How To Clean Out a Closet

How often do you clean out your clothes closet? In the past few years I have made this a frequent occurrence—about every six months or so {usually spring and fall}.

You would think doing this with such regularity means it gets easier each time and I only have things I adore and wear all the time and absolutely must keep. 

You would be wrong.

I am continually amazed at what I find I truly do not need {or want, or use} each time I clean out. Of course this is also true when the Agents and I go through their clothes, although with them it is usually because they simply refuse to stop growing. 

Even if the thought of this task seems overwhelming, the following advice will make the experience efficient and painless.

Black and white photo of empty hangers on hooks.

The Basic Process

  • Take everything out. This is a critical step. It all has to leave the closet, even stuff you “know” you are keeping. Trust me on this one.
  • Figure out the best home for everything. Are you going to fold sweaters or hang them? Will pajamas live in a drawer or on a shelf? How much space do you need for small items like socks?
  • When in doubt, try it on. Yes, it takes longer and it’s a pain. Do it anyway.
  • Group like clothes together and only put back what you really want to keep. Be brutal if you must.

What Has To Go

  • Anything with an obvious stain or tear that is beyond simple repair, because nobody’s got time for that.
  • Clothes that had been demoted to this must go under something because it can no longer be worn by itself {usually because of—you guessed it—a stain or tear}.
  • Anything you haven’t worn even once since the last clean out for that season. A few exceptions slip in here {e.g., formal dresses and outerwear}.
  • Clothes you simply do not like for whatever reason. {Confession: I love a good sale, but sometimes I buy something I “couldn’t pass up” and then realize it wasn’t a smart fashion move.}
  • What doesn’t fit. Yes, seriously. Don’t keep too tight clothes in the hopes that someday they won’t be. {This one was hard at first, but honestly, if I lost ten pounds I would totally splurge and buy a new pair of pants—and you probably would, too. Dress the current, real you—not the future, potentially smaller you.}

Some Helpful Tips

  • Pretend you are packing for a two-week trip. What goes, what stays, and what wouldn’t you even consider? Being forced to pick favorites is eye-opening. {I have packed for many extended trips, and can attest that this definitely works.}
  • Look at each piece and imagine what you would wear it with. You should have at least a few options for everything that stays.
  • Start a wish list of specific pieces you might want to add to the rotation or replace. This might be an “extra” of something you wear almost daily, or a new version of a staple that is starting to look worn.

Warning: Whatever you do, do not go shopping based on what you think you need. Always go through the whole clean-out process first or I promise you will have regret.

When you admire your beautifully pared down closet, it will be hard to believe you will be repeating the process in a few short months. Yet you will, and it will be worth it to know in the end you will only have pieces you love and actually wear.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Love this! I moved about 18 months ago and think it’s time for my first closet clean-out! Thanks for all the great tips.

    1. Valerie

      You are very welcome. It’s amazing how even though we move every 2-3 years I always come up with things to organize as soon as I get to our new place! At least my closet will be under control. Thanks so much for stopping by, Nikki.

  2. Great tips for cleaning out a closet! I absolutely hate this chore when it’s time to do it, which usually seems to be every 3 to 6 months. It’s hard to decide what to keep and then even harder sometimes to keep from filling the closet back up again with new stuff! I’ve tried to simplify it by just picking a few basic things and wearing them over and over again.

    1. Valerie

      I do the same thing; I tend to have a small group of basics I cycle through over and over. It’s so much easier that way! Thanks for stopping by, Rebecca.

    1. Valerie

      Glad it helped. Thanks for visiting!

  3. Good info. I clean out my closet pretty consistently, too. I like your idea of pretending to pack for a trip as a way of identifying favorite items.

    1. Valerie

      Thanks, Lori. We travel fairly frequently and I find I almost always pack the same few outfits. It certainly gives me perspective on how much clothing I “need” to have. Thanks for stopping by today.

  4. Thank you for this refreshing article of a subject which could have been so…. well you know! I agree, one should not hang onto clothes that are too small…. you know and I know if and when I do lose these extra 20 lbs, I’m going clothes shopping! lol

    1. Valerie

      Seriously! We would definitely deserve a new outfit then, LOL! Thank you so much for visiting, Beth. Have a great weekend.

  5. I needed to read this! My closet clean out is waayyyyy over due! Thank you for the great tips! Time to go clean my closet.

    1. Valerie

      Glad I was able to offer some motivation. Thanks for taking the time to stop by, Jillian.

  6. I definitely need to try some of these. I like to sort through my clothes every now and then and I get rid of a few pieces, but I’m sure I can do better.

    1. Valerie

      Really the key for me has been making sure I take *everything* out of the closet. If not, it’s easy to dismiss things you are “sure” you need. If you have to touch everything twice, and make a purposeful effort to put it back, it gives you more perspective.

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