How to Purge All of Your Clothes in One Day

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"This girl is insane", you're thinking. I've read all the books, they all say it takes weeks or months or years to purge your clothes. Well, they're wrong.

I'm an impatient person. I stand at the microwave toe-tapping for the 30 seconds it takes to heat up my lunch. Frankly, I don't have the time or the drive to commit to cleaning out my closet over the course of weeks or months. I don't want to turn around my hangers and see what I didn't wear at the end of the season. When I start to feel overwhelmed by my closet, I want that shiz GONE.

I want it all in garbage bags ready for donation by the next day. I'm hoping if you're reading this article you're like me. I've read a million of those declutter books. You name it, I've read it. So, basically I know what not to do, and I can tell you what works better for normal people who don't live in all white houses with maids to clean and organize for us (sorry, Oprah).

I had a style crisis for about two years, in which I spent every other month cleaning everything out in my closet for my Brand New Style. The one where I get rid of everything I own that doesn’t spark joy and then buy super similar stuff that is “better”. It sucked.

I finally stopped reading the blogs and the books and the magic guides and just sat down in my closet one day and went with my gut. And this time, it worked. I figured out that there was really only two things I needed to do to make sure I cleaned out my closet to perfection and kept my style to boot. It is sinfully simple.

Steps to a Successful Closet Clean Out

Step One

First things first, take everything out of your closet. You can leave that box you hid with embarrassing pictures and old love letters. But everything else, take it out. I don't know about you, but I am not fortunate enough to have a large closet.

It is truly the bane of my existence. It's pretty tough to see what I have in my closet if I really want a good look to decide if it still has a place on closet island. You aren’t required to take everything off of the hangers, but I would strongly encourage you too, like how you get voluntold to do something you don’t want to do.

Step Two

First step done, and you're thinking "this is nothing new". Well, Susan, not all of us can be complete revolutionaries. Don't worry, I'm getting there.

If you're an absolute crazy like me and you organize your closet by type and color and season, please take this time to let go of your need for perfection. Everything you just took out of your closet and threw on the floor? I want you to jumble it up. DO NOT separate it nice and neat into piles of dresses and jeans and blouses.

"Why?", you may ask.

Secret #1:

When you're doing a closet clean out, the last thing you want to do when you start going through is start counting how many of an item you have. I have made this mistake before. I decide to start with my dresses, and I start to notice I decided to keep only two dresses. Now my mind is going: wait, only two dresses? No, no, no. We have to keep more. You always need dresses, even if you don't like them. 

And then I'm right back where I started with a pile of dresses or shirts I don't wear or like. Mix the whole pile up so you're pulling out a different type of clothing item every time, and you won't be able to keep track of how many of each thing you have. Well, unless you're the Rainman.

Step Three

I am a recommender of the three pile method for a closet clean out:

  • YES

  • Hard No

  • Maybe Baby.

So, when you pull out each piece from the pile, you are either going to put it in the YES (keep), Hard No (get rid of), or Maybe Baby pile (gotta think about it). I want you to ask yourself this one and only question when you look at the item of clothing, "Do I feel good in this?".

Notice I did not say *look good*. I look good in a lot of things, but they don't always feel good. You can look good in something and feel good, but not everything hits both marks.

And while I am asking you to dig in your feelings a little bit, I'm not going to make you ask if something "sparks joy". I've made that mistake so you don't have to. The basic white t-shirt you wear all the time doesn't usually spark joy, but it sure feels good, which is probably why you wear it 24/7.

If this one question doesn’t do it for you and you need a more regimented guide of questions to ask yourself, download my free ebook that fleshes out this process even more and gives you a list of questions to really purge your clothes from top to bottom.

Step Four

If you've completed step 3, you should have three distinct piles now. Everything in the YES pile needs to be hidden. Throw it in your closet or under your bed, but don't you dare start organizing it now. This will surely lead you to the trap of counting that I described in Step 2, the absolute horror. Hide that pile!

Step Five

Now, you have two piles. The "Hard No" pile needs to be put in bags or boxes or whatever environmentally friendly/unfriendly way you choose to dispose of it. Just stuff it in your bag/box/whatever as quickly as possible and don't think about it. Better yet, get someone else to do it by bribing them (I'm serious about both of those things).

Thinking too much about this pile and picking through it a second time will lead you right back to that pitfall of an overflowing closet. Let me break this step down again.

  1. Take your Hard No pile and basically close your eyes while you hide it. Do NOT look at what is in this pile.

  2. If you can, take what you have in your Maybe Baby pile and take it to another room while someone else bags up your Hard No pile.

This is what you don't want!

Step Six

Okay. You have one pile left. This is the time you can start thinking. This is also the worst part and simultaneously the best part.

Secret #2:

You have to try everything on. I know, I know. I'm sorry, but you gotta. That’s the secret to really purging your closet.

Trying this on will usually help you see why you put it in the Maybe pile in the first place. Put one of the items on and take a minute to look at it critically. The color, the fit, how it lays, the style. Then ask yourself our little secret closet clean out question again "Do I feel good in this?".

I guarantee this step will help you drastically reduce the size of that Maybe Baby pile. And by the way, it is totally okay to keep things from this pile! I used to feel bad like, if I have to even think about it I don't need it. Not true. You can't be sure about everything in life or your closet.

You're done!

When I do this process it typically takes me 4ish hours total, but I take some breaks for food and allergies. There is a lot of dust in our closets, unfortunately. I've cleaned out my closet countless times. I started this process a couple years ago, and it keeps me from having to clean out my closet every few months with a longgg process and reading books and blogs. Now, I only do it about once a year and I am MUCH happier.

The first time I did this, I halved or more the size of my closet. It seriously works. And the best reward of cleaning out your closest? All those feel good feelings when you can donate clothing to friends, family, and those who need it.

While you're here, you're probably looking to make your closet work for you. In which case you should jump on over to this post on the One Week Wardrobe! Let me know how much of your closet you were able to purge, I love seeing this process work for y’all!