Cleaning & Organizing

Time for a Closet Cleanout? These Strategies Will Make Your Annual Purge So Much Easier


I don’t know about you, but I think the proper way to usher in a new year is with a closet cleanout. It’s not quite time to dive into spring cleaning just yet, but by checking this one organizing task off your list, you’ll already have a headstart come springtime. And since you’re probably spending more time at home during the winter months anyway, now is a great time to spend a Saturday sorting through your closet. You’ll thank yourself later when you no longer have to sort through a jumble of clothes you no longer wear while getting dressed in the morning. The first step to a closet cleanout, however, is deciding how to tackle it. If you’re in need of some inspiration to get you started, read on for expert-backed tips that will make your annual closet cleanout so much easier.

1. Divide your closet into categories

If you’re unsure where to start in your closet cleanout journey, try breaking your wardrobe into smaller, more digestible categories. This can be by color, clothing type, season—anything. Divide your clothes into piles based on category and let the decluttering process begin. It may also be helpful to divide your discard pile into additional categories, such as pieces to donate, sell, or try on (reserved for all your “maybes” that you can’t decide whether to keep or toss). This method turns what can feel like a daunting task into much more manageable to-dos, leaving you feeling accomplished and your closet looking good. Win, win!

2. Turn your hangers backward

If you have a hard time selecting which clothing items should stay or go, let your closet make the decision for you. Start by turning all your hangers around so that they’re facing the opposite way you normally hang them. Then once you’ve worn an item, turn the hanger back around. After a few weeks, you’ll start to see which pieces you gravitate towards (those with the hanger facing the right way). Those that remain untouched (with the hanger still backward) are clearly not your favorites and could be good candidates to donate or resell. Since you obviously won’t be wearing your cashmere sweaters in the summertime, it’s best to practice this cleanout method a few times a year to get a sense of your most-worn pieces for each season.

Source: @jaceyduprie

3. Ask yourself: “Does this spark joy?”

What kind of list would this be if it didn’t include the famous KonMari method? As I’m sure you know, decluttering expert Marie Kondo took the world by storm in 2018 with her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. If it’s been a while since you’ve practiced her tips or you never jumped on the bandwagon in the first place, now’s the time to give it a go.

Kondo’s method encourages you to take a more mindful approach to cleaning out your closet. “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy,” the KonMari website advises. “Thank them for their service—then let them go.” Oh, and don’t forget to reorganize everything using Kondo’s meticulous folding techniques.

4. Stop doing laundry

That’s right, I’m giving you permission to let your laundry pile up a bit. Much like the backward-hanger trick, this strategy will help you identify the items in your wardrobe that you might be holding onto but aren’t wearing. To try it, continue wearing and depositing clothing into your dirty clothes hamper as you usually would. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where there’s nothing left in your closet that you want to wear except for off-season clothing and special-occasion wear (unless, of course, you want to dress up for your next Trader Joe’s run—you do you!). When it’s finally time to do laundry, take all the remaining pieces out of your closet and consider donating or reselling them.

Source: Fashion Jackson

5. Build a capsule wardrobe

If you often open your closet doors and think to yourself, “I have nothing to wear,” you may benefit from creating a capsule wardrobe. The purpose of a capsule wardrobe is to pare down your closet to include only your most versatile, must-have pieces that can easily be mixed and matched to create different outfits. This method will help you think more holistically about your wardrobe rather than focusing on individual items, and since most capsule wardrobes include just 20-30 pieces, it will give you a quantifiable goal to work toward when discarding items that don’t fit the capsule criteria. If you’re worried about not having anything to wear, remember that it’s all about quality over quantity.

6. Practice the 12-month rule

If you’re a fan of The Home Edit (I mean, who isn’t?), then you’ve probably heard all about the 12-month closet cleanout rule. Organizers Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin recommend getting rid of anything that you haven’t worn in the last 12 months—because if you haven’t worn it in a year, you probably never will. This approach takes the emotion out of your closet cleanout and gives you hard and fast rules to use when determining whether or not to keep an item.

Source: @katjamieson_

7. Take advice from a stylist

Scroll through TikTok long enough, and you’ll probably come across wardrobe specialist Allison Bornstein sharing the five-step process she calls the AB Closet Editing System. Here’s how it works: First, take all the clothes out of your closet that you consider your go-tos, AKA your most worn pieces. Then, look through everything and identify common themes among the pieces, such as fabric type, colors, or patterns and how they make you feel. After that, repeat the process but this time for the items you never wear.

For step three, categorize the items you never wear into three piles: a pile for items you no longer like or that don’t fit that you’ll sell or donate, a pile for things you’re not quite ready to get rid of but don’t reach for frequently, and a pile of items you love but aren’t sure how to style. In step four, start pairing up your regularly worn basics with the items you’re having trouble styling to create new outfits. If you still have trouble styling a piece, move it to either the “no” or the “not now” pile. The final step is where you’ll begin organizing the items left in your closet and identify any gaps or excess in your wardrobe.