Step-By-Step Guide To The Ultimate Closet Purge

how to purge your closet of clothes


There is nothing more refreshing than purging your closet completely and starting from scratch. Out with the old, and in with the new, as they say. Purging your closet may seem like an overwhelming task, but the process is more than worth it!

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

I’ve put in a lot of work over the years to purge my closet down to only a few outfits that really support my daily life. After purging most of my closet, I have so much more space and can find what I’m looking for in a split second!

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Why You Should Purge Your Closet

Why You Should Purge Your Closet

Purging your closet can help you to reset and refresh your wardrobe and storage spaces. I always know it’s time for a full-send closet purge as soon as I have trouble locating an item. After living like a minimalist for years, I’ve gotten into the habit of decluttering my closet and getting rid of unwanted garments on a regular basis.

purging you closet of unneeded clothesHowever, purging my closet until it’s impeccably clean is a different ballgame. The goal with any closet purge isn’t just to get rid of a few things; it’s to gut your closet from the inside out and rethink your entire wardrobe.

While it’s true that purging your closet can have a lot of positive effects, not everyone can afford to rework their entire wardrobe at the drop of a hat. It’s important to note that a closet purge is more about a way of thinking than the actual quantity of clothing you bring out and back in.

At the end of the day, the value in a major closet purge comes primarily from analyzing your relationship to the clothes you wear regularly (and the space where you keep them), not how many items of clothing you can afford to nix and replace.

Purging Your Closet Helps You Re-evaluate Your Clothes

Purging Your Closet Helps You Re-evaluate Your Clothes

I found out about the importance of rethinking my relationship with the clothing I own the first time I ever did a huge closet purge.

As I purged my closet, I asked why I wear what I wear and why I still keep what I keep in my closet, from my favorite winter jacket to a belt I’ve worn only once. After that deep dive analysis into the reasons behind my clothing choices, I quickly realized I don’t need a lot in my closet to be content.

Eventually, this was the thinking that led me to begin wearing a personal uniform. I realized I didn’t gain much by having a ton of different outfits, so now I only wear one. Purging your own closet can really help you to reevaluate your relationship to your clothing and think not only about which pieces to get rid of, but also about why you own the clothes you do in the first place. What do these pieces add to your life?

minimalist personal uniform

A Closet Purge Gives You More Space To Work With

A Closet Purge Gives You More Space To Work With

I genuinely believe there is nothing worse than an overly cluttered closet where you can’t see the floor or even walk around!

open space after closet purgeThere is something so satisfying about having a place for everything and keeping things in the place they go, especially for a hardcore minimalist like me.

Purging a closet completely gives you the space to start over and dream up how you want to use your newly open, decluttered closet space. While I declutter in small bursts fairly regularly, I try to do a drastic closet purge at least once every six months. This allows me to truly reset and refresh my entire closet and make it spacious and clean.

Purging Your Clothes Improves Your Headspace

Purging Your Clothes Improves Your Headspace

It may seem like ruthlessly purging my closet would lower my spirits and make me feel like I’m getting rid of too many old clothes that I love. However, every single time I do a closet purge I find that the opposite is true.

organizing clothes after purging closetThere are rarely clothing items that I miss after getting rid of. More commonly, I find myself forgetting about the clothes I purged entirely, just like I’d forgotten about them when they sat in the back of my closet.

Instead of missing the clothes I let go of, I feel relief from having less clothing to worry about, find space for, throw in the laundry, fold, and hang. Purging my closet regularly improves my mental wellbeing because I don’t have to think much about clothing, style, and whether I can wear white after Labor Day.

Keeping things simple helps avoid decision fatigue, so I can save those brain cells for more important tasks later.

7 Steps To Purge Your Closet Quickly And Effectively

Steps To Purge Your Closet Quickly And Effectively

It’s easy to open your closet door and find yourself met with a wave of half-hung clothing, overwhelming stress and a desire to close the door right back again. But fear not — after a few years of conducting a semi-annual closet purge, I’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.

Following these seven simple steps will help you purge your closet in a way that makes sense and gets the job done fast!

1Begin Your Closet Purge And Empty Your Closet

With any closet purge, you’re going to want to begin by emptying literally everything out of your closet. I don’t just mean your clothing! Dump out every single item hiding in the back of your closet shelves, in high, out of reach places, or in the back corners of your closet.

Put every item that you own out into a dumping ground so that your closet is entirely cleared out. This could be your bedroom floor or a different room in your home. Don’t worry – you’ll have the holding room cleared up in no time.

remove everything from closet

2Sort Items Into Categories As You Purge

Now, take a look at all of the items you’ve put in the holding space and sort them into smaller categories. A closet can easily become a space you go to shove everything you don’t want to put away in the moment. As a result, items in a closet can be scattered all over the place.

Get creative when building your piles and categories. Begin thinking about efficient, effective ways to store the items you’re sorting. What items would make the most sense to store together? Let this guide your categorizing process.

Sort Non-Clothing Into Categories

  • Memorabilia
  • Suitcases and luggage
  • Receipts and documents
  • Books and magazines
  • Journals and notebooks
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Stuffed animals, toys, games
  • Sports gear
  • Exercise equipment
  • Hobby accessories
  • Awards / trophies
  • Schoolwork

Sort Clothing Into Categories

  • Jeans/casual pants
  • Slacks/work pants
  • Joggers/sweats/lounge pants
  • Short sleeve shirts
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Dress shirts
  • Sweaters/sweatshirts
  • Seasonal wear (swimsuit, coats, hats, scarves)
  • Dresses/suits/special occasion clothing
  • Shoes
  • Socks
  • Accessories

how to embrace a minimalist wardrobe

3Purge Non-Clothing Items In Your Closet

Before you dive headfirst into getting rid of the clothes in your closet, start with non-clothing items first. Since there are likely fewer of these items filling your closet, it’ll be quicker to start by decluttering them first.

The backs, corners, and sides of any closet are often the places where old and lost things go to hide and never see the light of day again. To prevent this, take a look at the memorabilia, trinkets, toys, books, and what-have-yous that you’ve pulled out of your closet.

With Each Item, Ask Yourself

  • What is my specific purpose for keeping this item?
  • Is this something I have used recently?
  • Is this an item I see myself needing in the future?
  • If I give this item away, will I regret it?
  • Is this an item that has a specific use?
  • Could this item be stored more efficiently elsewhere?
What is my purpose for keeping this item

4Purge Any Clothing Item That Doesn’t Fit

Now it’s time for the main event of the closet purge: sorting through a closet full of clothes. Take a look at all of your clothing categories and immediately declutter anything that doesn’t fit first. Don’t fall into the temptation of keeping clothes that are too big or small in case your needs fluctuate – keep what fits in the present moment.

purge clothes that no longer fitAnother thing I see often in closet purges is people who try to keep clothes they’ve outgrown for sentimental purposes, like their favorite childhood shirt or a sweatshirt from a play they were in during their youth.

You want to avoid this and only keep clothes that fit you now. If you keep every single clothing item that ever meant anything to you, your closet will be overflowing. A fun solution to this is to cut out the image or logo from the shirt and put it in a scrapbook or shadow box. You can also make a T-shirt quilt.

This is a category to knock out quickly! Seeing the clutter mound go down as you get rid of clothes that don’t fit anymore will boost morale and give you some encouragement to keep going.

5Purge Clothes That Are Worn Down

Next, go through each pile of clothing and pull out all the garments that are worn out, tattered, fading, stretched out, or unraveling. Oftentimes, clothes that are the most worn down end up that way because of how often we wear them. It can be hard to purge the clothes that have been our favorites for years, but we owe it to ourselves to get rid of things that are falling apart.

purge old clothes not worn anymoreThere’s no need to keep shirts with holes in them, shoes with the soles falling out, or jeans that are torn (and not in an edgy way). I’m big fan of fixing what bothers you in the moment. What I mean by that is, if you observe a problem, nip it in the bud as soon as you can.

This includes getting rid of old clothes when purging a closet. However, we can’t all afford to go out and replace our aging clothes with new ones every time they show some wear and tear.

When purging clothes that are worn down, it makes sense to keep clothes that you know you won’t be able to replace quickly for any reason, even if they are wearing a little. You know your situation, so use your best judgement here!

6Get Rid Of Clothes For Special Occasions

It’s okay to keep some clothing for special occasions around, but I try to get rid of the one-wear outfits when I’m purging my closet. Outfits that are used for something very specific will take up more room in a cramped closet than they’re worth. Ask yourself if you truly need your old bridesmaid dress, that party jumpsuit you wore last NYE, or the ski-suit you took to the Rockies a decade ago.

7Start Purging The Clothes You Have Left

Now take the time to decide what to do with the clothes that you have left. Start by pulling out the clothes you wear most often — you know you’ll want to keep those around. If you aren’t sure which clothes you wear most often, reflect on what kind of apparel fits into your daily or weekly routines.

With the remaining clothes, ask yourself what value each item brings to your life. Don’t let any clothing items stay in the keep pile if they aren’t explicitly improving your life or serving a specific purpose.

When Decluttering Your Final Pieces, Ask Yourself

  • Can this item be worn in more than one way?
  • Is this an item I feel good wearing?
  • Does this piece go with other outfits?
  • Can this garment be worn in multiple seasons?
  • Does this clothing item make my life better?
Decluttering Your Clothing

How To Keep A Simple Closet Moving Forward

How To Keep A Simple Closet Moving Forward

Moving forward after your initial closet purge, you’ll want to implement systems in your life that allow you to keep a clean, decluttered closet. This way, you won’t have to do a closet purge every week.

Organize Your Closet After Purging

Organize Your Closet After Purging

The best way to keep your closet decluttered is to keep it organized. After you’ve decluttered all the items you planned to sift through in your closet, you’ll want to put the closet back together in a way that makes sense for you and your lifestyle.

Leave the clothes that you wear every single day closer to the front of the closet and move clothes that you don’t need as often toward the back. You can also choose to organize your closet by clothing item type, or even by color!

how to organize a small closet

Donate Clothes From Your Closet Frequently

Donate Clothes From Your Closet Frequently

I frequently donate clothing in my closet so it doesn’t pile up. There are lots of places you can donate clothing that stay open all year so you don’t have to wait around to declutter. I would also suggest taking the time to ask friends and family if they need the extra clothing that you plan to get rid of.

If you have trouble keeping track of which items you’re actually wearing, there’s a popular trick that many minimalists use, that puts your hangers to good use.

Basically, every time you wear an item, you put it back in the closet with hanger flipped the opposite way. Over time, you’ll begin to see which clothing items you wear most often and which ones you don’t.

donate items from a closet purge

Try Minimalist Challenges To Keep Your Closet Clean

Try Minimalist Challenges To Keep Your Closet Clean

Lastly, there are several minimalist rules and challenges that I’ve tried to keep the amount of clothes I own to a more minimal amount. Trying out any of these challenges is a great way to implement structures that will help your closet to stay decluttered for much longer.v

Your Turn!

  • Which clothes will you get rid of during your closet purge?
  • How often will you commit to purging your own closet?
1 Comment
  1. Thanks! I haven’t known how to start and dreaded just making a pile I have to re-hang because I can’t decide what to toss. This is a great plan I believe will help me get rid of useless items and enjoy the useful ones more.

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