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How to Clean Out Your Closet in 4 Simple Steps

Woman in a messy closet

Your closet is the place you start each day, but that's often all the attention it gets. Give yourself a few hours or more to go through all your clothes and accessories. If you don't have time to do it in one day, make a schedule to help keep you on track.

Start With an Empty Closet

Take everything out of the closet so you can start with a clean slate. This way, you'll also have a better idea of how many hangers and how much space you have.

  1. Take each piece of clothing out of the closet and remove hangers.
  2. Non-clothing items stored in the closet should also be removed and placed in a pile in one corner of the room.
  3. Lay all clothing in one or two piles on the floor or another piece of furniture (but not the bed).
  4. Dust and vacuum out the closet.

Sort Items by Type

Sort all the apparel into the sections you like in your closet. You might sort by type of clothing, color, or season.

  1. Section off your bed into about four distinct areas by making a grid out of rolled blankets or putting a pillow in each section.
  2. Label each with a piece of paper. If sorting by type, you might have one for pants, one for shirts, one for dresses and skirts or suits, and one for other.
  3. Grab one article at a time and place it in the appropriate section on your bed.
Clothes in a bedroom in piles

Consider Each Piece

Choose a section to start with and evaluate each article one at a time. Keep three boxes or laundry baskets near the bed: one for items to donate, one for fabrics to recycle, and one for garbage. After you've gone through apparel, do the same for the non-clothing items you piled in the corner.

What If Scenarios

As you look at each item, imagine a circumstance where you would wear it. If you can quickly and easily visualize a normal part of your life where the item works, then keep it. If you have trouble imagining yourself wearing it anywhere realistic, it's time to let it go.

The 12 Month Rule

Consider the last time you wore the piece. If it was over a year ago, chances are you don't like it, can't fit in it, or it doesn't fit your current lifestyle. If it is a specialty item you wouldn't wear frequently, like an evening gown, the rule doesn't necessarily apply.

Try It On

When in doubt, put the apparel on and see how it fits, feels, and looks. This gives you an accurate and current idea of whether it's something you'll wear.

Donate Versus Garbage

Donated clothing should be in good condition without stains or holes. If you wouldn't want someone else in your family to wear it, don't donate it. If the material or condition of the item doesn't work well for donation or other uses, then it should be tossed.

Man holding up burgundy shirt

Organize as You Rehang

Decide how you like your clothes organized in the closet. For example, you could do it by sleeve length for shirts with tank tops on the left and long-sleeves on the right. Put items in the closet in the order you've chosen.

Re-Evaluate Your Choices

Take a step back and look at the whole picture. Is the closet too full or too sparse? Consider your lifestyle and climate to evaluate whether your closet is balanced.

  • Keep at least one warm weather and one cold weather dressy outfit for special occasions.
  • Have at least one top and bottom option for each day of the week.
  • Make sure you have at least five outfit options for each season.

Hanger Hacks

Hangers can do more than hold clothes on a bar. Use them in strategic ways to keep your clothes and closet organized for the long-haul.

  • If you own several of the same or similar shirts in different colors, hang one from the bar then the next from the neck of that one's hanger. You'll be able to stack about three shirts in a vertical line and see each color.
  • Leave two empty hangers after each section to account for new items you may buy in the future. By limiting yourself to two hangers per section, you avoid over-filling.
  • Use different colored or textured hangers for different sections of the closet. If you know all the blue plastic ones hold blouses, it can help you stay organized.
Set of colorful coat hangers

Make Your Closet Work For You

There's no right way to clean out a closet. The key to getting an organized and useful closet is sorting it in a way that works best for you. When cleaning out a shared closet, make sure both people work through the process together.

How to Clean Out Your Closet in 4 Simple Steps