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How to clean out your closet like a pro: experts reveal the 4 simple steps

It's time to reorganize your closet — we'll walk you through it step by step.

We all know how to tackle the basics of home upkeep: vacuuming, dusting, doing dishes, changing sheets. So why is it we become paralyzed when facing something out of the daily realm? Seasonal or occasional tasks can seem insurmountable, with no clear starting point, no plan and no logic. We're here to help with one of the biggest challenges: how to clean out a closet.

Lisa Jacobs, founder and CEO of Imagine it Done, a New York City-based professional organization service, explains the benefits: "It's important to have an organized closet for peace of mind, mental wellness, and day-to-day productivity. With organizational systems, you save time, energy, and dollars. No more wasted moments looking for your favorite slacks and sweaters. When you see your stuff, you don’t carelessly duplicate it, which leads to no more impulsive purchases. Order in your home brings on a sense of clarity, serenity, and happiness. It’s as if you have hit reset! An organized space is an organized mind is an organized life!"

Hear hear! If it's been a while since your last closet refresh, don't panic. Cleaning out your closet doesn't have to be a painful process, all you need is a small chunk of time.

Brunette woman packing and stacking clothes items into the boxes in a big showroom or wardrobe room with a lot of clothing and shoes racks
Cleaning out your closet is the ultimate fresh start. You can do it in four simple steps. (Getty)

Luckily, closets don't need to be cleaned all that often. According to Jamie Hord, founder of Horderly Professional Organizing, "It really depends how often the items in the closet are being used and how often you are bringing in new/more, but a good rule of thumb is to refresh a closet once a year. It's great to do a constant edit throughout the year, but in addition to that, a good overhaul is usually still needed to touch in with each item individually."

Step 1: Empty your closet. As with most projects, it's a good idea to start with a fresh canvas. Hord says, "At Horderly, we have a very specific 11-step process for tackling any space. A quick rundown for those of you at home is to fully pull out the space and start with a blank slate." Hord suggests you "touch on everything and decide 'keep, toss, donate.'" Create a location for each category, "strategize containment and most importantly, label!"

To handle this task like a pro, he recommends certain tools. "Essentials you'll want to have ready are Post-its to keep track of your sorted piles, trash bags for trash and donations, cleaning spray and towels to wipe down surfaces, a tape measure and a label maker."

Post-its are an easy way to organize your piles. This pack comes with six different bright-colored pads so you can color-code your stacks.

$6 at Amazon
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$6 at Target

Use trash bags to easily corral clothes you want to donate, consign and throw away. The bags in this mega pack are ultra-strong so you can load them up with not only clothes but also shoes and boots. Let the giveaways flow!

$15 at Amazon
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$15 at Walmart

Labeling closet shelves and containers makes it easy to maintain the hard-won order you achieve, This label maker, with nine type styles, will help keep your closet looking streamlined. 

$25 at Amazon

Step 2. Sort your clothes. Divide clothes into different piles as you go to save time, instead of grabbing every hanger at once and tossing everything onto the bed. While sorting will take the most time in the process, it's also the most crucial. Consider each piece of clothing and create piles: Keep, Give away, Sell and Throw out.

If this process sounds overwhelming, try the famous KonMari method, made famous by professional organizer Marie Kondo. "Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go." Pieces that are ripped, stained, damaged or no longer fit are an easy place to begin: straight to the trash.

If the KonMari method seems too vague for you, Southern Living's Kaitlyn Yarborough suggests using her Rule of Three: "If I cannot visually imagine how I would realistically wear the clothing piece in three ways, it’s out." She notes that this rule doesn't apply to special items that are heirlooms or deeply meaningful.

After you've made it through the sorting process, pat yourself on the back. The hardest part is over.

Step 3. Vacuum and wipe down your closet. While the closet is empty, give it some love. Grab the vacuum or broom (depending on your flooring). Get rid of the dust, dirt and errant hair. Then wipe down shelves, racks and floor, so you have a clean space in which to put your clothes. Leave the door open for a few minutes to let fresh air circulate through.

Step 4. Organize your closet and put away your clothes. Don't rush to put everything away. First, consider a few organizational tools. You don't have to run out and buy everything fresh, but matching hangers and a few choice containers and dividers can make a big difference.

Jacobs shares, "Often people will keep their random dusty twisted wire hangers to save money. For order, grace and efficiency, upgrade the hanger. It is unequivocally the #1 most important accessory. If you can, purchase all new and streamlined hangers to elevate the overall look of the closet and give you peace of mind." Hord suggests switching to all slim hangers.

Toss out random mismatched wire hangers and treat yourself to a set of these slim velvet ones. At less than $30, this pack of 50 from Amazon is a great value. 

$18 at Amazon

These clip-on acrylic shelf dividers are an easy way to keep stacks of sweaters orderly — or to create nooks where you can store small handbags.  

$18 at Amazon

An ideal solution for high-frequency items — think workout wear and socks — these bins let you easily see what you've got while corralling chaos.

$25 at Amazon

On your next snow day or lazy afternoon, take advantage of the time to take charge of your closet. Trust us, you'll thank yourself every day after when you open that door and see an organized collection of items you truly love — and actually wear.

If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping on the items here, of course. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)

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