Wardrobe Creation

Closet Cleanout – Start The New Year Fresh!

The thought of a good closet cleanout to start the year off right always feels exciting!  


closet clean out Deborah Boland


But, as we all know, purging your closet is a huge job. It always begins well. Everything comes out of the closet and onto the bed. Then, it’s deciding piece by piece what to keep and what to toss.

Halfway through, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and haunted by thoughts like, “Why did I waste so much money on this?” or “I can’t believe this doesn’t fit me anymore,” or “What the heck was I thinking when I bought this? “

With negative thoughts in your head and a mountain of clothes piled before you, it’s easy to stuff it all back into your closet and save your cleanout for another day, maybe.

But please don’t do that!

Cleaning Out Your Closet can change your life! How?

1. A good closet purge makes you feel good: Cleaning out your closet gives you a sense of accomplishment and mastery over your wardrobe. It’s one step on the way to style confidence.

2. It opens the wardrobe up to new possibilities -Just like anything in life, you can only let something new in once you get rid of the old. It’s the same with clothes.

3. You’ll save time getting dressed – 44% of women need help finding an item in their closet once a month, slowing them down. Seeing what you have clearly and knowing it fits and is in working condition makes it faster and easier to get dressed.

4. You’ll wear more of your clothes – The average woman wears about 20-30% of her closet clothes. Too many clothes overwhelm us, and we reach for the same old. When you see what you have, it’s easier to switch it up. 

5. Less stress, More Joy – Having a decluttered wardrobe is freeing and lets you focus on other things besides worrying about what to wear every day. 

6. You’ll make money to Reinvest. When you resell clothes you don’t wear; you can use your earnings to buy new clothes you love and will wear. 


messy closet
Go from this…….to this!


The Key to a Successful Closet Cleanout

To follow through and make your closet cleanout a success, you must get FOCUSED and have a PLAN.

Before you begin, you need to think long and hard about the types of clothes you need for your 40+ lifestyle and the image you want to project at this time in your life. From this, you can determine your clothing needs, which makes things a lot easier when you are in your closet looking at clothing and deciding what to keep and what to part with.

Getting focused is particularly important for women our age because many changes in midlife affect how we dress. For example:

  • Maybe you’ve left the 9-5, are now working from home, and need more casual work outfits.

  • Perhaps your children have left the nest, and you want to travel more when things ease up, so you need travel clothes. 

  • Have you gained a few pounds with menopause? Does your current wardrobe work with your new curves, or do you need a few new pieces?

  • Or, could you be stuck in a style rut, hanging on to boring clothes you’ve worn for decades but are now determined to dress more creatively and find a new stylish look?

 Determining all this first before you start digging deep into your closet gives you a clear plan for what you need. When you have a goal, a closet edits much easier.

Now, here’s how to clean out and organize your closet to create a refreshed 40+  wardrobe that meets your taste and lifestyle

Getting Started

Time – It always takes longer than you think. I like to set aside at least half a day  (4 hours or more on the weekend) or a couple of hours a day to do one section at a time—for example, tops on Mondays and pants on Tuesdays. 

Space- Be sure you have plenty of room to work in. You will end up with a few large piles of clothing, and stepping all over overstuff will be a confusing mess. If you don’t think your bed will be big enough, you might need to move a  couple of things around in your bedroom or bring in a folding table to put stuff on.

Tools – Having all your closet organizing tools by your side will keep you on track and save time. You’ll need

  • Thin, non-slip velvet hangers are better than wire or the thick white plastic ones so many of us have. Wood is excellent but thick, heavy, and takes up space. Rolling rack– I will explain in a minute.

  • Full-length mirrora must. Don’t waste time running to the bathroom to check an outfit in the mirror and then stand on the toilet for a full-length view!

  • Masking tape and a marker – for marking items that need fixing.

  • Dressmaker pins, fashion tape – when you tweak clothes to see how much they should be hemmed or altered.

  • Camera– for photographing outfits. Sometimes, it’s hard to see what an outfit looks like, but you usually know right away when you photograph it and look at the photo. This is my number one trick when I feel confused about something.

  • Plastic bins for things you want to keep for sentimental reasons but want out of the closet will depend on how you store items, such as under your bed or on closet shelves.



The Clear-Out Process

Now comes the tedious but essential step of cleaning out your closet. Everybody has their way. Some like to pull everything out of their closet onto their bed. While this initially feels great, it causes a lot of stress after an hour or so when you realize how slowly you are getting through the mess.

I recommend chucking it down. Pull out one section of clothing at a time onto a rolling rack. For example, start with your sweaters. Pull them out, put them on the shelf, and go through them individually.

Next, do your blouses and then your pants. If you can have a couple of rolling racks, all the better. As for shoes, jewelry, and accessories, leave those to the end. 

Questions to Ask Yourself

During this step, it’s essential to go through every article of clothing and ask yourself the following six questions:

  • Is this damaged? ( and worth fixing?)

  • Does this fit me? -Don’t hold onto things that don’t fit. It’s too depressing, and you will want new things if you plan to lose weight anyway)

  • Is it good quality? – Young women can pull off $8.99 blouses made in China. Our bodies are softer and rounder in midlife, and we require clothes with more structure. Cheap clothes are flimsy, see-through, and look cheap on us.

  • Is this age-appropriate? – Most clothes are ageless. It’s all in how you style them, but common sense dictates that things like thigh-high skirts and daisy dukes, cutesy tops, or something trending for teens will not serve you well.

  • Do I wear this? – This is always tough. If you don’t wear it, why? If you like it and it fits, but you have nothing to wear with it, it’s not an automatic toss. If the opposite is true or doesn’t fit your lifestyle or needs, toss it.

  • Do I have duplicates – I wrote a whole post about this! If you have one too many, yes, definitely get rid of your least favorite.

  • Does this fit my current lifestyle? – Do you have a closet full of evening gowns but never go out anymore? Do you have business suits still staring at you now, but you are retired? If they are part of your old life, they need to make room for things in your new life.

  • Do I love this? Does it bring me joy? – Of course, this is key. If you don’t love, love, love it, you’ll probably never wear it, or if you do, you will feel unhappy. Give it to someone else who will give it the love it needs. Would I repurchase it? Are you stuck on how much you love it? Then, ask yourself this question, and you will know for sure.

You may be able to answer these questions right away, or it may take some trying on. But if the answer to these questions is “no,” the item will likely take up valuable space in your wardrobe and need to head out the door.

closet clean out piles

The Piles

As you weed through your clothes, create five distinct piles: Keep, Donate, Sell, Fix, and Trash. This will make it much easier to get everything taken care of once you finish.

I like to go through all my chunks of clothing, one by one, slowly emptying my closet and creating my KEEP pile on my bed. Once the closet is empty, I clean and vacuum it, and then I’m ready to put everything back in. Here’s how I finish up.

Next Steps





1. Organize by Item and Color

Everyone has their way of organizing that feels right to them, and you can get pretty obsessive-compulsive about it. I like to divide it into five sections: tops, bottoms, dresses, jackets, and special occasions. Within those categories, I start with the whites on one side and work my way through colors to black.

I am a color person, meaning when I get up in the morning, I choose what color I feel like wearing that day and then look for clothing, so having all the colors together helps.

This method also enables you to mix and match clothes better. You have green pants, and you can automatically go to the colors you know will look good with green and pick a top. Everything is in one place.

2. Get clothing tailored or fixed ASAP

Now is the time to get any ill-fitting or damaged clothes you found during your clean out tailored or repaired. Whether a sweater needs to be de-pilled, a skirt hemmed, or something needs head-to-toe tailoring, don’t delay; it will just end up back in your closet. Don’t worry about fixing it if you don’t think you will wear it again. I’ve done this a few times; it wastes money.

3. Sell or donate gently used clothing

Drop off unwanted clothes at a donation center, or if the item is in good enough condition, you could try selling or consigning it. Online marketplaces like Poshmark or eBay are a great way to get rid of unwanted clothing and make some cash along the way. Try a consignment shop or website like TheRealReal for the best offer for high-end or luxury pieces. 

4. Make a Shopping List to Fill in Gaps

If your closet cleanout made you realize you have a few missing key items,  create a shopping list to fill in the gaps. Remember to ask yourself those same key questions you used when clearing out your wardrobe to avoid bringing in items that don’t meet your needs. If you’re unsure what to buy, start by creating outfits first and see what you might be missing. Don’t rush to buy these items, or you will end up buying what’s available now instead of what’s best. Take your time to fill in the holes.

5. Photograph Outfits

Once you’ve sorted your wardrobe, photographing outfits will simplify getting dressed. I like to lay out several outfits and mix and match pieces to create different looks for different occasions. You can lay out some looks for traveling, date night, dinner with friends, casual days, or other events that fit your lifestyle.

Then, when you don’t know what to wear, you can sift through the photos and come up with an idea. Once you start doing this, you will love it because it saves so much time in the mornings.

I hope this guide has given you a few handy tips for a successful closet cleanout. A wardrobe edit is a great way to define and refine your 40+ style and make getting dressed a breeze. No more standing in front of a closet full of clothes and feeling like you have nothing to wear. You’ll be in charge of your wardrobe, love all your clothes, and feel confident in your style.

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33 thoughts on “Closet Cleanout – Start The New Year Fresh!

  1. I have a pretty tidy closet already, but here’s my tip. I choose today’s outfit from the left-most side of the closet (top and bottoms). The clean clothes get hung on the right-most side of the bar. So it is easy to see which pieces I don’t wear or have trouble styling. Everything is always in a literal rotation. :-)

  2. Deborah,

    This is a great post! Lots of helpful tips and good advice. A clean and curated closet is a must! It’s far too easy to let things get disorganized. Thanks so much! :)

  3. Debra, thank you for this inspirational post. I especially like the idea of taking photographs of outfits to speed up the getting dressed process and making lists of items to purchase to fill in the gaps. I feel a severe purge coming on! You are awesome!

  4. Great post, and so timely! What helped me with sorting was to decide just how many of certain types of clothing I needed! Or fit into my closet and life! So, separating items into categories, I decided what a reasonable amount to have (and wanted to give room in my tiny closet). Seasonal things can be stored. I decided on six bulky sweaters and six dressy sweaters. Everyone will have a different number, but it feels good to make that choice! So then you get to the fun part, picking your favorites!! That was easy, and I ended up with just the right amount. Some I put in a tote to revisit, and others were donated or consigned. So next up are t-shirts, oh-oh, I may be in trouble here……….is 20 too many?? Lol

  5. I just did this. I am happy with the closet appearance now. I have a tote put away for the summer clothes as it’s winter now. Do you have a to the hangers by any chance? I also learned 100 hangers per 3 feet of space.

  6. This is one of the best step-by-step closet clean-out instructions I’ve ever read! Thank you! I plan on working on this ASAP. o helpful. Especially the advice on how to decide what to keep or purge. ????

  7. Great post and very timely! I agree with your observation that the big pile on the bed gets overwhelming. I’m going to try your approach this weekend.

    1. Hi Lisa! Exactly, what starts as a fun event becomes a dreaded thing when you realize how long it takes to get through that messy pile on the bed. Thanks, why I like to do it in chunks using a rack.
      Best wishes with your clean-out!

  8. I’m a bit like KSO, So l organize my wardrobe according to function. I wear a uniform to work, so the rest is active/outdoor, dressy after five, and then neat casual. I use those velvet hangers in three different colors to separate the three. Coats/ jackets go on sturdier metal rubber hangers. I don’t hang my lounge around / cleaning/ gardening type clothing. I live In a hot or cold climate it’s like somebody flicks a switch one day, so it is easy to transition out the outgoing seasons’ clothing as l don’t need a lot of trans-seasonal clothing. I store the old season out of my working wardrobe. I love looking at my closet and picking an outfit for the day, depending on what l am doing.

  9. Deborah, I discovered you on Pinterest and am enjoying your blog. I would add that as a suggestion. Start pinning outfits on Pinterest of looks that you want. It helps to see what classics are worth keeping, what clothes might look dated., and what items might seem new again with the right accessories. I rediscovered my style, and I’m having fun with fashion!

  10. Great tips! Once I had a seasonal color analysis done, I found it very easy to weed out my closet — gone were all the colors that weren’t in my palette, and gone were all the garments that didn’t fit my seasonal style. And now I’m slowly rebuilding with items that I not only love but that love me back and serve me well.

      1. I would 2nd the comment about dressing according to one’s “season”…I had my analysis done when I turned 50 for a “pick me up,” and knowledge – boy – did it help me streamline my “look”…I now know what colors look BEST on me and adjust and accessorize when I’m not wearing a “best” color. I so thoroughly embraced this mindset. I gifted my daughter and her BFF a session with my color analyst. It’s been almost three years since I discovered this information, and I have purged my closet of what wasn’t working and now have a cohesive story that helps ME put my best looks forward. I love your blog.

  11. I am a closet hoarder and have had things there since the early 90s. I don’t even realize what I have anymore because everything is crammed there. I have well over thirty pairs of jeans but only have two legs. I am trying them on today and do not know what to toss or keep. Some are expensive, and some are not. Some are bell bottoms and hip huggers. I heard they are coming back this spring..what do I do?

  12. I love reading all of these comments for my question! I am learning lots from everyone. And I will try to find a decent picture of my tank/printed cardigan “uniform” to send to you! I will keep purging in the meantime!!

  13. Wow,..loving all the comments! Jennifer, your story is inspiring! It sounds like the old saying, “less is more,” rings true for you. You are inspiring me to get rid of even more!
    I agree with you… I would much rather buy only a few new outfits a year and wear them out..than have a closet full of boring old stuff! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Thanks for the reminder to start a new year out fresh! I LOVE going thru my closet to organize and clear it out, so I do it twice a year when I change my winter wardrobe to my summer and vice versa. Nothing feels better than getting rid of worn-out/ill-fitting / just plain “I’m tired of that” clothes and doing guilt-free shopping to replace/update them!

    Further to your idea about analyzing your activities and building your wardrobe accordingly, one of my best tips for getting the most efficient use of your closet is to organize it by your actions. So, I have the following sections in my closet: work, formal, going out, casual (i.e., at home / running errands), sleep, sports (for me, that means one section for golf and one for running), and hobbies (for me that means country line dancing!). Each team has everything I need for each activity – from underwear and socks/hose to tops and pants, shoes and accessories, and jackets/outerwear. It probably sounds a bit unconventional, but I’ve used this system for about 15 years, and it works! Since you get dressed according to what you’re planning to do, why not have all your options together so you can easily see and choose them?! It also helps you know what you need to buy/replace and get repreparely each morning. So, give it a try. I promise it’ll work for you, too! Happy New Year to everyone!

    1. Hi KSO,
      I have never tried to organize my closet this way but sounds attractive and undoubtedly practical. I think you are onto something; I will give it a try! Thanks for sharing!!!

  15. Oh this is great – thank you! I recently moved house being an almost 50 and almost empty nester into a much much smaller home close to the theatres etc to enjoy ourselves post-mummy and daddy. Anyhow, we are still living in one cardboard porta-robe each (after a whole wall closet with all the gadgets!), so had to be ruthless in getting rid of almost everthing. Would you believe that even living with 20inches of clothes, I STILL don’t wear everything. BUT I get to see the outfits I just love and wear them to bits. So this is inspiring me to be really focused in my wardrobe and to have just a few great outfits that I love to wear in my new life. I went to the shops for the first time in a couple of months yesterday and instead of feeling guilty that I had so much still at home, it was wonderful to buy a new funky outfit and put it on display. I am about to re-accessorise with my favourite few shoes and bags I bought with me, and feel ok about retiring a sadder outfit… So good luck and enjoy! Jen

  16. Hi Terri,
    Yes, Florida is another animal… I would love to see a photo of what you are talking about.. it is so hard to give advice on just words. Send one in and I’ll let you know.

  17. I love this post…it’s one of my favorite things to do! Now that I’ve lost weight, I have actually had to get rid of some things that are just to baggy! And I need to keep going…because I have been buying new clothes! Today I bought some skinny pants and a new top at Dillards! It’s more fun to shop now! Thanks for reminding me to keep working on my closet! ♥

    1. Hi Lavender Dreams,
      You are one of my most faithful readers and I LOVE that you area always challenging yourself to try new things and ideas! YOU ROCK!!
      Keep up the good work and I always enjoy your comments!

  18. Thanks for answering my question! I love your suggestions. The only hard part is that I live in South FL so it is too warm for the boots and long sweaters 98% of the time. I do like printed cotton cardigans with tanks. Is this a good option? I just ordered your closet DVD!! Thanks again :-)

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