How to Thoroughly Declutter Your Closet in 5 Simple Steps

posted by Andrea | 04/2/2019

Today’s post is an updated repost from April, 2014.

Back when I did many more speaking engagements, I was almost always asked to speak about closet organization for at least part of the presentation.

It’s no surprise then that one of the TOP requests I get for post topics is “how to declutter a closet”!

Maybe it’s because I live in Michigan — land of the 4 glorious seasons — but I always feel the urge to purge when the seasons change. So since spring has officially sprung, I figured it’s time for another motivational post to encourage a little decluttering and purging… and what better place to start than our closets! 🙂

If you’ve ever wondered “How would Andrea organize my closet?” the steps below should answer that question as accurately as possible without me being right there in your bedroom with you!

declutter your closets in 5 steps

STEP 0. Gather your supplies:

I realize it might be cheating a bit to have a “step 0”, but this honestly shouldn’t take you more than a minute or two to round up a few supplies. 

In my opinion, all you really need is a few garbage bags or boxes for the stuff you’ll hopefully be purging, a dust cloth, and maybe a vacuum.

STEP 1. Do a super-fast “once-over”:

Go through the closet as fast as you can, pulling out anything you know you don’t need, wear, want, or love.

This should literally take 5 minutes or less — you should be making very easy “instant decisions”.

If you hesitate for even a moment on an item, just leave it be — this step is for the obvious ‘purge’ items… and it should get you pumped up and motivated to keep working through the next couple steps.

STEP 2. Take an HONEST inventory:

Do you really need 12 pairs of jeans?

Will you really ever squeeze back into the pair that’s 3 sizes too small? And if you are ever that small again, will you most likely want to buy a new pair of jeans instead of wearing these old ones?

You haven’t worn that sweater in 2 years… will you honestly ever wear it again?

Every time you try on that dress, you take it off again because it doesn’t flatter you… is it really worth storing anymore?

Yes, that coat was a gift… but you’ve never liked it and probably won’t ever wear it. Is it time to let it go?

Yes, you paid top-dollar for those designer jeans but you haven’t worn them in ages… it might be time to let someone else enjoy them.

THIS step will most definitely be the most difficult step — especially if you have a strong sentimental or emotional attachment to your things. I fully understand how difficult it can be to part with items that are still in great condition, items you paid good money for, items you “might need someday” etc. — but I also know from PLENTY of personal experience how freeing it feels to have a neat, organized closet filled with only the clothing I love and wear and feel great in.

RELATED POSTS:

–> 10 Excuses We Make to Keep our Clutter.

–> The Questions that Helped me Purge 75% of my Clothes

–> My Tips to Create a Wardrobe You Actually Wear (and Love)

STEP 3. Dust, vacuum, and wipe down the closet

Now that your closet space is (hopefully) a lot emptier than it was when you started, take 5 minutes to QUICKLY dust and wipe down any shelves, dust the baseboards, and vacuum the floor.

You’d be surprised how dirty the inside of the closet can get — especially if you store your shoes in the closet.

STEP 4. Rearrange and re-organize what you’d like to keep.

This is the fun part for me — but it can be somewhat overwhelming for anyone who doesn’t necessarily love organizing or anyone who has perfectionist tendencies.

NOTE: there is no one “right way” to organize your closet.

I personally organized my closet by how I decide what to wear. For example, I never wake up and think “hmmm… I’d like to wear blue or red today”. Instead, I think “it’s chilly today, I’d like to wear long sleeves or a sweater”.

So I do NOT color-code my closet, but rather organize it by type — sweaters together, long sleeves together, pants together, skirts together, tank tops together, etc. That works for me — but there might be a better option for you.

And remember, you can always change things later! 

For now, just get everything moved back into your closet in an organized way that makes sense for YOU (even if it’s not something I suggest or something you’ve seen on Pinterest). If you find it’s not working in a few weeks (or months) you can always continue to tweak things and move them around until it does work.

STEP 5. Remove castoffs from your home immediately!

I know it might sound crazy, but this last step is often what gets people into SO much trouble. They do ALLLL the work of purging and organizing their closet — but they don’t take the final step to actually remove the items they no longer need and want from their home.

So, a week later, they think “maybe I might want to keep that black sweater”. And then 3 weeks later they think, “Maybe I will lose the weight to squeeze back into that skirt.”

Little by little, they take the items out of the donation bags and bring them back into their closets (I’ve seen this happen way too many times, and it’s so disappointing).

Please, if you’re putting in the work to organize your closet, FINISH THE JOB and bring everything away ASAP!

There you have it — 5 (6ish) steps to whip your closet into shape!

If you’re super short on time and only have 5 minutes — just do steps 1 and 5. It will still leave your closet in better shape than it was when you started and get some of that unneeded stuff out of your way.

Plus, if you do steps 1 and 5 often enough, you’ll eventually end up with a clutter-free closet full of only the items you need, wear, want, and love!

Still looking for more? Here’s a link to ALLLL the posts I’ve written on clothes clutter!

What are your best tips to quickly declutter your closets?

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Filed under: OrganizingHomeClothesPurging

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19 comments

  1. JJ

    04/02/2019

    I actually stopped buying clothes at thrift stores, because most were stretched and didn’t fit right. Sure I bought it for $1 but often didn’t wear it because of how it looked and how I felt. Because of this post years ago, I got rid of what I really didn’t wear and spend a little extra getting clothes on sale at Target or Kohl’s. I have fewer clothes and less clutter. And I feel and look my best!!! Thank you so much for inspiring me!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Our thrift store has several changing rooms so I can always try everything on before buying… and I’ve decided against several items after trying them on!
    With my weight fluctuations over the past 7 years (4 pregnancies) thrift store clothing has been a life-saver for me. However, now that I’m most likely at a point in my life when I’ll (hopefully) stay the same size for a long time, I can definitely see being willing to pay more for quality items that fit and flatter really well.

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  2. Avia

    04/02/2019

    A little mind trick I play on myself is NOT getting rid of stuff right away. This allows me to me really “brutal” with my purging. I sometime move the stuff to a basement closet or just put it in a giveaway bag and then set it aside. If I don’t miss something for a few months then I feel comfortable giving it away. I know this won’t work for everyone but for some reason it works for me.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yup, I do this exact same thing!

    [Reply]

  3. Alison

    04/02/2019

    “Land of the 4 glorious seasons”– sometimes all in one day in Colorado!

    [Reply]

  4. Best Decluttering Tips from the Best Home Organizing Websites​

    09/14/2015

    […] Is your closet overflowing? Andrea shows you how to “Declutter Your Closet in 5 Simple Steps.” […]

  5. Kim

    04/12/2015

    Man oh man that comment about that sweater I haven’t worn in two years? Yup. Time to let them go to someone else. What’s funny is I am actually really good at purging and my trick is I put them in black garbage bags and put them by the front door while I wait for big brothers to come and if I can name anythingin that bag before it gets picked up then I must need it. I have never once been able to recall anything I sent for donation which just proved to me that I didn’t need it and would never ‘need’ it in the future because I would never be able to remember what I used to have and never wore!

    [Reply]

  6. Emma {Emma's Little Kitchen}

    04/11/2015

    Thats it! I’m committing to this tonight, I’m still holding onto stuff from highschool (seriously…!). I’m 29!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — happy purging 🙂

    [Reply]

  7. Jessica

    04/11/2015

    Even before I finished reading your article I went to my closet and did step 1. Then went to go grocery shopping and dropping of my two gigantic bags of purged clothing while I was on the way. Came back to finish reading your article and that’s when I read “When you only have five minutes, speed purge and drop it off.” I love when this happens 🙂

    Thank you for motivating me! I finally got rid of 3 skirts that are now 2 numbers too small, and besides I hate wearing skirts.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    wow 2 gigantic bags in just a few minutes! You’re fast! And yay for less stuff in your closet 🙂

    [Reply]

  8. Cheryl

    04/10/2015

    Last summer I moved into a new home, and I turned all my hangers backward. As I have worn and re-hung items, I hpfaced the hanger the correct way. I am so glad I did this! It has been almost a year and I can easily see what has not been worn during that time! This summer I will be doing a purge of everything I haven’t worn!

    [Reply]

    Chris Reply:

    Do you have any suggestions on encouraging our husbands to declutter. My husband does sometimes. I think he wants to more when we send it to a missionary we know. But he has over several hundred shirts – he has to wear a sort of “uniform” to work so he very rarely wears lots of these clothes. We do have a very large closet but it is so hard to keep up with things – for instance 20 jackets and coats – which he does wear a lot of those.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I’d love to say I have a magic cure for messy spouses, but I don’t. However, here is a post I wrote several years ago on the topic of “Dealing with a Messy Spouse” — it sounds like you wold probably be able to relate 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes!! Love this method of closet purging!

    [Reply]

  9. Debbie

    04/10/2015

    I did a major declutter this past year and felt I got rid of a lot of my clothes that I don’t like or don’t wear, especially old business suits. When I read your past post about wearing the same thing to work every day, it made me realize more how I love clothes. I enjoy having a variety of colors, styles, fit, etc. in my clothing. From formal business, casual business, casual weekend clothes, dressier weekend clothes, active wear, summer dresses, winter clothes, etc. the variety of colors and styles expand within each of those category. The one thing I’m implementing now is that when I do buy something I have to make sure I get rid of something else. Yet, I would still love to have a roomier closet by getting rid of more things.

    [Reply]

  10. Carlen

    04/10/2015

    In Louisiana, we only have two seasons “hot” and “not quite as hot”, so I only have to do this twice a year.

    [Reply]

  11. Emily

    04/10/2015

    Oh this post couldn’t be more timely! I have a gal coming over this morning to help out with my kiddos while I get some stuff done around the house. First thing on my list is to clean out closets!! Tackling my 8 and 6 year old girls’ closet first. They seem to accumulate clothing so quickly. Thanks for the motivation!! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    hope you had a productive day and your closets are nice and neat now 🙂

    [Reply]