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How to declutter your closet: 4 easy steps to get organized

How to declutter your closet: 4 easy steps to get organized

A closet that needs cleaned out.

Alina Bradford/CNET

Overflowing closets can cost you a lot of time when you’re in a hurry and just can’t find that certain jacket or belt. Stop the madness and start cleaning. It only takes one afternoon to go from a stuffed closet to an organized one.

I know, parting with that shredded band tee or those once-perfect jeans that are now unwearable is tough. The reward for decluttering though, is a closet full of items that you actually want to wear. And then you won’t have to keep digging through your closet every time you’re looking for your favorite shirt. Here’s how my family cleaned up our act, and you can, too.

1. Take inventory of your closet 

The first step in your closet cleanout is to completely empty it. Remove everything, including clothes, hangers and shoes, and plop it on your bed or floor. Don’t forget to grab items from shelves, bins and drawers, too. 

You want to start completely fresh, like you’ve never had clothes before and the pile you made is your shopping area.


Pile all your clothes up and begin inventory. 

Alina Bradford/CNET

2. Grab some bags

Next, you’re going to need to grab some trash bags, a marker and some tape. Put a strip of tape on the first bag and write “Trash” on it with the marker. On the second bag, place a strip of tape on it and label that bag “Donate.”

If you have a lot of on-trend or designer clothing, consider grabbing a third bag for items you can sell to a consignment store.

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3. Set rules for what items you keep 

OK, now that you have the preparation done, it’s time to start being ruthless. You’re going to make four piles: keep, repair, trash and donate (and/or consignment store). The trash pile and donate pile are the labeled bags. The keep and repair piles can be on top of your dresser, a chair or somewhere separate from the rest of the clothes.

Start sorting with these rules in mind:

  • If you haven’t worn it in a year and it’s still in good condition, it goes in the donate bag.
  • If it has holes, worn-out elastic or rips that can’t be repaired, throw it in the trash bag.
  • If it needs a button or has a hole you or a tailor can easily fix (and you vow to actually fix it) put the item in the repair pile.
  • If it’s not your style, it goes in the donate bag.
  • If it’s fantastic, you love it and you wear it, put it in the keep pile.
  • If it has stains put it in the repair pile and try these tricks to remove spots.
  • If it doesn’t fit, donate it.

For the clothing items that you struggle to decide their fate, take a page out of the Konmari method. Ask yourself, does it bring you joy? Do you feel happy with how it fits your body? If the answer is no to both, then toss it.

These rules go for shoes, too. Got holes or extreme wear on the soles? They’ve got to go. Haven’t worn them in a year? Off to charity. Love ’em and wear them? They’re keepers.

If your shoes are just a little dirty, you can easily clean them.

4. Tidy up and take action

Your closet-cleaning journey is almost over. Now you just need to put everything from the keep pile back in your closet.

For the rest, it’s important to deal with them right away. Taking action will prevent those items from taking up space and potentially making their way back into your closet.   

Put the trash bag in your bin right away. Drive the donate bag to your local drop-off point right away. No waiting!

Finally, get to work on the items that need to be repaired or cleaned. If you don’t have time to work on them yourself, take them to the tailor or cleaners right after you drop off the charity bag.