As one of the most visited areas of anyone’s living space, closets are often overlooked. Most are either bulging at the seams, disheveled, inconvenient, or honestly, all of the above. Whether you are inspired by the turning of a new year, spring cleaning, or just because, learn the best way how to clean out a closet with these simple closet cleanout tips.
Closets are notorious for being the catch-all space. Simply toss in those unfolded clothes, kick in today’s shoes, and slam the door shut. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
But as one of the most visited places in anyone’s living space – large or small, a closet is a part of everyone’s daily routine. Just think about it, at least once, sometimes multiple times a day, we visit our closets.
Yet, even being such a vital element of our lifestyle, dust, and clutter collect, while the door seems more difficult to shut.
It is important to establish a closet system that works for us, not against us. One that is organized, accessible, and most importantly, clean!
Here you will find a clean-out guide on how you can take your dusty, unorganized, and overstuffed closet and transform it to give it the fresh start that it deserves.
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Cleaning Your Closet Space:
When most people read “How to Clean a Closet”, their minds jump straight to a closet purge. Now hold on just one second, we will get there. But before we discuss how to best declutter and organize your closet, this would be a great opportunity to actually clean your closet, like with soap and water clean. Let’s be honest, when was the last time you did that?
Taking the time to clean every aspect of your bedroom closet will keep your closet in excellent condition that will serve you more efficiently.
Simple Tips for Success:
If you are feeling super ambitious and you have a decent slot of time to dedicate to revamping your closet space, awesome! If not, take the next sections of this cleanout process in chunks – first clean, then declutter, and finally organize.
A great tip is to make this needed, but sometimes pain-stacking process, more enjoyable is to put some enjoyment in the process! What do you love? Some upbeat music, a riveting podcast, a nail-biting audiobook, candles, or a yummy snack? I love to multi-task, so listening to a podcast while cleaning is my jam. But choose one or more of your favorites and find enjoyment in the process.
First things first, in order to properly clean your closet, remove all of your items. You read that right, remove everything. So pick up that pile of clothes off the floor and remove every shirt on a hanger – we want a bare closet.
Microfiber rag or soft sponges
Vacuum – hand-held or push
How to Clean a Closet:
Now that you have your needed cleaning items in hand, let’s get to work. First, we are going to start cleaning from the top of our closet and work our way down. Why? This way, any dust, hair, or dirt that is in your closet won’t fall on any of your newly cleaned surfaces.
Follow these easy steps on how to clean your closet from top to bottom.
Clean Light Fixtures and Top Shelves:
The first step is to give the light fixtures and top shelves a quick dusting. I like to use my Norwex Dust Mitt, but you could use any microfiber rag.
Be sure to also reach into the far back corners of your closets to remove any cobwebs. Those spiders can be sneaky. With a damp cloth and some all-purpose cleaner, clean the surfaces and allow them to air dry.
Clean hanging rods:
Just as before, scrub the hanging rods with a soft cloth to remove any collected dust. Wipe with some all-purpose cleaner and air dry.
Is it just me or can you see the outline of where your sweaters used to be? Yikes!
Using the microfiber rag and some all-purpose cleaner, spray the area and give it a thorough clean. Again, don’t forget to clean every corner.
Clean door and baseboards:
When I said every surface, I meant it! To clean your closet door, all you need is some hot soapy water. If your door is wood, wipe in the same direction as the grain. Wipe dry with a soft cloth.
For baseboards, I like to vacuum them with a brush attachment or sweep them with a broom to collect the majority of the dust.
Next, wipe the baseboards with warm soapy water and a damp sponge. If there are any extra buff marks, using a magic eraser always seems to do the trick. Dry thoroughly with a clean cloth.
A tip I learned to reduce future dust is to wipe with a dryer sheet. Give it a try!
Clean the floor of your closet:
The final step! If you have carpet or an area rug, give it a slow, proper vacuum to collect any lingering dust bunnies and debris.
If your closet has wood floors, sweep and mop the floors with warm water and your favorite floor cleaner. I don’t have hardwood flooring in my closet, but I love mopping my kitchen with a nontoxic mixture of warm water, dish soap, baking soda, and vinegar.
Fresh and tidy, your closet is now a clean slate for functionality and organization.
Why You Should Declutter Your Closet:
#1: Cluttered closets that are disheveled and bursting at their seams are anxiety-ridden. Purge your closet and be left with only what you need and want, then organize it with functionality in mind.
#2: Decluttering your closet is a fresh start that you’ve been waiting for! Now you can breathe easier with that weight off your shoulders.
#3: Donate and help others by giving clothes away that you aren’t wearing.
#4: Make extra cash by selling your unused clothing items.
#5: Spend less time getting ready when you LOVE everything you have. Composing different outfits will be a breeze!
Now that you’re convinced to stop making excuses and ready to do the hard work, let’s grab our necessary materials.
Trash bags / Plastic bags
How to Purge a Closet:
The next order of business is to tackle what you have removed from your closet. Before you return anything, organize the items in the following piles – keep pile, trash pile, no pile, and maybe pile.
I encourage you before you make any decisions to try everything on. Yes, this can be time-consuming, but it will help you to be thoughtful when answering the following questions. Use these prompts to help you decide where each item should go:
- If I saw this at my favorite store today, would I buy it again?
- Do I love it?
- Does it still fit?
- Do I feel comfortable?
- When was the last time I wore this?
- Is it damaged?
The “Keep” pile:
This will be the easiest pile to create because this is where you will select all of your favorite clothing items. Think of the pieces that you are quick to wear, the ones that you grab again and again.
I was shocked when I learned this, but we wear 20% of what we own. Can you believe that?
In essence, you want to create your own capsule wardrobe. This has been a buzzword recently, but if you haven’t heard of it yet, a capsule wardrobe is a small collection (think 30-40 items) of clothing items that easily complement each other. These tend to be our favorite and most classic items that do not go out of style.
Once you have selected you have created your own capsule wardrobe with your favorite items, take notice of where there might be gaps. Are you missing a cardigan or do you not have any short sleeve shirts? Taking note of this will help you be more intentional when making future purchases.
The “Trash” pile: new pieces
The second easiest pile to create is the trash pile. This pile is designated for any clothing item that is in poor condition that wouldn’t be suitable for anyone to wear. For example, it’s time to say goodbye to pieces with rips, holes, discoloring, and stains. Say Sayonara because into the trash they go!
The “No” pile:
The next step is to create a “no” pile. Within this pile are pieces of clothing that are still in good condition but are no longer suitable for you.
Here are some quick clues that it is time to say goodbye to unwanted items:
- It hasn’t fit for 90% of the year. If you do plan to be intentional about losing weight, plan to reward yourself with new clothes instead. Your old clothes are taking up extra space until then.
- You don’t feel confident with the shape or fit of an item. Why keep it if you don’t feel your best in it?
- The clothes are scratchy and uncomfortable. Clothing like this will never be your first to reach for….or ever.
- The items no longer fit your personal style. It’s time to let go of that middle school sweatshirt and Converse.
- Items that you’re nervous about wearing – don’t want to get dirty. These items rarely see the light of day, are they worth taking up precious space if you hardly wear them?
- You have multiples. No, you do not need another pair of jeans in the same wash.
Since the “no” pile is made up of clothes that are still wearable, there are two routes you can choose to part ways – sell or donate them.
Selling your “no” pile is an easy way to make a little extra side cash. Sites like Poshmark are an excellent choice for when you have pieces that still have their tags on, are brand names, or were minimally worn. Using eBay or Social Media, like Instagram or Facebook Marketplace, is another great option for selling your unwanted clothes that are in good shape.
You can also sell your clothing to consignment stores or a resale shop, but many complain that their profit tends to be quite minimal.
Donating your clothes to a local charity, salvation army, or your local homeless shelters not only helps you part with your items but also helps those in your community. The last thing you would want is to waste perfectly decent clothing and toss them into the trash. Instead, pay it forward and help those in need with items you no longer need.
The “Maybe” pile:
Now comes the toughest pile – the “maybe” pile. When it comes to purging any closet, this is often where most will become stuck. Many can become consumed with the “what if” kind of questions. “What if I lose the weight?” “What if I get invited to this special occasion?” “What if I get a new job?” The list can go on and on and there our closet clutter remains.
If you face this conundrum, here are two tricks to try.
The One-Year Rule:
The first is the one-year rule. What I love most about this trick is you technically aren’t getting rid of any maybe items…yet. This takes the pressure off of having to part with any items today.
For this trick, take the items that you have classified as maybe and place them in a storage bin. Stow them away somewhere else, such as downstairs or in your garage. After a year goes by, if you haven’t used the items in the storage bin, get rid of them.
This practice is a shred of evidence that you were able to last a whole year without using and missing these particular items! Use this as your final push to depart from your things.
The Hanger Method:
A similar idea, but a different trick is the hanger method. This method attempts to identify the items you truly wear using the help of your hangers.
Hang all of your clothes, favorites and maybes, in your closet with the hanger facing the wrong way, towards you. After you have worn an item, reverse the hanger to its correct position – away from you. Continue to do this with everything that you wear.
Once a certain amount of time has passed, 3 months to a year say, take account of what hangers are still facing the opposite way. Again, this is clear evidence of what you grab frequently and what pieces of clothing you have not.
Whatever hasn’t been worn should be sold, donated, or tossed.
How to Organize a Closet:
Now it’s the time we’ve all been waiting for – time to organize! Here are a few of my best practices of how I store pieces in my closet that works best with my busy schedule and that help me succeed in functionality and organization.
Sort by Category, Not Color:
I’m sure you have seen all of those Instagramable closet photos where a closet is all pretty and perfectly organized by color. It’s a rainbow of perfection.
Though beautiful and fun to look at, let’s face it, sorting by color is not really practical. I don’t wake up in the morning and think “I feel like sunshine today! I want to wear yellow!” Instead, I go by feeling and a vibe. Then I pick from there.
Therefore, I highly suggest sorting your clothing by category, rather than color. For example, I will keep all of my folded sweaters together and hang all of my dresses together. That way if it is chilly and I’m looking for a cardigan, I know where to go.
Hang Only the Current Season:
I know not everyone lives in places that vary in temperatures, but as someone who experiences all four seasons every single year, my small space doesn’t permit me from hanging my seasonal items all at once.
In this case, I will keep the items for the current season hung in my closet, while the off season clothes item are stored under my bed. Once a new season rolls around, I pull out the items under my bed and swap them with the seasonal items in my closet.
This is a fabulous space saver because my winter coats don’t need to be taking up precious space the entire season of summer?!
Not Everything Has to be Hung Up:
A final space saver is to not hang everything up in your closet. Instead of hanging every single shirt your own, learn how to properly fold clothes to prevent wrinkling and store them in dresser drawers or on shelves. You will be amazed by how much extra space you will gain – heck you can actually see the back of your closet now!
Closet Organizing Tools:
Implementing these helpful tips and tricks into your daily routine will help increase your closet’s functionality and reduce overwhelm in the long run.
If you don’t mind a slight additional cost, I have also included a few other items that have been beneficial when it comes to cleaning out my closet.
Shelf Dividers – Using shelf dividers is an inexpensive way to maximize your shelf space while maintaining organization. Keep folded items locked in their defined spaces.
Shoe Organizer– Before owning a shoe organizer, I wasted so much of my closet floor space by tossing my shoes into the abyss. The area would rarely stay clean for long and I was always wasting time looking for the matching shoe. Adding a shoe organizer always me to keep my shoes in their rightful spot.
Hangers – The type of hangers you use can actually make a difference in saving space in your closet. When comparing velvet hangers to plastic hangers – the thin velvet hangers can add up to saving you a bunch of space. I also prefer a velvet clothes hanger because my clothes never fall off them!