This Organizing Expert’s Technique Will Declutter Your Closet Efficiently (in Only 30 Minutes!) and Effectively

published Jan 10, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Apartment Therapy’s January Cure is a free 20-day program that’ll help you reset your home for the year ahead. Sign up here and get all assignments delivered to your inbox. Joining us today is guest cure-ator Cassandra Aarssen, the creator of Clutterbug, a philosophy and community dedicated to helping people discover their unique organizing style. 

There’s so much to deal with in the outside world, so your inner one, your home, should be a neutral zone where you’ll feel the most at ease. And yet, it’s easy to still let some negativity seep in, and surprisingly, it sets up shop right in your closet in the form of your clothing.

“Your closet is a really magical place because it affects your mood more than any other space in your home,” says Cassandra Aarssen, an organizing expert and the creator of Clutterbug

She explains that when you open up your closet and are confronted with items that no longer fit or don’t look good on you, that’s considered toxic clutter. It’s literally “bullying you.” That’s why decluttering the closet goes beyond making organizing and putting away laundry and getting ready in the morning easier — it’s an act of self-love.

You need to stand up to the bullies in your closet, and as our guest cure-ator for today’s task, Aarssen has the go-to technique that’ll stop them once and for all. 

Day 7: Do a 30-minute closet cleanout

For today’s task, we’re going to work on improving our closet with a 30-minute cleanout. Along with a timer, you’ll need to follow Aarssen’s tried-and-true technique that’ll make you act efficiently and honestly in this decluttering process. 

For starters, we’re not going to work on the entire closet, says Aarssen. It’s a “recipe for overwhelm.” Instead, this strategy allows you to work as much as you possibly can and resume another time — with no confusion at all. How?

“What you do is stand in front of your closet and grab one hanger,” says Aarssen. “You pull it out and ask yourself: ‘do I feel good in this today?’ — that’s it, that’s the only question and it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’” 

If your answer is no, you put it on the bed (we’ll address this later). If it is yes, you return it to the closet but turn the hanger backward. This allows you to see what has and hasn’t been touched. 

This simple move will make you move fast. You no longer have to be bogged down by the “what ifs,” just ask yourself one question and breeze through. Of course, if you feel like the item still makes sense — it’s a seasonal item, for instance — and brings positivity to your life, then you can toss it on the bed for now. But if the item only brings negative emotions, it’s time to let it go. 

Now for the items on the bed. Separate it into piles for keeping and donating. For the items you are getting rid of, put them in your outbox. For the items that are staying, you’ll want to store them away properly. Aarssen recommends under-the-bed storage (see here for our editor’s favorite!) or putting them up high or down low in your closet. 

You can allot your 30 minutes in several ways. You can spend the entire time going through your clothes or spend half the time addressing what’s on the bed. Or, you can declutter for 10 minutes, address what’s on the bed for 10 minutes, and spend the last 10 minutes tidying up (vacuuming debris and dust bunnies). Do whatever works with the size of your space! 

The best part is that this is a completely resumable task, so you can pick it up later since you already know what items were addressed in your closet thus far. 

AARSSEN’S PRO TIP: Letting clothing go can be difficult for some people, especially when it’s thrown in a garbage bag. This can make you feel the negativity of getting rid of something instead of the positivity, such as providing someone else with an item they need. When you donate items, consider putting them in clear bags and call them “gifting bags,” says Aarssen. This simple change is an effective tool in altering your mindset on decluttering. “When we call our clothing donation bags, gifting bags, we are so much more motivated to gift these beautiful clothes to someone in need than if we put them in a trash bag,” she says.

How far did you get in cleaning out the closet? Share with us in the comments below.

More ways to participate in the January 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.