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In this blog, I will show you multiple tips on how to clean your messy closet as doing so has many benefits for you. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I recently returned from spending the winter in California.  I’m now officially considered to be a “snowbird”.  That means since retiring in December my hubby and I  spend the cold winter months in a warm spot.  

Messy closet clean-up

It’s very fun but from a practical perspective, this makes for a LOT of packing, unpacking, and organizing closets in TWO homes.  And to complicate matters even more right after we returned from the west I promptly got really sick for a whole week!!  So be kind when you look below and see my “before” photo of my very messy closet.  Remember I retired on December 18 (which meant I brought home all my 35-year dermatology career supplies), celebrated Christmas, packed up everything for California, and headed out on December 26!  So when we returned to Chicago on May 10 this is what my closet looked like.  

Steps for How to get inspired to clean your messy closet

1. Get inspired to organize this space.  I think that to organize one’s closet you need to first imagine what you want the space to look like upon completion of the task.  I believe a closet overhaul is a big weekend project.  

Take a few moments to look online at various closets on Pinterest.  This will help you to have visual ideas and possible desired endpoints.  Also, turn on some happy music and make yourself a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine.  The goal here is to make this process as fun as possible.

2. Get the Messy Closet ready. 

Take a good look at your space.  Although I have a lifelong habit of organizing my closet twice yearly (once for spring/summer and once for fall/winter) I never really looked hard enough at my closet to realize how dark it was.  

My husband came to the rescue recently by checking both overhead light fixtures.  Sure enough, we had several burned-out bulbs.  He replaced these with brighter LED lights and voilà the space was much more inviting.  

If your space can’t readily accommodate a brighter overhead fixture consider bringing in a bright inexpensive floor lamp that can be plugged in.  Trust me bright lighting will be inspiring as it will allow you to see into all those pesky corners as well as improve how items look when you try them on.

3. Get yourself ready for the task of cleaning the messy closet.

I believe this step to be critical to the creative process of messy closet organizing.   This step may seem unnecessary and counterintuitive.  That said I recommend you now take the time to put on a great-fitting bra, a nice-fitting nude cami, leggings, and light makeup.  

I suggest all this because  I then recommend trying on anything you’re not sure how it fits currently.  By making yourself up a bit pre-closet cleaning you will give yourself the best shot at evaluating whether an item still works for you or should be moved out of your closet altogether. 

4. Divide your stuff into fall/winter and spring/summer 

Move all the fall/winter clothing including scarves/ purses/gloves, etc. that you only use then to a different closet.  That way you can just concentrate on spring/ summer looks. 

Sorting tools:    

Gather three large white garbage bags.  Label them: “throw away”, “give away”, and “repair”.  This is important because if you get interrupted you want to know what’s where to decrease your stress.

5. How to sort your stuff in your messy closet:

Take every item out of your closet and pile them on your bed.  Sort everything into the three piles or if they are clear “keeper items”  put them back in your closet now. As you put these pieces of clothing away, sort them by categories.  I have a section for exercise wear, blouses, tunics, dresses, skirts, pants, camis, tanks, fun casual tops, jackets, and sweaters.

 6. “Throw away” pile

 The “throw-away” pile is the easiest as it’s anything stained or torn or too worn out for anyone else. 

7. The “Giveaway” pile  

The “giveaway” pile is trickier.  Here’s where you need to be firm with yourself and decide if you haven’t worn it in the past year it’s probably time to go in that bag.  Also if you did wear it but always felt uncomfortable or unattractive in it, give it away.  I know this seems harsh but try and just learn from the experience.  Figure out what you didn’t like about it so you won’t repeat this mistake.  Also as I try on all these items while deciding their fates I look critically at the length and fit.  If something has potential, and I like it, but needs to be altered I put it in the “repair” pile.

8. The “repair” pile

The “repair” pile consists of items that need a button sewn on, a loose hem fixed, or possibly shortened, etc.  It also includes anything that needs to be dry-cleaned.  

9. My Favorite Tip!

Keep a pen and pad of paper handy.  Label it “Spring/Summer 2024.” During the sorting process, I frequently come up with new ideas for outfits especially when I’m trying various items on. I write all these outfits down on this pad.  I also write down outfits that I remembered happily wearing previously but may have forgotten about.  I keep this list of outfits in my closet in a folder to use whenever I feel like I have “nothing to wear”.  I also pull this list out when I’m planning clothing for a trip.  And when I see an outfit online or at the mall that I love I write down the look using items I know I have in my closet.

As you’re writing down your inspired outfits, keep a running list of items that you need to finish a look. Put this list in your phone to take with you or have nearby when you’re shopping online or at the mall. You’ll be so happy when you get home and realize how you can successfully wear your “new” look.

10. Critical Steps

Right now take all the “throw away pile” to the trash. Put the “giveaway pile” in the car to drop off at Goodwill or another recipient’s locale. Lastly, drop off the “repair pile” at the cleaners for those repairs. DO NOT LEAVE THESE PILES IN YOUR HOUSE! COMPLETE THE EXERCISE!

11. Now sit back and relax!  

Give yourself a huge pat on the back for getting all your clothes sorted and organized! Enjoy the new freedom of a clean closet where you know where everything is and where it all belongs.

Now a photo of a section of my clean closet seeing all the white jeans next to all the dark pants, etc.  Beautiful!

 12. And now what?   

Stay tuned for “Messy Closet Clean-up Part Two”.  That’s where I’ll show you how to sort, straighten, and organize your purses, shoes, boots, scarves, and jewelry.

Thanks for reading!


Dr. Julie

PS Please follow me on Instagram @drjuliemarshall. And if you haven’t already, please subscribe to my blog. Lastly, please share this article with anyone who might need a bit of closet help.

PPS If you want more closet ideas for your messy closet check out these posts:

Organizing My Messy Closet Using A Hallmark Movie!

How to Shop Your Closet, Really!

Savvy Shopping Tips for The Basics

How to Wear a White Blazer Six Ways

Dermatologist Advice for Anti-Aging Products

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