Decluttering the Closet

Stacked, packed and bulging, the clothes closet looms. When it takes too long to dress for a special occasion — or to find jeans and a T-shirt — it's time to stop closet clutter. Find out how to get your closet in order.
Organizing Closets by Clothing Clusters

Organizing Closets by Clothing Clusters

Organizing your clothing into compatible groups that work together maximizes wardrobe options. For example, an uncluttered closet makes it easy to find what you're looking for, so consider organizing your closet by clustering those items that work together by color or use.

Photo by: DK - House Works ©2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - House Works, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

The STOP Clutter Rules

In closets, as in life, less is more. Specifically, the venerable 80-20 rule applies: We wear 20 percent of our clothing 80 percent of the time, while the remaining 80 percent — impulse purchases, orphaned blouses and the one-size-too-small brigade — represent the freeloaders of the wardrobe clan. Guiding principle: pare it down! Does each garment in your closet pull its own weight? Apply these STOP clutter rules to determine whether to keep, toss, sell, donate or repair clothing.

Keep an item of clothing if:

  • It fits ... today. Not "10 pounds from now" and not "last year after I had the flu and lost all that weight." Today!
  • It's clean, unstained and in good repair.
  • You've worn it within the last year.
  • You love it unconditionally.

Toss any garment that is: Worn, stained or in need of major repairs such as broken zippers, fabric tears or shredded seams. Items eligible for the repair basket include those with hanging hems, torn pockets and opened seams.

Identify a candidate for the consignment store if:

  • You haven't worn it in the last year.
  • It's out of style.
  • It's not your color.
  • It doesn't fit, it's uncomfortable or it's just unflattering.

STOP Clutter in the Clothes Closet

Gather your tools: timer, STOP declutter boxes (marked Put Away, Sell/Donate, and Storage), a garbage bag for trash and an extra box for Repair items. Set the timer for 20 minutes. Yes, clothing consultants recommend trying on every single item with every other single item, culling the unacceptable, mending the ragged and tattered and hanging the survivors in descending order according to color. Yeah, right. Twenty-minute nibbles get the job done in controllable bites.

Step 1: Sort. One garment at a time, make a decision using the STOP clutter rules. Start small: one shelf, 1ft (30cm) of hanging rod. Examine each garment and decide whether to keep, toss, sell, repair or store it. If necessary, try on the garment to make the decision.

Step 2: Toss. If it's a keeper, hang it back on the rack or return it to the shelf. If not, put it in the appropriate box or toss it in the trash can.

Step 3: Organize. Out-of-place items — sports equipment, fishing poles, hairbrushes, safety pins, the stapler you used for an emergency hem repair — go to the Put Away box. Arrange the remaining garments according to color on the newly spacious hanging rod or cleared shelf.

Step 4: Put away. When the timer rings, stop. The timer's bell is your friend, seeing to it that you don't bite off more clutter energy than you can chew. Empty the trash, take the Repair items to the sewing area, and circle the house with the Put Away box. 

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