Clean Out Closet – Steps to Making Space and Enjoying Less

A closet can be a thing of beauty, when you can get it organized and clean.  But if it’s been a while (or never), cleaning out a closet can seem a daunting task.  Let’s take a look at some ways to clean out your closet without losing your mind.

To clean out a closet is clearing out the clutter, getting rid of things you don’t need or use, and making an efficient and organized system.  Tips for closet clean out include setting reasonable goals, starting slow, and rules are set by you depending on your goals.

Do you feel like you’re drowning in your closet every time you open the door?  Do you have more clothing on the floor of your closet than what you actually wear?

What Does It Mean to Clean Out a Closet?

To clean out a closet is to get rid of all of the clothing you can’t or don’t wear, the things you don’t need or use, and to make room for more useful things.  You could also call it decluttering a closet, but either way it means making the closet more efficient and organized. 

Cleaning out a closet refers involves going through all the items in the closet, evaluating their usefulness, and deciding what to keep, donate, sell, or throw out. It can be a liberating experience, as it helps create a more organized and useful space. It also allows you to let go of items that no longer serve a purpose, making room for things you truly need and care about.

Decluttered closet - Clean Out Closet - Gone Minimal
Decluttered closet

How to Clean Out a Closet

It can be overwhelming to even think about cleaning out a closet, so it helps to have some tricks of the trade and helpful tips to get you started. 

 Tips to clean out a closet include the following:

  • Start small-don’t expect to clean out an untouched closet in a short period of time.
  • Set reasonable goals-like starting small, set a goal with a timeline you know you’ll be able to achieve.
  • Needs vs wants-look at everything and categorize by what you need and what you want.  Keep what you need, and consider donating or selling the things you  want (or don’t actually need).
  • Clear out by season-when getting ready for summer, clear out the winter clothing and so forth. 
  • Learn to let go-if it hasn’t fit in several years, or you haven’t worn it, or it’s worn out, let it go.
  • Stay organized-use a system for donation, sell, and trash.  Piles, boxes, or bags to keep things separated and ready for transport!  Also consider containers for accessories, seasonal items, and extra hangers.
  • Ask for help-if you’re feeling overwhelmed by cleaning out your closet, ask a trusted friend or family member for assistance.
Dress shirts on hangers - Clean Out Closet - Gone Minimal
Dress shirts on hangers

Rules for Cleaning Out a Closet

Rules for cleaning out a closet are set by you-it’s whatever you set to achieve.  Some sample rules for this would be “if I haven’t worn it in 6 months, I donate it”, or “if it takes up space I need for something else, I sell it” would be a couple of rules you might consider setting for yourself.  It’s whatever helps you achieve the goals you have for your closet.

Frequency for Cleaning Out a Closet

Frequency for cleaning out a closet can vary, depending on the goal.  Researchers at the International Journal of Consumer Studies Siki and Crecelius found that people who clean out their closet more frequently actually have better body self-images and have more sustainable clothing practices. 

A big clean or overhaul should be done about every 6 months, while maintenance cleanouts should be done at least once per week.  The bigger the closet, usually the more frequently the cleaning out should be done.  If you’re happy with how it looks, your job is done.  And once it gets to be part of your routine, cleaning out your closet will take a whole lot less time each subsequent time!

A closet of shoes that need cleaned out! - Clean Out Closet - Gone Minimal
A closet of shoes that need cleaned out!

Time to Clean Out a Closet

In 15 Minutes you can get a lot done in terms of cleaning out a closet.  Organizing outfits by season, placing shoes in cubbies, even clearing out a few outfits for donations can be accomplished in as little as 15 minutes.  Match up shoes, clean up a shelf at a time, put like items together, spritz a fabric refresher, and store accessories and hangers out of sight.  Make it routine and it will no longer be so daunting.

What to Do With the Clothes From the Closet

Once you clean out your closet of all the old clothing, you’re probably wondering what to do with all of it.  Let’s look at your options.

Sell Items

Sell – When you’ve got clothing that’s in great shape or “like new”, only a year old or less, and still in season or “trendy”, you can consider selling your clothing.  There are options like ThredUp or Poshmark, where you can sell (and buy) brand name clothing or other items and make a little extra cash.  Or there’s the old standby-garage sale or yard sale!   

Donate Items

Donate – What most of us have a lot of is gently used clothing that is perfect for donating.  Whether it’s the collection boxes at the gas station or Goodwill, your no longer worn clothing will come in great use for someone else who needs it.

Donate your clothes - Clean Out Closet - Gone Minimal
Donate your clothes

Trash Items

Trash – Then there’s all of the items that you’ve worn 500 times, have holes or stains, or belong to your ex and you don’t want to see them anymore.  These are good items to throw away or repurpose.  Your ex’s old sweater would make a great blanket for a cat rescue.  Your old shorts can be used to create a gardening belt for your neighbor.  Just a few ideas for repurposing!

Grace Linhares at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute goes a step further and discusses further ways to sell your unwanted clothing as well as pursuing more sustainable clothing practices like avoiding fast-fashion and buying only the necessities.

Related Insights

What Is a Closet Purge?

A closet purge is taking everything out of the closet entirely.  You don’t have to get rid of everything-but it gives you an idea of what’s there and what kind of storage space you actually have.  A closet purge is getting rid of the things you don’t need or use anymore, reorganizing things, and even incorporating a new system of organization to make the closet better.  When you purge a closet, it’s like starting over again.

How Often Should I Clean Out My Closet?

Let me ask you this-how often do you purchase new clothing?  It’s a good idea to clean out your closet every time you purchase something new.  This can help prevent doubling or tripling up on items, it frees up space for the new items, and it gives you a good idea of what all you already have on hand. 

Woman decluttering and getting rid of unnecessary items - Clean Our Your Closet - Gone Minimal
Woman decluttering and getting rid of unnecessary items

It’s also good to clean out your closet as the seasons change-when it gets warm, take out all the winter clothing and vice versa.  Plus every time you clean out your closet, you find potential donations to help others.

How Can I Declutter My Closet Fast?

In order to declutter your closet fast, start with the items you know you don’t want anymore and pull them out.  Makes piles for donations, sell, and trash for quick organization.  Then reorganize and revel in your success and your spiffy closet!

Real Items Real People Purge (And How) From Their Closets

I asked friends and family members to list 1) 3 items that they frequently purge in their closet. Then, I asked them what they do with the items: Donate, Sell, Throw Away, Other (Explain). Here is what they shared and what I learned from the poll:

Item : ActionTally of Family/Friends
Clothes: donate4
Clothes: sell2
Clothes: trash1
Shoes: donate3
Shoes: sell1
Shoes: trash2
Toys: donate1
Toys: sell3
Toys: trash1
Fancy clothes: sell1
Books: sell3
Books: donate2
Movies: sell2

Learn some tips on decluttering your closet in this helpful video.

Other Resources:

Cleaning out a closet can seem overwhelming in the beginning, but it’s so rewarding once you’re done.  From identifying what needs to be sold, donated, or trashed to reorganizing and saving space, a cleaned out closet can be satisfying and a thing of beauty.  As long as you set realistic goals, you too can clean out your closet and have a much more functional closet.

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