How to Outsmart, Purge and Organize a Closet Painlessly

How to Outsmart Your Closet {Painless Closet Purging} The Creativity Exchange


Some of you may remember a post that I shared last year with a few tips and tricks that I use when revamping and organizing a closet.  That post has been one of my most popular posts  and since I shared those tips, I have had many emails from readers asking if I could add any suggestions for painlessly purging a closet.  I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to share my unconventional purging tips but since I just finished organizing my daughter’s closet this weekend, I thought I would share them today.
Painless Closet Purging {The Creativity Exchange}
Long story short, because the closets in our home are small and we have very little storage space, I am forced to be “closet creative”.  Because of this {and not by choice}, I have to purge our closets on a regular basis.  Being forced to be closet creative has taught me some great closet organization and purging tricks that if I had bigger closets, I’m certain I would have never figured out.

Purging a closet can be painful!  It can be agonizing, take forever and the reason is simple, its really hard to part with our stuff.  We’ve got cute stuff and the more stuff we have, the more options we have! Options are VERY important to us ladies.  You never know when that bright red blazer with double-decker shoulder pads from 15 years ago will come back in style, right? Many of us will be ready at a moment’s notice when padded blazers make there big comeback! Are they even called blazer’s anymore?

Yep, we are attached and vested in our clothes, they have a history and even though we would never wear certain pieces again, the thought of lumping them in as an emergency option in our closet brings us tremendous peace of mind.

Initially, going through my closets was like torture and it would take a whole day {with a room turned upside down} as I tried to decide what to get rid of.  I couldn’t take it anymore and to save time {and sanity}, I started doing a few things a little different and what I didn’t realize was that I was outsmarting myself my closet.  I can now go through and clean out a closet in less than 30 minutes without agony and reminiscing with each piece of clothing! I have made the process painless and easy for myself.

So below are a few of tricks that I use to eliminate the pain, indecision and time that it takes to purge a closet. I know it’s a little unconventional but it’s the only thing way I can power through it.  If you struggle with this as well, just give a couple of these tricks a try yourself and I think you will be surprised at how much smoother {and faster} this dreaded chore can be.

So here is what I do:

1) First Closet Sweep

When I purge my closet, I don’t try and organize the closet first like so many professional organizers recommend.  This takes more time, I get easily sidetracked and it makes no sense to me to organize it until I’m done with the purging.

The first thing I do is start by going through the closet starting on one end and working all the way through and pulling out everything that I know with certainty that I don’t want.  This is the no-brainer stuff that there is no hesitation.  If I have to think about something for more than 10 seconds, I move on and will deal with it later.  I donate all of our clothes to Goodwill, so I go through quickly on the first closet sweep and put everything in a garbage bag that I’m donating.

After I’m done with my quick first sweep, I then take the garbage bag full of clothes and go straight to the garage and put it in my car to be dropped off first thing in the morning.  Seriously, the quicker it gets out of my home and to its final destination, there is no second guessing.  If the bag is in my home, I will dig through it and items may end up back in the closet.

2) Create an “Uncertain Closet”- Second Closet Sweep

Years ago, I created a small area in another closet in my guest bedroom for my “uncertain clothes”.  I then go through my closet a second time and pull those “uncertain pieces”. These are the pieces that I hesitated on when I went through on my first sweep.  Most of the time these are pieces that I haven’t worn in years, but they are taking up space in my closet because I’m not ready to part with them (attachment issues). They are also pieces with fit issues and just general stuff.  I don’t agonize about it, I just pull anything that I don’t love and never wear and I know that I will still have it and it will just be in another closet.

I do not try on clothes at all through this process!  It adds to the pain {at least for me} and it’s where I always get sidetracked! Who wants to power on through a closet purge when you just tried on 3 pair of pants that you can’t button? It puts me in a bad mood and I will walk away from it (and go eat a cookie)!  I put clothes that need to be tried on in the uncertain closet because trying on is a separate task for me and usually involves a long evening and an adult beverage (or two)!

Let me give you a recommendation… Skinny clothes, get rid of them! Do not hold on to them! If you lose 15-20 lbs, you will not want to be wearing something from 5 years ago! Trust me ladies, if you lose weight, you will for sure want some fabulous new skinny jeans and outfits and the first thing you’ll do is go out shopping!  Let it go girl, but do save one pair of skinny jeans for self satisfaction!  There is nothing more fulfilling than getting in a pair of jeans that you couldn’t even get over your thigh at one point and time!

A word to the wise though, do not give your skinny clothes to your skinny girlfriends!  Skinny girls need to buy their own skinny clothes!  Besides, there is nothing worse than getting back a bag of your skinny clothes because they were too big for your skinny girlfriend {been there}! It’s like pouring salt in a wound! Trust me, don’t do it!!

One more thing, if it’s 5 years or older, I automatically pull it and put in my little uncertain closet.  I know it can always come back into the closet (again, attachment issues)…

3) Colorize a Closet and Why

Ok, stick with me on this and just hear me out…

I started putting my clothes in color order 20 years ago after my early years of working in the fashion industry.  It just became automatic for me when putting clothes away in my closet because I was doing it everyday at work.  The reason the stores do it is so you can instantly see your color options.  It works the exact same way with your closet! The best part of having clothes in color order is that you can see exactly what your options are instead of turning a closet upside down wondering if you have found every black short sleeve top.

Colorizing also helps tremendously when it comes time to purge a closet because if you see you have 10 black long sleeve sweaters all in the same place, you are more inclined to get rid of a few of the older ones. If they are tucked in and hiding throughout your closet, we are more inclined to hold on to stuff just to be safe.

Putting clothes in color order is really easy and once you set it up the first time, you will be surprised at how automatic it will become for you to put a piece of clothing back in its spot.  Over time, things will get mixed up but if most of the items are in color order, it will just take a few minutes to sweep through and put everything back in place.

It doesn’t really matter how you colorize them.  Go the easiest route! You can think rainbow order or this is how I colorize: white, yellow, orange, coral, pink, red, light blue, blue, purple, brown, gray, black:


How to Outsmart Your Closet {Painless Closet Purging} The Creativity Exchange



I also put short sleeves in the front and long sleeves behind within each color.  Skirts front, pants behind.. Just like the stores do.

3) Final Closet Sweep

After I have neatened up the closet and put things back where they belong in color order, I then do a final sweep and look at clothes that I have an abundance of the same similar items.  For instance, if I now see that I have 10 white shirts, I try and see if I’m willing to part with any of them. Usually I don’t hesitate and I pull the older, dingier pieces.  Depending on if I’m ready to donate them or if I need to think about it more, I’ll either put them in the donate bag or the uncertain closet.

That’s it and then I’m done! !

Later on down the line when my uncertain closet is busting at the seams, I then purge it with the same method as above.  Because I haven’t missed most of the items that I put in that spot months ago, I have no problem donating most of them. I will admit, I still save a few items and when the time is right, I let these items go as well. I guess what happens is that I started the detachment process by getting them out my closet!  By getting them out of my closet, I realize that I can live without these things!

By the way, over the years of doing this, there have been very few times that I have put any of these items back in the closet.

Ok, so there is my little method for painless purging my closets!  I really hope that if you dread going through your closets, you will try a couple of these tricks.  There is no reason this job should be as hard as we make it out to be!  If you are looking for more little tricks for how to organize a closet, be sure and take a look at my post from last year “Favorite Tips and Tricks for Organizing a Closet and Free Printable Worksheet to Help”.

I’ll be back on Friday with a fun Friday Favorites!





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23 Responses to How to Outsmart, Purge and Organize a Closet Painlessly

  1. Laura says:

    LOVED this article. I am not sure if you remember when I was pregnant and having our basement finished and my closet colapsed. Well, we reattached the bars/shelves to the walls and I now have more closet space in the finished basement but for the most part my closet is still full to the brim. I am going to try your system. Thanks Cyndy!

    • sara shelby says:

      I love to colour coordinate the clothes. I lump all of my clothes and seasons together. It feels right to do this because the season is are all over the place with the cold and the warm weather clothes. It feels great to go in there and have everything in its place. Like a store.

  2. Cyndy says:

    Yes I remember! Try this Laura! There is just something psychological about getting that stuff out of your day to day closet that makes you more objective about that old stuff. Not sure what it is but when I go in to clean up my uncertain closet, I pretty much get rid of it all in minutes. Miss you girl!

  3. I just thoroughly cleaned the bedroom and bathroom, so the closet is next. I definitely love your method and this is one I think I can do. Great tutorial. Hugs, Marty

  4. Cindy says:

    I have so many closets that I need to purge…trying to get to it! I would really like to have my Spring cleaning done before Spring!
    Thanks for the tips 🙂

  5. Donna says:

    Hi Cyndy – I found you via Pinterest this morning. I’m overdue for my winter closet purging and organizing. I too, love an organized closet and have been colorizing mine for years. It works so well! I’m going to employ your idea of an Uncertain Closet. Perfect! Thanks for the tips.

  6. Casey says:

    I loved this post so much I included it in my series, Lots of Link Love! I hope you’ll come check it out, and maybe even share it with your readers!


  7. hsmominmo says:

    You’ve shared some terrific tips – thank you!

  8. Jona says:

    I found your blog as a friend of mine pinned your bedroom revamp – and I love it! I’ve now been stuck here for about an hour. Your blog is WONDERFUL! I love this post and wanted to share something that I found a while ago and did myself a couple of years ago and it has helped tremendously…. when you clean out your closet next time, turn all of the hangers backwards. As you wear and wash things, when you hang them back up, hang them the proper way. Next time you clean your closet, anything that’s still hanging backwards goes. Period. Don’t doubt it – just toss it!

    And I soooooo agree – don’t give your skinny clothes to your skinny friends. I’ve gotten the “yeah, it was too big” too and it does burn.

    Totally grabbing your share button for my new blog! Stop and see me!

    • Cyndy says:

      What a great idea Jona!! Sorry I am just now responding, I have been on vacation. I’m going to give the hanger trick a try! Brilliant! Thanks for stopping by Jona and for your kind words!!

  9. Tamara Linares says:

    Fist of all, the article made me laugh a lot. It’s just what I feel when purging my closets, PAIN, INDECISION…so good tips!! I trying this, now I have two more closets to clean up, mine and my babies closet. Thanks.

    • Cyndy says:

      Oh I am so glad that my little post made you laugh Tamara! I hope my little strange tips help take away the pain. It’s the only thing that makes this chore bearable! I am so glad that you stopped by a left me a note! Thank you!!

  10. Carmen Smith says:

    Oooo! Beautiful! May I ask where you got those shoe/scarf organizers from? 🙂

  11. Agusta says:

    I used to work for GOODWILL! PLEASE DON’T DONATE to them. Salvation Army is a much better organization. I learned things about Goodwill that everyone should know. Its shocking and disgusting the way they take advantage of peoples charity not to mention the manipulation. Please Please Please research them before supporting them on your page because people will listen to you and your advice! An Example of the huge difference: The president of the company hits on every cute girl and thought that telling me all about the 6 MILLION DOLLARS in his bank account thinking I’d be impressed. In comparison the guy who runs Salvation Army makes something like 20,000 a year.

    • Cathy says:

      That may be your experience in their Corporate HQ, but out here in the real world Goodwill is making a huge difference. They provide way more services than the general public is aware of, including programs for women, at-risk teens and veterans. I will continue to support them and sincerely hope others do, too!

  12. lalitha says:

    hey cindy,

    I can’t stop looking at that beautiful organized closet.. Its wonderful and you did it very nicely. Could you please tell me where to find those closet would be great help as I am trying to do the same for my son’s closet. Thanks alot for such a wonderful post.

  13. Céline says:

    Finally organisation tips that make sense in real life! Thank you!

  14. Cathy says:

    I just searched for tips on how to purge a closet, and yours are the most practical I’ve seen. I will let you know on Monday how successful my project turns out…I have no doubt it will!

  15. Susan says:

    Loved the article thanks! I am a huge Lilly Pulitzer lover (I saw some in your closet too) – how do you organize her items by color? With such crazy color patterns, especially the ones without a predominant color, I’m not sure how to sort. Thanks in advance!!

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