A Pro Organizer and Stylist’s Not-So-Daunting Guide to Decluttering Clothes

published Sep 22, 2023
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Credit: Sarah Crowley

Apartment Therapy’s Decluttering Cure is a free two-week decluttering program that’ll help you achieve a tidier home. Joining us today is guest cure-ator Iris Miyasaki, owner and founder of By Saki, an interior organizing and wardrobe styling business based in Seattle. Her mission is to curate beautiful spaces and wardrobes that align with her clients’ taste and By Saki’s high style standards.

Your closet is one of the first places you go to in the morning to select an outfit to wear for the day. The clothes you wear are more than just a fashion choice, though — they have the power to impact the way you look along with your mood. That’s because clothing is deeply personal. So when those items in your closet no longer fit who you are today, they shouldn’t hold a spot in your wardrobe

Let’s spend some time taking out the items that no longer serve you and keep the ones that do.

Day 5: Declutter your clothes.

Helping us with today’s assignment is Iris Miyasaki of By Saki. As a professional organizer and stylist, Miyasaki is incredibly knowledgeable about helping others decide what should and shouldn’t be in their closets. 

Miyasaki acknowledges that decluttering closets can feel daunting, even before you start, because the idea of going through everything is, well, a lot. But don’t fret, as Miyasaki has just the tips and tricks to help you declutter your closet efficiently and at a pace you can handle. 

But before decluttering clothes, Miyasaki actually suggests decluttering another thing. She says that trading in your mismatched hangers for matching ones can be a great fix in your closet. She prefers thin black velvet hangers, which you can get on Amazon or at Costco (or go for the winning hanger from our Organization Awards!) because it creates uniformity in the closet. “It eliminates the visual clutter because if you have the mismatched hanger, your eyes are being tricked … it just adds more visual cues for your brain to process so that makes choosing an outfit overwhelming,” she says. 

Now, when it comes to decluttering the closet, here’s what she recommends.

Manage your time.

Decide if you have enough time to go through one section, more than one, or your entire closet today. That choice is up to you, but Miyasaki recommends taking on only what you can do, not what you hope to do. 

Go through your things quickly.

Go through each piece separately and ask, “Have I worn this in the past year?” If the answer is yes, leave it. If the answer is no, put it aside in a bin and box it up for three to six months (or place it in your maybe outbox, which we’ll address sooner than that time frame). If you don’t miss anything from it, donate it. “More often than not, there are a lot of pieces you haven’t touched in a year,” says Miyasaki. “And I know we are coming out of the pandemic, but at this point ‘2022 you’ would have worn what ‘2023 current you’ would have.” 

Miyasaki says she does this trick a lot with her clients who don’t feel like they can let go of things just yet. If you keep it on the side, it’s out of sight and out of mind, and if you don’t remember it or look for it, you probably don’t need it. There are exceptions to this rule, such as special-occasion items (think: wedding or funeral wear). These items you may want to keep on hand anyway. For anything sentimental, keep those in one pile to take care of later (we’ll be addressing those in a couple of days!) 

Discover your personal style.

If you have more time or want to think about what you can do for the long term to minimize decluttering, Miyasaki shares that it’s best to hone in on your personal style. While she does recommend hiring a stylist, even for a one-hour consultation, she also says you can try these tricks: Try a color analyst or silhouette analyst or head to your local Nordstrom and try on clothing and work with their free stylists to determine what fits you best. 

Finally, the most important guidance Miyasaki can offer is to be kind to yourself. The decision fatigue can be intense as you go through each piece, Miyasaki says, so take it slow, and start with just one category. 

MIYASAKI’S PRO TIP: Looking for more of a challenge? When you go through each piece, instead of chucking all the nos into a bin for later, get creative and determine at least three different ways you’d style that piece or three different occasions you’d wear it to. If you can figure that out, it’s a keeper. If not, you can save it in the box to get to at another time or put it in your donate or sell outbox. 

What stood out as clear “yes” and “nos” for you in your closet? Tell us in the comments below. 

More ways to participate in the Decluttering Cure:

The Cure Program is a tradition here at Apartment Therapy — it happens every January, April, and September. Click here to learn more about the year-round program and when to sign up.