We’ve all experienced it — opening the closet each morning to choose an outfit for the day, and your heart sinks. Your clothes are in a mess, and there’s no hope of finding that one item you’re looking for.
But there is hope. We’ve gathered some top tips on decluttering your closet so you’ll never have to worry about finding an outfit that matches, among a hoard of clothes you no longer wear. And to avoid decluttering overwhelm, we’ve broken it down into simple steps to follow, with the advice that you don’t have to do it in one go.
So, before you get started, if you have limited time to complete the task, set out what you want to achieve in the time you have. By making a plan, you'll feel satisfied with what you've achieved rather than disappointed with not getting enough done.
You might also be interested in reading How I reorganized my kitchen in a morning — discover my 9 quick and easy tips.
1. Take everything out
If time allows, the easiest way to get started is to remove everything from your wardrobe. Apart from seeing more clearly what you have and what you've forgotten you’ve got, you can give your closet a thorough clean. You might be surprised at how much dust and lint accumulates.
Get out your vacuum and clean all the surfaces in your closet, including the corners in any drawers. This way, you’ll know everything you put back in your closet will be beautifully fresh.
2. Get sorting
Now that everything is out of your closet, you can sort it into sections for pants, skirts, dresses, tops, sweatshirts, nightwear and underwear. Once complete, sort them into everyday, occasional and seasonal wear. And if you can bear it, group them into colours.
Now everything is grouped into sections, the real fun starts.
3. The ruthless art of decluttering
If you’re a natural hoarder, the word ‘declutter’ might not be in your dictionary. And, if, like me, you’ve removed items from your closet in the past only to put them back again before they’ve had the chance to be put in a donations bag, you might feel overwhelmed before you’ve even started.
Dave Sayce, owner and managing director at Compare My Move, gives his advice: “You have to be ruthless. If something doesn’t fit or you don’t think you’ll wear it, get rid of it. If you are unsure, ask yourself a few questions. Have I worn it in the past three months? Is it sentimental? Will it become useful in the future?”
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the above, Dave advises keeping the item.
Then, you can sort out the rest. Start with the items that don’t fit, and be realistic about whether they’ll ever be comfortable again. Next, work through what you haven’t worn in the last few months, as it’s unlikely you’ll wear them again! How about those clothes that you’ve never been sure about? They may be not quite your color or as flattering as you’d like. And one easy declutter buster is to chuck out those shoes that always leave you with blisters.
Once you’ve decided what to discard, you can put them into piles to sell, give to charity or recycle.
One in, One out
There's also another decluttering method that's particularly helpful when it comes to organizing your closet. How to achieve a clutter-free home with the one in, one out method is based on getting rid one item each time you introduce a new one.
4. Store seasonal and occasional wear
There’s no need to have swimwear and sarongs cluttering up your wardrobe when they’re only worn while you’re on holiday or summer clothing mixed in with warm winter woollies. Get into the habit of sorting out your clothing into seasons, reducing the amount of clothing you’re confronted with each morning that isn’t appropriate for the time of year.
“This can really help redefine your closet into thinking that you only need on a daily or weekly basis,” says Dave, “avoiding having to constantly look through items you barely use to find what you need.”
Seasonal clothing can be stored in vacuum packs, reducing the space required and protecting them from dust and moisture. SpaceSaver has a range of vacuum storage bags suitable for clothing and bedding ($34, Amazon). MsKitchen has some clear garment hanging bags, which are more suitable for storing occasional wear ($22, Amazon).
These items can free up space in your closet and be stored elsewhere. “This could be another cupboard, an attic, basement or external self-storage container or lockbox,” says John.
5. Organize your storage system
I always find it easier going into a store where everything is laid out neatly. For me, going sales shopping is a nightmare. The disorganized chaos leaves me confused as I need to figure out where to look, and I often come out empty-handed.
Having everything laid out in item types and colourways is less of a visual battle and more calming than facing a jumbled mess. It also helps when items aren’t crammed together, and there is a clear distinction between item types.
Having a mix of different height hanging rails, shelving, drawers and shoe racks will help you organize your items so you can easily see what is where. Space can be optimized by placing tops of hanging rails with shelving space below for jumpers and storage boxes for seasonal items or sportswear (all labeled, of course).
6. Hang up or roll up
When placing your clothing back in your closet, start by ditching any wire hangers. Although exceptionally slim and they don’t take up much space, wire hangers will mark your clothes. Swap to an alternative that will give your clothes the TLC they deserve.
Slim velvet hangers are a better choice. While they don’t take up much room, they’ll ensure your clothes won’t slip off and end up on the closet floor. And for coats and jackets where you want to preserve the shape in the shoulders, wooden hangers are a good option. Although wooden hangers look smart — you’ll spot them in boutiques where the clothing is always spaced out beautifully — they are not practical to use throughout your wardrobe when space is limited.
Go for the roll with jumpers and items stored on shelving or drawers. Marie Kondo advocates this method as it allows you to store more items, giving you a clear view of what you have. This avoids the problem of having items stored away in drawers piled on each other, with no hope of guessing what’s at the bottom.
7. Keep on top of the clutter
Now you’ve learnt the art of decluttering your closet, you don’t want to be back where you started in six months’. There are a few simple tricks to keep your wardrobe tidy and organized forever.
One in one out
If buying a new item, ditch another. If you don’t stick to this rule, your wardrobe will soon mount up with items you no longer wear.
Think before you buy
Do you really need that new item, or is there already a similar garment in your wardrobe?
Be sale savvy
It can be tempting to pick up bargain items in the sales, so I always ask myself, would I have bought them at full price? If not, the discounted item isn’t the bargain it first appeared. Although, there are some exceptions when you love the item but can’t afford the full price.
Try the reverse hanger trick
The reverse hanger trick is one way to help you determine which clothes you do and don’t wear. When placing your items back into the closet after you declutter, put the hangers in reverse so that the open part of the hanger faces out. Then, each time you wear an item, place it back in the closet with the hanger in the correct position. Within a few weeks, you’ll see which items you've worn and which have been left untouched. You can then get a clearer picture of the items you need to discard next time.
More from Tom's Guide
- You might also be interested in Don’t make these decluttering mistakes
- Plus, 9 things you’re hoarding which you should throw away right now
- And, I tried the Swedish death cleaning method for a week and it changed everything
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Camilla Sharman has worked in publishing and marketing for over 30 years and has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.
As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader. In her spare time, when she’s not in her kitchen experimenting with a new recipe, you’ll find her keeping fit at the gym. In the pool, stretching at a yoga class, or on a spin bike, exercise is her escape time. She also loves the great outdoors and if she’s not pottering about in her garden, she’ll be jumping on her bike for a gentle cycle ride.