How to Clean Out Your Closet the Right Way

Professional organizer, Elinor Warkentin, shares her tips for purging, sorting and folding your way to perfectly organized clothing and accessories

Time to tame your seemingly ever-growing and perpetually unorganized closet

“When it comes to our wardrobes, people tend to be overwhelmed,” says Elinor Warkentin, professional organizer and owner of Goodbye Clutter. “Clothes are a very personal thing for us and sometimes we aren’t able to view them as objectively as we’d like, which makes cleaning difficult.”

A member of Organizers in Canada, Warkentin has helped instill order into well over 300 homes across Western Canada and internationally—and lucky for us, she’s sharing her top tricks for an effective (and foolproof) closet clean out.

Click through for Warkentin’s step-by-step guide for cleaning out your closet with ease.

Credit: Ikea


First things first: set a time limit. “Whether it’s 20 minutes or an hour, having that constraint helps keep you on track and prevents you from abandoning the process altogether midway through,” says Warkentin.

If you’re lucky enough to have the help of a friend or family member, be clear about what kind of role they’ll be playing. “A good organizer will be able to help you through the process, know how to handle distractions and also know when to go off the planned path,” she says.

And finally, define your goals. Are you looking to downsize and lead a more minimalist lifestyle? Or perhaps you’re simply preparing for a major wardrobe overhaul? Whatever it is, knowing your goal and why it’s important will make the process that much smoother. 

Credit: Pottery Barn


Whether it’s your bed or a neighbouring room, select a staging area where you’ll be able to lay out your wardrobe and make decisions about each item in plain sight. 

Warkentin suggests breaking down the process into more manageable parts, beginning with an easier section, such as workout wear or accessories, and slowly moving into the rest of your wardrobe with time.

Once you’ve decided on an area, begin working through your articles from one side to another rather than at random. “I find that if we take a more methodical approach, every item is more likely to be covered,” shares Warkentin.

Credit: Ikea


“Clarify categories beforehand and label a number of bags or boxes with them—‘sell’, ‘donate’, ‘give away’, ‘repair’ and ‘trash’ tend to be the most helpful when it comes to purging your closet,” says Warkentin.

Unsure about whether or not you should keep a piece? Try putting it on and wearing it around the house. “Clothes have a lot of energy and when we look in the mirror, that energy goes either up or down.”

If you’re still on the fence, she suggests asking yourself some of the following questions: How do I feel in this? Do I like what this looks like? When is the last time I wore this? Is there a reason I haven’t been wearing this?

Credit: Pottery Barn


Once you’ve decided on the items you’re keeping, assign each one a designated spot in your closet or wardrobe.

Organizing by colour is a go-to method for most, but Warkentin suggests considering your daily routine to find a system that works best for you. For example, some may find hanging business-casual wear near the closet’s front—a morning time-saver—while others may prefer to keep it tucked away at the back.

Remember to consider your closet in its entirety—try to use every shelf, nook and drawer to its full potential.

Credit: West Elm


Compartmentalize each item in its designated area. Scarves can be rolled and stored upright in boxes, for example, while t-shirts and denim can be put away in drawers.

When it comes to rolling, folding or hanging your clothes, Warkentin suggests employing a mix of the three to make the most of your closet space. Try to keep each article’s care instructions in mind to prevent your clothes from either fading, creasing or stretching out over time.


As much as we’d like it to be a one-time deal, closet cleaning is an ongoing process—and thus, the post-evaluation is as important as the clean-out itself.

A seemingly ideal layout may present challenges to your daily routine, or you may become inspired by a DIY organization trick online—whatever the case, it’s important to take note of these instances.

“Evaluate what’s working and what’s not working and make small changes as you go,” says Warkentin. “This ensures your closet is always improving and will make future clean-outs far more manageable.”