A Professional Organizer Helped Me Clean Out My Closet and Her Advice Was Game-Changing

written by BELLA GIL

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Source: @waityouneedthis
Source: @waityouneedthis

It’s one thing to say, “Gosh, I need to clean out my closet soon,” and a whole other feat to actually do it. But when your dresser drawers can hardly open, and there’s no semblance of organization in sight, the dreaded closet cleanout is no longer a forethought but a must. While a closet cleanout can be done at any point in the year, there’s no better time to do a deep dive into your closet than in January. The cold temps outside call for a productive day in, so light your favorite candle, queue your getting-things-done playlist, and let’s get to work.

If your closet looks anything like mine, the task can feel as daunting as running a marathon. As a self-proclaimed fashion girlie, I’ve got boxes of shoes here and there, scarves and gloves mixed in my underwear drawer, and an extra clothing rack teeming with outerwear and denim. Once I decided to clean out my closet, I realized it wasn’t going to be any ordinary closet cleanout, so I reached out to Laura Ellis, a professional organizer, for some advice. She gave me all the best tips and tricks on how to store your items if you’ve got a small space (we’re looking at you, city girls!), how to let go of things you haven’t worn in ages, and more.

Laura Ellis

Laura Ellis is a professional organizer who runs Organized by Ellis. She has run her Los Angeles-based company for over a decade and specializes in luxury home organization and relocation.

The Strategy

Ellis suggests starting your closet cleanout with four destinations in mind for the items you’re sorting through: donate, sell, repair, or relocate. “It can be hard to edit your own stuff,” she said. “You’re going to need a system.” If you go through your items one by one, it can become easy to sort them into these specific categories.

How to Know It’s Time to Get Rid of Something

The most difficult part of cleaning out my closet is getting rid of my clothes. As much as I claim that I wear everything in there, the truth is, I haven’t touched some pieces since high school. According to Ellis, one of the most important factors to apply when you’re cleaning out your closet is honesty. “If it’s not something you would choose to wear today, don’t be afraid to let it go,” Ellis said. This especially applies to clothing you’re holding on to “just in case.” We know you wore that baby-doll dress to death in high school, but is it really going to translate the same way in 2024? 

Ellis explains that it’s a slippery slope to project your current wardrobe hopes into the future with the thought that maybe your old pieces will come back in style. “The truth is, when things come back into fashion, they never come back in the same way,” she said. “It’s always good to keep your closet current with how you feel right now and how your life is going right now.” If you’ve gotten use out of that garment and it no longer serves a purpose, it’s time to add it to the donate pile.

Source: @laura.byrnes

What to Do If Pieces Have Sentimental Value

While it’s easy to say you’ll add your unused clothing to a donation pile, Ellis understands that many people hold onto garments with sentimental value attached to them, which is totally fine. “Items like your college sweatshirts, sorority shirts, or your wedding dress should go in a keepsake area in your house,” Ellis said. She highly recommends storing them safely in another closet, an attic, or the garage if packaged properly. This is where the “relocate” category comes into play. Relocating the items that aren’t getting much use allows more space in your closet for the garments you actually wear more frequently.

How to Save Space

Being from New York, Ellis knows a thing or two about maximizing your space if you don’t have a lot of it (it’s where she started her organization journey, after all!). One major tip she has about space-saving is to organize your closet according to the season. For example, in the summertime, she recommends you store all your cold-weather clothing in bins under your bed or in your closet, and vice-versa for the winter. She also suggests storing bulkier items such as knitwear and outerwear in vacuum-sealed bags when not in use, and items you have an abundance of—like shoes—stacked on top of each other with organizers along the base of your closet or on shelves within.

“Take advantage of your under-bed and overhead space,” Ellis said. “But use that space thoughtfully. You don’t want it to become no-man’s land.” Utilizing your vertical space in your home can make a major difference when it comes to storing your clothing, as well as adding closet-rod extenders if you need more hanging space.

Source: @fashion_jackson

How to Maintain Your New Organization

Believe it or not, having a more organized closet doesn’t only apply to what you already have but begins when you start shopping. “Being intentional about what you’re putting in your closet in the first place will definitely help with keeping your closet organized,” she said. “When you lighten the load in your closet, you’ll end up wearing more of your stuff than before because you can see it.”