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Frank's Comprehensive Guide To Spring Cleaning Your Closet, in Five Easy Piles

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You know Frank—he's been writing about menswear, sales, television, new shops, the recession, Lisa Loeb, the Golden Girls and getting blasted for Racked for over two years. Well, we think it's time you got to know him and his quirky-irreverent views on life and fashion even better with his column: Love, Frank. Taking the form of an open letter and always signed with love, Frank will rant about whatever style-related conundrum he encounters in a given week. So buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, it's going to be ? Something.


If you have a closet like Mariah Carey—via Three Sixty Ecotique—you might never need to clean it out. The rest of us, however ?

Dear Spring Cleaners,

The time has come to refresh that wardrobe. Purging ragged and ill-fitting items that clog up your closet and make getting dressed frustrating can be cleansing. And, hey, anytime you get rid of anything, you can run right out and replace it with something new—and what's more fun than that?

TV stylists and Container Store employees will tell you the first rule of closet cleaning is tossing anything you haven't worn in two years. And, while this is a fair rule of thumb for normal people who don't live and breathe clothing; it doesn't always work for the rest of us. So, yes—pull anything out that you haven't worn in much too long. And determine why you haven't worn it.

If it's a cheap flavor-of-the-month, trend-monster something from Zara that collects dust and takes up valuable hanger space—yes, move on. If it doesn't fit and probably never will—lose it. If it's permanently stained or irreparably damaged—move it on out.

That said, if it's a label that you care about, more classic than trendy, fits sometimes and is in good shape—there's no reason a few seasons off the daily radar is the be all end all and you must get rid of it. Most of us dress in cycles, and, aside from our most extreme iterations, remain pretty consistent in what we like. Meaning—there's no reason to expect you won't get back on the pink train after shunning it in favor of coral for a season or two; there's no reason you won't suddenly rediscover the joys of a pullover after two winters of cardigans. And, shopping your closet feels great. "Oh, this? I just found it in the back of my closet. NBD."

As for recently worn items, they can and often should get an update. Basics are made to be worn into the ground—and when wear and tear becomes obvious or compromises comfort, it's time to let go. Impulse buys—which frequently don't fit perfectly or aren't quite right to begin with, but at the time of purchase seemed very necessary—can make getting dressed totally miserable. You feel obligated to use these items but don't feel comfortable wearing them—they don't fall quite right; the color is just off. Then there are all those fire sale items that were never exactly what you were looking for to begin with but seemed close enough and they cost a song. In retrospect, you hate them, they were a terrible mistake, and all you can think of when you see them staring at you from their closet spot is how much you wish you'd just dropped the extra $40 on actual Sperry boat shoes rather than thinking dumb canvas boat shoe boots could fill that void.

So gather that stuff up, have a little bedroom fashion show montage to Jill Sobule's "Supermodel," and get ready to sort. I create five piles:

1. Trash: You'd be surprised at how true that old adage about one person's trash being another's treasure is. There's a market for anything. That said: Grungy underwear, old socks, and stained, disgusting tee shirts get trashed. Don't make Goodwill or Salvation Army (see #2) dispose of that stuff for you. And speaking of your old underwear and Goodwill: How are there skivvies hanging on racks at thrift stores as I type? Who lets this happen? Stop the insanity.

2. Donations: This pile should be your biggest. Here goes anything that's good enough to wear but might have one little imperfection that renders it difficult to sell off. These might include items you've had altered, or have small spots or a loose seam, or items from Target or H&M that your local reseller probably won't want. Also include anything that's out of season (good luck selling even a great sweater right now); anything that's just slightly off in terms of cut; or anything that might be too business to fly at Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads Trading (see Pile #3). Please don't throw these items out: If you can't get to a thrift shop there are often collection boxes at churches, schools, even gas stations. Some organizations will even pick stuff up from your porch.

3. The Middle: This pile should include anything your neighborhood reseller would be able to take off your hands. Items that are in great shape and have some sort of midrange or specialty label: Think J.Crew, Banana Republic, stuff from Macy's or Urban Outfitters. Items should be on trend in terms of fit and color; be in season; and be in very good condition. Also consider bringing shops like this your wild card vintage items or slightly imperfect designer clothing. These might be special enough to sell as is, even if their condition isn't ideal. Note: You will sell more pieces and make more money if your loot is clean and pressed; if you sew on missing buttons; if items are properly folded and lint free. Stores like this will often give you 25 to 35 percent of whatever price they mark said item at—and they pay you upfront, literally buying the clothing from you. They’ll give you even more cash if you promise to spend it in store, but let’s avoid more impulse buying of not quite right clothing.

4. The Good Stuff: This pile should sing. These are your "pieces." Designer clothing, premium denim, big ticket accessories—this stuff should be on trend and definitely needs to be in season and in good shape. But a great label can sometimes trump last season's cuts. And we're not just talking about Chanel or Jil Sander—brands like Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, and Diesel are in high demand. Again, these guys need to be pressed and impeccable—because you're posting them on eBay or consigning them. Selling on eBay is more labor intensive, but you can make more money. Meanwhile, consignors will work with you to set a price, take half and send you a check for the rest when someone buys it. Risk: If the clothing doesn't sell you might have to go back in and pick it up after a certain amount of time.

5. Get Off Your Ass: You've been telling yourself you're going to get those pants hemmed and tapered; that leather bag repaired; that zipper replaced; those shoes resoled; that bomber reconditioned; that ripped sleeve repaired for, like, 36 months. Just do it—it's cheaper and faster than you think. You can even have a good tailor re-line a jacket with something fabulous and new; you can refresh an old blazer with new buttons; you can have some faded or scuffed basics dyed black; there are spas for your world-weary leather. Treat your clothes; treat yourself.

· Love, Frank [Racked]