Dealing With Closet Clutter – How We Pared Down

For those of you who joined us in tackling our collective closet clutter this weekend, how’d it go? We’re proud to say that our weekend wrapped up with less unnecessary stuff crammed behind closed doors and more room to fill with impending baby goods (or things that later get offset by baby goods and need a new home). We’ve got a lot to recap, so we’re starting with what happened in the master bedroom and will follow up with details about the other two closets that we tackled later this afternoon. Can you handle the excitement? Hold on to your (pared down) hats.

As I revealed on Friday, my closet had been looking quite sloppy due mostly to a growing collection of t-shirts (thank you 10K races) and general folding laziness.

So I literally took everything out to evaluate what I still needed and what had been long forgotten. I guess that’s step one: clear things out so you can really see what you’re dealing with. Here’s a look at my empty drawers… well, except for the one that literally contains my drawers. I figured you didn’t need (or want) to see that step.

That glimpse of t-shirt piles in the corner of the photo above is just the beginning. Check out exactly how many shirts I found hiding in there. I can’t tell whether it felt more like a clown car or the male version of Sherry’s shoe collection. (In her defense she claims she’s now “in recovery” for that addiction and only has two pairs of jeans to offset the shoe to clothing ratio. It’s true she really is a minimalist in all non-shoe areas).

Anyway, once everything was out, I basically categorized it into four piles:

  • General-wear t-shirts (since button-down work shirts remained hung up throughout the process- although I whittled those down too)
  • Shirts for working out/running
  • Shirts for doing house projects (like those above, just with more paint splatters)
  • Shirts to donate

We learned a while back that you don’t need that many “home improvement/painting” clothes, just one outfit for warm weather and one outfit for cold weather (and a belt, see more about that here). So just because you have ten old ratty shirts with paint on them doesn’t mean it takes ten ratty paint stained shirts to work on your house- you probably only need one or two. Anyway, with all the categorization done, and each stack pared down it was time to neatly fold the keeper shirts (as well as my far slimmer collection of shorts & pants) and put them back in their proper places.

Which not only left me with a pared down and better sorted drawer situation, but also freed up an entire shelf above the drawers that was now barely being used. Three cheers for already achieving some bonus storage space for the potential bambino stuff that will supposedly overtake every available nook an cranny! Plus I got a pretty decent donation pile out of the deal.

Sidenote: Surprise! There was a dog hiding back there this whole time.

We actually sorted all of our reject clothing/stuff by dividing it into these categories:

  • Donate
  • Trash (for things that were just too grody or useless to donate)
  • Return to friends & family (we actually found a lot of borrowed books and things that we were happy to pass back to their rightful owners)
  • Pay it forward (we also found a few things that we knew one of our friends or family members would love, so instead of donating those items we actually resolved to giving them a second life through someone we know)

I also managed to tidy up the top shelf of my closet which contained an out-of-sight, out-of-mind collection of junk… including more shirts (hey, at least I’m consistent):

Now it’s virtually empty, with the exception of some mess-wrangling shoeboxes (c’mon, a guy’s gotta keep old cassette tapes from his high school band concerts somewhere, right? Just kidding… sort of). And if I wanted to be swanky, I could actually pick up a bunch of matching bins or baskets from Ikea to corral my stuff instead (and a few to leave empty in anticipation of other items to store someday). That would look pretty nice actually. Maybe I’ll upgrade the next time we find ourselves in our favorite Swedish superstore.

So to recap: my closet went from this…

…to this:

Sherry’s closet was far from disastrous at the start of all of this, so there’s not much of a before/after story there. But she did purge a bunch of clothes/jewelry/shoes that she hadn’t touched in a while (not just because of the baby bump, but even before that). In fact here’s our final spread of donation items just from our closets (along with some “return to their rightful owner” and “pay it forward” piles – which always feel just as good to shed). We did, however, decide to hang on to the sleeping chihuahua.

But since I know ladies have a thing for looking in other ladies’ closets, I’ll give you some obligatory “after” shots of Sherry’s side of the bed anyways (you can snoop around and see way more on this old closet crashing post of yore):

Oh, and before we leave the bedroom, I should point out that Sherry also cleared out a bunch of stuff from our “bonus” closet – i.e. the only original, single closet in our room – which is now home to a few of my suits and dress pants along with Sherry’s non maternity clothes (while her bedside wardrobe has the stuff she wears on a day to day basis). Notice those two 100% empty top shelves? Like a breath of fresh air I tell ya.

In the end, we felt very accomplished. Not only did our closets get tidier, but we freed up about four shelves for storing whatever new stuff comes our way. And we were able to haul off a pretty stuffed bag of clothes and accessories to a local donation drop box (along with returning stuff to our friends and family and even dropping off some books at a neighborhood book store) to complete the bedroom closet purge.

And even though we’ve got a lot more closet cleaning coming atcha later today, we can’t wait any longer to hear how your weekends of de-cluttering went. Were you able to pare down your wardrobe? Or re-discover some pieces you already owned (which you’ll now be wearing instead of storing under piles of other stuff)? Any advice to pass along to those who weren’t able to tackle this spring cleaning task yet? Let’s talk about your favorite tips and tricks when it comes to clearing out those closets (or junk drawers, or kitchen cabinets). Oh and if you’ve got photos to share from your own closet cleaning adventures, jump over to our Facebook page to post them for the rest of us to oooh and aaaah over. Fun, fun, fun.

Psst- Want a closet look at closet organization here at Casa Petersik? Check out this post on the subject. And to learn how we brainstormed and installed those two built-in wardrobes on either side of the bed, click here for the full story.


  1. AbbyW says

    Due to our upcoming renovation (which you have received copious text messages about….sorry!), we’ll be doing a lot of closet cleaning in the next 2 weeks also. This is inspiring!

  2. Cristina says

    my mother always told me:
    “shooes and clothes never in the same closet”

    well.. but you know, she’s swiss..


  3. Becky G. says

    I joined your closet clearing project last weekend! It always feels good to purge – I try to do it twice a year.

    I hung on to some things the last time that I probably shouldn’t have, and got rid of them this time. I think that is a good tip – if you are struggling with getting rid of an item, put it in a prominent place and if you still don’t wear/use it, it’s time to get rid of it.

    I also threw out a lot of my plain black and white tees that I wear under everything and replaced with new ones from Target. I think everyone should do that annually!

    I skipped the shoes, though. Not enough time, I guess. My husband is starting a little shoe collection of his own, so we’ll both have to go through and weed out the overused/underused.


  4. Becky G says

    BTW, we do have a closed devoted to special occasion clothing and all of our shoes. It’s in the guest room, and I have to say, it’s tough having them separate.

  5. Vanessa L says

    It looks great! We moved recently, so we didn’t have closets to pare down since we did that during the move, but yesterday I did organize the spare bedroom that we’re using as storage, it looks so much nicer!

  6. Amanda V says


    Where can I find nice wooden hangers on the cheap? I saw some velum? covered ones at TJ Maxx, but are wood ones better for your clothing?


    • says

      We love our wood ones, we got in bulk from Linens N Things (which sadly is no longer around in the brick & mortar version) but they do have an online store which might have them:

      If not Ikea has them for a great price. We would definitely recommend the wood ones since we love them but of course it’s all personal preference so if you want something thinner there are other options out there that might work better for you. We find that we don’t get those annoying shoulder dents like we used to with thinner plastic and wire ones. And of course it looks nice to have matching hangers so that’s a little bonus. Hope it helps!


  7. says

    I cleaned my side of the closet. It was looking a bit like John’s. My husband’s side of the closet always looks spit-spot. I have a group of girls coming to visit soon, so I am going to let them see if they want anything and then take the rest to charity. Feels great!

    p.s. I have a Burger question. How do you get your little guy to lay on the bed and not get into all of the stuff you have piled up? Our dog steals/attacks all pillows, blankets, and other random things so I would like to know your secret!

    • says

      If we’ve been wearing something and then take it off and place it on the bed (like a sweater or something) Burger is ON IT pretty much immediately. But for some reason the clatter of us tearing into our closets and placing a ton of stuff on the bed seemed to deter him, so he was content just to prop himself on a pillow and watch instead of “help” (which involves walking through or laying down upon every pile we make).


  8. Maggie S. says

    Closet organization is like therapy to me. If something is bothering me, I focus my attention on the closet clutter and when I’m done it gives me a new perspective on the issue at hand.

    As far as my clothes closet goes, my sister-in-law is the same size I am, so we revamp our closets each season by trading pieces we’re tired of. We call it “closet shopping.”

    Love the blog, it’s helped me believe that real people can turn a fixer-upper into a great looking house without breaking the bank.

  9. says

    Like Maggie, organizing is definitely a therapy when I am frustrated. When I go through my clothes and pare them done, I ask myself “Have I worn in in the past year? Will I wear it in the next 6 months?” If the answer is no, then it’s time to go :)

    And, like the detail oriented art teacher that I am, I have all of my clothes organized by color. I’ll have to take some pictures and post them to facebook :)

  10. Katie G. says

    Okay, I’ll admit it. I didn’t do any closet cleaning this weekend. But I DO have a question for you (or anyone else who can answer):

    What do you do with your bags?? You know, those free tote-bags you collect from various conferences/company parties, suitcases, green shopping bags, etc. The entire top shelf of one of our closets is completely consumed by these zippered bags (most of them very nice) that we use for carry-ons while traveling, quick overnight trips, holding my laptop, etc. I hate to get rid of any of them (maybe that’s my problem??) because they’ve all been useful at different times, but I can’t stand having them piled up on that top shelf. When I try to grab one, they all come tumbling down.

    Any tips??



    • says

      Katie G- Our tip would be to pick the one or two that you use most and like best and then just donate the rest. We have one laptop zipper bag like that (and have probably received ten from conferences, etc) but unless you do lots of traveling with ten bags on your arms all at once it just makes sense to pick the best one for the job and let go of the rest, right? I know it’s not always easy to do though…

      Christin- This post and the comments on this post should help. We’re just minimalists by nature (probably since we lived in cramped NYC apartments where we couldn’t store a thing) but we know it doesn’t come as easily to most people. Hopefully those posts help!


  11. Christin says

    You guys are amazing. I feel like your formerly messy closets are still way nicer than my normal closets! I couldn’t join you in the purging and organzing weekend, but it’s on my radar to do soon. I generally go through my clothes twice a year: when I take my winter/fall clothes out of storage and put the spring/summer wear in storage and the other way around too – which is slowly coming! We have precious little closet space in our apartment. We use under the bed stroage containers for off season clothing, sheets, etc. My husband and I both love clothing and shoes. We’re pretty good about when we buy a new piece of clothing, or pair of shoes, we have to get rid of an item we already had. We’ve done a decent job of down sizing, but we still have so much stuff sometimes I don’t know what else to do to pare down. We still have stuff stored at our parents houses! (To be fair, it’s mostly my hubby’s larger tools and washer and dryer that we couldn’t have in our apartment). I’m sure you’ve done a post on this before, but how do you guys do it – paring down so well and still have everything you need? Can’t wait for the next closet post this afternoon! :)

  12. says

    Your closets look great!

    I did a major clean-out and organization of my son’s closet a few weeks ago, and all that new calm and order has been *heaven*! We installed one of those Rubbermaid closet systems to try and make the most of the available space. Now my son (22 months) can reach his clothes on a low hanging shelf AND there’s room for a lot of his toys on higher shelves.

    I’ll post pics over on your Facebook page!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *