.C., Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.

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