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How to Organize Clothes and Clean Out Your Closet


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Without regular reorganization, my closet looks like a sample sale after the customers have ransacked the shelves. If your clothes closet is a similar disaster zone, there’s no time like the present to take charge of your wardrobe, and get your space cleaned up.

Organizing your closet isn’t just about cleanliness, though. It’s about categorizing and taking inventory of everything you have, getting rid of the stuff you don’t wear anymore, and essentially rebooting your style for the coming season. After all, it’s hard to work those killer boots into your rotation when you forget you have them in the first place. If you’ve got a few spare hours, I strongly suggest a major closet clean-out to help you reclaim that space and reset your style. Here’s how to get started.

Tips for Closet Organization

1. Clear It Out

If you have a fairly large closet, items likely get stuffed in the back and pushed under shelves pretty easily. The only real way to clean everything out is to start at square one: clearing the space completely. It’s the best way to take stock of what you own, as well as rediscover shoes and clothes you thought you’d lost.

Crank up your favorite music and get to work. Pile everything on your bed and take a few minutes to wipe down your closet, particularly if you have shelving – shelves can collect dust and transfer it to your clothes. I also like to place a few dryer sheets on and around the shelves for a fresh scent.

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2. Edit Your Collection

With your closet completely clean and your room a total mess, it’s time to edit your collection of clothes and get rid of the things you don’t need anymore. Bring a few boxes into the room and divide your clothes into three categories: keep, donate, and toss. If you’re not sure you want to keep a particular item, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it something you love?
  • Is it something that makes you feel good?
  • Does it say something positive about you?
  • Have you worn it in the past year?
  • Is it in good shape?

If you can answer “yes” to those questions, you should probably hang onto the item. However, if you find yourself saying “no” to one or more, it might be time to think about donation. Keep in mind that you should only donate clothes that are clean and in good condition, without stains, rips, or missing elements. If the item is in disrepair, you’re better off tossing it.

Remember, they’re just clothes. Unless there’s some deeper emotional attachment, like to your university hoodie, it’s okay to let go and make room for bigger and better things.

3. Clean Your Shoes

This is the perfect time to give all of your shoes a little TLC, especially if you’re tucking away your winter boots for the summer. Mix up equal parts water and vinegar and grab a soft rag before putting on your cobbler’s hat.

Of course, different shoe materials require different care, so be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Patent Leather. Wipe down with vinegar solution and buff to dry.
  • Genuine Leather. Clean off visibly dirty spots with a brush and then gently mist with vinegar solution to avoid saturating the leather.
  • Suede. Brush with a light hand to remove visible scuffs and dirt.
  • Canvas. Toss them into the laundry and allow them to air dry.

After wiping down your shoes and letting them dry, store them carefully, especially if you don’t plan on wearing them for a while. I like to pop a rolled magazine into the shaft of my boots to preserve their shape until I’m ready to break them out again.

Organize your shoes by color or heel height, and get creative when it comes to storing oddly shaped varieties, such as flip-flops. Try stacking yours so they don’t take up a ton of space. You may also want to consider storing your athletic shoes in another area, since they can make for some less-than-pleasant smells in your closet. Consider investing in an over-the-door shoe hanger for slimmer shoes and save that all-important shelf space for the ones that need better storage, like your favorite heels.

Always Clean Shoes

4. Invest in New Storage

Before you start hanging your shirts and folding your pants, this is a perfect time to purchase some new organization and storage items. Even something as simple as tossing broken hangers out and buying some new, sturdier ones can inspire you to stay organized. Try the dollar store, where you can find tons of baskets, dividers, hangers, and shelving options to help maximize your closet space.

Once you get those in place, you’re ready to start putting your clothes back in your closet. Here’s how to go about it:

  • Hang blouses and blazers for easy access.
  • Fold jeans and casual pants and place them on shelves. Use dividers to delineate between khakis and jeans, or lightweight sweaters and heavy sweatshirts.
  • Keep businesswear neatly hung to limit ironing on time-crunched mornings. For instance, slacks can be hung on clip hangers, or folded and draped over the bottom rung of a hanger.
  • Store bulky sweaters in bins or baskets, especially during the summer months.
  • Stack hats on a shelf, using dividers to create a cleaner, more custom space and to keep the hats standing upright for neater storage.
  • Invest in two mesh laundry bags each for socks and underwear: one for dirty, and one for clean. When the dirty bag is full, you can toss the whole thing in the washer and dryer. This reduces lost sock pairs and protects your lingerie – simply rotate your first clean bag to become the dirty bag to repeat the process.

5. Organize and Rotate

Everyone has a different method when it comes to closet organization. Because I live in a place where the weather fluctuates frequently, I tend to organize by season and sleeve length. However, if you tend to get dressed mainly according to color, try organizing that way instead.

In the end, it all comes down to your dressing needs. If you have to dress professionally for work, you might put your blazers and slacks at the front of your closet for easy access, storing casual clothes near the back. Or, if you frequently wear jeans, you might make your denim a priority when it comes to configuring closet real estate. As long as it’s something that makes sense to you and your lifestyle, you’re good to go.

To extend the longevity of your clothes, rotate them. As soon as you wear something and launder it, place it in the back of your closet. This way, you avoid putting too much stress on those old favorites while forcing yourself to break out some of the things you might have forgotten about.

6. Reconfigure Your Accessories

At this point, your shirts and pants might be hanging neatly and your shoes totally organized – but what about your accessories? Belts, scarves, and jewelry can throw a wrench into your plans for a more organized closet if you just toss them in without much thought.

Here are some great solutions to store accessories:

  • Scarves. Grab some cheap shower curtain rings at the dollar store and hang as many as you need across the bottom rung of a hanger. You can then thread your scarves through the loops for better storage and easy access to all of your favorite colors and patterns.
  • Belts and Ties. Tie racks are not just for ties – they’re perfect for storing belts too. These racks hang on your closet rod and provide plenty of space for you to loop belt buckles over the pegs for a simple solution.
  • Jewelry. If you have some pockets left over in your shoe organizer, it’s the ideal way to keep jewelry off of your dresser and safely stored. The clear pockets make it simple to see what’s inside, and you can organize based on type and color.

I’ve also hammered a few decorative nails into the wall near my mirror for even more jewelry and accessory storage, but if you’re renting your home (or don’t want holes in the wall), removable adhesive hooks are a better bet.

7. Get Creative With Your Space

Even if you hang dressy tops, pants, and scarves in your closet and store casual pants and shoes on your shelves, you still may have more clothes than closet space. A big dresser is a great alternative for items such as casual shirts, tank tops, active wear, and lingerie – but you may not have the space for one.

Try investing in adhesive hooks to stick on the wall for accessories, scarves, and purses, and look for an ottoman that doubles as a storage bin for shoes, sporting goods, or bulky clothes. Do you really have to put all of your shoes on the shelves, or is there some room in your coat closet? Can you relocate your sweater collection to storage elsewhere during the summer? Try “thinking outside the closet” when it starts to fill up.

Get Creative With Space

8. Leave Some Room

Be wary of packing your closet completely to the brim. While it might seem like a good way to get your pants off the floor, an overstuffed closet could mean frustration and a lack of organization in the future – not to mention the difficulty of trying to find your favorite sweater. Again, it comes down to editing: Make sure that every piece in your closet is a complete necessity, or find it a new home.

There’s a lot to be said for quality over quantity when it comes to your wardrobe. Cleaning out your closet gives you a chance to keep the pieces you love most, while identifying holes in your style. Maybe you can get rid of those three trendy denim jackets and opt for one classic trench instead, or ditch the five pairs of juniors jeans for a streamlined pair of grown-up straight-legs instead. Opting for fewer, yet higher-quality pieces in your closet means you conserve space, save time choosing what to wear, and can feel confident that your style is on point.

Final Word

While it might eat up a Saturday afternoon, cleaning your closet can help you breathe a long-term sigh of relief. Stop trying to ignore the clothes bulging and spilling out onto the floor and commit to having a closet that is clean, organized, and easy to navigate. In fact, that sounds so appealing I’m going to get to work right now. Who’s with me?

What are your best closet organization tips?


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Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.