Clean Sweep: Four Easy Steps to a Clutter-Free Closet


Published February 4, 2010

New Year, new semester, new classes and new books. With so much new clutter coming into our lives, who doesn’t like a clean slate? While there are some things we just have to deal with (parents, homework and dating, anyone?), our closet is one area where we can all get a fresh start.

It’s a good idea to clean out your closet and take stock of your wardrobe at least twice a year, and what better time to revamp your wardrobe than at the start of a new semester?

If you spend most of your time thinking “I have absolutely nothing to wear,” if you find yourself in a daily uniform of jeans, T-shirt, and tennis shoes or if your roommates have taken to calling your closet “The Pit,” then this guide is for you.


1. Purge

You’re going to need an hour or two. Put on your favorite music and go through your closet, and yes, you must try everything on.

Divide everything into two piles: things you wear and things you don’t.

Be ruthless.

If it’s damaged, unflattering, too big, too small or just strange it goes in the “don’t wear” pile.

If you can’t remember the last time you wore it, it goes in the “don’t wear” pile.


2. Take Note

Now go through the “don’t wear” pile and ask yourself these questions:

Is it damaged beyond repair? Throw it out.

Can a tailor or I fix it, hem it, or resize it? Put it in a pile to take to the tailor. A great, reasonably priced tailor is Laura & Melinda’s (137 Rivington St., 212-228-4500).

Now for the stuff you never wear. Look at it closely; is it a certain color or cut that doesn’t flatter you? Are you just not a boho-chick? Do you have 20 pairs of sky-high heels and can’t walk in any of them?

Note what’s wrong with them, put them in bags to donate, and next time you go shopping make sure to stay far away from these types of items.


3. Organize

Put everything you wear back in your closet, but don’t just shove it back in there!

You’re much more likely to wear something if it’s not lurking on the floor with the dust bunnies.

Invest in hangers, a shoe rack and jewelry trees to organize and present your wardrobe. Great places for organizers on a budget are Bed, Bath & Beyond (1932 Broadway, 917-441-9391) and The Container Store (629 Sixth Ave., 212-366-4200).

A general guideline for organizing:

Always hang wovens; it will keep them from wrinkling.

Fold knits. Hanging will cause the weave to stretch.

Never pile shoes on top of each other, it will scuff the leather.

Having everything organized not only allows you to see your full range of possibilities, but the better you take care of your clothes, the longer they’ll last.


4. Go Shopping

Now that you can actually see what you have, it’s time to fill out your wardrobe. Over the next couple of days, compile a list of what your closet needs.

Needs are those things that will make it easier for you to get dressed in the morning or add to your style (and let’s be honest, while a few dozen pairs of Louboutins would add to anybody’s style, it is certainly not a need).

Make sure to consider your lifestyle, climate, personal style and budget.


10 basics that every girl should own:


  • Versatile little black dress
  • Pair of flattering dress pants
  • Classic white shirt
  • Perfect pair of jeans
  • Tailored jacket or blazer
  • Basic cashmere/merino wool sweater
  • Great pair of party heels
  • A bring everywhere handbag
  • Classic trench coat
  • Great fitting bra
  • Lazy day flats


Now that you have a functioning and clean closet, let’s make sure to keep it that way. Do a closet clean out every once in a while and those “nothing to wear” days will be a thing of the past.

Places to donate clothing:

Operation Fairy Dust (formal dresses)

Drop off donations at:

Jeeves of Belgravia
39 East 65th St.
(212) 570-9130


Dress for Success (professional attire)


Mail donations to:

68 35th St.
Building 4, 6th Floor
(718) 832-6201


217 W 79th St.
(212) 874-5050


Salvation Army
536 W 46th St.
(212) 757-2311


Places to Sell clothing:

Buffalo Exchange
332 E. 11th St.
(212) 260-9340