It’s a new year over here on the blog, and have we got a lot of exciting things coming your way. Style at a Certain Age is going to roll out some big surprises out over the next few months, so make sure you stay tuned. In the meantime, New Year’s Eve has come and passed, the holidays are over, and my Christmas decorations are put away. Thus begins the great rebirth:  January. I used to dread this month; it always felt cold and dreary. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to view January as an opportunity to reset, refresh, and renew. That’ll be our focus this month on the blog—ways in which we can reboot our lives starting with our wardrobe but extending far beyond into our daily habits and exercise routines. As a fashion and lifestyle blogger, my closet can get a bit unwieldy:  so “resetting” for me definitely involves a closet cleanse. I get it, though:  organizing your closet might not be on the top of your to-do list, especially if you haven’t tackled a closet purge before. But today, i’m going to show you the best way to clean out your closet in three easy steps, with an optional “pre-step” for those wanting to take that much more control of your closet. 

  1. Add shelving & cabinetry.
  2. Schedule at least one afternoon for the cleanse. 
  3. Separate your clothes into “keep” and “get rid of” piles.
  4.  Organize your clothes by category. 

Custom closet shelving and cabinetry

Let’s kick things off with that optional pre-step. For those of you seriously wanting to get control of your closet, I can’t recommend enough installing custom shelving and cabinetry. Shelves and cabinets will provide you with both the horizontal and vertical space to truly find a home for all of your wardrobe items. (Vertical space will eliminate what I like to affectionately refer to as the “pile problem.)

I know what you’re thinking, “too expensive!” Sure, that can be true, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. I’m using the term “custom” here loosely:  it can simply mean grabbing a measuring tape and heading over to Target for their extremely reasonably priced closet systems. Or it can mean hiring a professional to build out custom shelves and cabinets. Whatever your price point, a few questions to ask yourself before getting started: 

  • Am I living in my “forever” home; a long-term or short-term one? 
  • What’s my budget? What can I truly afford at this moment in time? 
  • What’s my timeline? Am I truly willing to commit to a multi-day/week project? 

If you’re living in a short-term rental, it probably doesn’t make sense to hire a custom designer. Target is gonna be your friend. But if your mortgage is almost paid off, and you’ve found your forever home, it might be time to seriously consider hiring someone to help build your closet. Depending on your answers to those questions, I’ve put together a few resources for you sorted by price point.  

Personally, I’ve done it all. And I will say this: whatever route you go down brings its own pluses and minuses with it. For my long-time San Francisco followers, you’ll remember I added an Ikea closet system to my closet purchased years before when living in Shanghai. And others might remember the total rebuild of my closet here in Athens by Inspired Closets Athens. Just to give you a sense of what shelving and cabinetry can bring to a closet, I’ve provided you with a short project timeline of my most recent closet build. 


custom closet lighting

My closet before renovation



custom closet shelves and custom closet cabinets

My closet mid renovation


closet renovation

My closet after renovation

Schedule a time

Whether you’ve decided to add custom cabinets and shelves to your closet, the next three steps are applicable to anyone and everyone looking to clean their closet. First, dedicate an afternoon to your busy schedule to assess your closet and go through every item in your wardrobe. I know, I know:  a million other priorities compete for space on our ever-expanding to-do list. No one wants to sort through pencil skirts, cardigans, and that swoon-worthy dress found on the final sale rack. But I promise, devoting an afternoon to sort through your clothes is time well spent. 

If you’re like me, you’ll uncover fashion mistakes made throughout the season, weight lost or gained (let’s face it, ladies, weight fluctuates), or maybe, just maybe, it’s finally time to retire that beloved go-to blazer (you know the one, it has a shiny sheen on the elbows due to years of love, but you’re reluctant to part ways). It isn’t easy to rid your closet of items that no longer fit or have sentimental value, especially when you’ve shelled out major cashola for the purchase in the first place. But keep calm and carry on. 

custom closet

Separate your clothes

The first step of any major closet cleanse is to separate your clothes into two piles: “keep” and “get rid of”. Since I am a bit of an organization addict—I’m a Virgo by birth and have a strong penchant for planning and systematizing—I wanted to share my method for a reset and refresh with a closet cleanse. I try to keep things as fun as possible, so I put on a great audiobook, podcast or a Spotify playlist first—The Doobie Brothers or Steely Dan usually—then I pour a glass of wine (or coffee depending on the time of day) and ask myself three questions:

  1. Does this item actually fit?
  2. Have I followed the one year rule? If I haven’t worn it in a year, it’s time to let it go. Ruthless? Yes, but mandatory. 
  3. Is this item damaged? Does it have moth holes, broken zippers, pilling, or missing buttons? Or can the item be repaired? (Having a great seamstress and shoe cobbler is a must.)

If the answer is “no” to (1) or (2) or “yes” to (3), then it’s time to part ways with those items by dividing them into three sub-piles:

  1. Sell
  2. Donate
  3. Trash
how to clean your closet

Separating my clothes into “keep” and “get rid of” piles


The items that make it to your sell pile are the ones that are currently in style or gently used. It could even be a pair of brand new expensive jeans that were bought with the goal of losing ten pounds. Sigh. But take heart, these clothing items have the potential to make you a profit with little effort, thanks to an emerging online marketplace for buying and selling clothes. (Check out places like thredUP.)


If, by chance, some of your unwanted items are still in good condition, consider donating them to a good cause. Of course, Goodwill Industries and Salvation Army are always good reputable choices for your orphaned clothes. But other organizations deserve and appreciate your contributions as well. Personally, I love and support Dress for Success—a non-profit organization that addresses and fulfills the needs of low-income women who have left welfare and are interfacing with the challenges of the workforce.

But also consider local homeless shelters, specifically ones that cater to battered women. Blogger, The Midlife Fashionista, opened a non-profit in the greater Boston area called Uncommon Threads with a mission is to empower women. Trust me on this: it’s easier to let go of clothing when you know it is going to someone in need.


Now for the hard part. those items that can’t be repaired or have significant wear and tear must be tossed into the rubbish bin. It’s hard to say goodbye to your beloved LBD or your favorite graphic tee, but don’t let your emotions get the better of you. It must be thrown away. Say it with me, “it must be thrown away.”

It might take more than one try to get into the swing of downsizing your wardrobe, but the reward is a streamlined closet that makes getting dressed in the morning easier and maybe even fun. But in order to do that, you have to know what clothes are working for you and which ones don’t. 

a closet tour

Deciding on what clothes to sell, donate, or toss

Organize your clothes

Ok, now for step two. After your closet purge is complete, it’s time to organize what’s left.

Organize by category

Organize by skirts, pants, sweaters, blouses, jeans. Then arrange pieces by item and color so you can see exactly what you own. The same holds true for shoes, jewelry, and the like. Hang sleeveless dresses or shirts first, then short sleeves, and then long sleeves.

how to organize jewelry

Organizing my jewelry

Colocate shoes, scarves, hats, and handbags

Store your shoes and handbags where you can see them. Use clear shoe boxes or, better yet, store them on closet shelves or a bookcase. Right toe out left toe-in is a space-saving technique. I like my handbags out of their dust bags and visible, otherwise, I end up in that dreaded out of sight, out of mind. Hatboxes are perfect for storing hats with the larger ones resting on top. scarves are color-coded, folded, and stacked.

Stack fold-ables.

Jeans, sweaters, scarves, and lingerie are all items that I fold and stack on the shelves. Arrange cedar strips or mothballs on those shelves to prevent moths from snacking on your cashmere or wool sweaters. Jeans can be folded lengthwise and layered one on top of the other. Same for chinos and leather leggings too.

Lingerie is organized by color, size, and type. These are folded and tucked inside lingerie storage units. Place a linen sachet inside for a special treat.

Upgrade your hangers.

Who else remembers the movie line, “no wire hangers!” Well, we don’t have to be quite as obsessed as Joan Crawford, but I would advise upgrading your closet hangers. It’s a simple style trick that will extend the life of your clothes. And it gives uniformity. Whether you prefer thin velvet hangers or wood hangers, there is a hanger for you. Don’t forget space-saving stackable skirts or pant hangers

Recently, Amazon invited me to create an online storefront. I’m just getting the shop up and running but my closet organization favorites are here.

upgraded closet hangers

Auditing my closet hangers

The finished product

And that’s the best way to clean out your closet in three easy steps, including an optional pre-step for those looking for a more complete solution. To recap, to cleanse your closet:  

  1. Add shelving & cabinetry.
  2. Schedule at least one afternoon for the cleanse. 
  3. Separate your clothes into “keep” and “get rid of” piles.
  4.  Organize your clothes by category. 

Remember ladies, January’s slogan is:  reset, refresh, and renew. So stay tuned as we’ve got a ton of fashion and lifestyle tips to get you started on that journey.  

custom closet

The finished product





tame closet chaos in 3 easy steps.


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