Expert tips for sorting and letting go so you can ditch the overwhelm and experience satisfaction

By Maryanne Kelly, Owner, I Organize 4 You, LLC

Have you ever feared opening your closet and being buried by an avalanche? Are you feeling overwhelmed, guilty, or sinking just looking inside? You can eliminate that avalanche for good … and experience relief and satisfaction.

Turn Overwhelmed into ‘I can do it!’

It might seem difficult to sort through your belongings and let go of what you no longer need, but it doesn’t have to be. These steps will help you do it efficiently and without anguish. Take the time to visualize what it will look like and how you’ll feel when it’s all neat and organized. Make “I can do it!” your new mantra.

Step 1: Keep it short and sweet.

Put on some happy music and surround yourself with aromatherapy. Plan to work just 15-30 minutes a day if you want. Take one step at a time, and don’t make any decisions until Step 4.

Step 2: Remove what doesn’t belong.

If you have the space, your clothes, shoes, handbags, jewelry, and bed linens can stay in the closet. But what about the photos, paperwork, gifts, and bags of mystery items? Remove anything that doesn’t belong and sort it into piles that go to other rooms. Don’t take out more than you can handle in your time limit, and don’t make any decisions about what to keep; just sort.

Step 3: Put similar things together.

Put like things together – pants, short sleeves, long sleeves, sweaters, t-shirts, jackets, and sleepwear should each have their section unless they can be folded in a drawer. Again, make no decisions now – just sort!

Step 4: Choose your ‘Keeps.’

Start at one end of your hanging clothes and work to the other. Evaluate each item separately and keep it if it meets all of these criteria:

  • You love it
  • It fits and is flattering
  • It’s in good condition (no holes, pilling, or stains)
  • You’ve worn it in the past year

Step 5: Let go of what you don’t need.

Set aside empty boxes or bags labeled Donate, Sell, and Decide Later. With the remaining items from Step 4 (one category at a time), identify what:

  • You didn’t wear in the past year
  • You don’t have good feelings about
  • You’re saving in case you gain weight or lose weight
  • Is out of style
  • Is a duplicate (after all, how many pairs of navy slacks do you need?)

Put things that meet these criteria into the donate/sell bags. If you’re unsure, put it in the Decide Later pile to revisit after you’ve finished the rest of the closet. It will be much easier to go through those at the end after you’ve completed all the categories. For items that have sentimental value … but you know you need to let them go, take a picture! It will take up less room.

Repeat Step 5 with every category in the closet.

Step 6: Organize the rest.

Put shoes in an over-the-door, hanging bag or stackable, clear plastic boxes. All handbags and out-of-season clothes can go in clear plastic containers, belts hang from a belt hanger, and bed linens or containers can go on the shelf. Jewelry can go in flat, adjustable bead organizers. Don’t forget to use an inside door or wall space – hooks or over-the-door hangers can hold anything. Your current sleepwear can be folded and placed on your pillow before making the bed.

Note: Most people get hung up and distracted by trying to make decisions before Step 4. Memories and feelings can also interfere and make organizing harder. It’s essential to complete only one step at a time and look at items objectively. This is not a time for reminiscing, wishing you were thinner, or thinking about how much you paid for something. Be ruthless – you’ll do yourself a favor!

Happy organizing!

For more tips and organizing assistance, contact Maryanne Kelly and I Organize 4 You, LLC at 928.227.8184 or [email protected]. Visit to see all services, rates, testimonials, and more.