How to Declutter Your Closet and Clear Your Mind for the New Year

Words by Brandi Fowler

Photo by Nugroho Wahyu.

When you get rid of things you don’t need, it not only detoxes your home, but can feel like a reset for your mind, too. And the perfect time for that reboot is at the top of a new year.

As we kick off 2022, many of us are attempting to declutter our living spaces, free ourselves from the things that no longer serve us, and step into the new year with a more organized atmosphere and a clearer mind. If you’re looking around your home and feeling a little overwhelmed about how to start that process, though, you’re not alone.

A survey conducted by the National Association for Professional Organizers found that “54 percent of America is overwhelmed by the amount of clutter they have, but 78 percent have no idea what to do with it or find it too complicated to deal with. So they let it build up, taking over their homes and offices.” So, how do you get started and not delay your decluttering process until March or push it off for another year? Atlanta-based Sistamatic Organizing founder Catherine Kelly reveals the top tips she gives to her clients to help with just that.

First, she says, move in a systematic way. A great place to start is your closet (although her tips can be applied to your entire home). “You want to be methodical about it,” Kelly instructs. “So, don’t pull everything out at once, even if it’s tempting. Go category by category. For your closet, for example, pull out your jeans and start sorting by color and style, and then you can see: ‘Oh my gosh, I have five pairs of ripped black jeans. I dont need five pairs of ripped black jeans.’

Kelly swears by a mental checklist that she gives her clients as she helps them organize their homes in-person or virtually. The first thing she tells them to ask themselves about an item of clothing is if they can see themselves wearing it in the next six to 12 months. “I used to say, ‘Have you worn this in the last year?’” she continues. “But 2020 was abnormal, so it’s better to look forward instead and be like: ‘Okay, do I have anything to wear this to?’ ‘Do I still work in the office anymore?’”

Then, try on things that you haven’t worn in a while. “Make sure you like how it looks on you,” Kelly continues. “It might not fit. It might be something that you bought and keep trying on, hoping that it will look different every time, and it doesn’t. So if it doesnt look good, let it go.” She says many people think about getting an ill-fitting item tailored, but she counters with: “Really think about—do you love it enough to take it somewhere and pay the money to have it tailored?” If not, she says, say goodbye to it.

Also, pay attention to the comfort of your clothes. “Everybody has an itchy sweater that they think is so cute. They put it on and say, ‘I’m going to wear it today.’ Then it gets itchy before they even leave the house. Let it go. If its too tight or it rides up, you’re not going to wear it.” Lastly, is it even in good condition? If a shirt has a rip that you keep saying you’ll get fixed and don’t, it might be time to give it up.

If you’re still having difficulties decluttering, consider hiring a professional organizer. “Some people have said that I kind of feel like an accountability partner,” Kelly says. “Yes, you could do it yourself. But if you hire someone to come into your space and help you, thats way more motivation.”

Either way, it’s worth it to get rid of the unused things that are taking up space in your home.

“I’ve had people say they feel lighter and less stressed, and that they’re excited to get dressed in the morning,” Kelly says of her clients. “Its not, ‘Oh my God, I dont know what to wear or I have nothing to wear,’ because when you’ve done this process and everything in your closet is something that fits well and that you’re excited about, that makes getting dressed so much easier.”

Once you’ve decluttered, consider donating your unwanted clothes to a local shelter (as long as they’re still in good condition). It’ll add another layer of accomplishment and meaning to the entire experience.