How To Clean Out Your Closet: A 7 Step Guide

It’s 6:30 in the morning and you just sit there staring at your closet. 

You’re running out of time, but your brain is foggy and there are SO many things to choose from. Even though you haven’t worn half of them for six months. Maybe a year. 

Let’s fix that! If you’re ready to learn how to clean out your closet to ease decision-making in the morning (or make room for other goodies…) keep on reading!

The point to a closet cleanout isn’t always to buy new clothes (although it is a plus!), but to give yourself some time to reflect on how you present yourself and if your clothes are serving their purpose in helping you do that well. Over time, we evolve and step into ourselves more and more, meaning some old styles we used to wear just aren't cutting it. 

It’s a natural phenomenon, but be aware that “cleaning out your closet” doesn’t mean tossing things left and right. Its purpose is to help you be more intentional about what you’re wearing, who you are, and who you’re becoming. It doesn’t always call for a shopping spree, either. Sometimes just a few pieces to toss and a few to add. 

Whew. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's start learning how to decide what clothes to keep, and how to organize them!

1. Pull all the clothes out of your closet and put them in assigned piles.

To make the next step easier on yourself, assign each item of clothing to its respective pile. The piles you assign are really up to you (as each wardrobe varies in great degree) but here are a few ideas to get your brain churning: 

  • Short sleeve blouses 
  • Sweaters 
  • Long sleeve blouses 
  • Jeans
  • Pants
  • Dresses

2. Eliminate the duplicates in each pile.

Maybe you’re already asking yourself why you have three long sleeve white tops that look almost identical. If so, you’ve already got the idea of this step and are already smashing this closet cleanout deal.

Go through each pile and find the items you have multiples of. If you have two very similar items and just can’t decide which one to keep and which one to part ways with, hang on to both of them and go to the next step. 

3. Put all the clothes you wear regularly in one pile and undergo a self-assessment about each. 

We all have them. They’re the clothes we wear when we just don’t know what to wear. There’s totally nothing wrong with this, but it’s important to assess how you feel about them still. You may find that there’s one item you keep wearing, but it gives you no real satisfaction.

As you go through the pile (including those pesky hard-decision duplicates), ask yourself the following questions. If the answer is yes to all of them, put the item in the keep pile, if not, put it in the get rid of pile. 

  • Does it fit with the image I have of myself in my head? 
  • Would I feel confident wearing this to present myself to someone new? 
  • Is it in good shape? (no holes, stains, etc.) 
  • Do I feel like a superstar when I wear it? 
  • Is it low maintenance? (maybe reconsider the items that require constant lint rolling, wrinkle-freeing, and dry-cleaning)

4. Make your donate/get rid of pile.

To make the process simpler, ask yourself these questions when determining what clothes should actually head out the door. If you answer "no" to ANY of these questions, it goes. 

  • Does it fit?
  • Can I make an outfit with this from my keep pile (that I would actually wear)?
  • Have I worn it in the last year?
  • Is it free from tears and/or stains?*
  • Can I (and do I have the time to) alter this to fit my current style?

Pause. Before we move forward, let’s just talk about the first question for a second. This doesn’t mean “will it fit when I lose x amount of weight” or “someday it’ll fit again.” It means does it fit NOW. This doesn’t always apply (like when you’re pregnant- duhh), but it typically does. As aforementioned, if your clothes aren’t serving their purpose of helping you present yourself well, there is no point in keeping them. 

And don’t come back with, “well I don’t care what people think anyway, so why should I care so much about presenting myself well?” 

Sometimes, our greatest strength lies in presenting ourselves well to ourselves. That’s something that can’t be taken away when we face rejection or criticism.

*Most donation centers have their own stipulations for what clothing can be donated, but as a general rule, don't donate clothing with rips, tears, or stains. 

5. Place items of sentimental value in a separate pile.

While you can toss the once sentimental but now aren’t items, there are some things that are harder to part with.

We all hold on to things for different reasons, but when going through these sentimental items, it’s helpful to have someone there to provide some logic & reason. When cleaning out your closet, Stitch Fix recommends having a friend there to help you make some of those more tough decisions.  

Once you have determined what sentimental items stick around, if you still wear them, put them in the keep pile. If you don’t still wear them (that wedding dress is taking up a LOT of space), put them in bins for storage. 

Don't want to just keep things in boxes? Elbow Room has great tips on what to do with sentimental items. 

6. According to personal preference, organize your keep clothes by color, style, or sleeve type.

There’s no one right way to do it, and if you don’t know what works best for you, pick one method and try it out for a week. If it’s just not your cup of tea, take half an hour to switch it up! 

Method 1: Hang by colors.

You can pick the order or just let your clothes pick the order themselves. If you’re organizing your red tops and find one with a bit of black on it, there’s your chance to dive into the blacks. When you get to the blacks and find a top that’s half white and half black, put it at the end of the blacks and the beginning of the whites. See how they organize themselves? 

Method 2: Hang by sleeve type.

If you’re more into finding your clothes by what season you’re in, this may be a helpful method for you. Begin by hanging your short sleeves, then your ¾ sleeves, and onto your long sleeves. You can also refer to the neckline for another section. Maybe behind your regular long sleeves you have some high neck/turtleneck sweaters. This would be a great place for them. 

Method 3: Hang by style.

Some clothes are meant for more casual times than those fancy events. Create a sequence that fits your closet needs by separating your clothes by what types of occasions you’d wear them. (i.e. you wouldn’t wear your graphic tees and flannels to a fancy dinner with your soon-to-be in laws) 

7. Find & fill in the gaps with new clothes!

What’s missing? Now that you’re organized, are you realizing that you have 30 short sleeve tops and only 10 long sleeves with no way to layer those short sleeves? Maybe a good time to think about investing in some cardigans or jackets (helllo corduroy jacket).

Are you still staring at your closet, knowing you're missing something, just not sure what? Lots of bloggers have put together lists of closet staples, but Minimalism Made Simple has a pretty comprehensive, not overwhelming, list you can go over!


And there you have it! Figuring out how to clean out your closet can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. And having a color coordinated closet is totally obtainable if you set aside some time to actually do it!


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