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Cleaning Out Your Closet: Tips From the Experts

Get organized in no time with Gracefully Nested and Neat Method

Does anyone feel like they have too much time on their hands? Yes, we’re busy with work and kids, but we’re talking about those other moments when you’re tired and bored of doing the same old things. How many walks can you take? How many loaves of banana bread can you make??

If that’s you, maybe it’s time to consider tackling a home project: your closet. Yes, it’s probably overwhelming to think about. But how much happier will you be when you can actually find those strappy black sandals you haven’t seen in ages?

So we spoke to Kristen Ridout of Gracefully Nested and Valerie Wood of The Neat Method about the best ways to tackle such a big project.


Alright, you’ve decided to clean out your closet. What’s next? Wood says getting started is half the battle.

“When you look at an organizing project as a whole it can seem very overwhelming,” she says. “If de-cluttering your closet is much needed, start with the sock drawer; purging socks without a match can feel like a great accomplishment for one day. [T]his small step will feel so good that it will be the catalyst to the large-scale change(s) you are looking for. Before you know it, organizing your drawers, tops and bottoms will be getting checked off the list!”

Ridout suggests starting small, with items such as swimwear and undergarments. Then move on to clothes and shoes. She also recommends that if this is a big project, or you have little ones running around, you may want to spread the project out over a few days, rather than trying to tackle it all in one day. (But hey, if you’re superwoman—which you could be—go for it.)

RELATED: Neat Method’s 5 Steps to an Organized Kitchen Pantry


As far as the process goes, Wood and Ridout agree that going with categories and color-coding is your best bet to get organized.

“First pull everything out, and we mean everything,” Wood says. “Color code your categories! Every item from the pants to the shoes, to the scarves and the tops, EVERYTHING [should be] color coded.”

With everything in its designated color section, it’s easy to see if you’ve been unintentionally purchasing multiples and similar items. When it comes to color coding, Wood says The Neat Method’s rule is the rainbow method (ROY G BIV) “with white at the beginning and black at the end, and lightest to darkest within.” Having your clothes organized this way makes your closet more appealing to shop.

Also, don’t forget to ask yourself questions while you’re working on your project. Ridout says she has clients ask themselves: “Have I worn it in 6–12 months (depending on seasons)?”; “Does it make me feel good?”; “Does it have stains or holes?”; “Will I ever wear this again (in all honesty)?”; “Is it too small or too big?”; and “Is it still in style or your style?” Based on the answers to your questions, you can then decide to keep or to lose, and it will prevent you from getting too overwhelmed.


Wood says one of the most common mistakes she and her team see is clients purchasing a ton of storage options before determining what’s really needed.

“Take time to purge the clothes you are no longer wearing,” she says. “Also make sure you take careful measurements before you purchase [storage options] so that you don’t find yourself with organizing solutions that don’t really fit your space.”


So you’ve emptied your closet of a few things. Now what do you do with them? Ridout says that she tells clients to ask themselves these questions when determining what to do with the items: “Can I pass this along to a loved one?”; “Can I donate this?”; and “Should I sell the items?”

If you are going to donate the items, where should you take them? Assuming the items are in good shape, Wood says your local school, shelter, church or charity is always a great place.

“There are also several resale shops across the Metroplex that specialize in kids clothing, pre-teen clothing or high-end clothing,” she says. And be sure to check out the online resale apps that you can use to sell items as well.


If you start to get overwhelmed, Ridout says to simply think it through. Think about “what you love and what currently fits,” she says. “I always say turn on some of your favorite music and open the blinds for natural light. Make it fun, not a chore. Start small then go into larger areas of the closet.”

Wood says it’s completely normal to get overwhelmed. “I always say start with the stuff you know, and tackle all of those first,” she says. “When you begin to put things away, other storage opportunities open up. Hanging the pile of clothes shoved on a shelf opens up more room for shoes or accessories.”

And it’s typical to find “category outliers”—those items that don’t quite fit into a particular section like dresses or accessories. So once you’ve found homes for everything else, assess where the outliers best fit. “Loose buttons might make their way to the laundry room, lint rollers to the bathroom, [or] winter coats to the front closet,” she suggests.

And if you can’t let some things go, call a friend. “A fashion-forward friend can help give you some perspective,” Wood says.

A Few Extra Tips from Neat Method

  • Love it or lose it! “Take regular inventory of the things you own,” Wood says. “Whether it is outgrown or well worn, we should love everything we own and be willing to give up the stuff we don’t.”
  • For the kids: Make sure the “valuable real estate” in your cabinets and closets contains only your child’s favorite pieces and nothing more. “Donate outgrown items to your local shelters, daycares or schools,” says Wood.
  • Label! Labeling takes your organization to the next level. “It helps make your ‘behind the scenes’ as beautiful as your perfectly styled home, and will ensure that anyone in your home will know where to find everything [and] where to put it away,” Wood notes.
  • “Tops on top and bottoms on bottom.” Wood says whether it’s your pots and pans and their lids, or the blouses and pants of your closet, knowing the exact placement will “make you more efficient.”
  • Create one (or more) systems. Wood explains that making sure there is structure in your day-to-day will help to keep your house ship-shape at any time. “For a child, this could mean all of their play clothes get folded up in drawers and all of their school clothes get hung,” she says. “Involve your children in the laundry process. My little one is 3 and helps me match and fold her pajamas every laundry day.”

Photo courtesy of @neatmethod