How to declutter your wardrobe (and keep it tidy)

As told by the OG messy gal

A white closet with shelves and a hanging rail on a pink and peach hued wavy background.
(Image credit: Future / Beth Mahoney)

Besties, I have a confession to make: I am the OG messy gal. Growing up, I was always that friend with her clothes spread across the entirety of her bedroom floor, instead of in her closet. But, as an adult, I’ve realized the importance of organization and have (thankfully) changed my ways. 

I used to have a low-key hoarding problem, never wanting to part with any of my clothes (admittedly, not on the level of SATC’s Carrie Bradshaw) which became somewhat of an issue. But, what I’ve found is that having an organized closet is SO much less stressful. 

Okay, so what’s a gal to do if she finds herself with a super messy closet that’s packed full of clutter and no idea how to start sorting it out? Panic not, it’s easier than you’d think and it, honestly, doesn’t have to take all that long. 

To help you to take back control of your closet clutter, I’ve put together a step-by-step guide that should help. 

Good to know

Time: 1-3 hours (this depends on how large your closet is and how much there is to do)

Difficulty: Easy (I promise, the process doesn’t have to be stressful)

Helpful hints: Avoid all distractions. It’s so easy to get distracted when you find something interesting in your closet, but it’s important to aim to keep all distractions to a minimum. If you come across something that interests you, put it to one side so that you can look at it / play around with it later on. 

Here’s what you’ll need

How to declutter your closet

Step 1: Ensure you have all the essentials ready 

Before you get started, it’s a good idea to stock up on anything you might need for the decluttering process. Otherwise, you’ll only end up having to stop the decluttering process and head out to Target to grab what you need (which will lead to you being distracted and potentially failing to get the job done). So, it’s worth making sure you have everything in place that you need before you start.  

Step 2: Categorize items into keep, throw and store piles  

Start by removing items from your closet and placing them into one of three piles: Keep, throw away, and store. When it comes to choosing what to do with an item, ask yourself questions like does it fit, do I wear it, do I need it? If the answer is no, don’t hold onto the item, get rid of it. 

Any items you don’t want, place in a refuse sack ready to be taken to Goodwill. Items you want to store, neatly fold and place into a cardboard box, ready to be stored in your attic or basement. 

You may also want to opt to separate your clothes into summer and winter piles, storing one season at a time, while leaving the other season’s items in your closet, and then rotating them as the seasons change. 

The next step is to remove any items from your closet that aren’t clothes (or shoes). It’s easy to simply chuck random items into your closet to get them out of the way, but this ends up causing clutter and mess to build up. So, it’s a good idea to remove these items and find a new home for them. 

Step 4: Give your closet a vacuum and wipe down 

Once your closet is empty, vacuum the floor, inside any drawers, and the tops of any shelves, to remove dust and dirt. You can also use a cleaning spray and microfiber cloth to wipe down shelves, drawers, and handles. 

Step 5: Get your items organized 

The next step is to sort the remaining clothes into piles relating to how you’d like to store them. Put anything that will go on hangers in one pile and anything that will go in drawers (if your closet has drawers, that is) in another pile. 

Step 6: Replace your items (neatly and with order) 

The final step in the process is to put your clothes (and shoes) back into the closet, using the hangers and drawers. A handy tip for keeping drawers organized is to use drawer organizers (like these Criuisia Store drawer dividers from Amazon) to separate out clothing. While for keeping hanging clothes organized, you can use closet dividers (like these Sukh Store dividers from Amazon) — these are great for separating clothing types or work well in shared closet spaces. 

Where do I start decluttering my closet?

The best way to approach a messy closet is to use a step-by-step process, working through each step before starting the next one. This helps to prevent feelings of overwhelm. 

How do I decide what clothes to get rid of?

The best way to decide what clothes to get rid of is to be practical. If an item is stained or damaged in any way, then there's no point keeping it. If an item no longer fits or you haven't worn it in over a year, then it's best to get rid of it. 

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.