How To Clean Out Your Closet: What To Ditch And What To Keep

It's time to take stock of those five identical shirts.
LaraBelova via Getty Images

Cleaning out your closet can seem like a daunting task. Getting rid of your clothes, even if you haven’t worn them in years (and years, and years) isn’t easy. If crop tops, chokers and full-on tracksuits can become trendy again, so can that bandage dress you bought in 2005, right?

But sometimes you just need to let things go, and there’s nothing like a good closet purge to give you and your style a fresh start for the year ahead.

Not sure where to start? We got some tips from Rent The Runway’s style director, Blaire Rabenhorst.

Keep The Basics

The things you want to keep in your closet are staples and basics, or “the everyday pieces you can incorporate with those trendy items that happen throughout each season,” Rabenhorst told HuffPost.

When you’re looking at your closet and debating what to get rid of, Rabenhorst suggested taking a good look at what you’re working with to determine which pieces are “seasonless.” For instance, denim, collared button ups, plain sweaters, T-shirts, leggings and tank tops are all items that won’t really go out of style, Rabenhorst suggested.

Other items that are great to keep are layering pieces like thinner turtlenecks or long sleeve T-shirts that are can be worn under dresses or tank tops. Layering can add interest and texture to any outfit.

A classic leather (or faux leather) jacket and at least one warm coat (if you live in an area that gets cold weather) are two other closet staples to keep.

When it comes to shoes, they can have a pretty long shelf life, and much like items of clothing, can be defined as either classic or trendy. For example, a great pair of black pumps is a must-have, but those satin peep-toes with a 2-inch platform are probably safe to toss. Beyond that, shoes have the ability to transform even the simplest of outfits, so it’s easier to justify keeping them, in our humble opinion. (Unless, of course, they’re damaged beyond repair. Then you should toss them.)

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What To Ditch

Once you’ve decided on the things worth keeping, it’s time to start purging.

“Things you purge, for me, are those crazy pieces I’ve only worn three times in my lifetime, and have been sitting in the back of my closet taking up space,” Rabenhorst said, admitting, “I’m definitely guilty of looking at those items and thinking, ‘Oh, that was a great memory, but I haven’t worn it in 5 years.’ I just need to bite the bullet and get rid of the pieces that have gone out of style, or [that I] haven’t worn in many years, and are just taking up space.”

Rabenhorst also shared her personal rule for when it comes to cleaning out her closet: “If I haven’t worn it in a year, I need to get rid of it.”

Other pieces you can ditch are things you have duplicates of (except the jeans, because like we said, you can never have too many pairs). For example, if you’ve got five white button-downs in your closet, why not try getting rid of (at least) one or two? Trust us, you won’t miss them.

You also shouldn’t keep items that you hope will eventually be back in style. Some trends (ahem, bandage dresses) just need to die. Additionally, as Rent the Runway suggests, if there’s a piece in your closet you’ve worn to every big event for the past few years ― weddings, cocktail parties, work parties ― it might be time to replace it with something else. Treat yo self!

Finally, if you’re holding on to clothes that don’t make you feel great when you wear them, it’s probably a good idea to let go of them ― that includes your workout gear. Wearing clothes that actually make you feel strong and confident can make a big difference when you’re heading to the gym. You should feel confident in your clothes!

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What To Do Next

Once you’ve determined which pieces to keep and which to ditch, there are a few things you can do with your “ditch” pile.

First, you can donate your items to charitable organizations like Goodwill or The Salvation Army, as they’re always happy to accept gently used clothing. If some of the pieces you’re getting rid of are too worn out or damaged to donate, they can still be recycled and perhaps turned into new textiles or be used for insulation.

You can also try setting up clothing swaps with your friends. If you’re looking to add some new pieces to your wardrobe after clearing some extra space, swaps are also a great way to find some gems.

Another thing you can do is sign up for a clothing rental service like Rent The Runway. This month, the company partnered with Give Back Box and is providing subscribers with prepaid shipping labels to donate clothing to charity.

Lastly, there’s always the option to consign your clothes, especially if you’re getting rid of any designer items in good condition that you don’t just want to give away.

Now that you’re equipped with the tips, go forth and clean that closet.

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