Closet Clean-Out

Photography by Abby Murphy

Compiled by Lizz Luckhart Schleifer

Lizz Luckhart Schleifer, a mother of three and owner of Lizz Luckhart Designs, invited us inside her closet (brave woman) to show us how to declutter, decorate, decompress and face the new year with more time, some extra cash and a renewed sense of style. Follow Lizz’s tips and you’ll always know where to find your favorite shirt and your prized pair of jeans. You can avoid duplicate purchases and make fewer trips to the dry cleaners. Here are her eight step-by-step tips to declutter your closet and a breakdown for how to tackle the hard stuff:

  1. Gather your closet organization supplies, including a “toss” basket and a tape measure to measure shelving and hanging space.
  2. Empty your closet of all contents – clothing, shoes, closet organizers, etc.
  3. Clean your closet. Dust the shelving and hanging rods. Vacuum or Swiffer the floor, and start with a clean space!
  4. Donate, recycle or sell the clothing items, shoes and accessories you no longer need.
  5. Assess your closet storage solutions to make sure they fit your closet space and work with your clothing, shoes and accessories.
  6. Organize your clothing, shoes and accessories and put back into your closet by grouping similar items and moving your most worn items into your closet’s prime real estate.
  7. Come up with a plan to keep your closet organized so it never becomes a breeding ground for clutter again.                                                                                                                       8. Decorate your closet. Treat it like any other room in your home.


Love it or Leave It
After you’ve gathered your supplies and cleaned out your closet, it’s time to make some decisions. This is the part you’ve either been looking forward to or dreading. Some people fear decluttering because they love to hold on to things they “may need one day” or that “used to fit/be in style.” Focus on what to keep rather than what you’re getting rid of.

Separate your clothes into four distinct piles:

  • Keep: Anything you love and wear often.
  • Consign: In order to sell or consign items, your clothing, shoes and accessories must be in good shape. Most consignment stores prefer name brands.
  • Donate: These items should be in good shape. Think “gently used” when adding to this pile.
  • Trash: Clothing to trash would include anything stained beyond repair, ripped or hopelessly out of style.

When you’re deciding whether to keep something, it’s helpful to ask these questions:

1) Do you love it?
2) Do you wear it?
3) Does it project the image you want to portray?

If the answer is “yes” to all three, then you can place that item into the “Keep” pile. Remember, the 80/20 rule. You only wear 20 percent of what is in your closet, so keep only what you love.

If you’re having a hard time, create a “maybe” pile. Put your maybe pile into a bin and revisit it a few months later. If you never thought about wearing these items, you can confidently donate or consign them. If you’re really struggling, consider hiring a professional. Or invite a friend over and “pay” her with wine to help pare down your wardrobe.

Make the Most of Your Space
Closet storage solutions aren’t going to create more space in your closet; however, closet organizers, storage solutions and closet systems can help to make more storage space accessible to you. Examples:

  • A step stool will make it easier for you to reach the top shelves of your closet.
  • A double hang will make better use of horizontal storage space in the closet.
  • An over-the-door shoe rack can turn your door into the perfect place to store shoes, accessories or both.

You might be tempted to throw your hands up, pull out your credit card and buy an expensive closet system. Don’t. Measure the space, assess what you already have, and plan your closet accordingly. Buy only what you need to store your clothes and repurpose what you already own, if possible. Small bookcases, cubbies and baskets are great for storing handbags, shoes, accessories and gym clothes.

Organize Your Clothes, Shoes and Accessories
This is where you put everything back together in a way that makes sense to you, uses all of your available space and is attractive enough to motivate closet maintenance. Think about where it makes sense to store each category of clothing, and then think about the easiest spots to reach in your closet.

Group Like with Like: Gather belts, sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, work pants, dresses, button-down shirts, jeans, shorts — you get the idea — and decide the best place to store each item as a group (for example, hang pants in closet, fold and stack sweaters in a bureau). Working in groups of items will help you figure out how much space you need and the best way to store each type of item.

Properly Use Prime Real Estate: Reserve the front and middle of your closet for clothes you wear most often. If you have to get dressed for work each morning at 6 a.m., make sure your work clothes are at the front of your closet. Lesser-worn items like formal wear and out-of-season clothing should be stored toward the back and on the upper shelves.

Tuck Away Least-Used Items: Use the very top of your closet for out-of-season items and stuff you wear only a few times a year, such as Halloween costumes and super-fancy shoes.

Give It Some Personality
Treat your closet (no matter what size) as if it’s another room in your house.

  1. If there is a window, add curtains.
  2. Always have a full-length mirror.
  3. Invest in quality hangers. Velvet ones save room and look great.
  4. Add a rug to give it some personality.
  5. Ottomans! You can sit down to put on your shoes. Plus, use an ottoman that has storage to hide off-season wardrobe items!