20 Hacks That Make Cleaning Out Your Closet WAY Easier

Visualize the contents of your closet. Now think about how much of it you actually wear. For many of us, the discrepancy between space-wasters and outfit regulars is extreme. It's hardly surprising, considering how quickly we assign sentimental value to some garments — and forget about others. But having a disorganized wardrobe can be a major pain, especially when hoards of barely worn clothes hide the real closet gems. When that happens, you know what time it is.

Ah, spring cleaning: a relief once it's complete but nonetheless daunting. That's why we enlisted organization pro Jenny Kaplan to provide the dos and don'ts of navigating a clothing purge. Prior to launching her interior- and wardrobe-styling biz, An Aesthetic Pursuit, Kaplan spent a near-decade as a stylist and visual merchandiser — in other words, she knows her way around a closet. Once you've taken her advice and amassed an epic pile of clothes you no longer need, you can drop 'em off at your local H&M to have them recycled into a second life. While you can do this year-round for a sweet 15% discount, if you act before April 24, you'll receive 30% off your entire purchase (valid through April 27) thanks to the brand's World Recycle Week initiative.

To get ready for your upcoming drop-and-shop, read on for how to work your way through every closet section, from denim to workwear to ghosts of dance parties past.

Getting Started

DO start by taking everything out of your closet.
Kaplan always begins her closet clean outs — which she recommends doing at least twice a year — by taking everything out to do a deep clean of the space. After vacuuming and dusting, she'll sort clothes into toss and keep piles. To help you decide which pile something should go in, Kaplan suggests asking yourself if you've worn it in the past year. If you haven't but still feel attached to the item, you should try to make an outfit with it. If you can’t get anywhere, then it’s apparent you need to get rid of it.

DON'T stress if you can't get everything organized in a day.
"Everyone in New York especially is so busy and their time is so limited, so people want results as fast as possible," Kaplan says. "But after seven hours of organizing a closet, everyone needs a break. It’s better to just pick up with a fresh set of eyes the next day or the next week." If you have a closet and a couple of dressers, Kaplan says you should do one at a time so you're not so overwhelmed.

DO trust your gut.
For those in-between items that you're not sure if you want to keep, Kaplan always recommends trying them on. "You'll know right away because you'll either think, Oh, this looks awesome on me, or, Ew, I don't like this at all."
Photographed by Mark Lim.


DON'T toss pieces just because they're "old."
When sorting through old wares — especially denim — Kaplan says you can always refashion pieces if they still fit well. For example, take scissors to dated styles and give them the trendy frayed-hem treatment. This will help you breathe new life into the items you thought you'd never wear again. The exception? "Motivation" jeans. "If you're holding on to things from your past when you were a totally different shape, you have to let go and accept where you're at now," Kaplan advises.

DO embrace denim's forever-cool status.
Kaplan notes that right now we're in a moment when almost every denim style is acceptable, from skinny jeans to flares to wide-legged options. Lucky for us, this means our go-to pair from a few seasons back is still totally wearable, and we don't have to weed out any just because they're not trendy.
Photographed by Mark Lim.

Sweaters & Tops

DO keep basics on hand that serve a purpose — and buy them in bulk.
"If you’re the type of person who gets stressed out when getting dressed in the morning, having a set uniform is great," Kaplan says. "For my clients like this, I'll have them buy four of the same sweaters in different colors and four of the same T-shirts, because it gives them staples they can intermix. It takes out all of the hassle."

DON'T treat your simple tees and novelty tops as equals.

T-shirts are incredibly easy to hoard unintentionally. To streamline your collection, Kaplan recommends separating your vintage and staple white and black tees from your novelty collection — those seasonal, more trendy tops you tend to buy on a whim. That way, when you're not as into them the next season, they're readily available to toss. As for the tops you're looking to preserve — always air dry 'em so they won't fade.


DON'T overwear special-occasion dresses.
Kaplan cautions clients against over-wearing their special-occasion dresses to weddings and other functions. If you only wear a dress once a season, it'll still feel new the following year, and you'll end up getting just as many wears out of it.
Photographed by Mark Lim.
DO let go of the frat-party frock.
If you're holding on to any college-era body-con minis, now's an excellent time to part ways with the former dance-party go-to. As for your keep pile, Kaplan says items like slip dresses and anything with fringe, ruffles, or large floral prints should make the cut. To revive some of last season's purchases, try layering dresses over cropped or flared denim.
Photographed by Mark Lim.


DON'T slack on restocking your work staples.
"I think you should always have a good pair of black pants, a white button-down, a few formal plain dresses, and a nice pair of heels," Kaplan says. "But you should keep those items refreshed and current and not have the same white button-down you've had for ages." If you have pieces that you haven't worn since your last interview, it's time to toss 'em.

DO explore other options beyond the traditional trouser.
Now that office dress codes are more lax than ever, Kaplan recommends trying wide-legged culottes or a jumpsuit for spring (unless you work in a more formal environment). "I love the idea of 'one and done,'" Kaplan says. "Especially during the warmer months when we don't want to be bothered with layering." She also highlights long vests and oversized menswear tops as pieces that'll make any outfit look more polished and professional.
Photographed by Mark Lim.


DO nix the form-fitted bottoms circa the early 2000s (but the cargo pants can stay).
Kaplan notes that we're seeing a ton of relaxed silhouettes now, like wide-legged trousers and girlfriend jeans, which, if we're being honest, are way more comfortable than their tiny predecessors. If you're looking to trim down the bottoms in your closet, consider this permission to lose the ultra-short, ultra-tight items that were trendy years ago. The one early-aughts style we're keeping? Cargo pants.

DON'T overlook your loungewear and workout gear.
As loungewear continues to cross over into everyday wear, be mindful of the quality of your off-duty pieces — they're no longer relegated to just the couch. "If it's looking really ratty and the threads are starting to fray, or if your leggings appear faded and are loosing elasticity, I would advise upgrading," Kaplan says.
Photographed by Mark Lim.


DO pare down your outerwear to seasonal essentials.
The easiest way to narrow your coat collection is to focus on seasonal needs. For spring, Kaplan recommends capping it off after you've got it down to a denim jacket, a bomber, a moto jacket, and a trench. For winter, after you've invested in a classic longline coat and a parka (or other weatherproof option), it's good to donate or sell anything leftover, like the novelty coats that've run their course.

DON'T underestimate the importance of proper hangers.
For heavy, bulky outerwear, Kaplan stresses the importance of having sturdy wooden hangers that can handle the weight. "If it's too flimsy, it won't preserve the shape at the shoulders," she says. It's also a good idea to fill the sleeves with tissue paper to further protect the shape during off-seasons.
Photographed by Mark Lim.


DON'T forget to invest in new undergarments a few times a year.
Since your undergarments can get destroyed in the wash so easily, Kaplan suggests stocking up on new undies multiple times a year. "If anything looks especially ratty, or if your bras lose elasticity and the hook in the back is falling apart, you should definitely get rid of it," Kaplan says. In order to avoid this issue altogether, treat your delicates as the name would suggest: delicately. If hand-washing isn't an option, make sure you toss your undergarments in a lingerie laundering bag and use a delicate cycle. Kaplan also likes to keep a fresh bar of soap in her lingerie drawer in a lavender or a rose sent to keep her garments smelling nice.

DO recognize the importance of nude undies.
Kaplan notes that a few nude bras and a handful of seamless nude underwear are absolute necessities. "A lot of women don't realize how important nude lingerie is, especially if you're looking to conceal it. Nude is a much better alternative to white."

Staying Organized

DO take a photo of the final product.
Kaplan says the easiest way to keep everything in order is to take a photo once you're done in case you start to slack on putting things back in their place. She also likes to put together outfits while she's cleaning and snap photos of them to reference later. This will ultimately help you use what you have in your closet more often. Kaplan says, "Even with a hyper-organized closet, you can get into the habit of wearing the same 10 things all the time. Like at the end of last season I was like, I didn't wear this coat all winter, what was wrong with me? Having photos of outfits can help you avoid that."

DO consider dry-cleaning when stowing away last season's clothes.
When it comes to sweaters and outerwear, Kaplan encourages her clients to get everything dry-cleaned at the end of the season, so they don't get moth eaten while in storage. If it's too pricey, she recommends hand-washing sweaters and tees to prevent pilling. And if you don't want your clothes to fade, avoid drying them in the machine at all costs. Kaplan says proper care is the key to the longevity of your garments.

DON'T procrastinate on recycling your toss pile.
Wrap up your wardrobe overhaul by taking your toss pile to your local H&M. (While all apparel and textiles are fair game, shoes and accessories cannot be accepted at this time.) With the special 30% discount you'll receive now through April 24, you can start to repopulate all the extra closet space you freed up.

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