How Cleaning My Closet In Fall Gives Me A Fresh Start (PHOTOS)

While the rest of the world waits for the cooler months and the leaves to change colors, I look forward to September to begin my version of spring cleaning.
09/03/2012 04:30 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2012

September in Florida is hot, humid and rainy. The mosquitoes are out in full force and the local weather channels are abuzz with the newest storm taking shape. Normally, I would spend most of this not-so-pleasant month complaining. However, I have children and as any parent knows, these are a hectic 30 days. As I dress my kids, pack their lunches and drop them off for their first day of school, I start to get excited because September has become my own slice of heaven. Not many parents would admit this (they think it, I know they do), but I can't help but shed a few tears of joy as I drop the boys off at school and enjoy the quiet drive home.

While the rest of the world waits for the cooler months and the leaves to change colors, I look forward to September to begin my version of spring cleaning. The house, now almost child-free, provides the perfect backdrop to my clean sweep. The scattered piles of clothes remind me of the shattered dreams I had for the summer. I had hoped to return a few pieces and take a few to the tailor, but a few piles are what I now call the "I don't know" or the "To do when kids are in bed" stacks. With summertime antics long gone, I am ready to face my closet and bid farewell to much of what I have been hiding from and holding on to.

The first thing I always do when I begin cleaning my closet is to bring in a few empty plastic bins. I mentally label each bin. (For those of you who are far more crafty than I, this labeling can take on a number of different forms.) But because the school day only lasts so long, and I have a lot to get done, I imagine the labels and begin to look at my closet.

One bin is for items I want to return to the store. Only things that have tags on them, that I can find the receipt for or have bought within the last month are allowed in this bin. Gifts that I received and do not like or need do not belong in this bin. I have often filled it only to realize that I was wishfully thinking that the bin was in fact a "I don't like or need and would like store credit or cash back bin." If you honestly don't know where the item came from, or don't remember when you bought or received the item, it 100 percent does not belong in the return pile. Trust me, I have spent a lot of time trying to argue my way back into the hearts of the customer service representatives. However, if you are a regifter, all hope is not lost.

Another bin -- this is usually the most popular one -- is for clothes that are no longer the right size. Notice that I did not say that this is the "too small" bin. I always give myself the benefit of the doubt; maybe this was the year when I have worked off some extra pounds and some clothes are too big. Whatever the case may be, take a good, long look at yourself in the mirror. Just because you can zip the pants up or tie the wrap dress on, does not mean it is the right size for you. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you will eventually lose the "last five pounds" so you can keep that item in your closet.

Be present and be honest with yourself. Have you been holding on to your size two jeans for way too long? If you wore them during college, and still hold on to them hoping you could wear them again, my advice is to maybe start a special drawer for memories and mementos. You can keep a few of your favorite, hard-to-let go items in there. They are more like a picture: you like them, want them, but they are no longer your reality. These jeans do not belong in your closet.

The third bin is the hardest one for me. This is the "Time to accept reality" bin. For me, it represents my age, stage and maturity (so much responsibility for a silly plastic tub). This is where I put all of the clothes, shoes and accessories that I no longer need. I advise you to give yourself plenty of time (and maybe a glass of wine) between dealing with bins two and three because both can be hard on the ego.

The large hoop earrings you loved and wore in the '80s may no longer have a place amongst your mommy attire. Likewise, you might finally say goodbye to the red high heels your husband bought you (and hoped you would wear). Maybe you have decided to say "thanks, but no thanks" to the strapless floral dress you knew was perfect for the romantic getaway to Hawaii.

This is also the time to finally get rid of the shirt, dress or pants that you just don't like. Every year, when cleaning my closet, I come across the same culprit: the tank top that is in perfect condition, and although I know I should wear it, I just don't. The fact is, if I didn't like it six months ago, I won't like it in the next six months either. Similarly, the overworn, overwashed and bleach-stained top may be reaching its shelf life. If you are embarrassed to wear it, it's time to take it out of the closet and place it in the bin.

When you have finished going through your closet and the bins are full, or at least more full than they were, take a bow and pat yourself on the back. This closet-cleaning business is not for the faint of heart. It takes guts to get rid of your belongings, even if you never wear them. We grow attached to "our stuff," and before we know it, we have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. The upside to clearing the clutter is that you have more room for new purchases. I find that I can now look at my closet with new eyes. This is your opportunity to reinvent yourself. Everything that is left in your closet can now be worn (imagine that). After all, who, more than you, deserves to look and feel good? Never mind that you have a head start. September never looked so good.

Closet Clean Out

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