Organize & Clean

The Twice-Yearly Closet Switchout: Rules to Live By

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Andrea Sparacio)

This post may be coming a little late for those of you in sunnier climes, and if you’ve been luxuriating in shorts-and-sandals weather for months now, I apologize. (Err, actually I take that back. I’m very jealous.) Here in the UK, we’ve only just made the switch from trousers and ankle boots to bare legs, and so it was only the other day that I took the time to do my twice-yearly “closet clear-out”.

I keep some of my clothing in out-of-season storage (two zipped IKEA boxes in the upstairs closet) for part of each year, and switch it out when the weather demands. (In an ideal climate this would happen at 6-month intervals, but I know I’ll be saying goodbye to summer duds in four short months… sigh.) This helps with my limited closet space, and allows me a regular framework for evaluating and editing my wardrobe. Here’s how I go about it, and the things I try to keep in mind during the big switch-up:

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Identify which things you want to pack away, and which are all-season. For me, certain items are worn year-round (jeans, lightweight layers, trainers) and never get packed away. If you’re not sure whether you want to pack something away, I’d recommend doing so— it’ll mean more space in your closet, will prolong the life of the item in question, and you can always dig it out again if you really need it.

Launder before you pack, iron when you unpack. For the health of your clothes, definitely only pack away freshly-cleaned items. Some people also iron before packing things away, but I never bother. Instead, I hang things in the fresh air for a day or so once unpacked, and then do a Big Iron wherein I press everything into readiness for the coming season (cursing the entire time, because I hate ironing). The extra hours these steps take are well spent, allowing you to shave time off future mornings.

Give yourself two chances to get rid of things. When you’re packing something away for the coming season, ask yourself if it’s still in good condition, if it still fits, and if it still suits your style. If the answer to any of those questions is no, into the out it goes.

When you unpack it again months later, ask yourself another question: “Am I excited to wear this again?” One’s style and needs can change quickly, and while clothes can be like old friend you can’t wait to hang out with, they can also bore you to tears if you’ve over-indulged. If that’s the case with a particular item you’ll probably never end up reaching for it, so sell or donate now and save yourself the closet space.

Try not to shop (too much) before you do your closet switch. This one can be tough, especially since the new collections come out way before anyone’s ready for them (sundresses in February, anyone?). But I find that waiting until I unpack my new (old) season’s clothes, seeing what I’ve got to work with, and identifying any holes to be filled or items to be replaced, makes my spending a lot smarter.

Do you use out-of-season storage for your wardrobe? Is the switch-out a helpful ritual, or an annoying necessity? Share your tips below!