How to clean your closet? Easy, Go Shopping…Really? Yes

Disorganized closet Organized by Color Closet

When you have “NOTHING TO WEAR”, yet a closet full of clothes, it is time to go shopping. Ok… Not your favorite store or local mall right away.  I promise, that will come.  Your first shopping stop should be Your Closet. Look at it as treasure hunt, surprises may await you.

Open your closet door and look. From the above photos: Do you see the left photo? Right photo? Or, somewhere in the middle?

All right, you are here to organize, so let’s get working. There are three steps you will need to take.

Step 1 – Record What You’ve got – Take Inventory

You need to set aside 3 to 5 hours at a minimum.  You need to do it alone without interruptions, without subjective opinions (friend, family member, spouse…).  Of course, you can get professional help.

  1. You will need either a pad or notebook for writing what you have, or you can print the inventory forms from our reference library, link below. You will to go through your wardrobe and pull everything. As you pull complete your inventory list as well as “pile” the clothes by type, shirts, skirts, dresses, pants, as an example.  So you are not overwhelmed, I suggest that you start pulling out by categories and setting them aside, separately.
  2. If your closet is like in photo #1, you do not need to pull out everything, but you would want to go through everything and skip to step #2. Creating the inventory list can be useful for identifying multiple of the same garments, or “holes” missing items in your closet.
  3. As you take stock, if you see something you know “got to go”, to ease the work, put it into a Recycle pile (more details later on)

Form Download Button

Step 2  – Review – Follow the “R”ules 

Once you complete your inventory.  It is time to review your inventory work papers (sound like an accountant, isn’t it?).  The Review step is important.  You are sorting and evaluating your clothes. Yes, you will need to try the clothes on, all (most) of them.  You will repeat the process for each type of clothing or accessories:  “pants, tops, dresses…”.

You will need to:

  1. Wear good undergarments;
  2. Wear a dress you can get in and out of; and
  3.  A full-size mirror.

Reduction– This is your goal. The goal is to reduce the volume of clothes in your closet and create a working wardrobe.

Quick Reduction:  Start with a quick reduction by looking at your sheets.  Pick a category, let’s say pants and slacks.

  • Look at the Wardrobe Pull sheets you created.
    • If you see items in “bad, worn out or miserable condition” – say good-bye to them, put in the Recycle
    • If you have 10 pairs of jeans,  start thinking about weeding them. Do you really need all of them?  Do you wear all of them?  Keep the ones you wear regularly, those that fit right, make you feel fabulous and in great condition. The rest are just there, taking space, collecting dust.  They need to be recycled.

Re-evaluate the rest.  In this step you will spend some time.  You will try each garment, yes, you must.  Look in the mirror and start evaluation.

Right – As you try each item, ask yourself the following questions (your inventory pull notes can also help here):

Does the item fit me properly and flatter my body?
Can I wear the item today? (Not when you will lose those last 10 pounds).
Is the garment’s color right for me? Do I look youthful wearing it?
Is it age appropriate?
Is it outdated?
Assess the garment’s condition and ask “will I buy it today, as is, in a thrift shop”?
Do I love wearing it?
Does it work with my current lifestyle?

Regular – Do I wear it regularly? Have I worn it at least 5 times each year?  Might I wear it soon? Will I wear it, ever?  [There are exceptions, especially for special occasion clothing, like formal evening wear.]

 Reclassify – As you try the closes, ask the questions and review as above.  As you will evaluate and create 3 piles:

  1. Reuse = Keep;
  2. Revamp;
  3. Recycle; and
  4. Replace

Reuse – You may find items that were hiding in the closest, fit you great and are up-to-date.  So, decide to wear them, put them back and start using them.  You may find a suit: the jacket fits, skirt or pants got to go – Can you use the jacket as a blazer? If yes, keep it and recycle the others.

Revamp – You may find items that you would like to keep but they may need help.  These may need alternations to fit your right.  Perhaps a color change is suitable through a dye process.  A hemline change will be bring a midi skirt or dress up-to-date.  You will need to evaluate the cost-benefit of altering these items.

Replace – You may find worn out staple items that should be in your closet.  Recycle those, put on them your shopping list.

Recycle – These are those items that you say your goodbyes to.  Can someone else use them, family or friends?  If not, donate clothes in good condition to your favorite charity.  Some should just go to the ‘circular file’ (for those who do not know, the trash).

Recycling your clothes may be a bit tough, particularly when you may have clothes there that you spent a lot of money.  Giving away clothes that do not fit, never worn, or those that have sentimental value.  To ease the “separation pain”, develop a mantra, something like:  “Someone there needs these clothes and will enjoy them…”

Step 3  – Reorganize – The “R”’s  keep rolling

Organize the surviving clothes.  They need to go back to your closet. There are different ways and choices as to how to organize and there is no right or wrong.  Your closet organization needs to work for you.  Some people like to follow the way we did the “inventory and pull”.  Keep the items separate by category / type, pants, dresses, shirts.  If you choose this method, organize the items by type by color, light to dark, separate solid and prints.  Some folks like to see the outfits (capsules).  Think about how you go to your closet and how you usually choose what to wear and organize it accordingly.  As you organize some more “R”’s to consider

Rebuild – As you organize, see if your clothes work together.   Can you create with what you have multiple outfits for multiple looks? Try to do it, get creative.  Start the rebuild with your favorite clothes.

Example:  Take a solid pair of pants you love.  Use the pants as a building block. Pick a few shirts, tunics, perhaps a vest and see if you can create a few “outfits – looks”.  Think of it as if you are travelling with a small suitcase for a few days.  Add shoes and accessories to finish the looks.  As you go, take photos of your wardrobe, and the outfits you put together.  This is  to remind you what you have and as a reference when you go shopping. Build yourself a look-book.

By “building outfits” you will

  • Come up with new ideas (remember – photos) ;
  • Find ways to maximize the use of your cloths; and
  • You may find ‘holes” in your wardrobe. When you think, “if I only had a… to go with…” – you identified the ‘hole’.  Make a note, on your shopping list. Yes, we are getting ready to really go shopping.

As you rebuild, you may find odd items, those that you cannot figure out what to wear with.    Keep them aside to the end.

Final Step – Restock – Yeah!  Time to Go Shopping for items on Your list

You should now have a shopping list for items you need to complete and create a working closet.  If the list is long, or budget is tight… write it in a Priority format and start shopping one item at the time, crossing off as you go.

Your shopping should be focused.  Here are some shopping tips:

  • Wear an outfit you can get in an out easily
  • Wear good undergarments so you can evaluate the fit
  • Have your hair done and some make up to see the look.
  • If you wore comfortable shoes for going shopping but normally would wear heels, bring them along.
  • Trying to match a top for that lonely or odd colored item?  Bring that along as well.

Going shopping prepared, will ensure deliberate and avoiding impulse purchases.

You will now have an organized closet, a working wardrobe.  You now have “some (many) things to wear.”


Are you tired just reading this? Overwhelmed?  I know, organizing your wardrobe can be exhausting by yourself.   Can you independently evaluate the fit? Can you let go of items, especially those that have a tag on them and never worn?  Can you get creative with your items?

OK…. Here is an extra Rule – Relax and Have Fun. And… If you need help, use a professional to help you.