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How to Organize a Closet

It takes getting rocked to make changes in your life.  And when I opened the doors to my dear friend Katie’s closet to see perfectly folded shirts, perfectly hung blouses (on perfectly expensive wooden hangers), perfectly placed Christian Louboutin shoes and an overall perfect visual display of her minimalist wardrobe, I was rocked and my first reaction was “where are your clothes?”  Her response “this is it, Ann.  Um, yeah, I’m a total minimalist.”  I actually thought for a half of a second I was shopping at The Container Store.  You know…when you are in the closet section dreaming of what your closets could look like if you wanted to fork over a thousand dollars and hang 5 perfect shirts (that are all the same color) very neatly each day?  Come on, you soooo know what I am talking about.  Well, her closet looked like that (sort of).  And it rocked me.  And inspired me to action.  So that following Friday night at 5pm, Katie came over to tackle my closet and challenge me to donate, donate, donate.  And so I bring you a few rules on how to organize a closet.  Here goes (the before pics):


Rule #1:  Okay, this first rule is serious and you cannot not adhere to this one:  you must organize and discard with a friend.  Or, someone you know who has OCD, a great fashion sense, an ability to fold clothes well and someone who has at least four hours to spend with you.  Fortunately for me, I have a friend who fits the bill, aforementioned above, beautiful picture below.  Her full name is Katie Cassidy, also known as witty, stylish, honest, closet-cleaner.

Doesn’t she look like she wants to organize my closet?

Rule #2:  Similarly, here’s another rule that’s new to me, was a game-changer and one that you must not break:  give until it hurts.  If you don’t have some pain and anxiety during the process, after the process, the next morning, even a week later, you have failed.  Listen, it’s easy to give away things we don’t want anymore.  It’s not so easy giving something away that has some level of significance to you – whether that be financial, emotional or psychological (I might wear this one day if I get invited to an Indian wedding…).

Rule #3:  Your closet must be organized in a way that is visually appealing and in a way that you can actually see all of your clothes.  So.  If your clothes are stuffed in and immovable hanging up (ahem, guilty), changes must be made.  If they are bursting at the seams (pun intended) of drawers or containers (ahem, guilty again), changes must be made.  Here’s the deal.   If that is happening in your closet, you aren’t able to even see what you have to wear which means you likely aren’t wearing 50-60% of what you have anyways.   And more importantly, there are too many people in the world that need the clothes you aren’t wearing.  Now, please proceed to rule #4.

Rule #4:  Go through every single item in your closet.  One-by-one.  No, that’s not a typo.  You have to be in it to win it (and to donate it).



Now, here are some very clear guidelines to rule #4:

  1. If it’s from Forever 21 and you aren’t within a 5-year age range on either side, donate it and reference second rule above, specifically the part that talks about emotional psychological issues.
  2. If it looks like it could be some combo of a maternity shirt/sweater/pajamas, donate it.  Even if you are pregnant, you should not wear something that could be mistaken as a maternity shirt/sweater/pajamas.
  3. If your jeans are bell-bottomed or wide-legged, they have been out of style (according to Katie) for roughly 4 years.  Skinny jeans and straight-legged jeans are the only approved jeans I was able to keep.
  4. If you are saving something for “when you lose 15 pounds,” yes, you guessed it.  Donation pile.  This one hurts, I know.
  5. If any item in your closet looks like the color of breast milk, donate it.  I had a few of these and it was a pleasure to watch Katie pretend she was breastfeeding while verbally abusing my “sense of style.”  Why? Because that color is flattering on no one.
  6. If you haven’t worn the item in 6+ months, you never will, statistically speaking.  Donate!
  7. “This may come back into style one day…I don’t want to get rid of it.”  Sorry, say bye-bye!  Even if it comes back into style, you will probably buy something new anyways and that piece will just sit sadly for another 10 years in your overstuffed closet.
  8. Anything with a college logo needs to go.  I know, this is hard.  But it’s time to grow up.  Donate it.
  9. If your grandfather could potentially wear it, laugh a little bit at yourself and then quickly disperse.  And then maybe analyze why you bought it.

Rule #5:  Clean your closet.  Like with a mop and soap and a vacuum and a broom and a rag and whatever else you need. True confession.  I hadn’t physically cleaned my closet since I moved into my place (almost two years now).  And so this comment was fairly amusing and mildly disgusting “Ann!  There is a family of bunnies living in the back of your closet!  I am getting so sick and I’m going to break out because of all the dust!”

These aren’t actually from my closet. Mine were worse. Photo credit goes to

Rule #6:  The “we heart our customers” dry-cleaner hangers must go.  I know, I was shocked too.  Wooden hangers are a must.  They don’t damage your clothes, they hold your clothes better than wire and they are far more visually appealing.  I ended up buying wooden hangers from Amazon in bulk.  One step closer to my Container Store closet.

I took all 300+ hangers to my dry cleaner and gave them back. They loved it.

Rule #7:  Okay, everyone has various levels of organization skills and I recognize that.  But, I have to give Katie credit as she is a master and I LOVE how she organized my clothes, shoes and accessories.  Here goes:

Shirts that are silk or are made of some quality fabric, typically your “dressy shirts,” get hung.

Sweaters get folded, by color and with room to breath.


Ensure some of your favorite shoes and accessories are visually displayed for maximum usage.  Yes, I just said maximum usage.


Jeans and pants are to be folded and can be open for display or put in drawers.  Another alternative is buying pant hangers (yes, they must match your basic wooden hanger) and hanging your pants.  That would depend on what type of space and what type of closet you have.

Scarves should be folded and put in a drawer.  I love the idea of throwing my ballet flats and flips in with.

Cotton button-down shirts should be folded and neatly displayed.  This one is up for debate.  I have never folded button-down shirts before, but I’m giving it a try!

And…drum roll please…the finished product (ahem, 4 hours later)…

I literally got rid of 50% of my clothes and accessories and ended up with five 30-gallon trash bags filled with years of my life and a few dust bunnies.  Here’s what I did with them:

  1. I took all of my business clothes (suits, collared shirts and the like) to my church as they were doing a clothing drive specifically for work clothes
  2. I took the other clothes to a place called Plato’s Closet where they go through your clothes and buy them based on style, usage, etc.  They took almost nothing but I made $150!
  3. Finally, I took the remaining three trash bags to Goodwill.

Katie, thank you for your amazing organizing skills and for inspiring me to be more of a minimalist.  Baby steps…

Comments (0)

  • Finsihed product looks amazing!! Loved doing this with you! xoxo

  • I must be a serious freak, because I clean my closet out at least every 6 months, consign, and donate bags of clothes to goodwill. LOVE THIS POST! Fabulous, nice job!

  • […] Donate your clothes:  If you were too busy or didn’t get a chance to do a fall cleaning of your closet, it’s okay!  As we approach the end of the year, it’s a perfect time to purge your closet and go to a local Goodwill, Salvation Army or anywhere that accepts clothing donations.  Not only will you feel good starting the new year organized and simplified, you will also have helped families in need.  And if you need inspiration on how to purge your clothes, check out my blog on how to organize a closet. […]

  • […] September – When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Or, organize your closet.  Check out how to organize a closet. […]


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