Organizing your bedroom closet has gone from boring, household chore to hot, potentially life-changing trend over the past few years. Personal organization expert Marie Kondo and her extreme pruning process have become pop culture phenomena. Fashion-forward bloggers and clothing stores have focused on creating carefully curated capsule wardrobes that pare down closets to mostly the essentials and streamline the process of getting dressed.
But many of these trends assume an unlimited budget and plenty of time to devote to pondering the merits of every scarf and pair of socks. Can the rest of us create an organized and functional wardrobe, using the clothes we already own, in one weekend? It’s totally doable. Here are 10 steps that will quickly turn your cluttered, confused closet into an organized collection of wearable pieces—and increase your wardrobe confidence.
1. Prepare to Declutter
Before you start organizing, prepare to declutter by grabbing three boxes, bins, or trash bags, plus a pen and paper or other equipment for taking notes. You’ll also want to have at least two or three hours (or longer if you haven’t sorted through your wardrobe in years) blocked on your schedule, and a private area where you can try on clothes.
2. Collect Your Wardrobe
Take all of your clothes out of your closet, as well as your dresser and anywhere else you store clothing. Even if your main goal is cleaning up a messy bedroom closet, it’s important to evaluate your wardrobe as a whole, including items you store elsewhere—be they plain t-shirts or things you rarely wear.
Taking a good look at how every piece functions together—or doesn’t—will help you not only organize your closet and other clothes storage areas, but keep them organized for good. Place everything in a big pile on a bed or the floor. If possible, do this near a full-length mirror so you can try on outfits to see how they look.
3. Ditch the Obvious “No” Clothes
Designate one box, bin, or bag for clothes to throw away. This should include anything that’s permanently stained, ripped beyond repair, or so worn or outdated that no one else would want it. Use another box, bin, or bag for clothes to donate or sell. These will be items that don’t fit your body or current lifestyle, items you no longer like, anything that’s uncomfortable to wear, and so on.
Go through every item of clothing you own—you don’t have to try anything on yet—and put any piece that’s clearly ready to be discarded or passed on into the proper box. Don’t worry about items you’re unsure about. Just set aside the clothes you’re never going to wear again.
4. Save the Obvious “Yes” Clothes
By this step, your pile of clothes has probably shrunk. Now carefully go through what remains. If you haven’t worn something in a long time, try it on. Be honest about items you love, what looks good on you, and what actually works with your current lifestyle. During this process, you will probably find more items for your discard and give away/sell boxes.
You should now have two categories of clothes: definite keepers that you love, flatter you and are practical for your life, and pieces you’re unsure of, which might fit one or two of those three criteria but aren’t perfect enough for you to be completely sure about them.
5. Pack Your “Unsure” Box
Pack all those “unsure” items into the third box. You will have more chances to decide on these, so err on the side of reducing your wardrobe to all yeses and put the clothes you doubt even a little into the “unsure” box. Store this box in a closet, basement, or another safe but out-of-sight location for three months. If, at any point, you want to wear something from the box, you can always add it back to your wardrobe. Or, discard or donate it if you find it doesn’t work.
After three months, reevaluate what’s left in this box. If you’re still not sure what to get rid of and what to keep, store them for another three months. You can always add them back into your wardrobe, and you have the option to transfer items from your closet to this box. If you don’t miss an item for a year, you can probably let it go without regret.
6. Separate Your Clothes by Season
Now that your wardrobe consists of “yes” clothes only, separate these by season. If summer is coming, stash your fall and winter clothes in a storage area in your home, or put them to the side or back of your closet. If you live in an area without four distinct seasons, skip this step or divide your “yes” clothes into those you want to wear for the next few months and those you don’t.
The point of storing off-season clothes is to make dressing as easy as possible. When you open your closet door in the morning, you want a choice of outfits you can really wear that day—not distractions, like shelves full of heavy sweaters in August.
7. Create Potential Outfits
You should be left with a collection of clothing that fits, works realistically with your lifestyle, is wearable in your current season, and pleases you. Look at the items together to figure out which items work together, and form an idea of how many whole outfits you have. Try them on to make sure, because although blue jeans and a red shirt go together in theory, the cuts of your particular pieces might look wrong together, meaning that you have fewer real-life outfits than you thought.
8. Evaluate Gaps in Your Wardrobe
As you create outfits, you might notice a hole or imbalance in your wardrobe. Maybe you have lots of great work options, but few casual clothes. Maybe you have a range of tops but few bottoms to pair with them. Maybe an old, favorite summer dress ended up in the “donate/sell” box, and you have no replacement. Or maybe you have everything you need.
Don’t look for reasons to buy clothes—just ask yourself whether your wardrobe, as it is now, will see you through the next season or year. Consider what you do on a regular basis: If you had to dress for a meeting, a lunch with friends, a date night, a walk on the beach, what would you wear? Are you happy with your outfit options?
9. Make a Shopping List
If your wardrobe isn’t quite complete, figure out what clothing items would fill the gap. Make a list, and be specific—a lightweight, white crew neck sweater, say, or a knee-length, black jersey dress, or a pair of straight-leg jeans. Keep this list on your phone or in your car, so that if you end up at a clothing store, you can refer to it and avoid the temptation of pretty things that won’t fit with the rest of your newly pared-down wardrobe.
10. Optimize Your Closet
Finally, organize everything in a way that makes getting dressed easier and faster. Group like items together—shirts with shirts, skirts with skirts. Within each group, arrange clothes by color, style, and/or weight, such as short-sleeve blouses from light to dark, then long-sleeve blouses from light to dark, then heavy shirts from light to dark, and so on.
Point all hangers in the same direction and stack folded items neatly. You might want to keep all your dressy clothes together, especially if you don’t wear them on a regular basis. The goal is to be able to see everything you have, and choose which items you want to wear, without having to rummage through a tangled mess.
Once you’ve completed your initial wardrobe overhaul, you can maintain your newly organized closet by repeating the process on a much smaller scale each season. When the weather changes, just bring out your stored off-season clothes and brainstorm outfit combinations, shop if necessary, and hang everything up neatly. If your climate doesn’t require a seasonal wardrobe shift, you might want to reevaluate your clothes once or twice a year, or even every few years.
Over time, the act of tweaking your wardrobe and keeping your clothes organized will become second nature, and you’ll forget you ever saw your closet as a source of stress.
READ MORE: Why You Should Own Less Stuff