Identify the clothes that are just taking up space, organize the ones that actually mean something to you, and get your closet squeaky clean.
Before You Begin
Depending on the size of your wardrobe and how long it’s been a mess, it may take you a couple of hours or an entire day to declutter, organize, and clean your closet. The process involves emptying it entirely, cleaning the space, identifying and discarding clutter, then organizing your clothes and accessories as you put them back.
Equipment and materials
- Empty boxes or bags
- Tape and marker to label them
- Cleaning rags
- Soap and water
- Extension duster
- A vacuum with a crevice tool
Steps to Clean and Organize Your Closet
Step 1: Pick up trash and clothes.
If it’s been a while since you cleaned your closet, you’ll want to start by throwing away any trash you see and picking clothes up off the floor. Hang or fold clean items and toss the dirty ones into your hamper.
Step 2: Pull out everything.
Good decluttering begins with a complete clean-out, so you can see how much stuff you’re trying to store compared to the actual space you have. Begin deep-cleaning your closet by taking out all the clothes and other items and put them on your bed or the floor. As you do, sort things into categories: pants, shirts, dresses, skirts, jackets, etc. Don’t worry at this point about whether something’s outdated or doesn’t fit, just focus on putting something into its proper category. This will save you a lot of time as you work through the rest of the checklist.
Step 3: Clean.
Now that your closet is empty and your bedroom’s a mess, you have no choice but to finish your project! So, grab your extension duster and dust the ceiling, light fixture, walls, door frame, and baseboards in that order. This process also gives you a chance to identify and fix the cause of musty closet odors. Use a warm, soapy cloth and wipe the doorknob and door to remove grime, and remove any stains on the walls. Rinse the rag and wipe the closet rods, too. Vacuum the floor thoroughly, including the crevice at the base of the wall.
Step 4: Declutter.
Now it’s time to work through the pile of clothes on your bed. Go through each category one at a time and sort your clothing.
- Things too worn-out to wear or to donate: Check out these uses for worn-out clothing.
- Things you don’t like anymore: Put them in a box to donate. Keep a list so you can calculate your charitable tax deduction.
- Things that don’t fit right now: Store them in a box and move them to your basement, attic, or storage area. If they don’t fit in a year, donate them.
Step 5: Organize.
What’s left in the pile should be clothes you like to wear and which fit. If there are still items that aren’t both things, go through them again, keeping in mind the rules for deciding what’s clutter and what’s not. Once you’ve finished decluttering, it’s time to put things back in your closet. This is where it’s handy to have your clothes separated into categories, so you can put away categories together.
• Hang up things that wrinkle, keeping categories together: Blouses/shirts, skirts, dresses, pants, leggings, jackets, coats. Put longer items like dresses toward the ends of the closet rod so they don’t block your view of other items.
• Fold things that don’t need to hang, keeping categories together: t-shirts, sweatshirts, yoga pants, underwear, socks/tights, pajamas, shorts, sweaters.
• Put away shoes and accessories. If you keep your shoes on the floor, put pairs together. Hang scarves on a clothes hanger, looping belt buckles over the top. Put shoulder bags and purses on the shelves.
Step 6: Finish up.
If you have items for donation, take the box to your car now so they don’t wind up back in your closet. Store things that don’t fit in another part of your home and add a reminder to your phone to check on them in a year. If you they still don’t fit, it’s time to turn them into donations, too.
Tips to Keep Your Closet Clean
If you want to keep your home and closet organized, treat decluttering like an ongoing process, not a onetime project. To make this easy, stash a box in the corner of your closet to hold donations. As you discover things you no longer enjoy wearing, add them to the box and take it to your local charity when it’s full. Then, make it a habit to dust and vacuum your closet weekly, as you would any part of your home. This will give you an incentive to keep your shoes tidy and hang up any clothes that are on the floor.
Get the Printable Closet Cleaning Checklist