The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Out Your Closet

closet cleanup

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We don't know a single person that doesn't wish they had more closet space. But the truth is, space isn't always the issue when it comes to an overflowing wardrobe. With fashion options aplenty (some of which haven't been worn in years), poor storage solutions, and an abundance of accessories, it's no wonder your closet is always busting at the seams.

Ahead, we tapped an expert for the ultimate guide to cleaning out your closet. Try these tips, and you suddenly won't long for more closet space anymore.

Meet the Expert

Jimmy Seifert is a Dallas, Texas-based closet buyer at The Container Store. He has been with the company for 7 years. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Closet?

Whether it's every spring, every new year, or before your birthday, annual closet cleanouts are a good way to keep your closet streamlined. Seifert tells us, "Use the one-year rule for cleaning out—if you haven't worn it in the last year, it's probably safe to donate it or sell it."

Cleaning out your closet once per year will keep the accumulation of clothes, shoes, and accessories from getting out of hand. However, you're not beholden to annual purging sessions. Biannually, weekly, or as needed will keep your closet free from clutter. Signs you might need to get rid of items include:

  • You have doubles (or triples) of the same item.
  • You try on items that don't fit.
  • You often pull out items that are stained, ripped, broken, or discolored.
  • Your closet doors don't close.
  • You have piles or additional storage to accommodate your overflowing wardrobe. 

How to Properly Clean Out Your Closet

Step 1: Shop Your Closet

Take everything out of your closet and, one by one, evaluate the condition, fit, style, and wearability of each item. Seifert says, "Hold on to basics, like neutral t-shirts and tanks." Consider tossing ripped, stained, and discolored pieces of clothing. Any broken or missing pairs of accessories and shoes can also go in the toss pile. 

"If you're really struggling with letting things go, give yourself permission to keep a few sentimental items," he adds. However, consider storing these things in a labeled archival box or weathertight tote in another area rather than have them take up valuable closet real estate. 

closet organization

Courtesy of Rachel Rosenthal

Step 2: Have a Plan

Responsibly recycling your new and gently used items is not only good for the planet, and helping those in need, knowing they're destined for more than collecting dust, will help motivate you to get rid of them.

"Outfits in good condition that no longer fit or match your style anymore can easily be given to a local charity or sold to consignments," Seifert explains. He also says a great tip for staying motivated to donate is to keep a donation bin in your closet. "That way, everything stays in one place and can be donated when the bin is full," he says.

We're also big fans of consignment. Reselling unused items is a great way to keep your wardrobe fresh without going broke. Research consignment shops in your area and sell your unused items for a profit.

Step 3: Make It Seasonal

If your summer dresses often get lost behind your winter coats and your scarves get tangled up with your bikinis, it's time for some seasonal rearranging.

"Don't waste precious hanging space with clothing you won't wear for several months," Seifert says. "Instead, store out-of-season items, like swimsuits or winter sweaters, in another place for the time being. Swap them out when it's time to bring them back to life."

closet organizing

Design: Danielle Wurth, Photo: Diana Elizabeth

Step 4: Be Strategic With Storage

Finding storage solutions that are customized to your specific needs is crucial to keeping it clean and organized. Do you need more shoe storage than space for coats? Take that into consideration when organizing your closet space and invest in shoe organizers. Seifert also adds, "don't forget to add hooks, drawer organizers, and stacking trays for storing accessories and jewelry."

He also recommends installing a custom closet, like the Elfa system, if it's in the budget. "It's a great start to maximize your space," he says, "because Elfa Shelves, Drawers and Closet Rods can easily be repositioned at any time, making it easy to switch up the zones in your closet as your needs change." If you're looking for a quick and more affordable way to save space, swap your mismatched plastic hangers for slim space-saving velvet hangers.

Tips for Keep Your Closet Clean Longer

Once everything is organized in its designated place, it'll be easier to stay clean in the long run. Seifert recommends keeping everyday items within reach and out-of-season or special-occasion pieces to the back, so you're not digging to find work clothes.

He also adds, "the best way to keep your closet efficient and organized is to get rid of an old piece of clothing every time you buy a new one." Finally, labeling a shelf or bin will keep you accountable and help you put things away in their appropriate place.