Year of the Clean Person: It's Time to Purge Your Winter Clothes

Year of the Clean Person is guided yearlong cleaning and organizing project; its focus is on tackling areas or tasks that are often overlooked in daily or weekly cleaning sprees and can be overwhelming when it comes time to rassle them back under control. This month, we'll be making room for our favorite summer gear by clearing out and storing our winter stuff.

Raise your hand if you never want to see your winter coat again. Yup! Me too.

This month's Year of the Clean Person project is what I'm referring to as the "winter clothes purge" though really that's a misnomer: The goal for May can be broader or more narrow than a winter clothing purge, depending entirely on the individual stuff situation you've got going on. Basically, we're just going to deal with some, if not all (probably not all!), of our winter gear. This can include things like weeding out hole-y tights and wool socks; laundering parkas and dry- or spot-cleaning wool coats; washing and packing away sweaters; storing winter sports gear. In the Fall we'll do the same with our summer stuff, but if you want to flip the two and deal with your summer stuff now by all means do so. If you know you have items that you want to sell, in particular, flipping the seasons will make more sense for you because there will be a better market for that old kayak in May than in September. So! Do what makes sense for you.

Because the winter clothes purge can look so different for each of us, just like we did in February with our bookshelves, and then again last month when we took on our bathrooms, before we get into any actual hands-on work we're gonna make a list. I know, I know, you're mad at me and my lists. But they work! And any sort of clothes purge/organization effort will always be more labor-intensive and cumbersome than you think it will be, so that list is going to be hugely important when it comes to keeping yourself on track.

With this list, what I want you to do is to survey your closet and dresser drawer and underbed storage situation and see where you're having minor pain points. Are your sweaters totally unmanageable? Tights busing out everywhere? If you only take on one or two purges, tackle the things that are causing the most strain on your space.

Speaking of those things, I also want to encourage you to work in clusters and stages to help keep things manageable.

So start with, say, sweaters, then move on to equipment, then accessories (hats, gloves, scarves, wool socks, tights), then coats. Or whatever order makes the most sense to and for you. You may also decide to define this purge as only sweaters and coats, for example, and that's fine. Being realistic about the scope of these projects is an excellent way to ensure that you'll reach your goal! And since reaching goals is a motivator, you may find that you widen the scope once you've completed one or two tasks. So! Map out your plan and keep it manageable.

Stage 1: Take everything out

Let's use sweaters as an example of a cluster of winter items you might tend to. The first step in this process will be to take out all of your sweaters. I've talked before about why actually taking everything out is important, but to reiterate: You'll have a clearer eye and will be much more likely to get rid of items you don't need if you've actually removed the stuff from where they're stored. Also if they're out you can put them on to see if they fit and are flattering.

Once you've got everything out and together in one place you can move onto Stage 2.

Stage 2: Sort into groups

This is where you'll look through what you've got and decide which items you're keeping, what needs laundering and/or mending, and what pieces you're planning to donate or pitch.

Addendum

Once your sorting process is complete, take a gander at what you've got and think about where it goes. Do you need new storage solutions? Go out and get those. Be sure to measure the space into which you're planning to keep the items to be sure that whatever you buy will fit, i.e. measure the height of your underbed space and buy bins that will easily slide in and out.

Stage 3: Put what you're keeping back in its place or in storage

Now that you know what and where your things need to go, start putting them away. Depending on the way your home is set up, that might mean putting things into storage bags or bins, or shifting them into a spare dresser, or just putting them back in the exact same spot they were in before.

Stage 4: Clean and mend

Many of our winter items don't get cleaned that often, so it's not a bad idea to wash things that are going away for a spell before you store them. The Squalor Archive has links to instructions on caring for a number of winter items like coats and sweaters if you need some help there.

Stage 5: Pitch or donate items you're not keeping

The most important piece of advice I can give you about donating or getting rid of broken/unwanted items is to do so IMMEDIATELY. We've all—and I absolutely include myself here—lived for weeks or even months with a garbage bag of cast-offs that we intend to bring to the Goodwill. Don't let that happen! If you're prone to that phenomenon, go ahead and write down on your list exactly where and when you plan to donate goods.

The other helpful piece of advice I can give you is that this list from Oprah.com, Where to Get Rid of Everything, is exceedingly helpful.

Okay so! Tell us what you're planning to take on? I think my biggest jobs this go around will be taking my winter coats to be cleaned and weeding through my sweaters. I've also got a stash of Lillys that are in desperate need of a good, long soak in some Borax, which is so much more fun to think about than those darn sweaters!