Quick before we dive in: how many types of cleaning out your closet can you think of?
Here are the 5 types I’ve seen:
1. Organizing but Not Cleaning Out Your Closet
This is most obviously recognized by lots of organizing, folding and reorganizing (and maybe some unpacking shopping bags). But it doesn’t require a donations drop off trip or reselling anything afterwards.
The extra space you find with this type comes from better folding and organizing rather than actually clearing out what you’re not wearing.
Now that’s not to knock the extra space and spaciousness you get from an organized closet. You can get a lot of extra space from well folded clothes and a well organized closet – just ask anyone who has ever had to figure out how to repack their bags on their way home after vacation, extra bits and pieces and gifts and all. But organizing and decluttering are still different.
One huge bonus of this phase is that it’s unlikely to trigger the worry of having nothing to wear when you’re done, because you haven’t gotten rid of much (if anything).
2. Cleaning Out Your First Closet Layer
This is where you sort through and clear out the clothes you reach for on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis. You get rid of the pants that are just a little too tight but you wear on laundry day, the blouse you hate but it’s fine-enough for when nothing else is working.
Cleaning out the first layer of your closet generally takes an hour or two, and while it is work, it doesn’t feel too taxing.
On the downside, this type of decluttering is often characterized by feeling like you’ve gotten rid of “so much stuff” but still feeling overwhelmed by the amount of clothing you own.
3. Seasonal Closet Clear Out
This type of cleaning out your closet is generally sparked by a change of the year, or a changing phase of your life. If it’s triggered by a lifestyle change, this might look like getting rid of old work clothes, or pre-maternity clothes, etc.
Just keep in mind that, if you’re decluttering because of a change of yearly seasonal change. That means getting rid of sweaters, bathing suits, sundresses, coats at the end of the season, you might find yourself panic shopping to replace them next year. (Learn about and get on the list to access to an on-the-go Pocket Shopping List so you don’t forget to replace these items throughout the rest of the year and avoid panic shopping.)
4. The False Start Deep Clean
The False Start Deep Clean might surprise you on this list, but it’s definitely a real thing. Often triggered by devouring The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, or watching Marie Kondo’s Netflix special. Or falling down a Youtube decluttering rabbithole. Or even staring down an impending move.
This is when your plan is to do a complete and total deep clean out, but you get derailed halfway through.
Either you get interrupted because it’s taking longer than you thought. Or you find anything else to do because the back of our closets are scary places. Or you’re so exhausted by the end that the donation bags never get dropped off and are eventually tucked into the way back of your closet.
Even though this type of decluttering usually ends with the best intentions of finishing “one day.” Unfortunately, that one day is often months or years away. Which only adds to the closet guilt.
Instead of feeling guilty or beating yourself up about these false starts, think about them like practice runs. Now you know more about what doesn’t work for you when you’re cleaning out your closet. You know more about the time it will take, the planning you need to do, and the support you need to get.
5. The Real For Realsies Only-Do-This-Once Deep Closet Clear Out
This is the “for real for real” deep closet clean out. When you decide to commit and gather the support you need and set yourself up for success.
This round of closet clean out is characterized by pulling out EVERYTHING. That includes reaching all the way into the back of your closet, all the seasonal storage bins, all the hall closets, all the laundry, all the items tucked away here and there – everything.
The only-do-this-once deep closet clean out is a commitment.
Unlike most other types of cleaning out your closet, this is really a lifestyle shift. It’s the type of clean out you do when you’ve accepted that your life has changed. You could have a change in personal style or a commitment to minimalism. It might be a commitment to a new physical environment. Or even an acceptance of your own mortality (in a Swedish Death Cleaning sort of way).
This deep clean isn’t the kind of closet declutter where you immediately go on a shopping spree. It’s the lasting kind. It’s the kind of clean out that comes with a deep acceptance of who you are, and where you are in your life.
Ultimately, none of these types of cleaning out your closet are good or bad. One isn’t the best, and none are the worst. They just are.
Sometimes organizing is exactly what we need. Sometimes it’s a quick clear out. And sometimes we need the false start to truly understand what support we need to bring in for a deep clean out.
So think about, which was the last type of closet clean out you did? And what’s the next kind you want to do?
And for more closet and wardrobe decluttering inspiration and information, check out: