Is your clothes closet as clean, organized and streamlined as you’d like it to be? Do you find yourself repeatedly wearing only two or three items from your overstuffed closet? If you are like most people, your closet contains things that no longer fit or items you no longer like to wear. When your closet is disorganized it makes finding what you actually like to wear a frustrating task. As seasons change, it’s a great time to learn how to clean a closet and organize your storage space from top to bottom!
So set aside a long afternoon, grab the following supplies, put on your tunes and let’s get started!
10 Steps to a Clean & Organized Closet
1. Gather the following supplies:
A pail of warm water with three cups of water and a tablespoon of natural dish soap
Three laundry baskets or boxes
Hooks and pocket organizers for accessories (Note: you may want to wait to buy hooks or organizers until you have cleaned out the closet and know what you actually need.)
Marker/pen, paper and tape
2. Remove everything from the closet.
It might seem like a drastic measure, but I think the best way to do the job right and be happy with the end result is to actually remove everything from the closet. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your closet, you’ll want to wear a dust mask to avoid headaches or allergies. It’s amazing how much dust accumulates in a closet!
3. Clean surfaces and floors.
Take your rag and warm water and wipe down the entire closet. Wipe down the walls from top to bottom and the shelves. Vacuum thoroughly, or if your closet has hardwood flooring, sweep and wash the floor.
4. Group and sort clothes, shoes and accessories.
Mark areas of your room, laundry baskets or bins with labels to easily sort items to:
Toss out anything that is stained or damaged. Only keep what you’ve worn regularly in the last year and what flatters your figure and style. Let everything you haven’t worn recently be enjoyed by someone else. Aim to keep less than half of what you had in the closet.
Sort accessories like purses, backpacks, shoes, belts, scarves or jewelry into one part of your room. Group jeans, dress pants, T-shirts, blouses, dresses, boots and shoes into another area of the room.
5. Hang up or fold the clothes you actually wear.
Use only your new matching hangers and hang up what is ready to go back in the closet. Organize by like-items and, if desired, go one step further and organize by color. Fold items if they are being placed in shelves or drawers. Put away shoes (you may need to put up a shoe rack or get clear plastic shoe containers to protect and stack shoes you wear less often). If you have room to sort by season, perhaps set up a seasonal closet space in another room or storage unit.
6. Be creative with your closet space.
If you get creative, most closets and rooms can hold more than you might think. Once your clothes are hung up, look around your closet. Do you have wall space for hooks? What about the back of a door? Hang hooks or pocket organizers on rods, walls or doors for accessories.
You can hang scarves by snapping shower curtain rings around a hanger and looping scarves through the rings. Jewelry can be kept in clear pocket organizers. If you don’t have enough room in your closet for accessories, get creative and find space in a nearby bathroom or bedroom.
Related: 4 Cheap and Easy DIY Closet Organization Ideas You’ll Love
7. Do your laundry.
At this point you’ll have a pile of laundry, so wash all the clothes that need to be washed, and bring items that need to be dry-cleaned to the car. Try to tackle the laundry pile within 24 hours so you can finish the closet. Once all of the clothes are clean, if you don’t have room for them, go through the closet to get rid of a few more items.
8. Give away items.
Don’t second guess yourself – remove everything you haven’t worn in the past year and take it to the car to be dropped off the next day at your favorite charity. While there is a possibility you’ll give away something you wish you had down the road, in the long run it will have been worth it. Cleaning out a closet will make future decisions much easier. Chaotic closets end up costing us money! Being more organized will help you know what you actually need to buy going forward and you’ll make less clothing mistakes.
9. Consider trying a daily clothing chart.
If you want to be more creative with what you wear and save money on your clothing budget, tape a piece of paper to the inside of your closet. Every day, jot down what you wear. You’ll not only start to be more creative with what you wear, but it will become clear what you wear the most often. If you find that you are not using everything in your closet, you’ll know what to keep and what can be given away. You can also keep notes of items you need to complete outfits, such as a new belt or scarf.
10. Keep up the good work!
Clean closets need regular maintenance to stay organized and tidy. It’s good to do a seasonal clean up two or three times a year to keep the dust down and the clutter at bay.
More Help with Closet Organization:
The Konmari Closet Method: How to Get Started
Reclaim Your Closets: 17 Brilliant Hall Closet Organization Ideas
4 Cheap and Easy DIY Closet Organization Ideas You’ll Love
Editor’s Note: Originally published February 27, 2014; updated November 22, 2020.