Even for people who work hard to keep their home clean, there is often one task that’s difficult to tackle—how to declutter your closet.
As a high traffic area, your closet gets enough use to keep things in constant rotation, which can make staying organized a struggle for anyone.
However, making sure your closet is in tip top shape can help you stay sane and streamlined throughout the other areas of your home (and your life).
“Having a cluttered closet can be very overwhelming, cause anxiety, and even make you feel a little depressed,” says Michelle Garb, a professional organizer. “We invest more than just money in our possessions; they are often meaningful and hold memories.”
You don’t have to wait for spring cleaning to get a handle on how to declutter your closet in six easy steps. With a little time, some expert tips, and this guide, you’ll be going from closet chaos to cleanliness in no time.
1. Consider the Seasons
Organizing seasonally can help save you from wading through a nest of sweaters when all you want to find is that perfect beach cover-up you bought last summer.
Keeping the things you use most often at hand is one quick way to make sure you can grab what you need and get going without creating a mess.
Think about creating “capsule collections” for each season so you can mix and match weather appropriate items easily.
Depending on your climate, set aside several times a year to do a thorough shuffle to move the things you’ll be wearing for the next few months front and center (giving yourself a few extra options for those unseasonably cold or warm days, of course).
If you’re struggling with bulky items like winter coats or bulky sweaters, there are a variety of vacuum sealed storage options designed for clothing and textiles that can cut down on space. Check out our blog for more tips on storing winter items and organizing your clothing by seasons.
For maximum flexibility, you may even want to consider booking some offsite storage to keep extra clothing you won’t be wearing until next year out of the way.
2. Everything in its Place
If your closet is a jumble of items, one of the quickest ways to get organized is to separate things by category.
When you store pants with pants, dresses with dresses, skirts with skirts, and so on, it gives you a fast idea of what you have to work with, and you know exactly where to go to grab a quick cardigan or pair of shoes.
You can also take advantage of tools and accessories to make the most of your space.
Shoe racks or boxes (make sure they’re clear or have a see-through panel so you know what you’re looking at), jewelry trees, and boxes and bins of all sizes can be great for breaking up those piles into something a little more manageable.
And no matter what your budget is, you can always take some inspiration from the stars.
3. Ask the Tough Questions
We all have those items that we haven’t worn in years, but just can’t seem to say goodbye to. When it comes to getting your closet organized once and for all, you might have to ask yourself some tough questions.
While it’s healthy to keep a few sentimental items, it’s probably time to part ways with those impulse buys from two years ago, or that designer jacket that just doesn’t fit quite right.
“When organizing the closet the most common mistake is to save an item for a what-if or just in case scenario” says Caitlin Roberts, a Southern California-based KonMari master organizer and founder of Minimize with Purpose.
Remember, you want to dress for the routine, style, and body you have right now.
“Oftentimes we save clothing items just in case we go back to an old job or if we lose a dramatic amount of weight,” notes Roberts, who was a consulting producer on Netflix’s Sparking Joy. “By keeping these items we are holding ourselves back from living in the moment and supporting our future selves. It also takes up unnecessary space!”
4. Look into Donation Opportunities
Once you’ve culled down your closet, it’s time to do some research so they won’t go to waste.
First, look for any items you’ve purchased recently that still have tags or the receipt attached. If you can’t get a refund, you may be able to get store credit. (Of course, this only works for recently purchased items—respect your store’s return policies!)
Next, look into donation opportunities in your area. Checking your local Goodwill is a good place to start, as well as churches and community nonprofits that might be accepting clothing.
If you have gently used, quality vintage, or brand name items, you could also consider selling them.
Many cities have stores like Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange that allow you to sell back designer and fast fashion clothing for cash or store credit. Of course, you can also sell your preloved items from the comfort of your own home.
While eBay is still an easy way to list your items online, a variety of new websites and apps have emerged as well, including Poshmark, ThredUp, Depop, and The RealReal. Spend some time on the sites to see which items match your collection, and get to listing. Who knows, you could even find a side hustle that brings in some extra cash!
5. Start Small, But Keep it Regular
A major cleaning session can feel great, but it can also be overwhelming. If you’re struggling with time, energy, or motivation, remember—baby steps are ok!
Start small by tackling a small section at a time (pants, blouses, shoes, etc), and before you know it, you’ll have your closet organized top to bottom. If you need a bigger push, make it a party!
Invite some friends, or use it as a bonding session with your kids who are old enough to help. You could even arrange a friendly swap to get rid of older items and cultivate a closet refresh.
However you start getting organized, remember to create a routine around keeping it that way. A quick sweep at the end of the day, a weekly touch up, and a monthly clean out can go a long way to keeping things neat and tidy.
6. Call in a Professional
Sometimes you just can’t do it alone. If you find yourself stuck in a cycle, bringing in the services of a professional organizer can help give you the push (and tools) you need to finish the job.
“Because of that, it can be difficult to decide what should stay and what can go on our own. That's where a professional organizer can be invaluable,” said Garb, whose company Free Your Space works to help clients living in Los Angeles. “By holding you accountable, being objective and encouraging you to get rid of more things, and keeping you focused, you'll achieve the results you want a lot faster.”
For those unsure they need help, Roberts offers this bit of advice: If you find yourself starting over and over then it’s time to call in an organizer.
“A professional organizer can help you get to the root of the problem, and motivate you to achieve your goals. An organizer is especially helpful during a life transition such as expanding your family or retiring from the professional world.”To find a professional in your area, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing’s professional directory is a great place to start.