What’s behind your closet door? Orderly rows of shoes, stacks of folded t-shirts and hanging clothes arranged by color and season? Or do you have a situation that could be declared a national disaster?


If the latter, you could ask the President for federal disaster relief funds. But knowing you would feel guilty taking funds from hurricane and tornado victims, here are simple steps to find calm in all that chaos. By the way, these same principles for organizing a clothes closet apply to linen and utility closets, too.

STEP ONE: Remove everything. This lets you see exactly the space you have to work with. Prepare to be shocked by the pile of stuff that came out of that closet. Dust, scrub, clean, vacuum—even paint as necessary and appropriate.

STEP TWO: Now that you can see the light of day, give that closet a good cleaning from top to bottom. Follow with a fresh coat of white paint.

STEP THREE: Separate the items you removed. Most people hate this step because it means getting get rid of everything you do not use or wear. But there’s no way you could get all of this back into the closet, so buck up and let’s get this job done. Label three containers:

Keep: Put only items into this bin that you have worn or used at least twice in the past year. Be brutally harsh. If it doesn’t fit today, it’s not likely to fit any time soon. Get rid of it. If in doubt, do not put it into this bin. 

Sell or Donate: Clothes and other items that are not right for you (as evidenced by the fact that you never wear them) but still have a useful life for someone else should go into this bin. What you consider ugly may be perfectly acceptable to someone else. Take them to a consignment store or arrange soon to hold a yard sale. Consider donating your good used items to the Salvation Army or Goodwill. You may get a tax break but more than that, you will feel good. Put all of these items in the garage or back of the car.

Throw Away: Clothes and shoes that are worn out, hopelessly stained, broken or in some other state of calamity go into this bin. Work quickly to ease the pain. Empty this bin often to keep the process moving.

STEP FOUR: Divide the Keep bin by season, type and use. If possible, store out-of-season items in another place in your home. Next, separate your work or professional clothes from your casual attire. Now divide each pile into common-wear and infrequent-wear, arranging them so the items you wear most often are the most handy.


STEP FIVE: Use closet organizers. At the minimum you need a sturdy shoe rack, good hangers and shelves in addition to your standard hanging rod. Investing in a few good organizational pieces will make organizing your closet—and keeping it that way—a snap!

And now it is time for me, your humble columnist, to step into the confessional booth.

For the past few weeks I have been dealing with the heartbreak of a completely unorganized, disheveled, mess of a closet. No, make that nine months. Yes and I am talking about since the day we moved into our new home in Colorado. As part of our move-in, I did a dump and run move with my closet. About three weeks ago I came to the end of my mental rope. Enough. This has to change.

For those of you thinking these five steps may sound good but are totally unrealistic—I’m living them. Right now. And they’re working!

I’ll be posting pictures and going into more detail in a coming issue of Debt-Proof Living Weekly Newsletter. There you go, just one more reason to become a DPL member!


Photo credit: CBS The Big Bang Theory, “The Closet Reconfiguration,” Season 6, Episode 19

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