Exorcising Your Inner Closet Demons (or, How To Clean Your Closet)


Time to face the closet demons.

It’s almost fall, and you know what that means—it’s time to pack up your bathing suits and summer shorts and bring out the long pants and wool jackets that will stand up to the colder evenings. Here in DC, I am savoring the feeling of actually being a little chilly in the mornings—or, at the very least, I can step outside my apartment without being hit by a sweltering heat wave that ruins my makeup before I get down the block.

But it can be challenging to face those winter clothes that have been languishing away at the back of your closet. Especially when you realize that you don’t actually wear half of the clothes in your “winter wardrobe” and you’re only holding onto them for strange, unjustifiable emotional reasons like “I wore it on my first date with my boyfriend,” or “it was a gift from my mother and I can’t throw it out,” or “I’m going to fit back into those pants after I lose ten pounds—honest, this is the year!”

Thankfully, one of my coworkers gave me a copy of September’s Body+Soul magazine, which has a no-nonsense article on how to get over the emotional hang-ups that come between you and a clean closet. The magazine is an offering from the Martha Stewart empire that looks at wellness, cooking, and lifestyle tips for the middle-class hippie set.

The article has six tips that will help you let go of your useless-but-highly-sentimental clothing items and turn your closet from memory lane into a functioning wardrobe.

  • Dress for the Body You Have Right Now (Not the One Ten Pounds from Now): It’s tempting to keep clothes that fit you ten years or ten pounds ago, or that you bought in an optimistic moment when you first started a new diet. But this does more than take up closet space—it fills you with guilt every time you open the closet and see those small sizes shaming you. Accept your size and dump the tiny clothes.
  • Expensive Doesn’t Mean Keeper: Have you ever splurged on a pair of shoes that blew your budget, only to realize that there was no way you could ever wear six inch stiletto heels outside the house? It may have cost you a lot of money, but if you’re not going to wear it then it’s just take up space in your closet. Toss it or, better yet, sell it to a consignment store and make some extra dough.
  • Your Wild Youth Is Over, So Get Rid of the Evidence: Ah your college days when you used to be able to go out to bars every night and get your freak on on the dance floor. Sadly, that was years ago, and it’s time to accept that you have no more use for the hoochie-mamma halter tops you wore to frat parties. It’s time to toss.
  • But It Was So In Style, (At the Time): We all have them—those trendy items that you picked up one fall after reading an issue of Vogue and thinking that you could pull off the latest trend. Yes, the Elvis sleeve used to be a style statement, and kudos to you for being fashion forward back in the day, but it’s time to accept that style mavens have moved on. So should you.
  • I’ll Need It When I Become A Professional UltraMarathoner: Ah yes, the elaborate ski clothes from your ski bum days, or that professional ballroom dancing outfit that you bought back when you took dance lessons. Chances are, if you haven’t done that activity in a while, you need to get rid of the outfit.
  • But It Was A Gift: Who hasn’t received a well-intentioned clothing item that ended up being a dud? Don’t we all have oversized sweaters, strange scarves, or pants with a funky crotch sitting in our closets that someone gave to us? Yes, you may feel guilty giving away an item that was a gift, but you’re not wearing it anyway. Donate it to charity and perhaps those items will find a second life with someone who will actually wear them.

So don’t despair as you clean out your closet for the new season. Just give yourself an emotional break and get rid of the things you don’t wear—your closet and your emotional well-being, will be better for it.



  1. Uncle Mike said

    My closet is so dull. I have no sense of anything. Lots of black, gray, and dark blue, solids – definitely no color. It’s been this way for so log, I think I’m a hopeless case.

  2. moderndomestic said

    What, you mean you have no brightly colored halter tops? For shame, for shame. Yes, I guess for men the closet is far less fraught with emotional peril. On the other hand, it was totally hard to get my dad to get rid of all those Butte to Butte t-shirts he had collected over the years . . . so perhaps for men’s closet issues take a different form?

  3. exelizabeth said

    The lady from Bits and Bobbins put together a very inspiring, 3-part closet cleaning/purging post awhile back that I still refer to:


  4. moderndomestic said

    Oooh, that’s an awesome article. I always like the advice about trying everything on – it’s so true. I am in the unenviable position of not only needed up clean out my closet, but also really needed to upgrade some pieces (my sweaters are really, really ratty). And I just don’t have the money for it . . . not sure what I’m going to do . . .

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