Getting it Together: Cutting Closet Clutter Forever

by • March 5, 2014 • 2014, Home Life, March 2014

There were things in my daughter’s closet that hadn’t seen the light of day for years, and it was all my fault. I was the one setting the example, not to mention using her top shelves for storage of who knows what. But this was no time for self-flagellation. I had already committed to the appointment with Erica Duran, professional organizer and productivity expert, and there was no turning back. Still, this is a sensitive thing. There’s a reason we keep closet doors closed, right?

“Making things physically neater is the easy part; it’s the emotional stuff that presents more of a challenge,” says Erica. “Clothes, particularly for women, are surprisingly emotional. And then there’s the stuff that we tend to store in closets because we’ve delayed making decisions about them – those decisions can be emotional, too.”

Who knew I’d need a therapist when it came to our closets? Here are Erica’s strategies for dealing with the whole closet – physical and emotional. I followed her process and can actually imagine a day when opening closet doors doesn’t flood me with stress.



1) Set aside the time. Whatever your system for planning your time (see Episode 1), determine how much time you’ll need to get the project done from start to finish. Note that the project might be one shelf or the entire closet. The point is, plan for enough time to start and finish it. Finishing means success.

2) Don’t get stopped by not having the perfect closet system. Not everyone needs a fancy closet system. Start with what you have. And the reality is that you’ll know better what exactly you need after you’ve purged.

3) Do an initial sweep for trash. Get the obvious stuff out first. If an item requires a decision, skip it and leave it for the next sweep. This clears space and makes you feel triumphant from the start.

4) Take everything out and determine what you don’t use or need to keep. This is where you have to get ruthless and aggressive if you really want a great closet. See the emotional strategies below. Make a goal of clearing out 80% of your stuff.

5) Clean. Don’t put your “keepers” back onto dusty shelves or dirty carpet!

6) Put things back in categories. For shelved stuff, consider bins for related items (e.g. purses) and consider getting all the same kind of hangers so there is balance and ease. Put clothes back longest to shortest, grouping colors. The idea is to make your everyday closet experience effortless.

7) Schedule give-backs and donations. For everything you purged that isn’t yours or isn’t a keeper, put the give-back or donation in your planner – actually schedule it! See #1.



This is where the “forever” part comes in, because this is where your mindset about closet clutter changes.

1) Get ruthless. If your goal is an organized closet free of clutter, harden your heart. Nothing will be different unless you are different, right?

2) Keep clothes that are wearable now. Those jeans that don’t fit, that jacket with the button popped off, that shirt with the stain – if you haven’t addressed it yet, are you going to? Donate or recycle them.

3) Cut the guilt and obligation. If you have kept an item because you feel guilty getting rid of it or you feel obligated to not hurt someone’s feelings, that should be a signal to you that it needs to be dealt with. If you really want to keep it, keep it, but don’t keep it out of obligation.

4) Honor your sentimental things. Do you have a collection of band t-shirts or baby clothes you really want to keep? Only keep the ones you really love, then find a creative way to use them (turn the shirts into a quilt?) or give them a central, tidy place like a special bin or drawer where they’re out of the way but still there when you need them. Better yet, give them away to someone who will love and appreciate them.

5) Notice what you need. As you purge, keep a list of what you need. If you have a shirt you love but nothing great to wear it with, put it on your list. As a bonus to yourself for getting ruthless, go shopping for those things you need and will use. But pay attention to #6 below:

6) Quit bringing things into your life that you won’t use. Don’t buy anything on sale that you wouldn’t buy at full price. Don’t buy dry clean only items that you can’t afford to maintain. Consider getting your colors done so you know what will look great on you and therefore get worn.

It feels good to get the monster out of the closet. Next up: cupboards! Have a question for Erica Duran? Connect with her at and check out Episodes 1 and 2 of this series at M


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