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A Step-by-Step Guide to Decluttering Your Closet

I recently worked with a client named Amy on her closet explosion. Her goal was simple – make her closet easier to work with and remove some of the stuff that was way. too. dated!

Before and After Pictures of Closet

Here are some the steps we took to help Amy with her closet nightmare:

Step 1: Remove everything from the closet. Start by taking everything out of the closet.  By removing it all, it forces you to deal with each piece.  You now have a clean slate to work with and can begin to reconfigure the space to suit your needs.  It also gives you hope as you now see an area that is open with new possibilities.

an emptied closet

Step 2: Sort items into category piles. The next step is to sort everything into piles.  Amy’s categories were:


  1. Shoes

  2. Pants

  3. Jeans

  4. Capris

  5. Shorts

  6. Long-Sleeve Shirts

  7. Short-Sleeve Shirts

  8. Dresses

  9. Cami’s

  10. Workout Clothes

  11. Sweatshirts

  12. Swimsuits

  13. Scarves/Accessories

Putting like items together is helpful when it comes time to choose which ones to keep and which ones to get rid of.

Step 3. Separate each category into three piles: keep, maybe, go.   No tough decisions at this point just some quick and simple sorting.  Only those things that instantly make you say “I love this piece” are the ones that go into the “keep” pile.  If it takes more than a couple seconds to decide, the should go into the “maybe” pile. It’s important to still keep like items together even when in the “keep” section.  This will help with the next step. Any items that are torn, worn, or don’t fit should go into the “go” pile.  If you haven’t started a donate box yet, now is the time.  You will also want a trash bag on hand for those items that need to be thrown away.

Step 4. Carefully go through the “maybe” pile. Now is the time to make some decisions on what stays and what goes.  Using both the keep and maybe pile, count each piece in each category.  For example, count the number of jeans you have.  I find it helpful to aim for a realistic number you should keep like six pairs of jeans.  Add up your “keeps” and than choose the remaining ones from your maybe pile.  You can always decide to keep less than you initially intended!  During this step, you will want to take time to try on things and see how they fit.  Wearing them often reminds you why you didn’t like something in the first place (too tight, too long, stretched out, etc.).  If you simply can’t decide on a piece, set it aside.  We’ll deal with it later.

Step 5. Put “keep” items in closet and drawers.  Congrats! You made it further than most.  Time to put the items you are keeping away.  Think carefully about where you place things.  Items you use frequently should be stored in easy-to-access places.  Simple canvas totes can be great for bulky items or things that don’t need folding like workout clothes.  I am a big fan of using hangers whenever possible.  When putting your hung items back into the closet place the hanger backwards.  As you wear the item, turn the hanger the right way. This is any easy way to see what you are wearing and what you aren’t!

Step 6. Make a decision on the toughies.  It’s time to put on your big girl panties and make some tough decisions on the ones you weren’t sure of.  Asking yourself some simple questions can help.  When was the last time I wore this item? Could I replace this item with something that will suit me better? Why don’t/do I like this item?  If you still can’t decide, I have an easy way to deal with it!  Place any items you can’t part with into a tote.  Label the tote with today’s date and store it away for six months.  If you haven’t missed the items after six months donate them.  If you go in to retrieve something than keep it!

Step 7. Take time to celebrate your success.  Don’t forget to take time to relish in your success.  Take a picture.  Jump up and down.  Brag to your spouse about your new space.  Tackling an overstuffed closet isn’t easy so make sure to give yourself a pat on the back for all your hard work.

Some expert tips:

  1. Keep pen/paper on hand to jot down any items that need replacement.  Let go of those faded black pants and replace them with new ones (or new to you).  You deserve to look great!

  2. Amy fell into the trap of keeping clothes that were good for “bumming around in.”  While some comfy threads are great, you only need a few pairs.

  3. When counting your items consider how often you do laundry.  If you wash your clothes every week, you don’t need 20 pairs of underwear.

  4. Don’t keep things that are uncomfortable to wear!  Straps that fall down, pants that are too long, and heels that are too high are never fun – let them go.

Amy loves her new closet space and now enjoys getting dressed in the morning. It’s time for you to fall in love with your clothes all over again too!

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