10 Steps to Spring-Cleaning Your Closet Like a Fashion Editor

The ultra-methodical guide to the perfect closet.


Dream closet. | Shutterstock.

Maybe it’s because I’m a style editor, or the fact that I’m an obsessive organizer, but I’m often called to help my friends and family members clean out their closets. It’s not so much fun for them: I am a ruthless closet-purger. My process is strict — there’s no waffling allowed. If you are unsure of an item, off it goes, to a donation bin, a consignment shop or, if it’s in really bad shape, the trash bin.

Here, my 10 steps to the perfect closet, and all the tips, tricks and inspiration to get your stuff organized, cleaned and consolidated. Follow it to the letter, and do this twice a year for an expertly edited collection. (Bonus: It’ll help make choosing your outfits so much easier!)

1. Designate a space for a holding area.
Warning: It’s going to get messy in here…

2. Clear out your closet. (Yes, completely.)
You’re going to do this methodically and organize everything into categories. Take out all coats, then all pants, then all dresses, and so forth. Keep each category in a separate pile.

3. Clean the inside of your closet.
A closet spring-cleaning just doesn’t mean organization. An emptied-out closet is the perfect chance to (finally) wipe down your shelving, racks and any containers you might have, and to vacuum all those tight spaces usually crammed with stuff.

4. Subdivide each category of clothing.
Take one category — for example, tops — and divide this into separate piles for each different type (so for tops, you’ll have a pile of button-ups, a pile of sweaters, t-shirts, tanks, etc.). This allows you to see exactly what you have. I once helped a friend clean out her closet and she was shocked to find that she had over 20 cardigans. And speaking of help ….

5. Enlist a friend.
We all have emotional attachments to some of our clothing and accessories (i.e. those skinny pants you haven’t fit into since 2000, but keep around as motivation). A friend can help you honestly evaluate everything. And then you can…

6. Split items into ‘yes,’ ‘maybe’ and ‘no’ piles.
Work through one category at a time so that it’s not overwhelming. Immediately hang your ‘yes’ items back in your closet. (Tip: Get matching hangers so that your closet looks streamlined.) Evaluate your ‘maybes,’ but be brutal:

7. Put anything that doesn’t fit, you haven’t worn in one year, or that is worn out into the ‘no’ pile.
No excuses. If you haven’t worn it, it goes. And why are you still keeping pilled sweaters around anyway? Those shoes that, though pretty, pinch your feet? No. Continue working your way through each category of clothing. Use this Vogue-approved chart as your guide.

8. Tackle the ‘no’ pile.
Decide what to donate, sell/consign or toss (anything very soiled, torn or unwearable can’t be sold, and generally shouldn’t be donated). Here’s a great article on where to donate your clothes in Philly.

9. Invest in organizational items like shoe racks and clear bins for things like off-season sweaters.
Check out our “Organize Your Life” series. (It’s basically organizational porn.) We’ve got cool tips and inspiration for organizing and storing your shoes, makeup, jewelry and more.

10. Maintain! Keep your closet tightly edited and organized.
My tried-and-true way to do this? Keep a log of Every. Single. Thing. You. Buy. Really! It works. (See my log from last year here.)