Make Closet Organization Easy: Declutter Your Closet First

Remember how I was going to organize my closet because we have a painter coming? [And also a baby is coming in 6 weeks, and it's about darn time I started nesting!] Well, we got bumped ahead on the painter’s schedule, and so this week I had to jump to it and get on the job in earnest.

I had been on the fence about organizing my closet little by little, or by yanking everything out at once. In my delicate condition, it was easier for me to do it both ways:

  • The first step for me is to shop the rack and cull items I want to get rid of, without yanking everything out. That’s what this post is about.
  • The next step (for the next post) is to pull out what’s left so I can organize it by season and by item.

Use a Time Limit on the Declutter Job
I took a timer and set it for 15 minutes so that I could complete the declutter part of the job in increments. It only took me two 15-minute sessions on different days to edit my closet, which was totally doable, even though I’m tired, slow and easily distracted these days.

Using a timer will help you move a little faster, and it will prevent the job from becoming huge and highly unpleasant. You will be surprised at how many items you’ll be able to survey and dump or keep in 15 minutes. And if you’re having fun after the 15 minutes is up, then keep going.

Getting Started: Closet Editing Basics
If you weed everything out of the closet that no longer belongs there, then there are simply fewer items to contend with when we hit the organizing phase.

Have a box, bag or laundry basket on hand you can toss items into. When your vessel is full, put the clothes in your car so that you get them out of the house and one step closer to the donation box.

Your first step to organizing your closet is to declutter.
The more rigorous you are with your closet editing, the easier it will be to get dressed in the mornings. Having fewer choices in our closet is an underrated blessing. Owning just a few outfits that are flattering and comfortable will beat a whole closet full of grimace-inducing options every day of the week.

Pull out the items that:
a) don’t fit or are uncomfortable.

b) are out of style, stained, worn out, ratty, or need repairs.

c) you fondle yet cringe instead of wearing, no matter what the reason. If that’s the dress you wore when Jimmy dumped you, I don’t care how fabulous it makes you look. If seeing it makes you feel bad, then get it out of the house.

d) don’t represent the person you want to showcase to the world.

Don’t Keep Stuff That Makes You Feel Bad
A note about letter ‘c’ – if a piece of stuff makes you feel bad in any way, then it doesn’t deserve room in your home.

Sometimes we have negative associations with an item. Maybe we wore it to a funeral, it’s what we had on when we got mugged or received a piece of very bad news, or we were wearing it when we got into a nasty fight with a loved one. If you see that item and it triggers a bad memory, then please get it out of your house.

Or maybe it’s not that obvious. A piece or pieces could represent a not-so-great time in your life for any reason. You may not have a particular memory associated with a garment, but you might look at it and feel a wave of guilt, loneliness or sadness.

Perhaps an item was a gift, and you feel guilty that you don’t appreciate and wear it. Remember that it’s only stuff, and that you appreciate the sentiment that the gift represents. I’m sure the giver didn’t mean to torture you with it, so stop torturing yourself, and let it go!

Life is too short to keep material belongings that don’t make us feel good. What will make you feel good is freeing up those items to go to a good home where they will be loved, used and appreciated.

Only Keep Things That Make You Feel Good
On that note, let’s talk about letter ‘d’. If you feel less-than-great and you don’t feel as if you’re putting your best foot forward in that garment, then ditch it. It doesn’t matter what the occasion – there are t-shirts you might wear to the grocery store or the gym; some t-shirts make you feel cute and fabulous, and some make you run down the soup aisle in hopes you don’t see anyone you know. If you don’t want to be seen it, then why the heck do you wear it?

The funny thing is that sometimes the outfits that make us look the best are the ones that we wear the least. Maybe we’re saving them for a special occasion or we think wearing a certain flashy piece calls attention to ourselves. Give yourself that gift. If you look great in it, wear it!

Hiding or saving a special outfit robs you of enjoyment. Are you afraid people will notice you wear it too much? They won’t. It’s okay to have a small, but fabulous wardrobe. Why bother keeping acres of clothes when just a handful of well-made pieces that make you feel beautiful will do.  So wear those fabulous pieces out now and get a lot of use out of them.

Otherwise, it’s the equivalent of keeping a museum-like “sitting room” so that only company can use it. Take the proverbial plastic off your sofa, and use the nice items while you’re alive to enjoy them.

This isn’t your last chance to look good – there will be other outfits that make you feel great after you wear this one to death. So stop saving it, and wear it. And get rid of all those second-rate items that you’re wearing instead of the ones you should be wearing.

Ditch the Mediocre
This is probably the hardest category to weed out, because it could go either way. There’s no breeze blowing your meter towards keep or dump. So how do you know when a mediocre item needs to go? When you know you need to make room, you know you have too many clothes, and you look at a piece that makes you shrug when you see it and go, “Eh.”

When you’ve got too much stuff, then your reaction to an item doesn’t need to be a dramatic “love” or “hate” when choosing to keep it or dump it. Something is mediocre if you feel vaguely shlubby or just okay when you wear that item, but you keep it around because you can’t find anything particularly wrong with it.

Get rid of anything that makes your boobs look saggy or your butt look big or that doesn’t flatter your thighs or your middle. Maybe the color is better suited for The Grinch or the bedazzling makes you feel like a Florida grandma at the dog races. (Apologies to dog-race attending Florida grandmas.) If you don’t feel good in it, for the love, toss it or give it away.

Don’t be mean to yourself, and don’t over think it. If you don’t feel great in it, or you do feel at all unappetizing when you wear it, then kiss it good bye. If you’re not sure, get rid of it. Someone else will appreciate having it once you donate it.

Onwards and Upwards
Once you get rid of the mediocre stuff, the stuff that makes you feel bad, and the stuff that doesn’t make you feel great, then you give yourself the time, space and the room to wear and appreciate those items that you really do love. Stop saving the good stuff for a rainy day and start wearing it!

Next we’ll talk about organizing what’s left in our closets, and I will have some groovy “after” photos to show off: Four Steps to an Organized Closet: Before and After Photos

4 thoughts on “Make Closet Organization Easy: Declutter Your Closet First

  1. Pingback: Closet Organization: Project Simplify Hot Spot | swell easy living

  2. Second baby due any day now. New renovated room now finished with dream wardrobe installed! this mornings task is to declutter and toss out clothes that I dont need. Thank you for the inspiration!!!

  3. Your excellent post came to me just when needed. Your suggestions are simple to use and the timing is right.

    Several events have joined to make re-organizing a top priority, and have empowered me to accomplish tasks I have been unable to pull off up to now. I have a shelf of books on decluttering, and have been stuck for several years. Now I am in a place to stop dithering and realize that “things” aren’t that important, so how could I make a “mistake” about what to give away.

    We have a family member who has lost almost all her possessions in a flood. Many of not all of our family photos from her and my childhood are probably lost. “Someday” we were going to scan them. Now we will be getting together for the first time in several years. We will create some new digital memories to save on websites that will preserve them no matter what happens to our homes.

    My husband and I have inherited some wonderful household goods, and the whole house needs this sorting out process to make way for the “new” things.

    I started with my closet and bedroom, inside out, back to front of house. There is a pile for the thrift store.
    The categories and thought process are just right. There will be more refining, I just needed a way to stop piling things that didn’t fit in closet and drawers.

    I found you through the Amazon review of Geneen Roth’s book about food and God. I am also listening to “The Mindful Way Through Depression” by Jon-Kabat Zinn. All have helped me have the state of mind to take this one step at a time.


  4. Good post, Katie. I’m a professional home organizer ( and I can’t think of anything to add to the excellent advice you’ve given. Bravo! And good luck w/ the lil one!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>