It’s Time to Clean Out Your Closet

How to organize your closet

It’s Time to Clean Out Your Closet

The spiritual, organizational and financial freedom that comes with getting rid of stuff

Our inspiration: Art director Phil Cohen knows a thing or two about a clean, shoppable closet. Follow his Instagram at @thepacman82 for outfit ideas and organizational motivation.

Last week, I took a semi-personal day from work. I got most of my time-sensitive work done in the morning and then tackled something I'd been putting off for far too long. I cleaned out my closet. And here's something you probably knew subconsciously but never fully realized: Getting rid of stuff, like the stuff you never use that's just taking up vital space, feels really freaking good.

It's not a new concept. Valet. has been expounding the idea of buying less, but buying better since our inception nearly a decade ago. But the truth is, we all somehow end up with plenty of useless shit in our closets. Partly because that's where we throw the stuff we don't want to see (“I don't need another tote bag, but I'll hold onto it, just in case”). And then there's the staggering realization that we don't even wear most of the clothes we buy. California Closets' customer data confirms that the average person wears approximately 20% of their wardrobe.

And that's mostly because we settle for things we know, deep down, aren't right. “Generally you like it, but it's a little tight or a little baggy. And you think 'Oh well, it's a minor flaw. It won't bother me in the long run.' Then, that turns out to be the very thing that keeps you from wearing it,” consumer psychologist Miriam Tatzel told the Wall Street Journal. “You think you might have a use for it in the future, but that day never comes.” Which is exactly why I decided to use my day at home for good and clean out my over-stuffed and less-than-tidy closet. After all, it's time for spring cleaning, right? Here's what I learned: All you need is a few trash bags, a stiff drink and the courage of your convictions.


Clean Out
Your Closet

It’s not a chore,
if you don’t treat
it like one

Gin and Tonic illustration
Gin and Tonic illustration

Sorting through your whole wardrobe can feel like a mundane task. But if you pour yourself a tall gin and tonic (who cares if it's only 12:30 pm?) and put on some good music, you're already having a good time. And you want to be in the right headspace, because when it comes to deciding whether or not to keep some of these things, you'll find that the decisions start to feel both emotional and existential.

Divide and conquer

You're basically going to pull out everything in your closet and divide it all into three piles: keep, donate and toss. The main philosophy here is to examine each item and only keep the items that you truly love—the items that make you look and feel good. The other piles will bring you satisfaction to finally let go of the pieces that don't measure up to that standard. And bonus, you're about to get a lot of hanger space back.

Ask yourself
these questions


Is this item still in good (meaning wear-it-outside-the-house) condition? Pit stains, tears too large to be mended and yellowed or frayed collars mean that it's time to toss them. Items in need of being fixed (small holes, missing buttons), set aside to take to your tailor.


Does it still fit you well? No matter how much you paid for an item, if it's too big or too small, you're simply not going to wear it. But if it's in good condition, it could be donated (or sold).


Is it still in style? I found a blue gingham button down, a few ties and a couple of pants that were still in fine condition and for some people, are more than acceptable to wear. But they're just no longer my style. If there's something you think might come back around, you could put it in storage. But I was happy to donate them.


Is it worth selling? Did you splurge on a high-end piece that you no longer wear or want? You might be able to make a little money by selling it on Grailed or eBay.

Some items require
special storage

Shoe storage box illustration
Shoe storage box illustration

You know those nice dress shoes that you only wear for special occasions? Keep them in their shoe bags or in boxes to protect them from light and dust. That way, they're in perfect condition when you need them. And your suit came in a bag for a good reason—it protects the fabric from fading, dust and the threat of moths. If you're storing your coat in the back of your closet (or under your bed) during the warmer months, a breathable garment bag will ensure it stays in good condition.

Your goal
is a shoppable closet

As you hang all the items that you're keeping back into the closet, you'll notice you've already got more space. Isn't it a beautiful thing? You've only got the shoes and clothing that you actually feel good in. And you've likely rediscovered items that you forgot about because they were obscured by the crap you never wore. Now, you have to keep it organized and tidy so that you can easily scan your wardrobe and get the most wear out of each piece. In terms of your hangers, you want to be able to fit a finger or two between each item so that you can clearly see each item and there's ample room to pull out the piece you want. To avoid overcrowding, store your out-of-season pieces in storage, in empty suitcases or under your bed in specially made storage boxes.

Easy Donating

If you don’t want to schlep your unwanted clothes to your local Goodwill or clothing donation box, Give Back Box is an easy alternative. Just pack up your clothes in any box, and print out their prepaid shipping label. They’ll even email you a tax receipt if you want.

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