How to Purge Your Closet (Simple Steps & Questions to Ask)

Let’s face it. We have too many clothes – they’re popping out at us from every angle. Stuffed in the dresser drawers, hung haphazardly in the closet.. clothes are everywhere. But, when faced with a monumental decision like “what should I wear today?” we can’t seem to find anything we want to wear, look good in, or really love.

It’s quite a pickle! So how do we go about fixing such a sticky situation?? With a good old fashioned CLOSET PURGE!!

That’s right! closet purging is “in” these days, and with the new year, and new decade upon us, it seems like high time we did something about our cluttered closets and tired wardrobe.

Take advantage of the opportunity to set yourself some New Years Resolutions (yes, even if you’re starting before or after January 1st. It’s not a magical date!), and make the decision to purge your closet in 2020.

I promise, it will make you feel SO MUCH BETTER, not just today, but in the long run!

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What is Closet Purging?

Closet purging is quite simple, really.

Closet purging is the act of getting rid of anything and everything that you no longer want or need from your closet.

The act of the closet purge is most often associated with purging clothes, and that’s what we’ll focus on (mostly!) here today.

However, someone wishing to purge their closet today should also consider discarding unwanted items aside from just their wardrobe (shoes, hats, books, toys, games, jewelry, paperwork.. the list goes on forever.)

If you’re here for this, here is a:

TL;DR: Closet Purging is where you get rid of the sh!t you don’t use, need, or want anymore.

Why Purge Your Closet?

I know- if you’ve never had the joy of a true closet purge, you may be wondering why the hell anyone would willingly sign up to get rid of all of their beloved possessions…

I understand your mindset here, truly.. but just stick with me for a moment…

Why purge a closet??

We closet purge to rid ourselves of useless items that clog up our physical space in our homes.

Often, physical clutter leads to mental clutter… so by purging our closets, we’re freeing ourselves from unneeded mental clutter as well.

One of the BEST parts of purging a closet is the fact that it leaves you with a succinct, to-the-point wardrobe. When you have a no-nonsense wardrobe like this, you’re no longer left staring at your closet each day, mentally (or physically) wading through all of your options that don’t work for you, or you don’t want to wear.

You’re no longer a slave to your closet. You know what’s in there fits, works, and that you like it. No more trying things on, hoping for the best, or trying out 12 different outfits before finally rushing out of the house.

Purging the closet gives you freedom!

Plus, it gives us the opportunity to give back to our communities, and sometimes even to show off our clean, happy homes.

What’s not to love about closet purging??

What is Closet Purging NOT?

Closet Purging Is NOT Throwing Everything Away with reckless abandon

You want to keep the clothes that bring you joy, as Marie Kondo says in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up?

The goal is NOT to make you get rid of everything, and either a) become a minimalist (or a nudist) or, b) spend all your money on a new wardrobe just for the sake of a closet purge.

The goal of a closet purge is to declutter your closet, declutter your wardrobe, and ensure that you’re using your time wisely every day to make simple decisions about what to wear, rather than stressfully sorting through a wardrobe you no longer enjoy.

Closet purging is meant to bring you happiness, peace, and a clean, organized home.

So follow these instructions, but tailor the process so that it’s serving you and your own organization and happiness well!

How do You Purge a Closet? (of clothes)

5 Simple Steps to Purge Your Closet

1. Take EVERYTHING Out of your Closet. Gather ALL of Your Clothes

Once you’ve decided you want to purge your closet, try not to overthink it.. that’s when people end up talking themselves out of this life-changing task!

Decide it’s time to go- and then gather up ALL OF YOUR CLOTHES.

Get the ones in your closet, your dresser, the boxes in the garage, attic, or wherever you keep them. PLUS, the laundry! Don’t let those sneaky old t-shirts pass by just because they’re dirty today.

Make sure that at the end of this first step of closet purging – that you have an empty closet. EMPTY.

It’s quite important to give yourself a blank slate, or fresh clean palate to work with.

2. Sort Your Clothes Into 3 Piles: Keep, Maybe, Toss

This is the BIGGEST and MOST IMPORTANT step in your closet purge! So don’t skim over this section, or rush the process.

This step will take a little time. Give it the time it deserves.

For step #2, I want you to pick up every single article of clothing you own (individually.. you’re not Aladdin’s genie!), and decide whether you:

a) definitely want to KEEP it (keep it in the closet to wear, or into storage because it has sentimental value)

b) definitely want to TOSS it (sell, donate, trash), or

c) aren’t quite sure yet

To help yourself make these choices, first, go with your gut.

What do you actually, really feel about this piece of clothing?? Does it bring you joy? Does it make you look hot as hell? Or like a bag lady?

You will already know what you want to do with many of your clothes, however, if you aren’t quite sure, check out the questions down below.

Those questions will guide you to a decision that you can live with!

Once you’ve gone through EVERY article of clothing.. get the TOSS pile OUT of the room (for now). Completely out of sight.

3. Try On the Maybe Pile and Narrow It Down Further

This next step of your closet purge may seem a bit silly, but I find that it works perfectly.

Take the whole pile of “I’m not sure yet” or the “Maybe” pile.. and pick each one up again, and think through the questions down below.

If those answers don’t lead you to an answer you feel confident in, TRY THEM ON.

There’s nothing like a reality check staring back at you in the mirror!

Try on the “maybe” clothes, and then make your decision.

Maybe they’ll fit you perfectly, flatter your figure, and remind you that you want to wear this – soon, and often!

Or, they may show you that things don’t quite fit the same way as they used to.. and it’s time to go.

Trying on your clothes one last time will also let you get a good look at the quality of the piece – and allow you to answer the questions about stains, rips, holes, etc in an informed manner.

By the time you finish Step 3, you should only have 2 piles: KEEP and TOSS.

4. Put Your Remaining Clothes Away Again – With An Organization System

Hooray!! Now you only have the clothes you really like. The clothes you’ll wear on a regular basis.

You’ve got various ensemble pieces you can mix and match.

Life. Is. Good.

Now it’s time to organize your “new” clothes and put them away! (Oh come on, you didn’t think you could get away without organizing on an ORGANIZATION WEBSITE did you?? fat chance, buddy. 🙂

So, there are many options for clothes organization, which we shall get into on another day. But here are a couple of basic pointers for you:

Separate Tops, Bottoms, Overs, and Unders

So however you store your clothes, you should at least separate the different parts of a general outfit:

Underwear (and bras, for ladies)– in drawers of some variety

Shirts / Blouses / Sweaters – hang up together

Cardigans / Jackets / Blazers – hang up together

Sort By Color, or Style

Next, sort them however makes the most sense to you!

I love sorting by color – classic ROY G. BIV style (red, orange, yellow green, blue, indigo, violet if you skipped that day in 4th grade 🙂 )

Maybe for you, it makes more sense to sort by WHERE you’d wear something: Work Clothes, Party Clothes, Home Clothes, etc.

However you decide to organize your closet – go in with an intention, and make it so. Don’t just let everything go to hell in a handbasket! You’ve just purged your closet for goodness sake – show that thing off!!

Make Everything Visible (except underwear)

Except for things that shouldn’t just be OUT – underwear, bras, etc – make it your mission to have everything visible.

This way, all it takes is a quick glance around your closet to recall your options and easily piece together a killer outfit!

Store What You Won’t Wear, but Want To Keep

Finally, if you’re like me, you’ve probably got a few clothes that you really have no desire to WEAR again, but you just can’t get rid of them.

Maybe they are old sports jerseys from your time on the soccer team with your BFFs. Perhaps they’re college shirts from the organization you were in, recounting a particularly fun (or rowdy) event!

Maybe it was a gift from a parent or loved one and you just don’t have the heart to throw it out.

In any case – feel free to keep those sentimental items!

Remember, a closet purge is NOT getting rid of everything blindly.

However, instead of hanging those clothes back up or stuffing them into your drawer and hoping for the best… I suggest you purchase a storage bin of the appropriate size and store them somewhere outside of your normal clothes areas.

Try under the bed, in the top of your closet, in the attic, garage, or basement.

Just make sure you get a quality storage container that seals out the elements, and you’re all set!

5. Assess What Clothes You Have & What You Might Need

Finally- and this is the fun part – the last step in your closet purge is assessing your new situation!

Take a quick inventory of what’s left in your decluttered closet!

Do you have pants for all occasions that you can mix and match with the available tops? (Jeans, khakis, and dress pants should do it). Do you still have ONE dress that you can fall back on for whatever random event you’re invited to?

How about tops for work, and for shopping with friends?

Does everything have at least one or two mates that they can pair up with if needed?

If not, make yourself a VERY SPECIFIC shopping list.


Be careful when shopping, not to undo the arduous work you just did!

Suddenly, your closet has been purged, and life is good!!!


How To Decide What Stays and What Goes During Your Closet Purge

Making the actual decisions of what to keep and toss can be quite difficult for some, so here are some pointers to help you get off in the right direction!

What Should You Keep?

When purging a closet, you should keep several things:

  • Clothes you LOVE
  • Clothes you look AMAZING in
  • Clothes that work for multiple occasions (casual, dressy, formal, etc)
  • Clothes you have an emotional or sentimental connection to
  • Clothes that are very flattering and make you feel good about yourself

Yes, it’s really as easy as that!

What Should You Get Rid of When Purging a Closet?

It’s the getting rid of stuff that’s so hard for people – myself included!

Generally, you’ll want to get rid of:

  • Clothes that no longer fit
  • Clothes with rips, tears, holes, loose threads, or stains
  • Clothes that are no longer in style
  • Clothes you do not like
  • Clothes you haven’t worn in a long time, and do not forsee wearing again soon
  • Duplicates (unless they’re a staple of your wardrobe)

There are some other ‘rules’ but these are the most common instances you’ll want to look out for.

If you’re not sure right off the bat, you’ll want to ask yourself these guiding questions for purging a closet:

Questions to Ask When Purging a Closet

  • Have you worn it in the last 12 months? 6?
  • Is it intact, or damaged? (stained, torn, stretched out)
  • Do you LOVE it?
  • Does it still fit?
  • Is it flattering?
  • Can it “go with” anything else you already own? (at least 2 things)
  • Are you just hoping that it will fit again one day?
  • Are you only keeping it because it was a gift, or you feel guilty for what you spent on it?
  • Is it still in style?
  • If you saw it at a store today, would you buy it?
  • Does it have sentimental value for you?
  • Does it require a lot of maintenance? (required dry cleaning, etc.)
  • Do you have a place or event you would wear it to this week? this month?

What To Do With What You Purge From Your Closet

Lots of people don’t purge their closets, or even try to declutter their houses because they don’t want to “Just throw away” things they worked hard to save for and purchase.

I really get it. I don’t want to throw my money away either. I would much rather my things go to good use!

So, these are the 4 options I use in my life, and suggest for you today when purging your closet.

Keep, Trash, Sell, or Donate

Keep what you’re going to keep. Easy.

If something is broken, unable to be used, or is just worn out and in a truly poor condition, don’t be rude and give your discarded garbage away to someone in need.. just throw it away.

Also, if you’ve got used underwear.. throw it away. Literally no one wants your dirty old underwear. No one.

If you’ve got clothes in great shape (like new or VERY gently used), you may consider selling them! There are many consignment shops that will purchase some clothes if they are the correct style and sold during the right season!

Consider recouping a bit of your money in this way.

Finally, donate. If you cannot use or sell your clothes, I STRONGLY urge you to donate them.

There are thousands of needy people who are in need of clothes. Thousands.

Try not to see this as your ‘losing out’ on something – but on your blessing someone else’s life with a basic life necessity they desperately need!

Donating is one of the best ways you can get rid of the clothes you purge!

Closet Purging Isn’t Just for Clothes: How to Declutter Your Entire Wardrobe

Finally, I want to be clear that even though I’ve mainly focused on the clothing aspect of a closet purge, that is certainly not the only one!

We all store many things in our closets, and many are outgrown, worn out, or go out of style after a time.

So, once you have tackled your wardrobe, consider purging some of these other items as well!

Because there are SO MANY benefits to being organized, I want to make sure you’re experiencing those throughout your wardrobe, and entire home!

Purge Your Shoes

Nearly everyone on Earth (or at least in America) seems to have a hell of a lot of shoes. Like WAY TOO MANY SHOES!

What are we all doing with 300 shoes and only 2 feet!? Good lord.

So, take the same approach as the clothes, and purge the shoes too!

Make sure you maintain one or two pairs for each type of situation you routinely encounter (exercise, party, work, daily, etc), and then realize that having a shoe collection the size of your car may be a bit much…

Purge Your Jewelry

Over the years, you’ve probably gathered up quite a collection of jewelry.

Some of it is real, meaningful, and gorgeous.

Other bits are simply costume jewelry that’s starting to corrode, and certainly to go out of style.

Take an hour or so, and assess your jewelry – then take the same purging steps!

Purge Your Purses

For some people (lookin at you, mom), this maybe the toughest challenge yet.

Chances are, some of the old purses you’ve got stacking up in your closet have little stains, spills, rips, tears, and more going on .. and you weren’t ever really going to use them again.

So, I say this because I love you and I want what’s best for you: Put your big girl panties on, and purge the purses.

You’ve got this!

I’m here for you.

Purge Your Hats, Scarves, and other Accessories

Finally, purge the rest.

Whatever you’ve got: hats, gloves, scarves, and other accessories… you’ve probably got an excess.

Make a little girl happy and donate to a child’s Dress Up Box! Give things away.

Just purge it.

I bet you weren’t ever going to wear half of those things again anyway, now were you??

Just like that, you’ve Purged Your Closet!

Congratulations! I hope these easy steps for purging your closet, and the questions to help you make decisions helped you out!

I truly hope you are now a more organized, happy, and calm person with this new organizational feat you have achieved!!

Get that “purge”-ing good feeling again!

Enjoyed that, did you??

Well it’s time to take your talents to the next level!

Consider using the same system, or a similar set of 5 Simple Steps to Organize Anything to organize… well, anything!

Tackle your desk, fridge, car, bathroom, or whatever needs your attention next!

I believe in you!

Now, the question I’ve been dying to ask: What is the craziest thing you found during your closet purge?

Was it bell bottoms from the 70’s? A beatnik hat? Roller blades?

Leave a comment below – I can’t wait to hear about the treasures you found..and purged!!

and remember, make good life choices!


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