The Seasonal Closet Switch-Out

If you’re considering downsizing over the next few years, you will probably want to reduce your clothing by at least half. The annual rituals of rotating seasonal clothing into storage presents an ideal opportunity to evaluate your wardrobe with an eye toward downsizing, too.

Certified Professional Organizer and closet specialist C. Lee Cawley helps her clients downsize and organize their closets with an eye toward efficiency and feeling good about your wardrobe. “Remember to only keep the items that FIT, FLATTER and that suit your current lifestyle!”

Set a Happy Goal.

Most people routinely wear fewer than half of the clothes they are storing in their closet. Or, even worse, they are wearing clothing that doesn’t flatter or fit, just because they own it. The point is, you want to look great every day, and if you are downsizing, it makes sense to have fewer items to move and store. Once you embrace the idea of a simpler life ahead, it will be easier to only store your best items, and donate or sell the rest.

Get Ruthless.

We all know the rules of thumb: If you haven’t worn an item during the previous season, if it doesn’t bring you joy, or if you wouldn’t buy it again, then it’s time to remove it from your wardrobe. These tips definitely help, but it can be easy to make exceptions for too many items. (See our blog about 10 Reasons We Keep Clothing We Don’t Wear).

If you are committed to reducing your clothing, there is one question you must ask of each and every item in your closet:

That’s a high bar, I know, but it will help you attain the level of ruthlessness you’re going to need to truly downsize your wardrobe. And that’s what you’re trying to do, right?

If you need more inspiration, Cawley adds some additional “automatic ’no’ pile” rules:

  • “Let go of any clothing that you purchased in a year that started with a ONE, after all it is 2020!”
  • “Only keep painting clothes if you PAINT, gardening clothes if you GARDEN, work-out clothes if you EXERCISE.  Be realistic about what hobbies you will actually do in your new home.”

Don’t Forget the Drawers.

This is a good time to take a careful look through your undergarments, socks, pajamas, robes, workout clothing and swimwear. Do they fit and/or otherwise get the job done? How many of these items do you actually need on a weekly basis? Apply the same ruthless (and happy!) attitude to reducing these items as well.

Address Sentimental Items Once and For All.

Most of us have “memorabillia” clothing that we dutifully move in and out of seasonal storage, because we can’t bear to let it go. Cawley says to box these items and store together, but not with your wardrobe. “Even better, take photos of the items, and donate them. I have had people just save a pocket off of a favorite tweed jacket to ‘remember’ the fabric, so that’s another solution to consider.”


When possible, Cawley prefers to store off-season clothing on hangers while they are stored. “It saves so much time and effort,” she says. “And your clothes won’t wrinkle as much.” Her favorite space-saving hangers are Holding Hangers, which she discovered while working in Europe. The tension-hold feature of these hangers allows close stacking, and doesn’t leave creases or dents in pants and skirts.

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If you don’t have an extra closet or clothing rod, Cawley recommends placing clothes in plastic containers with clip-on lids, and to consider using cedar balls to prevent moths, and silicon packs to prevent mildew. “I am not a fan of the space saving bags you seal with a vacuum,” says Cawley. “They put permanent wrinkles in clothes. If they are used, it should only be for bedding.”

Apply these principles now, and you’ll be rewarded with fewer items to store, and fewer decisions to make down the road. Plus, you’ll be in a much better position to wear a well fitted and great looking outfit every time you leave the house.

C. Lee Cawley offers expert advice and hands-on organizing through her Washington DC-area business Simplify You.

Header Photo by Burgess Milner on Unsplash.

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