How to Downsize Your Closet in 5 Easy Steps

When most of us think about our closets, thoughts of cleaning, downsizing, and decluttering comes to mind. That’s especially true if you’re moving from a larger home to a smaller one. Plus, if during that move you’re relocating to an area with a different climate, you have a more significant project ahead of you. Let’s dig in to see the top steps on how to downsize your closet and get everything in tip-top shape.


Step #1 Get Boxes, Bags, & Bins

Here’s an easy first step. Gather some empty plastic bags, boxes, and bins. Have several bags for trash and donations. If you have a lot of sweaters, the clear plastic stacking boxes are a wonderful way to store them safely.


Next, take a deep breath and realize that downsizing your closet will not be done in 2 hours. That’s especially true if you have outfits from 1982 hidden in the back of your wardrobe.


If you’re moving from your home into a new house, pack and label clothes from other seasons you’ll want to keep. Rather than hanging them back up, it’s much easier to pack them away now even if you’re not moving for a few months.


You’re also going to want to have a good idea of how much you need to downsize. When you’re moving into a smaller home, your closet space might be half the size of what you have. So, plan accordingly.


Step #2 Take Everything Out of Your Closet

Now comes the fun part. It’s time to take everything out of your closet. And we mean everything. It might be the first time you’ve seen this space empty since you moved in! Take your clothes out in sections and put them on your bed. Divide them into stacks for:

  • Tops - long sleeve, short-sleeve, sweaters, t-shirts
  • Pants - all pants, capris, shorts
  • Skirts - get every skirt you have
  • Dresses - pull all your dresses out
  • Jackets - from coats to blazers - put them all in a pile


Leave everything on your bed and move onto the next step. 


Step #3 Vacuum & Clean

Once you’ve gotten everything out of your closet, vacuum the entire floor, baseboards, and get any dust off the walls — wipe off the shelves with a damp rag. If you’re moving, decide which part of the closet you’re going to keep your clothes in until the move. Leave space on the floor and shelves to store boxes for the move.


The more work you do on organizing your closet, the easier it’s going to be to move. Plus, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for easier.


Step #4 Love It, or Not so Much?

Now it’s time to go back and take a look at the piles on the bed. To get as much done as possible, you’ll want to be able to sort things quickly.


TOSS - Have a big pile on the floor for items you’re going to throw out. This pile is different from the donate pile. If you find an item that’s torn, stained, ugly - throw it away. You’ll probably be surprised how many things you’ll see the need to be thrown away. But there’s a certain amount of freedom you’ll gain as the “toss” pile grows!


YES - This is the pile for the clothes and accessories that you love. Please make sure you try everything on first before you put it in a heap. You want to make sure it fits (or will soon if you're dieting) to save it. And if you're moving to a different climate (for example, Chicago to Florida), keep some of your current clothing for when you come back and visit. You don't want to have to buy a new parka because you tossed your current one that was perfectly good.


MAYBE - Can't decide? It's OK to have a small "maybe" pile. And we say small because the entire point of the project is to downsize. But if you find that you can't decide - put it in a "maybe" pile. Give yourself a week and go through the stack again.


When you're trying on everything, make sure you're asking yourself these questions:

  • Does it fit?
  • Does it go with my other clothes?
  • Is it flattering?


If the answer is yes, you can put it back in your closet or pack it for the move.


SOMEONE ELSE - Just because you can’t wear it anymore doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t look great on someone else. You might have a few different piles in stacks for:

  • Friends
  • Relatives
  • Charity
  • To sell


Be honest. If it doesn’t fit, don’t worry about it. If you’re going to lose weight, keep the item for the future.


Step #5 Hang & Pack

Now that you've gone through everything in your entire closet pat yourself on the back. That's quite an accomplishment. Hang back what you're going to wear before the move.


If you have floor space, stack boxes that you're going to move. Make sure each box is labeled, so you'll know what's in it. For example:

  • Winter sweaters
  • Summer tops
  • Purses


We hope these five tips on how to downsize your closet have been helpful and motivating. For more useful hints, visit our Del Webb page on downsizing.



Contributed to The 55+ Society by Carol Youmans

Looking for more Society tips and learnings? Return Home here.

Published 2.11.2020

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