We could all do without a few clothes, and it’s good to make the time to go through our closet and assess the excess. You’ve likely cleaned out your closet in the past, but it took so much more than you expected and maybe you quit a little early, missed a few things, or didn’t feel like it made that big of a difference.
With this guide, you’ll have an easy, straightforward process for deciding what clothes to keep or what clothes to toss, and make it all go smoothly without missing a thing. So, if you’re ready, let’s dive into our step by step guide to cleaning out your closet!
How to Get Rid of Clothes in Your Closet:
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Download: How to Clean Out Your Closet Flowchart here.
Step 1. — Gather Materials to Clean Out Your Closet
Set yourself up for a successful closet decluttering and get the stuff you need to clean out your closet together before you start, not as you go! It’ll help you save time and keep you from getting tired before even beginning to sort out your clothes.
Things you need to clean out your closet:
- Donation Boxes or Bags: For sorted clothing, grab at least three large boxes or bags.
- Trash bags: For clothes, shoes, accessories, and miscellanea beyond salvaging or sharing.
- Cleaning Supplies: Two clean cloths, broom/mop, vacuum, and an all-purpose cleaner.
- Time: Carve out between 4-8 hours, and don’t forget to account for breaks and food.
- Friend (optional): Having someone ruthless and honest can help decide on your clothes.
Step 2. — Take Everything Out
To do this right, you want a completely empty and clean slate so take everything out. Every hanger, basket, hanging organizer, shoebox, duffel bag, and anything else has to be out. It may seem crazy, especially if you have a lot of clothes and not a lot of space to spread out, but just do it. You’ll thank yourself later.
We suggest doing this as a sprint in order to resist the urge to mess around with funny old knick-knacks that you may find hiding under piles of old clothes.
Then, start the laundry so you don’t miss any clothes by the time we get to sorting.
Step 3. — Deep Clean the Closet
For most of us, this part will be quick and easy. However, the more fortunate of us with larger closets, especially the ones with built-in organizers, will need a bit more time to clean. Either way, as you clean your closet, always orient yourself by cleaning top to bottom.
Start by dusting the walls and the corners for any invisible dust or cobwebs. From there, dust all the surfaces, shelving, and hanging rods one wall at a time, top to bottom, left to right.
Next, wipe down shelving, hanging rods, walls, and baseboards down with a clean cloth damp with just water or use an all-purpose cleaning spray. However, avoid damaging your built-ins and other surfaces by testing out the spray’s chemicals on an unseen corner.
Finally, clean the floor by sweeping and mopping or vacuuming. If you have lingering odors in a carpeted closet, baking soda is a natural deodorizer that can take care of any odors as well as any humidity in your closet. Just dust a layer of baking soda on the carpet, wait 15-20 minutes for it to soak up smells and then vacuum it all up.
💡 Tip: Don’t forget to clean closet organizers like baskets when you put everything back!
Step 4. — Sort Clothes, Shoes, and Accessories
Partly why it’s important to take everything out is because you can’t thoughtfully analyze each clothing item individually when they’re hanging or in a semi-folded state inside a drawer.
It’s better if it’s a mountainous pile of clothes on the floor or on your bed. Sometimes you have to make a mess to make it better. Take one piece at a time, hold it, try it on, and try your best to get rid of as much clothes as you can when making sorted piles.
Sort everything in your closet into four piles:
- Keep: Stuff that you love, wear a lot, and make you feel good.
- Consign: Name brand pieces that are in really good shape and can be sold.
- Donate: Your gently used clothes that can still be re-worn.
- Toss: Anything stained, torn, out of style, or anything you wouldn’t give to someone.
You want to avoid having a maybe pile and not give yourself that chance to dilly dally but if you can’t, then go ahead and make the fifth pile for clothes that need a second look.
How to Decide What Clothes to Keep
Some find this part therapeutic, others absolutely struggle with deciding what clothes to keep and what to clothes to get rid of. Instead of dreading what clothes you’re ditching, maintain your mindset around what you’re going to keep.
Ask these questions when deciding what clothes to keep:
- Have I worn it in the past year?
- Does it make me feel great?
- Do I love the way I look in it?
- Can I wear it with plenty of my other stuff?
Remember, try not build a “maybe” pile, but it’s smart to keep the process moving at a good pace by not fretting when you get to an item that doesn’t quite make you shout yes to all of the above questions. Think of the “maybe” pile more like just putting a pin in it until you can circle back with secondary questions.
Start with the Easiest Items
You know, your favorites! Get them out of the “sort” pile and into the “keep” pile at the very beginning. By sorting favorite items out first, you’ll see that the wardrobe you’re assembling is made up of your most-used pieces and ease some of your clothing decluttering anxiety.
Other pieces that might be easy for you to decide to keep are those you only own one of or is a basic, things you know for sure you need like uniforms, essentials for formal events (if you attend them regularly), heirloom jewelry, or non-negotiable sentimental items.
Keep The Basics
Don’t use a heavy hand when getting rid of your clothes to the point you have a flashy closet, but absolutely no basics to tie your pieces together. As you sort, layer your basics in your keep pile so you can see how many you have of each.
When deciding how many of each basic is necessary, consider how often you wear the item and how often you’re able to do laundry. Generally, the more often you can do laundry, the fewer clothes you really need.
If you’re working with a small closet space you could try the minimalist wardrobe and make up your entire wardrobe with just basics and a handful of truly extraordinary pieces. Don’t be fooled, a basic closet can still make dozens of combinations!
For example, a woman’s minimalist closet may include just one button-up shirt, a little black dress, one pair of dark skinny jeans, a pair of pumps, a pair of neutral flats, a jean jacket, a pair ankle boots, a sweater, a white t-shirt, a wrap dress, black dress pants, and a knee-length skirt.
How to Decide What Clothes to Get Rid Of
It’s okay if you have a difficult time getting rid of clothes. A lot of us do! But try not to waste too much time fretting. A second look might be necessary but worse comes to worst, you can replace an item and it’ll probably be better since it’ll be new and in with the latest trends.
Remember that “put a pin in it” pile? Arm yourself with these secondary questions when it’s time to face it. Typically these are clothes that you aren’t excited to let go of but should.
Ask these questions when deciding what clothes to ditch:
- Is it in poor condition?
- Do I have multiples?
- Is it high-maintenance?
- Do I fit into it?
- Am I hoping it’ll come back in style?
Get Rid of the Most Obvious Items
These probably got lost and stashed in a corner and you didn’t even bother looking for them because you didn’t miss them! Anything torn, stained, too big, too small, never ever worn, still holding evidence of a wine night that got out of hand, a gift from a friend that didn’t get your style whatsoever… these are all easy slam dunks into the toss pile!
You should also consider getting rid of something in your closet that you’ve worn over and over to the point that everyone is sick and tired of seeing you in it. Spice it up for Pete’s sake!
How to Let Go of Clothes
For those of us that really struggle with letting go of enough clothes, it can make it easier if you can figure out why you’re gripping onto them. Some reasons might be you feel bad for never wearing it, it’s trendy but you’re not comfortable in it, it’s a “certain occasion” item a.k.a. “just in case,” your weight has changed but it used to be a favorite, and more.
If you still don’t want to sort the item into the toss pile after asking the primary questions, the secondary questions, acknowledging why you can’t let go and giving yourself permission to release any guilt or remorse connected with an item — then don’t!
You can put these in a final resort box and store it somewhere that isn’t your closet. See if throughout the following six months you ever go for that box and dig up an item. If not, then don’t hesitate then and donate the whole box without opening it.
Step 5. — Get Rid of the Clothes Clutter
Donate your clothes to specific charities that are seeking particular items like professional clothing, formal events, baby clothing, bras, etc. Goodwill or The Salvation Army are great fallbacks for items that you can’t find a specific charity for as they’re happy to receive almost all gently used clothing.
Consignment stores such as Plato’s, Buffalo Exchange, or any local consignments are happy to buy good quality clothing, shoes, and accessories. Some consignments only accept name brand items so check out the information on their website or call ahead to avoid wasting time.
Toss or upcycle clothing that’s beyond wearing. A popular way to upcycle old t-shirts is to cut them into squares and use them for cleaning, insulation, crafts, and more.
Haul away services such as local waste management pickups or junk removal can come and pick up your unwanted stuff from your curb. This is a good option if you need to get rid of an old dresser, wardrobe, or any bulky object along with your bags or boxes of clothes.
Put What’s Left Back & Organize Your Closet
If at any point you find your battery dying, take a break! Decluttering your closet can be an overwhelming task, but it’s highly rewarding once it’s done so don’t give up.
No matter how tired you might be at the end, resist the temptation to just shove it all back into your closet. Organizing your closet will make sure that no matter how short on time you are in the mornings, you’ll be able to step in and walk out in a bomb outfit.
Don’t worry, we help you organize too, but for right now, give yourself a pat on the back for getting rid of excess clothes. Make sure you download or print our closet cleanout flowchart for a sorting roadmap, and look out for our next guide to organizing your closet.
How to Clean Out Your Closet Flowchart
Download: How to Clean Out Your Closet Flowchart here.
More Decluttering Guides from the Trash Talk Blog: