Declutter Your Life: 10 Easy Steps

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

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How to make $750 in an hour

Clutter affects your brain, makes you more stressed, exhausted and leaves you feeling cramped in other areas of your life.

How to de-clutter your closet (and your life) in order to conquer the new goals and fresh start you want in 2017….

Like most girls, I have too many clothes that I never wear…and, yet, I “never have anything to wear.”

Do you get me?

You go to your closet to throw some outfit together, only to realize, you’re missing that one black camisole you need to make that black top work, or that one pair of neutral pumps to pull your outfit off, or that one pair of Speed Tights (because all your others are dirty).


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You get it.

That said, you probably also get, having “too much stuff” in your closet that you glaze over every day, that’s just been sitting there for a year (or more).

You know, that top you say, “Maybe one day I’ll wear it.”

That dress you LOVED in the 10th grade—that you are never ever going to wear again (but you mayyyyyyy wear it…because, well “You never know).

Or that pair of jeans (that doesn’t fit) that you think: “Maybe one day…”

In other words: Clutter.

Less is more, and unfortunately, many of us are tied, ball-and-chain, to our stuff.

(Hand-raised: Guilty closet, as charged).

New Year, Fresh Start.

In the spirit of “minimalism” and a fresh start in 2017, I recently attacked my closet, and low and behold, guess what I found?…


Yup. $750 (worth of clothes, in returns and exchanges of clothes from college with tags still on them).

Tags still on ‘em, I happily took them back to Anthropologie and Nordstrom to see what I could get back for many things I’d had in my closet for the past 5+ years.

The happily-every-after ending of the story?

A clean closet with clothes I actually like.

Freedom from clutter I’d been holding on to (for far too long).

A few bags to donate to Goodwill—and a tax write off.

Mental space and clarity to think better (and feel lighter) at home, in my own environment.

And a little more cushion in the bank account—in a matter of hours.

Win. Win. Win. Win. Win.

The New Year is a time for a fresh start (in more ways than just the gym or resolutions).

In fact, if you TRULY want to get the MOST out of the New Year’s goals you’ve set for yourself, de-cluttering your space, your schedule, your commitments and your environment could be the “slight edge” to your success.

What Clutter Does to Your Brain

Whether it be your closet or the kitchen counter with stacks of papers on them, excess things in your surroundings and schedule can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information.

Researchers out of Princeton University discovered that people’s task performance greatly declines and stress levels increase in a disorganized environment (vs. an organized environment).

And another group of researchers from UCLA found that stress hormones spike when participants “dealt with their belongings”—such as not being able to park their car in a garage that was full of stuff.

Feeling the need to clear out your clutter?

Raise your glass to my new anthem: Minimalism… for your closet.

10 Tips to Declutter Your Closet (and Overcome Declutter Paralysis):

1. First Cut.

Wipe it out. Bring out a few big garbage sacks and go through your closet to cut your first team of clothes you KNOW you don’t wear (nor will you ever wear). This run through should be fairly easy (especially as you start the momentum). That old ratty t-shirt? Toss it. Those jeans with paint on them? You don’t need them. In addition, during this stage, you have permission to start a “MAYBE” pile. We’ll come back to this.

2. Turn Em Around.

First string cut. Check. Now time to whip all those hangars of yours…backwards. That’s right. For every hanging shirt, pant or skirt in your closet, turn the hangar around. Over the course of the next few days and weeks, you will quickly begin to see what clothes you DO like and wear more of. (And what clothes you don’t). The clincher: Every time you take something out to wear it, you can return the hangar back to the closet in the way it came—the normal way.

3. Determine Your Style.

While you’re waiting a few days/weeks to let your new minimalistic approach meld, it’s time to assess your actually style. “Who you are” is more than what you wear, but what you wear can easily be an expression of who you are and how you feel. So what do you want your style to be? (Especially in light of a brand new you!). Get inspired by flipping through a fashion mag or Pinterest if you must, but more than anything, check in: Classy? Chic? A little bit of flare? It may very well change with time, but just focus on today: What style do you like and want to portray?

4. The Recruits..

As little as a few days, up to or week or so in to your project, it’s time to return to the closet with a new pair of eyes—and an additional pair of eyes…a trusted friend. Recruit a good, trusted friend to help attack your closet with you. Tell her you’re trying to “declutter” your life, and ask her to help you make the cuts you know are hard for you to make (friends can be great honest sounding boards for helping us not hold on to our prom dress from 10+ years ago).

5. One and Done.

You had the opportunity to have a “MAYBE” pile it step one, but during this stage with your friend—and the hours lingering afterward—no more MAYBE piles are allowed. One and done. Either toss it in a bag (Bags= Give away/donate Bag, Throw Away Bag or Take Back/Sell), or leave it hanging in your closet.  No wishy washy “maybes” here.

6. Make Some Moolah.

If it’s got tags on it, see if you can get your money back (Anthropologie and Nordstrom have AMAZING return policies), or consider selling on Ebay, Facebook or a consignment shop. The clincher here is to give yourself a deadline: 7-14 days to do something with it. No more holding on. Either sell it, chuck it or give it away (and move on).

7. Give it Away.

A younger girl may very well love that crop top you lived in in highschool. The homeless shelters in many towns welcome any donation with open arms. And if you take something to Goodwill, you can get a receipt to write off on your taxes. More love to share. Make the world a better place (with your fashion).

8. Minimalism “Rules.”

Think about building your wardrobe on 15-20 essentials—nothing more. Clothes that are versatile and go with LOTS, and clothes you can add a simple accessory or special touch (scarf, cardigan, etc.) to and rock it. A few of my essentials?

  1. A killer pair of jeans (dark and light)
  2. A nude pair of pumps
  3. A nice pair of ballet flats
  4. Hug-in-all-the-right-places Yoga Pants
  5. 4-5 solid basic short sleeve tees, long sleeve tees and tops (that don’t pill or stretch)
  6. A leather tote (to carry my laptop and daily work things)
  7. A plaid button-up and chambray button up
  8. “That” little dress you can throw on for a party or dinner out
  9. Lifestyle yoga and fitness wear (my live-in) (Currently loving anything from Outdoor Voices, like this pullover , this top and pants)
  10. A pair of classy earrings (that go with everything)

How’s that for starters?

9. Re-assess.

By now you should have a fairly (clean) slate of a closet. Chances are you are still having some second thoughts about what you’ve thrown out…but you’re also feeling liberated. Go with that liberated feeling. New you. New you. New you. Be realistic with yourself about any gaps or holes in your closet you need to fill for your “less is more” wardrobe, and do one more “once-over” to throw out anything that does not align with this new philosophy of yours. Work it girl.

10. No Looking Back.

Forget about it. No regrets. You don’t need whatever it is you threw out. no regrets. You’ve got this.

Let me know how it goes, or if you have any other tips to make Declutter Paralysis an extinct phenomenon!

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