How to Declutter your Closet and Keep it Organized

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Learn how easy it is to completely declutter your closet and get it organized for good in just a few days! I’m showing you 3 simple steps to organizing clothes in a closet and tips for keeping it that way.

This post was originally published on July 9, 2019 but has since been updated to include tips for getting rid of hard items and more about keeping your closet organized.

Organized closet with text overlay "declutter and organize your closet for good"

Decluttering and organizing my closet was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.

I completed this daunting task as part of our recent master bedroom makeover and I’m SO GLAD I did!

Not only does it keep our room cleaner, but it also gives me a sense of freedom!

I love knowing everything has a place and can be easily found or put away.

Plus, it looks pretty now too, and you know how much I love things to be pretty! 😉

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Does the thought of decluttering your closet make you excited or give you the chills?

I realize the process of going through one’s clothes can be quite difficult – there are feelings of guilt for spending money on things you may not have needed, there’s emotions regarding clothes you want to fit in to, but maybe never will.

It’s a long road filled with emotions and I’m hoping this process will help you realize just how EASY it is to have a clutter-free closet that stays organized.

Honestly, it was a whole lot easier than I thought it was going to be! You can do it!

How to Organize and Declutter your Closet in 3 Simple Steps

In case you need some encouragement to get started, here is a peek at what my closet looked like when I started this process…

Unorganized and cluttered closet full of clothes and shoes.

No judgments, mmkay?

Now, if I can tackle this mess, then you can definitely learn how to organize a small closet with lots of clothes too!

Even if the idea of organizing clothes in your small closet seems daunting, it’s not so bad! And the result is totally worth it!!

Let’s get to it!

Step 1: Prepare & Plan

The first step to decluttering your closet is preparing to get EVERYTHING out of there. Now, before you go pulling all of your stuff out onto the floor, let me walk you through a simple process for making it as painless as possible.

SET SORTING PARAMETERS

The very first thing you need to do before you touch anything in your closet is think about what your sorting parameters are going to be.

Know what the qualifying factors are for items to be kept, sold, donated or thrown away.

My parameters were to keep everything that CURRENTLY fits and I’ve worn in the last year, sell anything from designer brands that aren’t too worn, donate cheaper brands or worn (but not damaged) items, and trash anything with too much wear or tears/rips/stains.

I’d encourage you to write your parameters down and keep them close by so when you’re looking through each item you can remind yourself of the “rules” and stick to them. 

It’s normal for some items to have sentimental value – so having those clearly defined parameters will make it easier for you to make the tough decisions. Remember, the goal is to declutter and clean out the items you’re no longer needing!

But before we start purging, let’s talk about how to approach the “hard to declutter” items.

HOW TO DECLUTTER THE HARD ITEMS

Items with Sentimental Value

While I’m not much of a sentimental person, I realize that many people are. My son, for example, keeps just about anything he gets his hands on (including trash) if there’s a feeling or memory tied to it.

If getting rid of something with sentimental value is a struggle of yours, you are not alone.

Let’s review some ways to work on decluttering those items.

If evaluating whether or not to declutter something with sentimental value, begin by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Is it something someone else could use, and if so, would I be happy knowing someone else is using it? If so, then donate it or give it to someone that can use it!
  2. Can I take a picture of the item and remember it just as well? If so, snap a photo and store it in a “memories” folder or even just leave it on your phone to look at every once in a while.
  3. Can the item be repurposed? Google “how to repurpose item” and see what ideas people have! I’ve seen people turn their old baby clothes into quilts that are pretty darn cool.
  4. If I give it away, will the memory go away with it? If this item isn’t the only positive source of a memory, maybe you can part with it and still remember and cherish the sentimental value it has.
  5. Can I live without it? Try storing the items out of sight in a box for a few months and see if you feel the need to get it out. If not, you’re probably ok to donate it. Sometimes all you need is a little space to get the clarity you need.

As you’re preparing to sort, if you know you’re going to have to work through how to declutter sentimental items, feel free to make a pile or set out a box for these items and review them separately from the rest of the stuff.

“I Might Need This…” Items

Now, if there’s any type of item I struggle to purge it’s the ones I feel I might need, regardless of when the last time I used it was.

I honestly struggled getting rid of belts I hadn’t worn in over 5 years because, well, what if I had an outfit that needed one like that!

If you’re like that too, here is a suggestion for making these items easier to part with:

Place all these items in a box and date it for 6 months from now. Set an alarm on your phone to review these items then, and if in 6 months you still haven’t needed it, move forward with donating it.

That way, you’re giving yourself the chance to need it – hey, you may grab something out of that box in the next few months! – but you’re also realizing if you don’t truly need it.

I wouldn’t recommend this method with seasonal items (which might only be needed once a year) but rather with normal every-day things.

Items that Cause Guilt

Do you feel guilty getting rid of something because you spent a lot of money on it? I get that! But you’ve already spent the money and now it’s just taking up space.

If you truly never use the item, ask yourself if you’d feel good about someone else enjoying it? Most times, you’ll say yes. And giving that item away will feel like an opportunity for you to bless someone else.

Step 2: Sort & Purge

SORT EVERYTHING

Now that you’ve set some guidelines for what to keep and not to keep, go through each and every item in your closet and sort them based on the parameters you set above. This includes purses, shoes, scarves, belts…EVERYTHING.

Have I worn it? Does it fit? Is it stained?

Make sorting piles for each category: KEEP, SELL, DONATE and TRASH and work through it until your closet is completely empty.

If you start to feel overwhelmed (and you likely will) then take a break. Getting rid of stuff can be a difficult process!

Like I mentioned above, I’m not a super sentimental person (and I’ve recently lost a lot of weight so many of my clothes simply didn’t fit anymore) so this process took me just a few hours.

Here’s how it looked about halfway through:

Closet half-full with clothes in the process of being decluttered.

After all the sorting was done, I had about a fourth of the clothes I’d started with, at least two paper bags of trash, as well as a large pile to donate and two full boxes of items to sell!

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Now that you’ve gotten all of your belongings sorted, it’s time to get them put where they belong! 

For the donate and trash items, it’s easy. Simply take them to a local thrift store or throw them in your garbage can.

For sale items, you can sell them online or host a garage sale! For now, just put them in storage somewhere so you can finish up the closet organizing first.

For the items you’re keeping, I recommend you spend time washing every item before it goes back in the closet.

There’s a good chance that many of the clothes you’re keeping haven’t been worn in the last few months, and what better way to give your closet a fresh and clean scent than by having it full of clean clothes!

After you’ve gotten all of your laundry washed and smelling extra fresh, it’s time to start organizing!

Step 3: Organize

Now comes the fun part! Giving everything a place where it belongs. 🙂

Begin by sorting your belongings into groups of like-items.

Put all the handbags in one stack, all the tank tops in another, and so on. For one-off items, like gloves or hats, create one pile for those items altogether.

ORGANIZE YOUR SHOES

I recommend organizing your shoes first. The closet is really your only storage spot for shoes, so it’s important that they all fit in an orderly manner.

A few tips I have are to put your flip flops and casual sandals in a basket for easy access and store your other shoes with one facing forward and one facing backward. This maximizes the space on your shelves and allows you to fit more pairs!

Nicely organized shoes arranged in a basket and on shelves in a decluttered closet.

If needed, install extra shelving to make enough shelf space (or floor space) to fit every pair.

Not enough room? Consider getting rid of a few more pairs or investing in a shoe cabinet for outside the closet.

ORGANIZE YOUR CLOTHES

Next, organize your freshly laundered clothes. (Don’t they smell amazing?!) 😉

You’ll want to keep your “like-item” groups together in the closet. Store all your shirts together, your pants together, etc. This makes finding items easier.

Start with the hanging items. I recommend hanging dresses, dress shirts or blouses, pants and shorts, skirts and jackets.

Evaluate – do I have enough hanging space? Are they at the right heights? If not, adjust the rods as needed. 

My closet already had some hanging rods, but I chose to adjust the height on two of them to put them at a lower level for my shirts and pants. I wanted to be able to easily see and reach them – and the rods were too high for me originally.

Before this closet makeover, I used to have my pants folded on a shelf. But I found that I kept wearing the same pair over and over because I’d forget what pairs were at the bottom of the stack! Since hanging my pants, I wear each of them because they’re all visible to me.

Row of folded pants and scarves hung in an organized closet.

If you haven’t tried hanging your pants and shorts, I’d encourage you to give it a shot!

Then move on to your folded items. This would include casual shirts and sweaters.

Fold them nicely and store them in groups on shelves.

Then simply continue to work your way through and adjust as you go. Eventually, you’ll have it so that each item has a spot! 

Don’t be afraid to move things around as you find that certain areas don’t work well for certain things too.

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ORGANIZE YOUR ACCESSORIES

The last organizing you’ll need to do is with your accessories. This includes scarves, hats, purses and bags, gloves, belts, etc.

I chose to store my scarves in a wire basket along with my clutch and wristlet purses.

White wire basket with small purses and clutches inside.

For one-off items like my gloves and hats, I added a few simple closed boxes on the top shelf.

The bags and purses got a new shelf above my hanging clothes to maximize on that side’s storage.

I’d encourage you to evaluate the accessories you own and look for simple ways to corral them in bins or baskets. Consider installing extra shelving where you have some lost space too!

Once you’ve placed all of your accessories in their designated spots, you’re done!!

Take a step back and enjoy the view of your fresh-scented, clean, organized closet. 🙂

Here’s how mine turned out:

Wide angle view of an organized closet as an example for how to declutter your closet.

Ok, let’s review.

How do you declutter a closet?

I fully believe the best way to declutter your closet and organize clothes in a small space (or even a large space, for that matter) is to:

  1. Plan – evaluate every item with strict parameters!
  2. Sort – group items by keep, sell, donate and trash.
  3. Organize – sort your keep items by like-items and then one-by-one, put each like-item in the closet (starting with shoes and ending with accessories!)

Want to print this process for later? Here are the printable instructions:

How to Declutter Your Closet

How to Declutter Your Closet

Get your closet decluttered and organized for good with this simple process!

Active Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $0

Materials

  • 4 Boxes
  • Sharpie (for labeling boxes)

Tools

  • Mirror (for trying on clothes)

Instructions

  1. Plan - Label four boxes with Keep, Sell, Donate and Trash. If you're a sentimental person, feel free to add a fifth box for the hard to part with items and review those after. Set strict parameters for each of these boxes - what will go where and why?
  2. Sort - Go through every item in your closet and place them in one of boxes. Then do what's appropriate with the Sell, Donate and Trash boxes.
  3. Organize - Group everything in your "Keep" box by type of item - the pants all together, the purses all together, etc. Then decide if you want to hang, fold or corral that type of item in your closet and place them in accordingly.

Notes

Be sure to check out the post for tips on how to declutter hard to part with items and keep the closet organized long-term!

How to Keep Your Closet Organized

Now that you’ve got your closet all decluttered and organized – let’s talk about how to keep it that way!

One Item In, One Item Out

One of the easiest way to keep your closet organized is to be good about getting rid of something when you get something new.

Most likely you’ve got something in your closet with a similar purpose that can get donated or sold.

For example: You get a new pair of sandals and you have an old pair of sandals you will no longer wear now that you have the new pair. Get rid of the old pair! No need to hold on to old shoes you’ve now replaced functionally.

This rule only really works with similar items (like shoes for shoes and pants for pants.) You don’t want to swap out a necklace for a pair of jeans!

The goal of this rule is to help you evaluate your purchases to see if you “need” the item (meaning you don’t have something in your closet that already fulfills its role) rather than just wanting it.

I know there have been lots of times I’ve passed on an item because I already have something very similar in my closet!

Avoid One-Time-Use Items

Have an event you need an outfit for? Rather than going out and buying a fabulous dress that you’ll likely wear just once, look for other ways to dress for the occasion.

Maybe you have a friend you could borrow the item from? Or see if there’s a way you can update or fancy up something you already own with accessories or a new jacket/sweater? If anything, consider buying second-hand and selling online after you wear it.

Consider a Capsule Wardrobe

One of my favorite ways to minimize clutter in my closet is by wearing a capsule wardrobe.

A capsule wardrobe is a set of clothes that all work together to create a large number of outfits with a small number of items.

For example, a capsule wardrobe may include just 15 items (3 jackets, 3 pants, 3 shirts, 3 pairs of shoes and 3 purses) but when combined in different ways, make over 200 outfits!

I’ve been loving the seasonal capsule wardrobes from Merritt at The Style Scribe. She gives so many options for each piece of the wardrobe (at all price points) and I’ve been following them for about a year now.

The best part – you have less than 25 items per season to store in your closet!!

I’d highly encourage you to google “capsule wardrobe” and find someone with a style you like to follow.

Go to a Clothing Swap

Another fun way to change up the items in your closet without adding MORE is by participating in a clothing swap!

Trade the items you aren’t wearing anymore for something that fits and matches your style right now.

Not only does this give you the feeling of a new wardrobe, but it also follows the “one item in, one item out” rule and keeps your closet organized.

How often should you clean out your closet?

This process for decluttering your closet is quite extensive for a routine habit, but I’d encourage you to look through and evaluate your items by season.

When winter rolls around, check to make sure you still fit in and like all of your scarfs, pants, jackets and sweaters.

When summer hits, review all of your shorts, tanks and sandals.

That way you’re keeping things decluttered on a regular basis but not having to pull everything out.

Conclusion

My recent closet decluttering experience has taught me, not only how to organize clothes in a closet, but also how to keep that closet organized and smelling fresh! I am honestly in love with my new closet “system” that I don’t think I could ever go back.

I am even considering the concept of getting rid of an item each time I buy a new one… Crazy, right?!

I hope these simple tips for how to organize and declutter a closet were helpful for you! Don’t forget to grab some of the Snuggle Scent Shakes to help freshen up your clothes too. 🙂

Be sure to let me know if you have any questions.

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