There are just two basic ways to deal with clutter, including clothing: get rid of it, or organize it. Most people need to do some of both when it comes to clothing.

Decide What To Get Rid Of

Prepare by arming yourself with three large boxes or garbage bags plus a laundry basket, using a 3-container variation of the Clear the Clutter Strategy. Designate one bag or box to hold items for each of these means of disposal:

  • Garbage
  • Give away/donate
  • Yard sale or resale/consignment shop (If you’re not planning to sell anything, you’ll only need two containers.)

Items that belong to someone else or belong in other rooms should go in the laundry basket. For example, you discover a pair of your child’s socks mixed in with your stuff.

The first step in dealing with clothing should be to place like items together (See A Home for Every Item for more on this strategy). In this case, group items by type and then by color. For example, gather all your pants or trousers. Then group them by color. Now, apply Clear the Clutter Strategy: Examine and try on each piece of clothing, then make a decision: keep it or not? If not, place it in one of the containers. And what about the clothes that you’re keeping? They will go back in your closet or drawer—but not yet. You may need to check which items can be worn together, so leave them out where they will be handy until you’ve gone through their potential mates.

You may want to leave out only clothing that is in season. You can reduce the clutter in your bedroom closet by storing out-of-season clothes in a box or another closet. When you switch your clothing at the change of the season, it’s a perfect time to sort through and dispose of clothing that you no longer want.

Organize What You Keep

Here are tips for organizing different types of clothing.

  • Hanging clothes
    Group clothing by type, such as shirts or blouses together, suits and coordinates, dresses, and slacks.
  • Drawers
    Use shallow drawers for smaller items such as socks and lingerie or underwear.
  • Shoes
    If you’re considering any sort of shoe organizer (an over-the-door plastic organizer, a wooden shoe rack, etc.) make sure that the organizer will accommodate the size and type of shoes you wear. Some organizers can’t accept high heels, others may have slots too narrow for “clunky” styles or men’s shoes. Shoes can easily be stored in their original boxes or in purchased clear plastic shoe boxes. Using original boxes is easier if you place a wide white label on the end of each box and write a short description of the shoes inside, such as “Navy loafers” or “brown suede flats.” Using a label is especially important if you have stored box-less shoes in a different shoe box.


Make a list of clothing items that you need and carry it in your wallet or on your electronic organizer. Refer to it when you’re shopping, to help you focus on purchasing planned items rather than spontaneous choices that may not match other items in your wardrobe.

Special Situations

If you have clothing of different sizes that you feel you must keep, you can use a couple of different approaches to keep them separated. Keep only those items in the size you are currently wearing in the most accessible drawers or sections of your closet. Clothing that you can’t wear at the moment should be clearly separated from those you are currently wearing. You can designate specific drawers for them, or put a divider of some type in your closet. Or, you can simply store them in a clear plastic box with a label, such as “size 10” or “small clothes.”