How to Clean Out Your Closet and Sort Through Your Wardrobe

photo by Liz (

A few years ago, if you looked in my closet, you would think that I had a ton of clothes.  And, really – I did.  You could have seen them.  I was using every spare inch of my long closet rod, plus a short rod as well (for pants, dresses, and skirts).

While this sounds nice, in theory, I found that I was hardly wearing any of those things.  Plus, I would get overwhelmed trying to decide what to wear. There were so many choices, and I would be upset with myself that I thought I had nothing to wear.  “How can there be nothing to wear when there are so many clothes?”

Finally, I knew that I needed to clean through my closet.  I was shocked at what I was left with when it was all done.

Step One: A Visual Culling

The first thing to do is just look through your closet.  Do you have some special items that every time you wear them people make comments about how good you look? Maybe you have things that you know for a fact that you feel great about yourself when you’re wearing (don’t confuse this with “This is super comfortable” — I mean you feel like, “Wow!  I look great!”)?  Take any of those things and put them in a keep pile.

Now, of course, you need to look for just the opposite.  Are there clothes that you wear that people seem to consistently ask you if you feel sick while you’re wearing it? (It just may be a really bad color for you.)  I once had a dress that a couple of people asked me if I was pregnant when I wore it.  (I was not.)  I even had a student that insisted that I must be pregnant.  Unless I wanted to look pregnant when I was not (I didn’t), then that would be a perfect choice for a piece that would get the fast track to the donate pile.

Do you have clothes with big rips or stains?  Things that are just beyond repair?  Put these right into the trash if there is nothing salvageable about them.  (If you enjoy crafting and could use some of the fabric, feel free to set it aside for that.)

Step Two: Try Everything On

Yes, I mean it.  Try on every single thing that’s left in your closet (shirts, sweaters, shoes, dresses, skirts, pants, everything!). From the skirt you wear all the time to the shirt that still has tags on it that you bought three years ago and keep thinking, “Yeah, I could wear that sometime.”  That day has come.  (I will admit that during one of these clean outs, I finally tried on a purple cardigan that I had received for my birthday years before.  I loved it so much that I wore it constantly.  Well, until it developed many holes.  If I hadn’t bothered to really put it in and think about it while I had it on, it might have gone into a donate pile long ago.)

For this to be most effective, model everything in a large mirror for yourself, show a friend or your husband, or do both.  When I do this, I look in our big mirror and I ask Eric’s opinion.

Appropriately put things in either the keep, donate, or trash piles.  Be honest.

If there is a piece that you’ve had for years, never worn, but still want to keep, then mark it somehow. Maybe put a tag on it with the date that you cleaned out the closet.  If, in a year, you still haven’t worn it – ask yourself why you aren’t wearing it and why you want to keep it. Is there a reason it should sit idle in your closet when someone else could be enjoying it?  (And, there certainly might be. I have a black dress that I have never worn.  I just haven’t had the occasion, but it will definitely be perfect when the occasion comes.)

Step Three: Put Things Back in Your Closet

Put only the things that ended up in your keep pile into your closet.  Enjoy that you have more space.  And, at this moment, know that you can and will wear everything that is in your closet. What a great feeling!

Step Four: Repeat

This isn’t a one time project.  At least once a year, repeat all of these steps.  Even if you think, “I just tried this on last year,” do it again.  Your tastes will change, and so might your body.  There were some skirts I used to wear all the time years ago, and during the most recent cleaning, Eric and I laughed and declared that I looked like I was on the show Big Love.  They went into the donate pile.

Okay, so now that you have your closet organized, there is a lot more that you can do with the clothing in your house!  Make sure to go visit some amazing blogging friends of mine who are also giving tips this week on how to clear your clothing clutter:

Tara from Feels Like Home is sharing how to make a keepsake quilt (a quilt from baby clothes)

Amy from Raising Arrows is posting about how to deal with large family hand me downs

Cheryl from Somewhat Crunchy Mama is talking about organizing clothes for storage

Lauren at Mama’s Laundry Talk is posting about storing clothes for possible future babies

Nony from A Slob Comes Clean is helping us deal with clothing as clutter

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Angie Kauffman
Angie, a domestically challenged nerd and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home.  Angie also listens to music every chance she gets, writes eBookspodcastsloves Pinterestdocuments the little moments in life on Instagram, and occasionally sleeps.


  1. says

    This post hits home. I’m fed up of squeezing clothes into my closet and only wearing those in the last 3rd of it! I’ve definitely got to do something about it after reading your post! Thanks for sharing!

  2. says

    The part about people asking if you’re sick every time you wear something? Totally cracked me up!

    I need to do this. I REALLY need to do this. THanks for the great advice.

  3. says

    Good tips. Once a year I hang everything in the closet backwards. As I wear and wash them I put them back on the rod the right way. This makes it really easy to see what I’m not wearing.