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Revamp Your Wardrobe with a Simple Closet Purge

Woman looking through her closet and deciding what to purge
Maridav/Shutterstock

If you dream of having a sleekly organized, perfectly Instagrammable closet, what you need is a closet purge. But even if you don’t care how your closet looks, there are benefits to doing a thorough inventory and getting rid of what you no longer want.

However, saying you’re going to purge your closet is one thing. Actually tackling those overflowing shelves and disorganized drawers is another. We’ve put together a game plan to make things a bit less daunting—get ready for pristine shelves that will make getting ready each day a breeze.

Set Aside a Day for the Project

First, make sure you can set aside a day (or at least a healthy block of several hours) to tackle this project. The bigger your closet and the longer it has been since you’ve cleaned it out, the more time you’ll want to set aside.

Once you’ve done the purge, it won’t take you much time or effort to keep up with a clean closet. But a true purge takes time—so make sure you have it before you start.

Pull Everything Out

Now, it’s time to pull every item from your closet. If you have a stash of clothes somewhere else in the house, make sure to add them to the pile, too.

If taking everything out of your closet at once is too hard, you can also work by section. Start with all of your shoes, then all of your dresses, then all of your coats, for example. However, if you can take everything out of your closet at once, it’s much easier to put it back in a logically organized way.

Sort into Piles

Now, you can start sorting your clothes. How you arrange them is up to you, but we recommend these categories:

  • Definitely keep
  • Maybe keep
  • Repair
  • Donate
  • Trash

Using large trash bags can help you keep your “piles” in order. Use masking tape and a marker to mark your bags clearly, so they don’t get mixed up. Of course, anything in the “definitely keep” pile will end up back in your closet—but don’t put those items away just yet.

How you make the decisions is up to you. With some things, it will be obvious which pile they belong in: for example, damaged items that can’t be repaired. But for clothes you can’t decide what to do with, the “maybe” pile is extremely valuable.

You don’t necessarily have to follow rules, like getting rid of anything you haven’t worn in a year, or anything that doesn’t spark joy. But if you find that kind of rule helpful, use it.

Trying things on will help you reach your decisions. (Plus, this lets you get rid of anything that doesn’t fit.) Listen to your first instinct as much as possible—don’t second-guess yourself when you decide which pile an item belongs in. Working quickly will help keep you from questioning your decisions.

Put Things Away

After you’ve sorted every last item into the appropriate piles, you can start to put things where they belong.

Take the “donate” pile to your favorite thrift store, and keep in mind that your “trash” pile shouldn’t actually go in the trash. Instead, find a donation option that recycles unwearable clothes instead.

It might take time to handle your “repair” pile, but try to get started on fixing those items as soon as possible. Consider jotting down a plan for what needs to be done for each item, and when you’ll do it, to keep you accountable.

Your “maybe” pile should go somewhere out of sight, like in your garage or storage unit, for a few weeks (up to a few months). When you revisit those items later, you’ll be able to make your final decisions about what to do with them.

Finally, your “definitely keep” pile can go back in your closet. However, take care to stick to an organization system as you put things away. (Check out our guide to making the most of your closet space for ideas!)

Keep It Organized

Once you’ve done the big purge, you just need to do the maintenance work that will keep your closet organized.

Any time you find something you no longer love, put it in a running “maybe” box instead of putting it back in your closet. Revisit the items in this box every few months and decide whether to keep or get rid of them.

As soon as you discover an item that doesn’t fit or is damaged beyond repair, donate it. And whenever an item needs repairs, get them done as soon as you can.


While you might still need a closet purge every few years, these steps will help your closet stay nice and neat in the meantime. A clean closet means you can get dressed faster, with less stress, every day. And for more ways to stay organized, here’s why you should designate a “drop spot” for your stuff in each room!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a Seattle-based writer and editor with a Master's in Writing Studies from Saint Joseph's University. Her work has appeared in publications like Racked, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Rum Punch Press. She was awarded a 2017 Writing Between the Vines residency.  Read Full Bio »

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