How to Declutter Your Closet Like a Boss: 5 Tips You Haven’t Heard

Beth Stebner
carrie bradshaw closet organization

That looks just like my closet, said no woman, ever. (Photo: HBO)

Now that the holidays are over and you’re trying to figure out where exactly to store that horrible Christmas sweater your great aunt got you in your laughably-small apartment, let’s also bring up a popular topic for the new year—your closet. Namely, ridding it of all the stuff you’ve thrown in it throughout the last 365 days.

Yes, you already know some hacks—if you haven’t worn it in a year, toss it. And like every tired old piece of one-size-fits-all advice, there are gaping holes in the logic. That old rule doesn’t account for what you do with, say, an heirloom fur coat or a truly unique designer piece that you know you’ll wear, but just don’t have use for regularly.

We caught up with organization Beth Zeigler of Los Angeles organization company Bneato Bar to find out realistic ways to par down on your stuff without it feeling like “Sophie’s Choice.”

closet inspiration capsule collectionPhoto: Modern Legacy

Treat your wardrobe like a capsule collection.
Sure, you may love the colorful array of clothes greeting you every time you open your closet, but how often do you still wear that day-glow romper that you just had to have several years ago? “Most girls have a signature look—essentially, a version of what they look good in and like to wear,” Zeigler explains. “But they’re hanging onto extra clothes for their ‘fantasy self.’”

So unless you’re Kate Middleton and you’re trying to win back Prince William through a charity disco roller party, get rid of it, and build a carefully-edited capsule collection of your signature pieces.

“Essentially, it should be 30-40 pieces of clothing that can be mixed and matched to create a feast of outfits,” Zeigler says. “And those numbers include shoes.” So if that means more black than anything, accessorize with color. That could be a great hairstyle, a bolder-than-bold lip, or a truly inspiring manicure.

MORE: 10 Questions to Ask When Getting Rid of Old Clothes

blonde salad walk in closet inspirationPhoto: The Blonde Salad

Ask the tough questions.
Besides the cliché question of when you last wore something, Zeigler says you should come at your closet with a barrage of hard-hitting questions to help you scale back (and yes, they make us more than a little uncomfortable). These include asking yourself:

  • How did I feel the last time I wore this?
  • Is upkeep for this piece a pain? (i.e. do I have to iron this every time I wear it, does it easily show wear and tear, is it dry clean only? Is all of the hassle worth it?)
  • Is this a representation of my ‘fantasy self’? or will I actually wear it?
  • Do I need to be a certain weight to wear this and feel good in it?

If the answer to any of these is a negative, consider purging it from your collection. If it’s a bulky but treasured heirloom or has significant sentimental value, consider putting those items in storage (companies like MakeSpace offer storage around the country for about the price of two lattes) or utilizing storage space under your bed.

passion for fashion closet organizationPhoto: The Cherry Blossom Girl

Grab a #girlsquad member for some moral support.
Cleaning out your closet alone can be a tense affair with wool, cashmere, and cotton flying every which way as your brain sneakily tries to convince you to just hoard everything, already. So why not have a close friend come over and help you get out of your head? “I love having someone present when I’m decluttering,” Zeigler says. “The process feels more like an event where you get to honor your clothes as you’re letting them go.”

Another perk? It’s easier to donate stuff when you have a support system telling you those cork wedges were an unfortunate buy.

walk in closet on a budget
Photo: Stylizimo

Don’t look for a ROI on “investment pieces.”
Sure, you dropped a month’s rent for that Balenciaga bag, but if you never use it, the only interest that thing is collecting is dust. And Zeigler agrees. “For me, it’s a no-brainer—sell or donate that expensive designer piece and get the tax write-off,” she says. Looking for a bigger investment? Why not try buying stocks for the brands you love?

walk in closet inspirationPhoto: Heather Telford

Save time (if not money) by donating.
Conventional wisdom might have you selling your duds to a consignment shop or e-tailer, but because time = $$$ for everyone, that might not be the best option. Zeigler’s advice? Just donate and be done with it.

“Yard sales take a lot of work and usually don’t result in recouping the money, while consigning can be a lot of back and forth,” she says. “You have to know what brands they take, what season they’re currently buying, and if you get cash up front or wait until the items sell.”

And after all of that, you still may not have a sale. And donating has the added perk of tax write-offs, depending on how much you donate (just make sure to be honest about it or risk facing the wrath of the IRA).

shoe organization closetsPhoto: Stylizimo

Edit early and often.
While most people tend to look at the New Year as a way to start fresh and par down, Zeigler’s advice is to take a more fluid approach by editing down constantly. “Keep a donation bin close by so you can say ‘later’ to clothes when the mood strikes,” she says. “That way, you get in the habit of paring down so it’s not a huge feat to tackle every six months.”

While you’re at it, she says, you should learn to live with less.

“Fear is usually the driving force keeping us chained to our stuff,” she says. “We rationalize that we may need that dress for a future costume party or holiday event. But reality tells us that we have never needed it so I say, why keep it?” A philosophy that will give us a curated, minimal closet? We’ll take it.