How to Clean Out Your Closet in 9 Simple Steps: Your Ultimate Guide

by gemma prior

How to Clean Out Your Closet in 9 Simple StepsImage: Charisse Kenion / Unsplash

If you want to improve your life immediately, clean out a closet. Often what we hold onto holds us back’,
(Lifestyle Coach,
Cheryl Richardson).

You might realise you're due for a closet clean out when you go to your wardrobe to find an outfit, you stand and stare, looking from one end to the other, and are baffled by the mix-up of clothes that appears before you.

So much is squished into your small closet space it’s spilling out and, for all the clutter, you can’t decide what to wear, but at the same time think you have nothing to wear. 

We haven’t all been graced with a wardrobe like Carrie Bradshaw’s and endless space is a luxury of fairy tales. Which means a closet clean out is usually a chore we can only avoid for so long. 


A minimalist lifestyle means making room in your life for the things you value most and removing the stressors of a chaotic and overly materialistic lifestyle. It also means consuming fewer products and contributing to less waste in the world.

Untidy spaces may seem very insignificant in terms of your overall wellbeing, but they can definitely affect your stress levels. Especially when combined with the other stressors appearing in your life. 

As mentioned in a
blog by Organised Interiors, ‘A study conducted by Princeton University Neuroscience researchers found that a cluttered home environment impedes your ability to focus. When we have a hard time focussing, our mental faculties get worn down and frustration ensues, causing stress’.

Whether it’s your living room, bedroom, or your workspace you are more likely to think clearly and feel relaxed in a space that is tidy and organised. And the same applies to your closet. 

When you open those doors and are greeted by the confused chaos of a wardrobe in disarray you’ll find it difficult to know where to begin! What’s even in there? 

No doubt there will be items that no longer fit, are out of style, or you don't enjoy, and maybe even some that, amongst the chaos, you’ve forgotten were there. 

And the benefits of a closet clean out can also feel emotionally cleansing and liberating, ridding yourself of excess and creating a minimalist wardrobe, holding on to just the things you love and will wear; moving towards a minimalist lifestyle.


How to clean out your closet
Image: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

So, I’ve put together the best tips to help you clean out your closet with as little frustration as possible.

1. Commit yourself to a day

Block off a day in your diary for this task. Commit to this day and don’t let other invitations or events distract you. Do it quickly and painlessly (sort of). Like removing a Band-Aid. You could add a glass of wine and some good music to make things more inviting!

2. Plan ahead

Before your cleansing day arrives, have a think about whether you’ll need to buy any closet storage to help you when you’re reorganising.

There are plenty of wardrobe storage solutions available including
hanging shelves and closet draw units

You might also need some smaller closet organisers such as
storage boxes and shelf dividers. As well as shoe racks, shoe shelves, or another hanging shelf to keep your collection of footwear organised and visible.

Make sure you check the dimensions of your wardrobe before you spend any money.

Also, consider whether your current hangers are damaging your clothes. Some can leave stretch marks in the fabric and cause clothes to lose shape. This is where
padded coat hangers might be best. And these don’t need to look like the ones your Grandma bought at the school fete 20 years ago!

If you’re really keen on a streamlined look, having some coordination among your hangers rather than an assortment - wire, plastic, timber, padded - might tickle your fancy.

And if you do update your hangers, your local charity organisation could use the ones you're replacing (so long as they’re not broken).

3. Let it all out

So, you’ve committed a day to clean out your closet, you’ve done the planning, and now the next step is to empty your wardrobe and organise your clothes by groups: all the tops in one pile, pants in another, and so on. 

This makes it much easier to know how much you have in each group and whether you have multiple pieces that are very similar.

And make sure you do actually empty your wardrobe. You want to do it all at once. Remember the Band-Aid analogy?!

4. The ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘maybe’ piles

So all your clothes are out and organised, the next step is another quick sorting of each group: those you’re definitely keeping, the ones you’re happy to give up, and the others you’re not sure about.

This will make it a less eye-popping pile when you get down to the nitty gritty. 

And don’t start returning things to your wardrobe just yet. We’ll get to that soon.

5. Prepare to be ruthless

There are always items you think you’ll wear next time the opportunity arises, but time and time again you choose something else. The standard conversation is, ‘Well I haven’t worn them yet, but they’re lovely and I’m sure I’ll wear them sometime in the future’.

Six months later and you have the very same conversation about the very same item! Will this item ever take first place or will it always remain runner up?

Instead, could you sell this item and use the cash to buy something more suitable, more enjoyable, more you? 

6. The cleansing process

Now you’re just dealing with the clothes you’re unsure about, so this is where the challenge really begins. 

Marie Kondo, who created the famous (or infamous?) cleaning method KonMarie, suggests using the ‘
joy check’ to make these decisions easier. 

She says, ‘Take out three items of clothing from your pile that unequivocally spark joy. Hold them in your hand and take note of how they make you feel. Once you’ve determined what joy feels like for you, you can apply the joy check to all of your belongings’.

As well as using the ‘joy check’ there’s another question to ask yourself while sorting your belongings: does it really deliver?

Firstly, does the item fit you well? Sometimes a difficult question, but don’t ignore it. Keeping items which haven’t fit you in some time can be punishing.

Telling yourself you should lose weight so you can wear these again is self-destructive and is unlikely to leave you feeling positive. 

If you do lose weight in the future then you can enjoy buying something new, but don’t leave the punishment hanging in your closet where you’ll see it every day. 

Next, does the item suit you? Different shapes, heights and skin tones enjoy different styles and colours, so consider what makes you feel and look your best and what you most enjoy wearing.

Lastly, does the item work for your lifestyle? Is an occasion likely to arise which will give you the chance to wear it? 

There’s almost always an item in your wardrobe that you purchased because you couldn’t resist it (we’ve all been there!), but then it hangs there waiting for a suitable event where it will see the light of day. 

If you really struggle with the process of letting things go it might be a good idea to invite someone else to help you out. 

Professor of psychology at DePaul University, Dr Ferrari, suggests
, ‘If you’re going to declutter, don’t touch the item. Don’t pick it up. Have someone else hold the pair of black pants and say, ‘Do you need this?’. Once you touch the item, you are less likely to get rid of it’.

Perhaps promise them dinner and a free glass of wine for their labour. Cheers!


How to organise your wardrobe
Image: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

So you’ve completed the process of cleansing (yay!), and now it’s time to order the disorder.  

1. Closet storage options

Referring to the space-saving queen again, Marie Kondo advises, ‘Ensuring that each one of your belongings has its own spot is the only way to maintain a tidy and clutter-free home’.

This is where the closet storage options mentioned earlier will come in handy. These space-saving ideas are great for making better use of the room inside your wardrobe. 

For example, if you don’t have room to hang all of your clothes without them being crushed, hanging shelves or stackable shelves will be useful. 

Here you can store items that won’t become creased when folded, such as jeans, knits, casual tees, singlets, and scarves. 

And if you have limited space in your wardrobe but the option to store your off-season collection elsewhere, then switching what is hanging in your closet as the seasons change would really help. 

2. Organising your closet

Next, organising clothes by category - dresses, tops, pants, skirts, jackets - when returning them to your closet is the best way to go. 

It makes things easier to find and gives you the chance to see all of your options together when you go to dress.

3. Testing method

A trick when you return items to your closet is to hang the coat hangers backwards. Then when you wear an item, turn the hanger back the usual way. As time moves on you can see which items you’re not wearing and might want to let go.


There are several ways to rehome the items you’ve decided to let go without them ending up in landfill. 

1. Selling 

Try selling the clothes that are in great condition. Online marketplace eBay is probably the best known, but there are other places like The Real Real, Tradesy.com, Vestiaire Collective, and Facebook Marketplace.

Also, a quick search for ‘how to sell clothes’ or ‘where to sell clothes’ will provide more options.

2. Gift to friends and family 

Offer items to friends and family if you think they’d be interested. Don’t make them feel compelled to take something, just give them the chance to have a look and see if anything catches their eye.

3. Donating clothes

There are plenty of charities and organisations that could offer a new home for your unwanted wardrobe. A quick search for ‘where to donate clothes’ should give you some choices close to home.

Just make sure any clothes you donate are still in good condition. If you’d still happily be seen in them then that’s a good quality check.

4. Around-the-house

Are there some items you could add to your around-the-house draw? Maybe they’re not right for social occasions but they’ve still got life in them and could be fine for wearing at home.

5. Recycle 

There is a significant push in the fashion industry for brands to become more environmentally responsible and recycling old stock is one of the moves. 

More stores are offering the opportunity to return old clothes from their label to the store so they can recycle them. Some sites with more information are Compare Ethics, Good Housekeeping, and Recycling Near You.

Or try a Google search for ‘how to recycle clothes’.

6. Rags

And for those items which are worn out and have lost all wearability then they might only be suitable for the rags draw. Tear or cut them up into rags of useful size and use them for cleaning. We’ve got quite a collection at my place.


Maintaining your closet clean out
Daniel Zuchnik / Getty Images

Aside from using the backward-hanging-coat-hanger trick, the
one-in, one-out’ method is another way to keep your wardrobe from becoming a frenzied mess again in the future. 

This method suggests that for every item you purchase, you remove an item you’re no longer using and so you maintain a calm closet. 

Also, keep an eye on the clothes that you’re not wearing and reconsider if it’s time to pass them on.

And always consider the various options for finding these items a new home: sell, gift, donate, around-the-house, recycle, or rags.

As seasons change and you're seeking inspiration for what your closet needs, consider creating a few boards on
Pinterest where you can save the styles you enjoy.

You might have a board for your summer and spring style and another for winter and autumn. You could include a board for casual looks and another for nights out and special events. 

Collecting ideas and playing with looks on Pinterest will help you plan what you’d like to add to your wardrobe when you next shop, how you’ll incorporate the look when you’re dressing, and prevent purchases you regret later on.

So, you’re ready to get started.

Make sure you’ve got everything you’ll need so you don’t become stranded halfway through the process, prepare yourself for the difficult task of letting things go, and grab that glass of wine and get that music playing .

Now the next time you’ve got somewhere to go, you’ll open your closet and be greeted by an organised collection that fits and that you love to wear and dressing will be a much simpler pleasure

And let me know how you go in the comments below.

Happy cleansing!


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