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From Closet Chaos to Calm in 4 Easy Steps

Want to make your life easier? Clean out, clean up and get your clothes closet organized. With an organized closet you can see what you have, what fits and the clothes you love to wear. Even better — everything is easier to find!

Here are simple steps to find calm in all that chaos. By the way, these same principles for organizing a clothes closet apply to linen closets, utility closets and your food pantry. And the best part? You can do this without spending a dime, using items and tools you have already. The tools you need are boxes, a full-length mirror and a trash can.


That’s right. Remove everything from the closet. All of it — every last hanger, belt, shoe — everything. This lets you see exactly the space you have to work with. Prepare to be shocked by the pile of stuff that comes out of that closet.


Once you’ve cleared things out, clean the closet thoroughly from top to bottom. If the space still looks a bit dirty even after a deep clean, consider a fresh coat of white paint.


Most people — me included — hate this step because it means getting rid of everything you do not use or wear. But what choice do you have now that you’ve hauled it out? There’s no way you could get all of this back into the closet, so buck up, and let’s get this job done.

Label five boxes (bins, containers) that will allow you to separate everything you took out of the closet. As you determine each item’s value, put it into that specific container.

Box No. 1: Keep

Here comes the most important step in this whole process. The goal is to keep only those items you truly love, fit well and you wear (or will wear now that you have found them!). Keep what you love and wear often. That means try it on! Stand in front of the mirror. Does it fit well, giving you that “spark of joy”? Be honest with yourself. If it doesn’t make the mark, out it goes.

Put only items into this Keep Box that you have worn or used at least twice in the past year. Be brutally harsh. If it doesn’t fit today, it’s not likely to fit any time soon. Get rid of it. If in doubt, do not put it into this bin.

Box No. 2: Maybe

This is one of the best ideas ever, from one of your fellow readers. It’s not easy to say goodbye permanently. You are going to come across items that you’re just not sure. Putting them into the Maybe Box is an easy way to transition. It’s not so much procrastination as it is empathy, kindness. Trust me this works. The Maybe Box may be the one thing that keeps you motivated and in charge of this process.

Box No. 3: Consign or Sell

Clothes and other items that are not right for you (as evidenced by the fact that you never wear them) but still have a useful life for someone else should go into this bin. These should be either new items with tags, or pieces that have been worn seldom. Note that you are looking for name brands.

What you consider ugly may be perfect for someone else. What no longer fits you will fit someone else. Take those items to a consignment store or schedule a yard sale.

Box No. 4: Donate

Consider donating your good used items to the Salvation Army or another thrift store.

Box No. 5: Trash

Clothes and shoes worn out, hopelessly stained, broken or in some other state of calamity go into this bin. Work quickly to ease the pain. Empty this bin often to keep the process moving.

Once you’ve divided up everything you took from the closet, move Boxes 2, 3, 4 and 5 to the garage or another place to get them out of your way for now.


Divide and sort the Keep Box contents by season, type and so on. Launder items as needed. Fold and hang as appropriate, putting everything you love back into your beautifully clean closet.

Truth be told, these steps are not as easy for me as I might have led you to believe in the title of this post. But I have done them, so I know just how cleansing the results can be and the sense of peace that comes with a well-organized space. It’s a routine I must repeat at least twice a year to keep it that way.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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