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How To Declutter Your Closet With a Single Box

I added this one tiny (and free) thing to my closet and instantly started decluttering my clothes.

Apartment Therapy
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Photo by Marisa Vitale.

There are two types of people when it comes to closet organization: The first is a determined person who actually ends the day with a clean space. The second is someone who finds themselves sitting smack-dab in the middle of a mountain of old clothes, photos, and kick-knacks, wearing a prom dress over their clothes reminiscing over the memories.

I am, unfortunately, very much the latter person. In my time as a fashion editor, I’ve had professionals re-organize my entire closet, I’ve tried famous methods of decluttering for stories, and I’ve made promises and resolutions that I would shop and store clothes differently at the start of each new year. But nothing has ever worked as well as adding an empty box to my closet floor.

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Photo by  Esteban Cortez.

Why I Keep An Empty Box in My Closet

Despite being the person who ends a decluttering project sitting on the floor reading notes from high school, I do enjoy organization in theory. I’ve never left Target without at least one random plastic or (if I’m feeling fancy) wicker container, convinced it will be the answer to all my organizational woes. My basket-hoarding habit hasn’t really resulted in any lasting organization—except when it comes to decluttering my clothes.

About a year ago, I had the idea to just keep a giant empty container at the bottom of my closet. I told myself that whenever I went to try something on and thought, “Eh, I’ll wear it eventually”—despite the fact that I hadn’t worn it in months or years—I’d throw it in the box. When the box was full, I would consign and/or donate the clothing. (Note: at Apartment Therapy, we call this an outbox!)

I had a container I wasn’t using, so it cost me nothing, and it took me about five seconds to add it to the space. After a month, I had a full box and an emptier closet.

I sold and donated the clothing that I’d collected in the container without a second thought, and back in the closet the empty box went. I’ve continued this process for the last few months, and I’m happy to report that it works. It forces me to confront the fact that unworn clothes sitting in my closet do me no good—many times they make me feel guilty, and many more times they make me feel overwhelmed with clutter. It turns out that getting rid of the clothes, though, makes me feel great. Sometimes I make a few bucks, and other times I get to donate them to people who will wear and enjoy them. In any case, the clothes are going to a place where they’ll bring happiness instead of stress.

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Photo by Anna Spaller.

Why You’ll Like It, Too

If you’re like me, you might be reading this and thinking, “But how will I ever let the clothes go? They have so many memories. I’ll wear them eventually. I’ll regret giving them away.” Here’s the thing: This was me for many years. And now that I donate and sell clothing regularly, I haven’t thought twice about a single sweater or accessory or dress.

It requires almost zero effort and is something that will make you feel good every day. There is something oddly satisfying about chucking items you don’t wear into the abyss of your closet floor regularly. It’s like a small commitment toward a little less stress in your life, every single day. And while sitting on your floor in an old prom dress going through every item in your closet does feel kind of good sometimes, getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose in your life feels better. Trust me.