Get Organized Mission #10: Clear Out Your Closet

Get Organized Mission #10: Clear Out Your Closet

Welcome to Mission #10 of our 52 Get Organized Missions.

Do you long for a closet of comfortable, co-ordinated clothes that look great and make you feel fabulous? Well, you’re about to take the first step.

Before you can create your dream wardrobe you need to clear out the clothes and accessories that are more of a nightmare. So in this Get Organized Mission we’re going to systematically remove all the closet clutter that’s wasting hanger space and dragging your image down.

Remember – you only need 30 minutes for the basic mission. Extended Options are below.
If you’re new, you might prefer to start here: 52 Organizing Missions.


Get Organized Mission #10:
Clear Out Your Closet

Step 1: Grab a bag

You’ll need:

  • One bag for discarding
  • One bag for cleaning or repair
    This is only for items that deserve the time and money investment to return them to closet-worthy status. If you know they’ll never come out of the bag, save yourself the hassle and stick with only a discard bag.
  • One bag for charity
    This is only for items in really great condition and likely to be useful to others. Otherwise, lose this bag too.

For most of us, we’ll be getting rid of clothes that are best released into the garbosphere, so one bag will suffice.

Step 2: Start From the Left

As we only have 30 minutes, we’ll leave everything in your closet.

But we’re going to be very systematic and run each item – starting from the left of your closet and working across to the right – through the ‘closet clutter check’.

Step 3: Run The ‘Closet Clutter Check’

Throw into your discard or charity bag any item of clothing, accessories, underwear, sportswear, footwear or nightwear that:

  • Is out of style
  • Is a color that doesn’t suit you
  • Is a shape that doesn’t suit you
  • Is in poor condition or looks worse for wear
  • Feels itchy or scratchy against your skin
  • Feels uncomfortable
  • Is ill-fitting (too loose, tight, short, etc)
  • Needs constant re-adjustment
  • Has bad memories or associations
  • Hasn’t been worn in the past 12 months
  • Doesn’t suit your lifestyle
  • Makes you look less than your best
  • You just don’t love

Throw into your cleaning or repair bag any item that deserves the investment to return it to closet-worthy status and:

  • Needs laundering
  • Needs dry cleaning
  • Needs alteration to fit properly
  • Needs mending, new buttons, new zippers, etc
  • Needs re-heeling, polishing, etc (um, talking about shoes and boots here)

Step 4: Release The Gowns

Next, you need to remove the bags so you’re not tempted to retrieve that Choose Life t-shirt or the jacket you Bedazzled back in 1983.

  • Take the discard bag out to the trash right away
  • Put the charity and cleaning or repair bags into the boot of your car for drop off at the next convenient time
  • Place any items for home cleaning or repair in the laundry

Now at this point you may be feeling a bit bereft as you survey your decimated closet. But you only have to survive on these clothes for a week. Next week we’ll create your ideal wardrobe wishlist.

For most people, the clothes you have left are the ones you like best and wear most anyway.

Dos & Don’ts

  • Don’t feel guilty about discarding clothes you don’t like, regardless of what you paid for them. Notice the mistake and let it make an impression so you don’t make the same shopping error again. Then let it go.
  • Do savor the simplicity of paring down your closet to the items that work for you. ‘Less is more’ is the mantra of many a great fashion icon for good reason.

Extended Organizing Mission Options

Want to go beyond this 30-minute organizing mission?

  • Include your spouse and kids and let everyone clear out their closets together. Teach your children the pleasure of getting rid of things that don’t enhance their lives.
  • Get together a group of friends and clear out each person’s closet as a group, moving from one house to the next over the course of a day.
    Warning: It can take a lot longer this way, but also be a lot more fun – especially if Margaritas are involved.
  • Take everything out of your closet, drawers and shelves first and then run the ‘closet clutter check’ before you return anything to its place.

Ready, Set, Go!

Remember – move quickly, act fast, don’t overthink.

Before You Go – Please Check In

Once you’ve completed this week’s Get Organized Mission please add a comment to let us know you’ve done your assignment and you’re keeping your commitment.

And see you back here next week!


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Image: / CC BY-ND 2.0

Michele Connolly

Michele Connolly is into writing, books, simplicity, love, TV, productivity, and staying thin in a world of chocolate.

Can’t believe how much I’ve cleaned out on this mission! I have an entires garbage bag full of old underwear, bras and stockings that either don’t fit or are tatty. Another full bag for charity of clothes I’d bought or been given over the years that don’t fit or are in a colour I don’t wear…

Still got a bit more to do on the hanging space – i don’t have a bedroom closet – and haven’t got to shoes yet, could be ugly 😛

Ooh, this was a hard one for me – I am a clothes horse! I started off thinking I wouldn’t get rid of anything and ended up four hours later having made MAJOR progress on organising “chav corner” the area of my bedroom that has all the unopened boxes and laundry bags of clothes yet to be unpacked almost a year after moving into this flat.

I feel amazing. Part of the impetus was deciding this week I want to have a desk under my bedroom window. This means I HAVE to get rid of a lot of stuff to make room for it. It has begun!

I have realised that if I buy 10 or so more hangers it will enable me to hang things up after wearing rather than chucking them on some kind of surface. Top of my to do list…


Two missions in one day-yahoo! This one is perfect timing, as we are traveling to visit my daughter in a couple of weeks, and I was able to sort clothing to bring to her and her children (after checking with her first to be sure she wants it, of course).

Did this clearing out 50 items and more. Went through everything and am going to make it a bi-annual event Still have to tackle the filing cabinet mission #9. But am feeling better about everything

I have a walk-in closet and had made a resolution a month earlier. My goal was to get rid of 10 things a week by selling it on E-Bay. To my surprise, I made over $800 in 3 weeks and was bragging on Facebook so others would follow suit. Received a lot of responses from my friends and family asking suggestions on how to do the same. I am now crowned as the E-Bay queen!!!

I decided to extend it by cleaning out my entire closet and going through each individual item , i also have a large box of headbands in my closet and my jewlery boxes so i went through those two, it took me 3 hours but i can see the floor again for the first time since i moved in to my apartment 3 months ago; the closet its self is still pretty cluttered i think i might go through it again when my mom comes to visit incase she wants some of the clothes since we share. im going to go through my dresser now hopefully it doesnt take as long as the closet did.

Just finished the closet mission yesterday. I extended it to my dressers. I only had one thing to throw away. Everything else will be donated.

I always feel so great (and much lighter!) after completing a mission. Now, when I reach for something to wear, I know I will find something I truly love (and it will fit!).

Thank you for this great program. It’s so easy to follow.

I pulled out a large bag full of clothes that I no longer wear. Still plenty of stuff that needs to be weeded out. I’d like to pull out everything and evaluate each item – something to plan for the future. Done (for now).

Done! Finished this a few weeks ago (which is good, because I’m currently traveling and was planning on doing two missions next week)

Wow.. got it done and reorganized my cupboard as well. Took me more than 30 minutes. Feels great that I’ve completed 20%. Can’t imagine how’s it going to feel when I complete 100%. Thanks!

This was really difficult. Discarding things that are still useable isn’t easy, but donating them always makes it a bit better.

This was a really difficult mission for me but I´m really proud of myself. I did it two weeks ago and the best thing is that my wardrobe and drawers still look incredibly organized today. I´ve thrown away things that were just a part of my past and I can feel free now !

Thanks to a bout of insomnia, this one’s done!

I’ve still got to go back to the previous mission on filing though – I keep forgetting I don’t have a single thing that I can use to divide my files.

Hi Paulie,

Good on you for tackling your wardrobe!

I suggest you only keep clothes that help you look and feel your best. If you need clothes for the bloaty days, keep only the BEST ones. Same goes for the good days – keep only the clothes that look and feel good.

Keep enough of what you need and love, and none of what you don’t.

M 🙂

This has been so hard. I love my stuff, plus at present have a tummy problem which means I’m subject to bloating and often can’t fit into clothes I love. Do I keep them for my good days, or let them go?

I’ve gone halfy-half.

Hi Alicia,

I encourage people to throw stuff away unless it’s pretty good because:

(1) Many people have a giant barrier to letting stuff go, and I want to make it as *easy* as possible for them to start the habit.

(2) A lot of stuff is, sadly, just junk, and often the feeling of throwing it away changes people’s habits about buying what they don’t need in the future. So there’s less waste in the long run.

But your information is really good to know, and I appreciate your sharing it. Thanks so much for taking the trouble!

Michele 🙂

Since reading your tip on decluttering your closet, I’ve been bothered by one thing – giving only really good clothes to charity and discarding the rest. My perspective is unusual but I wanted to share it with you because I believe it’s valuable. One of my clients is a rag broker – yep, people still make a living buying and selling “rags” only these days the definitely of rags is different than in past centuries. He routinely buys credential – the unsorted collected clothing – from such charities as Goodwill, Salvation Army, Planet Aid, etc. While the individual stores may go through it for the few very best pieces to sell in their stores, most of it is sold *by weight* to brokers such as my client or other wholesalers who will grade (sort) the items for resale in vintage clothing stores or overseas in 3rd world countries where new clothing is prohibitively expensive for most citizens. The charity makes more on this type of sale than the few dollars it makes in its stores so reducing the volume actually hurts them.

Secondly, even stained or torn clothing, unless the item is 50% or more damaged, has wholesale value, particularly cotton and cotton blend items. These pieces, especially knits like t-shirts, are cut up and sold as wipers (industrial rags) and/or sold to paper mills who grind it up to add it to high end specialty papers.

Donating these types of items keeps them out of landfills as well so it’s a doubly (or even triply??) green thing to do. 😀 Just thought you should know the back side of the story; thanks for listening. 🙂

I do this on a fairly regular basis but it felt good to have advice to follow as I went through it again. Thanks for the help. The Value Village in my area does tend to get a lot of stuff from us. I just wish I could pare it down quick enough to get rid of the piles here and there that tend to pop up almost faster then dandelions do in the summer. Thanks again

Not started this yet – I know it’s going to be hard. I love my clothes – LOVE them. I may not have worn them since Adam was a lad, but some of them – colours, textures – beautiful. Just because I’m too fat for them doesn’t mean it’s easy to let them go. I’m going to take Katherine’s advice and get my needle out! A while ago I transformed a lovely indian cotton dress with deer and elephants on it into Bible covers – and they are beautiful. I’ll see what I can do with some other stuff (though it doesn’t seem in the de-cluttering spirit, somehow)

Hi Minima,

Thanks so much for persevering with this one – and for sharing your process. I think it will be really valuable for others.

Our closets are often where our self-esteem goes to die quietly as the years pass. The fact that you’ve tackled yours so thoroughly suggests to me that the psychological benefits will be powerful. I hope they are!

Michele 🙂

I completed this as part of my 50 items to de-clutter. I included belts and accessories in this as I feel they also create some of the closet-clutter. I almost halved my wardrobe!
As they say, we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time!

Today’s update is that I feel a huge sense of achievement at a job done.

I don’t know whether it will help anyone else who feels daunted by this task but I dealt with it by breaking it down into smaller zones. In the end I tackled it in several 30 min chunks:- the hanging rail; shoes, bags and accessories; sweaters jeans and sports; undies, nightwear etc; jewellery and misc.

While I was doing this, I kept a note pad going. On this I listed gaps in my wardrobe using Mission 11 as a guide. I also pulled out items needing repair, cleaning, alteration, freshening up with new buttons etc. I listed these on a ‘jobs to do’ page.

Today I started in on the ‘jobs to do’ page with a trip to shoe repairs and the dry cleaners.

Good sense of satisfaction tonight. Thanks for the encouragement to get this job done!

I don’t know whether anyone else has ground to a standstill at the enormity of this task – perhaps not – as this is my personal bete noire. I’ve currently fudged the issue by spending my 30 mins tackling the coat cupboard.

When it comes my own closet, all I can suggest is that I break it down into small sections. e.g review skirts; review jeans and pants etc. I don’t know what the psychological barrier is to tackling my closet – Keith raised an interesting point about guilt and reluctance to throw things out – but it could be a confidence/self image issue. If you are not sure about your personal style, how do you know what to jettison?

I think that looking dispassionately at clothes using the practical criteria on the ‘out’ list – fit, comfort, wear and tear- could be a starting point.

I also think Kathryn makes a valid point that, in this economic climate, we shouldn’t rule out re-working what we have. I’ve made the decision to salvage a perfectly good Zara coat, which is lurking unworn because the buttons look really dated.

If you’re handy with a needle/sewing machine, try creating something fun & unique out of a piece of worn or boring clothing. Sew different coloured/patterned buttons, beads or trim onto a plain blouse or T-shirt. Add a bit of applique or trim onto a plain skirt. Replace plain pockets or worn cuffs/collars with a contrasting fabric.

If something’s a bit snug, perhaps you can let out the seams. Moving a seam just 1/8″ gives you an extra 1/4″ in the garment. Do that on each side of a skirt or trousers and you’ve got an extra 1/2″.

Thanks for your kind feedback, Keith! ♥

You raise a good point about feeling bad when you throw things out –
it’s one I think a lot of people relate to.

In fact, it’s a great topic for a blog post!

Look out for ‘Declutter Masterclass’ on the blog this week. 🙂

Ciao for now,

My biggest problem is the feeling guilty about throwing things out part. I’ve received so many gifts of cloths that I just don’t like, and I feel compelled to keep them. Of course, I also try to adhere to your 12 month rule for throwing things out also. So, those are competing issues. My closet is a disaster but, being a guy, and it’s sexist to say, I guess I’m expected to be messy anyway 🙂 Your organizational tips are really good. You’ve managed to boil everything down to goal setting. I’m impressed.