Rue How-To: Clean Out Your Closet

I’m moving in less than a week – right along with the rest of Boston. It’s a dreaded day, September 1, not simply because of the chaos (and I mean true chaos) of an entire city moving on one day, but because, well… I have to clean out my closet.

You see, I’m a bit of a clothes hoarder. That sweet little Sox tee from high school? Got it. Those pumps I just loved to wear to sorority formals in college? Sitting pretty still on my shoe rack. Like family pictures and classic novels, clothes are oh so sentimental to me.

But there comes a time when you just need to let go. So I pulled together a few guidelines and tackled my closet purge with what some might call great courage. This is what I learned along the way:

If you haven’t worn it in a year (or two), get rid of it. There are certain exceptions – that black-tie-appropriate dress, for example – but if you haven’t worn it in quite some time, will you really (honestly) wear it again?

It doesn’t fit. So stop waiting for the time when it will. Warning: this is easier said than done. But that tiny little frock? As much as I suck in, it’s just not in the cards. And no matter how many times I say, “I’ll wear you one day!” I just can’t justify it taking up closet space.

Don’t just throw things out. Separate unwanted clothing into three piles: consign, donate, and toss. Only throw out the rattiest duds. It’s easier to let go of clothing when you know that it’ll go to someone in need or that you’ll be getting cash in return.

Consignment is key. I’m obsessed with the consignment chain Second Time Around. They have locations in 11 states – from Maine to Florida – and the location I go to doesn’t require an appointment. You simply walk in, drop off your closet rejects, and head out the door. Easy. As. Pie.

It’s okay to keep a few meaningful pieces. Just take them out of the closet, for goodness’ sake. I packed a few of my too-small-but-still-expensive pieces into space bags (these are my favorites) to put under the bed at my new place. They’ll be there if I ever get nostalgic.

By Joanna Berliner, Editor 

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August 27, 2012


  1. Alyssa says:

    Oh goodness, we’re very much alike – but at least you’re moving and have an excuse to clean out your closet! My Sox tee will have to just stay in the drawer a few more years :)

  2. jberliner says:

    It was such a big project – I’m glad I finally had the excuse to do it. That being said, I just couldn’t bring myself to part with that Sox tee. Mine’s staying with me, too – at least until my next clean-out!

  3. Gelinda says:

    Thanks for the article. I NEEDED this as a reminder. I’ve been purging everything for about a year. It’s a process. We have so much stuff packed away everywhere simply because we didn’t make time to go through it so packed it away.

  4. jberliner says:

    Thanks Gelinda – it *is* a process. (To say the least.) Good luck with the rest of your clean-out!

  5. Cherie says:

    Just like you, I will be moving tomorrow to my new apartment in the North End. I went through a closet overhaul this past week and also realized that I am the biggest clothes hoarder around, and I probably wear only 1/4 of my wardrobe!

  6. Mana says:

    I just did a clear out of my closet, I did it all in one day and had a full on breakdown when I was done.

  7. kayo says:

    I admit I’m a hoarder, and yes, i edit and sell, &consign but I don’t agree with the rules! I have many pieces that I have pulled out after many years, when the trend has come back or when i finally have the occasion to wear it.

  8. Rachel says:

    Pretty much the only things in my closet that I don’t wear are jeans that won’t fit–they’re too big though–so I keep them, convinced that its likely I will gain a little weight as I get older or have children, so I’m just storing them until then!

  9. these are some great tips! and i totally have those.. you will fit one day clothes in my closet i should probably get rid of…

    Sandy a la Mode