How to declutter your closet (and still have something left to wear)

Do you ever stand in your closet wondering what to wear? I used to… until I had a wardrobe makeover that changed everything.

My friend, Barb, runs a business helping women shop their bedroom closets and put together outfits that are flattering. She helped me massively declutter and organize my closet, making me one step closer to a clutter-free home.

declutter and organize closet guide

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The most important thing I learned about how to declutter and organize your closet

Barb shared with me that your closet space needs to put your favorite and most used items on display. Somehow, I had been doing just the opposite. I had my nicer tops and sweaters hidden away in drawers and my bulky pajamas and sweats out on shelves.

Because of this, when I got dressed in the morning, I was digging through my drawers. I often forgot about a favorite piece of clothing and settled for the same tired outfits.

Here are some before and after pictures of my actual closet. Hopefully you’re not horrified by the state of my before pictures. I wanted them to be authentic ????

closet organization before and after 1


My after picture is so much less cluttered, and I have a much more simplified wardrobe. My closet now reminds me of a spacious, airy boutique. Clothes aren’t spilling over or stuffed in the shelves. I only kept things I love (and bought some new things, too!).

closet organization before and after 2

Here are the 4 steps to organize your closet:

Step 1. Declutter all your clothing.

The decluttering process is absolutely necessary (and on a regular basis) to combat closet chaos. You have to take every item of clothing out, a category at a time, and evaluate it.

  • Does it fit you?
  • Is it in good condition?
  • Does it have any stains (and can you get them out?)
  • Most important of all – Do you love it? 

I keep these decluttering rules in mind to help me make my best decluttering decisions. The journey to a more simplified wardrobe can be stressful without the proper guidance.

When Barb and I decluttered my closet, I initially hesitated, but as the pile of discarded clothing grew, it got easier and easier. No, I don’t want to keep that old shrunken t-shirt! No, I really don’t love that old stained blouse. Why in the world am I keeping it?

If you don’t love an item of clothing, you should take it out of your current wardrobe.

Decluttering is so much easier when done with a fashion-conscious friend (or a decluttering expert).

Related: Tips for a Closet Cleanout

What should I do with the clothing I don’t want?

I usually give it to the thrift store or other donation center. If your clothing is in great condition or you have designer clothing you don’t want, see if you can sell it on Thredup and make some extra cash. They pay up to 80% of resale price!

A yard sale, garage sale, or utilizing online outlets like Ebay or Craigslist can also be a way to sell unwanted clothing.

BUT, if you’re short on time or if you tend to get side-tracked, just stick with trash or the thrift store drop-off for your decluttered clothing collection. Actually finishing our decluttering projects is important!

How long should my decluttering session take?

If you allow your discarding strategy to get too complicated, you’ll have difficulty following through and finishing up. So, limit yourself to 1-2 piles. Don’t make 14 piles (one to give to your sister, one for the neighbor, one for a garage sale, etc.).

If you’ve got a lot of clothing, you don’t have to go through all of it in one sitting. You can do a section at a time.

how to declutter and organize your closet
Declutter items you don’t love and no longer wear.

It’s like eating an elephant, right? One bite at a time.

Take 15 minutes and look at all your shoes (make sure you get them ALL out at once).

Later, take another 20 minutes and go through all your pairs of jeans. Are there some pairs that are much too short or that you’re hanging on to in the hopes that you’ll lose a few pounds (I’m guilty on that one.)

Work through each category of clothing until you’ve decluttered and sorted through everything.

Now is the perfect time to take things out of your closet that don’t belong there. Unless your closet has an abundance of storage space, it’s not the right place for things that aren’t clothing.

So take out anything that doesn’t belong there and find a better home for it.

Why is it so hard to declutter clothes?

There are so many reasons! It could be the guilt of the money you spent on the clothing. Getting rid of it now can feel like you’re throwing money down the drain.

Tip: If you have it and don’t use it, it’s already wasted money whether you keep it or not!

The emotional attachment to specific items is a big one, though. Here are some tips for decluttering sentimental items and items you still love.

Step 2. Decide where things will go, prioritizing your favorite clothing items.

After you’ve decluttered your clothing, it’s time to plan where things will go. You might want to rearrange where you keep things in order to get more usage of each article of clothing that matters to you.

Can you rearrange your closet hardware so it fits your clothing better?

Do you need to move any shelves or hanging rods?

Do you have enough hangers?

I discovered that moving one of my hanging rods down a couple of inches allowed my skirts to hang freely, and it looks much neater. Also, I moved a few shelves down so there’s be more equal spacing.

Before you put anything back, think about what you want where and don’t be afraid to adjust your shelving.

Organizing your closet doesn't have to be a dreaded chore. Spend time working through these 5 steps and you'll feel great about the clothes you own.

A beautifully organized closet using ClosetMaid kits! Source: Target

Here is the strategy Barb shared with me:

  • Put your most frequently worn items front and center. You want to be able to see as much of your clothing as possible.
  • Fill your hanging storage and shelf space first (but don’t overfill).
  • Heavier items like bulky sweaters should be on shelves or in drawers so they don’t get stretched out of shape. Once these areas are full, put your remaining things into drawers.
  • Put less important clothing into drawers – things like pajamas, socks, underwear, workout clothes and the old t-shirts you’re saving for yard work.
  • Corral smaller items like belts, scarves and accessories into baskets or on hanging vertical storage.
  • Reserve high shelves for seasonal items, extra purses, etc.
  • Shoes can be kept neatly on shelves or in an over-the-door shoe organizer. My kids leave their shoes by the garage door for convenience, but I keep of most of my shoes in my closet.
  • Clear containers are great for things you use frequently. For off-season items, labeled canvas boxes or drawers make a more uniform look.

Step 3. As you declutter your closet, hang or fold clothing neatly.

The KonMari method of folding (in the video above) is popular but a little too fussy for me.

I prefer a simpler technique – I fold my shirts in half length-wise and then again. They are stacked neatly on my shelves. With this method, I can see what tops and pants are clean and available to wear.

Step 4. Consider extra storage solutions

If you don’t already have a variety of storage solutions, a few carefully chosen items can make it easier to maintain a tidy closet.

Target always has fun storage options for sale (don’t forget to use your Target Red Card to get free shipping and save 5%!). And of course, there’s always Amazon. If you shop on Amazon, make sure to go through TopCashBack.com. They have the highest cashback payouts.

easy closet organizing solutions

1. Hanging shelf organizer, 2. Laundry sorter, 3. Hangers,
4. Scarf holder, 5. Honeycomb drawer organizer, 6. Shoe storage

How you organize your closet depends on how much space you have and how much clothing you have. An organized closet makes the most of your wardrobe and helps you feel great.

declutter organize closet wardrobe
Here I am with Barb after she helped me organize my closet.

Have you decluttered your closet lately? Did you find a lot of treasures buried under all that clutter?


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7 thoughts on “How to declutter your closet (and still have something left to wear)”

  1. This couldn’t have come at a better time! I’ve been thinking, the past few days, that I really *really* need to redo my closet. It’s functional, but only just so. It has so much potential, and that space could be used so much better (and for so many other things as well as what it already is!). While I don’t 100% love the idea of having things other than clothing in there, it’s not something to debate in our home right now (we’re short on storage space), so in order for that to work well, my clothes need to be tidy’d up and pared down! Thank you for sharing this! 😀

    • I’m so glad, Jessica! And the part about not having non-clothing items in the closet is really about getting you to look and see if things have crept into your closet over time that are better stored elsewhere. Just yesterday, I discovered 2 space heaters that were hiding behind my husband’s dress shirts (cough, cough – oops!) Those could definitely go down to the basement 🙂

      Happy organizing! Let me know when you’re done – I’d love to celebrate with you!

  2. I think the hardest part of all is the “does it fit.”
    I have great plans to lose the baby weight. And I look at some awesome clothes in there and think I’ll never find those again so I have to get back into them!

    • I have the same problem, only it’s not baby weight since the baby is 4 🙂 But for me, it’s just an excuse and hanging on to things are too small doesn’t motivate me, it makes me feel bad. When I do lose those 10 pounds, I want to go shopping!

      Thanks for your comment, Trisha!

  3. I cleaned my closet out and organized this weekend. I cannot begin to tell you what all I found. I did
    find a set of keys to my car that I had lost two years ago. Gack! How sad.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. “If you don’t love an item of clothing, you should take it out of your wardrobe.”

    There is 1 exception. In any universe 2 pairs of pants is better than 1 even if you hate one of them.

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Welcome. I’m Sarah!


I’m the creator of Decluttering School (formerly known as Early Bird Mom), lover of organized spaces, encourager to women and mom to four boys. Click here to read more!

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