Cleaning Your Closets Can Help Clear Your Mind

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

All done with laundry
Getting ready to start your journey to simpler life? Looking for the steps and motivation to help your get started? We can help you get the job done.

We all know that the closets in our home don’t hold just clothes, toys, and stuff; they hold our memories and our history; a timeline of our children’s school years, the evolution of careers and the progression of hobbies. But what if I told you that cleaning and organizing those closets can be much less stressful than you think, and that you can actually do some good by passing your unneeded items to people who really need them? By following these five simple steps, which work for any kind of organizing project, you can liberate yourself from the chaos of clutter and take one giant step toward your simpler life.

Five Steps to Controlling Clutter

ONE – Exhume and Examine: Depending on the type of closet (clothes, linen, storage) set up a staging area like a sheet on the floor or a table. Pull everything out of the closet. For clothes closets, try on everything, including shoes, swimsuits (yea, we know, scary), coats, etc.

TWO – Divide and Conquer: Sort items into three piles: the Keep to Store pile, the Toss for Sure pile, and the Think About it More pile. We know breaking up is hard to do, but it means more space. For clothes closets, put all shoes, belts, bags and clothes that are stained or damaged beyond repair in the Toss pile, along with items that don’t fit and are so out of style you haven’t worn them in years.

Linens that are stained, torn, raveled or thread bare can also go into the toss pile along with storage closet items like toys that are broken, missing pieces or unsuitable for your kids’ ages. Basically the rule of thumb here is if it’s broken or damaged to the point it can’t be repaired should go.

The Think About it More pile will contain items that have minor repairable damage or clothes that need alterations. BUT – be realistic: if you don’t have the time, money, or inclination to fix something move it to the Toss pile. After you’ve finished you should have two piles: Toss for Sure and Keep to Store.

THREE – Round up and Release: Examine each item in the Toss for Sure pile carefully. Anything you want to donate should be in good, useable condition, because charities actually have to pay to get rid of items that are too damaged, stained, or worn to sell, so please don’t waste their money. The rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t give it to a friend, don’t give it to a charity. Throw out any useless items or cut them up for rags.

FOUR – Size Up and Surmise: One big mistake people make when de-cluttering is to buy a bunch or storage containers before they know will be stored. Don’t buy anything for the closet or make any adjustments until you figure out what your storage needs are and how much space you have. Be sure to think vertically as well as horizontally. First, divide your Keep to Store pile into smaller piles of like items–sweaters, shoes, bed sheets, blankets, puzzles, books, toys, and so on. Determine what clothes can be hung and what can be folded and stored on shelves or in bins. Closet space can be maximized by installing a second rod so you have a two tiered affect. Linen closets can be divided by shelves – one for sheets and one for blankets one for towels, and so on. The goal here is to keep like items together so they are easy to find and easy put away, especially with toys.

FIVE – Organize and Admire: So – you’ve sorted through your closet, pared down, donated, measured, and installed. What’s next? The fun part, putting it all back.

Keep your organizational momentum going with these easy tips:

• use the same style of hangers
• hang clothes facing the same direction
• group by color
• use clear plastic bins or bins with windows
• label bins, especially for toys, stuffed animals, and items with multiple parts

If you think this is all too much for you ask a friend for help. Better yet trade each others help – everyone has a closet to clean.

When it’s time to donate try one of these charities that have clever ways to repurpose the things you no longer need. Even that horrid bridesmaid dress can have a second life.

You’ll be making a needy person’s life just a bit easier, you’ll also be doing your part for the planet by easing the burden on landfills: According to the EPA, about 9 million tons of textile waste ends up there each year. So keep a list of places handy for your next clutter conquest.

Backpacks and Winter Gear

Helping our Lakota Families – families of the South Dakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Check with local charities and service organizations, many of which hold school-supply drives for low-income or underprivileged children.

Boots, Hiking

Boots for Rangers – boots and tennis shoes in excellent condition for African rangers who patrol park boundaries and wilderness areas.


Career Closet – provides interview clothing for disadvantaged women re-entering the workforce.

Dress for Success – provides interview clothing for disadvantaged women re-entering the workforce.

Career Gear – provides interview clothing for disadvantaged men re-entering the workforce.

Cinderella’s Closet – offers free prom dresses to underprivileged students in Sacramento, California.

Fairy Godmothers Inc. – gives formal gowns for prom dresses to low-income girls.

The Princess Project – collects formal dresses and accessories to distribute to girls in the San Francisco area for prom.


The New York Cares Coat Drive – collects coats every December for people who can’t afford them.

One Warm Coat – holds hundreds of events in 30 states to collect coats to give to those in need.


Suitcases for Kids – donates suitcases to foster children who move from home to home and usually carry their belongings in a trash bag.


Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe Program – turns athletic shoes into athletic surfaces.

Eyeglasses and Sunglasses

Lions Club International – collects all glasses in good condition for the needy.

Be sure to contact local charities, after all charity begins at home.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Ricky Romero

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