The Messy Girl's Guide To Cleaning Out Your Closet

by J R
New Line Cinema

As Anna Kendrick's live-tweeting showed us, cleaning out your closet can be both challenging and cathartic.

It's challenging in that you often get distracted, talking yourself into keeping things you know you need to ditch and just generally dragging out the whole process.

But the catharsis follows your successful purge, leaving your closet — and mind — feeling healthier and clutter-free.

Sorting through clutter isn’t something we do just so we don’t get crushed in an avalanche of old shoes; we do it because it’s also good for our emotional well-being.

Decluttering forces us to cleanse, be ruthless and cull all the meaningless crap from our lives.

The organization of your possessions can also act as a type of emotional feng shui, and it often says a lot about a person’s character.

Here are a few types of people who find their own personal solace in "organized chaos."

The messy but clean

This person has items draped over the back of her couch, on her bed and any other clean surface she can find.

She changes outfits about five times every morning before committing to something, leaving crumpled (but clean) clothes on the floor of the closet, showing an indecisiveness and boredom with her wares.

The messy and dirty

This person picks out outfits on the basis of “what smells the least?” Instead of washing the sauce stain out of her shirt, she will just wear a jumper over it in the meantime.

Crumpled clothes on the floor are dirty and reek of BO and perfume, showing a carelessness and lack of love for her wares.

Looks tidy but is actually messy

Things appear to be on hangers, but on closer inspection, they are all hung inside out and back to front. Shoes may not be scattered carelessly around the house, but they form a growing pile on the floor of the closet.

Necklaces are knotted together in a giant shiny ball, and everything in the drawers is scrunched and creased. But who cares? The illusion of order is more important than practicality.


This hoarder has kept everything, including her prom dress, Halloween costumes, worn jumpers of former boyfriends and a motley crew of jewelry that was bought for $3 at various store counters.

Her closet is chaotic and frightening, which she knows.

Her judgement is clouded by sentiment, and as a result, she genuinely believes her world will fall apart if she throws away the dress she wore to her cousin’s wedding, even though it doesn’t fit and is ugly as sin.


This person either really hates shopping, is broke as hell or is on the run from someone, so she keeps her possessions limited, in order to pack and bolt within 10 seconds, if necessary.

Sure, minimal can work, but the lack of variety also means things get worn faster, leaving her not only with 10 items of clothing, but 10 very drab, once-white-and-now-grey, hanging-by-a-thread items of clothing.

The immaculately tidy closet

Everything is hung the right way, sitting neatly on matching hangers. Clothes are always clean, always ironed and virtually all items are beloved and worn regularly.

She is perfect. She doesn't actually exist, but we should aspire to be her, anyway.


This person lives out of her laundry basket. She needs this article more than anyone.

If you want to do things properly, the first step in your closet overhaul is clearing it out.

Take everything off the hangers and dump it in a pile. And when I say everything, I mean absolutely everything, even the items you're convinced will stay.

From there, you can take it in rounds.

Round 1: Cut the crap

If it has holes, is ill-fitting, pilly, a weird color, an itchy material, scrunches up in weird places or is the wrong size (I don’t care if you plan to lose weight to fit into it), ditch it. It’s that simple. Get rid of crappy clothes.

Also, get rid of clothes you keep for sentimental purposes. (You don’t need your deceased grandmother’s locket, if you think it’s hideous and tacky.)

Don't forget your accessories, too. Any bags, scarves and jewelry that spends more time hanging in your house than outside needs to go.

Anything you haven’t worn in the last 12 months needs to go. Keeping things because you “might” wear them again at some point isn’t a good enough reason for them to stay.

You wouldn’t keep up a relationship you’re not interested in because you “might” love the person again, and clothes are no different!

This is the most important round, and if you cut corners here, the whole process is doomed.

Round 2: Confront indecision

If you’re not sure, ditch it. Any uncertainty you have about an item shows you are not 100 percent committed to keeping it, and if that’s case, you won’t miss it when it’s gone.

There will also be items you've talked yourself into keeping. These are items that should have been ditched in round one, but your clinginess has got the better of you.

Ask yourself this: If you were out on the street wearing this outfit, and you bumped into a young Marlon Brando type, a she-devil from your high school or a celebrity you admire, how would you feel?

Mortified? Self-conscious? Confident?

If it doesn’t conjure up a positive adjective for you, get rid of it.

Round 3: Out with the new

Almost everyone will have something in her closet she has only worn once or maybe never at all.

Many of these people will also be keeping that item only because of the guilt they feel for wasting money on such a thing.

While it's hard to let go of pricey items, having them sitting there and being ignored isn’t getting your money’s worth.

However, handing them to a thrift store to make some money back is a better use. On the most basic level, clothes are meant to be worn. So if you’re not doing that, what's its purpose in your life?

Round 4: Presentation

Now that you’ve kept the best items, make sure you display them with the love and care they deserve. Not only will it make them last longer, but it will make them more appealing. You’ll want to wear them more.

Organize items in sections (hang all your coats together, skirts, blouses, etc.) so it’s easier to find what you’re looking for. Hang things the right way out and not scrunched up in a drawer. Don’t cram.

Consider getting a shoe rack to save space, and definitely purchase matching wooden hangers. They will make you feel like a real grown up, in the same way having an accomplished spice rack and displaying art in frames instead of taping it to the wall does.

Round 5: Plan Ahead

Make a list of the kind of clothes you like and dislike. Document a color palette you are confident in, fabrics you hate, styles that suit you and style icons you want to emulate.

Make a list of staple items. And if you’re spending a lot of money in stores, make sure it’s on these things, as you’ll get the most bang for your buck.

For me, these items are black flats, a plain white tee, a plain black dress and a black cardigan. (I'm basically a witch.) These items are always in circulation for me, so they need pretty regular replacement.

You should consider buying them as keeping your style healthy; it's like getting your split ends trimmed. If your basics get old and gross, they drag the whole look down. But if they’re crisp and new, they can pull any look together.

Also, avoid bargain bins and trend items in the future. They won’t make it in the long haul, and they will simply be something you purge in your next decluttering session.

Be strong, be ruthless, and make sure that if you're undecided, you err on the side of ditch it rather than keep it.

Cleaning out your closet may seem like a daunting task, but if you’re strict and honest with yourself, it can act as a kind of therapy.

It will help you enjoy your clothes again and sharpen your style. Go on, make Anna Kendrick proud!