How to Clean Out Your Closet (When You Suck at Throwing Stuff Out)

How to Clean Out Your Closet - Quartz & Leisure_web

How to Clean Out Your Closet - Quartz & Leisure_web

If you’re like me, the task of cleaning out your closet is already long overdue.

If you’re also like me, you wait until you cannot possibly jam one more thing into your already over-stuffed closet. You literally put in all of your effort just to move half of the clothes to one side of the bar, hoping you’ll have enough strength to create one micro-millimeter of space to squeeze in the hanger you have in your hand. Sound familiar?

Why, yes it does.

If you answered yes to the previous question, keep reading for helpful tips on how to clean out your closet, de-clutter your drawers, and eliminate the clothes you no longer wear.

How to Clean Out Your Closet - Quartz & Leisure_web

For starters, we will be dividing the clothes into 3 separate piles: Give, Trash, or Trade.

So keep this in mind as you go through the steps, you’ll be adding each of your items to one of these piles:


Donating gently used clothes to a local charity will make you feel better about parting ways with some of your old items. Besides the obvious Goodwill and Salvation Army, there are a bunch of other donation charities that help those in need. Operation Prom accepts all those bridesmaid dresses you’ll never wear again. And I especially like which helps women rescued from sex trafficking reintegrate into their communities. It accepts new or gently used bras which are then resold by the trafficking survivors to other women in their community. Click here to find a donation center near you.


I think this one should be obvious here. No one wants your old, stained, worn, stretched, ripped clothes. And you shouldn’t either!


There are tons of websites nowadays where you can sell or trade your gently used clothing and accessories. Sites like Poshmark and DePop are two of the most popular with bloggers and fashionistas. And if all else fails you can always go for eBay if you already have some kind of presence on there. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

How to Clean Out Your Closet – A Step by Step Guide

Ok, now that we got the easy stuff out of the way, let’s move onto the harder part. The actual closet. Oh, you thought I forgot about you? Nope, not so fast.

I’ve come up with 7 categories the clothes hanging in your closet may fall into. And if the item doesn’t fit any of these categories it’s yours to keep! (For now…)

How to Clean Out Your Closet - Quartz & Leisure_web

How to Clean Out Your Closet: 7 Simple Steps

It No Longer Fits

Ok, so you’ve gained 5 or 10 lbs since college and certain things in your closet are starting to feel a little on the snug side.

Or maybe you’ve recently changed your lifestyle and eating habits and are currently maintaining a more svelte and slimmer figure. Anything that does not fit you now, or in the last 2 years, get rid of.

Category: GIVE or TRADE (Depending upon the quality, brand and style of the clothes)

Rips, Stains & Lost Shape

We all have these in our closet. Your favorite white blouse that has a faint pinkish stain from that delicious bowl of penne ala vodka you once had in Florence, Italy. Or that sweater that has a rip around half the collar, but it’s so soft you can’t bear to ditch it.

If any of your clothes have rips or stains, your pants or dresses have broken zippers, or your bathing suits and lingerie have lost their elasticity, you don’t need them.

Just rip the bandaid off quick and get rid of them.

Category: TRASH

Out of Style

Is this item currently in style? Depending on how classic your wardrobe is, you may have a lot of items that are way past their expiration date. If you tend to have a more trend driven wardrobe, then you will probably have tons to unload here. (Because, that skirt is like so 2007!).

And even if you think it may come back into style in the future, it most likely come back slightly different in some way. Fashion always has a way of recycling trends, but modernizing them with a current twist.

Category: GIVE

Haven’t Worn in 2 Years

Now, most organization experts will only give you ONE year to see if you’ve worn an item or not. But, I really just want to keep everything in case I ever NEED it, so I’m not the type to be too aggressive with elimination. So, I’m going to give you two years. If you haven’t worn it in over 2 years, into the pile it goes.

Category: TRADE or GIVE

Not Confident

You may have a few of these lurking about in your closet, too. That flowy maxi dress you fell in love with because of the unique summery pattern. You bought it because you couldn’t stop staring at the colors. You tried it on and it fit OK, but now that you got it home you just don’t feel like fire in it.

If something in your closet gives you anything less than I-am-Beyoncé-confident vibes, ditch it.

Because you deserve to be Beyoncé, damn it!

Category: TRADE or GIVE

Lifestyle Changes

If your work environment or lifestyle has changed, it should be reflected in your closet as well. Left your job in corporate America for a work-at-home freelance gig? Or maybe now you’re a stay at home mom who has no need for formal business suits. If there are pieces in your closet that don’t reflect your current life, put them in the pile.

On the flip side, if you’ve just graduated from college, your closet is probably full of super casual (but reallyyy cute) clothes. If you just landed your first job, you may need to upgrade your wardrobe with a few more work-appropriate pieces. Keep a few of your fave casual styles for weekend wear and get rid of the rest.

Category: GIVE

Would You Buy It Again?

Each time you flip to a new item in your closet ask yourself: “If I were out shopping today, would I buy this?”

If the answer is no, then into the pile it goes.

Category: GIVE or TRADE

*Pro Tips*

And here are a few expert tips to help you declutter even more (and learn how you can save some of these items forever!)

Never Eliminate Off-Season

Some people may not agree with me on this one, but I am going to stand my ground. Only clean your closet of season appropriate attire. So, this means clean out winter items in the winter and summer items in the summer.

Don’t go swapping out your sundresses in December, just because the thought of wearing nothing but that sheer fabric gives you shuddering chills.

And vice versa, don’t go cleaning out heavy wool sweaters and flannel in the middle of summer. You’ll feel like throwing everything out because you just cannot believe it will ever be that cold (or warm) again.

If you have the space, separate your wardrobe into two seasons, winter and summer. This way it will be easier to go through each side when the time comes.


If there is an item in your closet you won’t ever wear again, but can envision a dual purpose for it, I say go for it!

For example, if you hate the baggy legs of your old bootcut jeans, but they make your butt look great, save them to repurpose into denim cutoffs for summer. Or if you have old t-shirts that are a weird length, save them to make crop tops or to tie up in the front. (Also, old worn T-shirts make great rags for cleaning the house or washing your car!)

Jewelry Box

Ok, so you’ve conquered your closet and are feeling great. Now what?

Don’t forget about your jewelry box! Eliminate all out of style pieces or pieces you no longer wear. Now would also be a great time to untangle any dainty chains that have wound up in a big shiny mess. If you don’t have the patience to untangle them, get rid of ’em! If you won’t do it now, you’ll probably never do it.

The same clean up goes for accessories, too. Scarves, hats, and purses should be edited down at this time as well.

Category: TRASH

Special Memories

Without a doubt, there are some pieces in your closet that are there not because you think you’ll wear them, but for sentimental purposes.

Maybe it’s the dress you wore on the first date with your fiancée. Or maybe it’s a piece that your late grandmother always loved on you.

For these special items, take photos of them and save them in a folder on your computer. This way you can save the memory without taking up extra space in the closet.

Also, another great idea, if you have a stack of sentimental t-shirts from, say, a high school sports team or other events you’ve participated in over the years, you could consider having a quilt made out of them.

We had one made for my brother this past Christmas from this vendor on Etsy. When my mom and I opened it (before we wrapped it) it brought tears to our eyes just looking at it. It was a nostalgic reminder of all the things he had accomplished in his professional athletic career, and it truly was a special gift that he’ll be able to keep forever. Seeee, saving stuff sometimes works out in the end!

How to Clean Out Your Closet - Quartz & Leisure_web

So, hopefully these tips will help you keep your closet clean and organized. What are your favorite closet cleaning tips? Share them with me in the comments below!

And if you enjoyed this post please be sure to sign up for my newsletter! You can also see what I’ve been up to on social media, I can be found on Instagram, Twitter & Pinterest! ?

How to Clean Out Your Closet - Quartz & Leisure

How to Clean Out Your Closet

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  1. Great post! I have so much trouble giving my clothes away! It doesn’t help that I’ve been the same size since high school (never grew much) so I still have clothes from way back then clogging up my closet. Time for some spring cleaning 😉

    Simply Lovebirds

    1. Glad you found it helpful, Kim! Let me know how the Spring cleaning goes 🙂

  2. Thoughtfull ideas I find it like losing an old friend but I liked your style my closet is in for a shake down

    1. Hi Suzanne!
      Yes, it is similar to losing an old friend, but you can always look back on photos of old friends and bring a smile to your face (just like the photos of the clothes on your computer will!)

  3. Where did you get that blue hat in this post? It’s beautiful!

  4. I love this! I like your 2 year rule (sometimes you just don’t have enough events to wear specific things to in one year). I completely agree about decluttering by season. In winter my pasty skin makes me hate my summer clothes and I get rid of them then regret it come summer. That is mostly why my closet is overpacked. Can I have more info about that grey vest? I love knitted items!

    1. I completely agree hating summer clothes in the Winter, getting rid of them, and then regretting it! That’s why I always just do it by season! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Sorry I don’t have more info on the grey vest, it was an old purchase from TJ Maxx I believe!

  5. I tried to do this a few months ago and even with the help of my two roommates I only got rid of about 3 pieces. The thing is that not only do I have a lot of clothes but about a month ago I got a job in a vet clinic. So now I wear scrubs 4 days out of the week. I also have 2 large trunks that are filled with camping gear and skiing clothes. Stuff I CANNOT get rid of. Those take up a lot of space.
    I’m trying to sort down my closet to general essentials. For example
    1 black evening top
    2 decorative or coloured blouses
    1 skirt
    3 long sleeves (I often wear these under my scrubs because the clinic can get cold)
    3 coats/jackets. This is one I struggle on.
    1 sweatshirt
    2-3 pairs of pants (1 blue jean, 1 black jean and 1 other of which kind I cant decide)
    Shoes (1 black evening pair, 1 casual pair, I wear my running shoes those 4 days out of the week that I wear my scrubs, 1 pair of sandles)
    4-5 casual t-shirts
    1 belt
    I feel like this is all I really need. I just cant decide which pieces in each of those categories to stick with.

    1. Hi Carina,
      Thanks for reading! I love how you’ve narrowed down your closet into the categories that you find necessary. It sounds like you have everything under control! Wearing scrubs for 5 out of 7 days is a game changer. I maybe would keep a dressier pants option, or something in case you have a more formal dinner or event to go to. Or maybe a nice dress for fancy occasions like weddings, showers, etc? And also a couple pairs of shorts for warmer weather. The camping and skiing gear you can’t do much about, so it’s good to keep those separate in a trunk. Good luck and let me know if you need any help deciding what to keep!