The biggest mistakes you make when cleaning out your closet, according to a professional organizer

It’s 7:42 a.m. You have to be at work by 8:00 a.m. Your hair is done, your makeup is on, but you’re still in your pajamas. Frantically, you search for that one polka dot dress you want to wear, but…wait, where is it? Okay, plan B: you’ll wear something else, but ugh, there are so many clothes in your closet that you don’t even like. Meanwhile, it’s now 7:50 a.m.

If this scenario happens to you often, you’re definitely not alone, but also, why are you doing this to yourself, girl?

Spring cleaning isn’t necessarily fun, we get it, but what IS fun is being able to find exactly what you want in your closet, when you want it. With this in mind, we talked to Annie Traurig, Professional Organizer, Simplified Living Expert, and Founder of Live Simply. Fret not, because she’s here to rescue you AND your closet — thanks to these expert-approved closet hacks.

HelloGiggles (HG): What are some common mistakes you’ve seen people make in their closet organization? 

Annie Traurig (AT): From an emotional standpoint, everyone gives far too much weight to the voices of fear, guilt, and shame. These voices are the ones that tell you to hold onto a piece based on how much you paid for it, who gave it to you, the history you had with it, and so on. They make you feel wasteful, they make you hold onto pieces that don’t actually fit, and they keep you trapped in the past by forcing you to abide by decisions made in the past. Put simply: all of that is bullshit. These are clothes we’re talking about.

There is only one question that matters: am I excited to wear this today?

From an organizational standpoint, anything out of sight (and unlabeled!) is out of life. If you’re going to stuff things way, way up high in some indecipherable state, you might as well go ahead and donate them, because you’re just not going to remember to include them in your sartorial repertoire.

If space dictates that you tuck seasonal items away, take the time to corral them purposefully in labeled baskets or bins. But keep in mind that the less assessable an item is, the less likely you are to actually wear it. Better to edit down to an amount that can reasonably fit in reachable areas than to keep more than your space permits. I call this “living within your spatial means.”

HG: What are some key fixes everybody should make?

AT: Firstly, two words: uniform hangers. I cannot stress enough the visual impact of this simple fix.

2. Learn to love folding beautifully. Consider it an art form.

3. Make your closet visually appealing by arranging by category and color.

4. Get products where necessary to support order: clear shoe drawers or boxes, shelf dividers to keep folded stacks of clothes erect, drawer dividers to keep dresser drawers in order, and, ahem, [refer to] #1.

5. Put away your laundry and dry cleaning. Now.

6. Stop putting that piece that you always try on but never leave the house in back in your closet. It just isn’t right. It isn’t going to start being right. Say bye bye and put it in the donate bin.

HG: If someone’s closet is a total mess, where should they start when it comes to getting organized?

AT: It’s like that old saying: the only way out of a giant mess is to momentarily make a bigger one. That’s a saying, right?

You must be courageous enough to actually pull everything out of your closet and bring it to a neutral work surface (a bed works wonderfully for this). Ironically, this can be one of the biggest hurdles of getting started for people. Sure, their closet is a cluster, but they don’t want to make a mess of their bedroom.

If you aren’t pulling it out, you’re just not committing to editing as thoroughly as you probably need to.

You can pull out section by section if that feels less daunting, but you do need to temporarily take over an area where you can spread everything out, and really see things clearly again (or for the first time).

So, to start: decide in advance how long you will work for (3-4 hours is ideal), and then, before you can talk yourself out of it, go and grab an armload of fabric and dump it on your bed. And go!

HG: What does *your* personal closet look like?

AT:  It’s ruthlessly edited, and predictable — although I hate to be that — I have to fess up to it being perfectly organized. I’m constantly (daily), actively looking out for anything in my closet that’s no longer serving me — pieces that I’m no longer excited to wear. When I land on something that fits that description, it immediately goes. The entirety of my wardrobe is folded and hung in categories, each of which is arranged in color order.

HG: What’s the biggest tip you’d give someone about to dive into spring cleaning in general?

AT: As with everything in life, spring cleaning is all about your mindset. Approach the process with excitement at the prospect of relieving yourself of emotional and physical weight.

Remind yourself while you’re slogging through of the point of the task, which is to drastically improve the daily experience of getting dressed.

Remember that being able to choose is the best perk of being a real-life grown up; you cash in on the reward by deciding to only surround yourself with what you truly love.