How to Edit Your Closet & What to Do with the Discarded Items

When the kids go back to school and the seasons start to change, I get an urge to start cleaning out my closets. In Vermont where we live, this is an especially important chore because it is necessary to have a wardrobe for each of the four seasons, with winters snowy and quite cold ranging to warm and humid summers. Such a large amount of clothing and gear for a family can get disorganized and out of hand pretty easily, so I make sure to clean out the closets at least once a year. The challenge is not only to edit the contents but to figure out what to do with the unwanted items. I’ve come up with a game plan that works well when I attack almost any closet in my house.

First, I take everything out. It’s amazing how much bigger the closet space seems with nothing in it, a misleading optical illusion!

Second, I make three piles: one to keep, one to give away, and one for the garbage (torn clothes, really worn shoes, items that don’t work or are broken beyond repair). In my work at Otter Creek Custom Closets I’ve learned that many people have the most trouble with the give-away pile, oftentimes keeping things they don’t really want just in case they may want them weeks or months down the road. I’ve conquered this problem with a simple rule that I strictly follow: If I have not worn the shoes, coat, blouse, pants, etc. in the last year it is unlikely I will in the future, so it has to go. Master Organizer Porter Knight gave a great presentation a while back at the Otter Creek Custom Closets showroom about how to purge and part with old belongings, and she’s right–it really does feel good.

Third, I clean the closet. I vacuum or sweep the floor and wipe down the shelving for dust. I also remove any marks from the walls, easily done with Mr. Clean Magic Eraser from the grocery store.

Lastly, I put back everything I want to keep and organize it by clothing type and then by color (yes, I really do this and it saves so much time when getting dressed!) If a closet is used for equipment or supplies instead of clothing, I simply group like items together and keep everything visible so that it will be easy to locate.

At this point, all that is left is to find new homes for the give-away items. I have several options for this which I have listed below. It does take a little time to get things where I want them to go, but I always feel great about it when I am done.

Clothes: Some go to friends and neighbors, the rest to various non profits: The Salvation Army in Burlington VT, The Goodwill in Williston, VT, the First Congregational Church resale shop in Essex Junction, VT.

Coats and other outerwear including boots: I generally bring these to the schools. The school nurses give them to kids who show up to school without.

Household items: The Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program in Colchester, Vermont or COTS in Burlington, Vermont can often use items like sheets, bedding, lighting, small furniture, etc. Call to see if they need the items you may have to donate. The Salvation Army also takes household items.

Do you know of another good place for donating used items OR do you have a good closet organizing tip? Please share it in the comment section! If cleaning out the closets is something you dread, try doing it the way I do and enjoy the extra storage space you create. And remember, the time you spend on this task will be saved many times over when you don’t have to rummage around through old stuff you don’t use, looking for items you can’t seem to find. Good luck!