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8 Steps to the Perfectly Cleaned-Out Closet

Here’s a game plan for organizing your clothes and shoes

By Cass Colin and

(This article previously appeared on


1. Start From Zero

It might sound like a lot of effort, but the best way to begin cleaning out your closet is with a blank slate. Take absolutely everything out so you can look at your storage in a whole new light — and see if your existing system still works. Does it really make sense to keep sweaters on a shelf where you can’t see them? Do you hate having to bend over to get to your shoes? Could you be doing more with your hanging space?

Think through your system before you put anything back. As an added bonus, you’ll feel less inclined to put back items you don’t truly love once you have a pristine closet.

2. Let It Go

Once you’ve got all your clothes out, assess what you have and be ruthless. Does it fit? Is it something that’s still considered in style? Does it need repairs? If you have perfectly nice clothes that are in good condition, consider selling them at a local consignment shop. For designer duds, offer them up on sites like or Donate gently-used items at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.

And don’t be afraid to throw things out. If an item is so tattered or worn that you’d be embarrassed to receive it, other people would, too.

3. Slim Down

Mismatched hangers don't just look messy — they also take up more space. Purge your ratty dry-cleaning hangers and other odd freebies in favor of a streamlined collection of thin, textured hangers, which keep clothes from slipping off and tighten up how closely they can hang together.

Still need space? Opt for hangers that you can “waterfall,” allowing you to hang matching items together (like suit jackets and pants).

4. Label It

Bins and baskets are a great way to corral accessories or out-of-season clothes, but don’t set yourself up for secrets. If you can’t see into a storage bin, label it, lest you forget to cycle back to your favorite items. Add stick-on labels or clip clothespins and cards onto your bins. Both can be easily amended if you decide to change what’s inside later.

Apply that same principle to shoes. Instead of keeping your kicks in the boxes they came in, stash them in clear plastic bins, out on your own racks or, if you must keep them in their original packaging, add photos to the outside of their boxes so you know what hiding inside.

5. Know How You Dress

The trick to organizing your clothes is to group them the way you get dressed. Closets arranged by color certainly look pretty, but if that’s not how you think first thing in the morning; that rainbow rack won’t do you any good.


Instead, take a moment to picture how you dress: Do you only wear formal clothes on special occasions? Then hang them in a separate section from your casuals. Do you mix and match casual and formal items? Consider sorting all shirts by color, then all bottoms the same way.

6. Door Prize

One storage space you might have neglected: the door. Over-the-door hangers, like the Household Essentials Cedarline Collection shoe organizer from ($24.99) can be used to maximize your space for all sorts of needs.

Over-the-door shoe racks also work wonders for accessories, like belts, ties and scarves. A valet rack or hook can be a perfect place to hang an outfit for the next day.

7. No Shirt, No Shoes, No (Closet) Service

As basic as this sounds, to keep a clean closet, you can't store non-wearables in it. Family photos, linens and other sundries shouldn’t take up precious space — and get in the way of clothing.

If you have no other option, store non-clothing items on high-up shelves, out of the way of things you need to access daily.

8. Set Yourself Up for Success Later

Once your closet is in tip-top shape, make sure it stays that way. Consider a one-in, one-out system where you are only allowed to get new clothes if you get rid of something old.

Or keep track of what you’ve actually worn with this neat trick: Hang all your clothes with the hanger facing out of the closet. As you wear items, hang them back up with the hanger facing in. You’ll be able to keep an eye on what you’ve actually worn and what you haven’t, so you can let go of items that are just taking up space. Staying on top of what you’re actually using sets up a game plan to keep your closet clean for good.

Cass Colin Read More
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