Having the closet of a fashion blogger definitely seems like a dream come true. But when it comes to living the reality in an every-inch-counts apartment in New York City, the overflowing racks of clothes can end up being more of a nightmare. Katie Sturino of The 12ish Style found this out the hard way. What began as her passion soon became an overwhelmingly stuffed-full closet that just seemed too tough to tackle. Luckily for Sturino, she found an organizing fairy godmother. Anna Bauer of Sorted By Anna guided her through a total closet overhaul. The end result is pure style serenity, but the before? Well, let’s just say the ramshackle sight may be a liiiiittle too familiar to some of us at home. Here are the expert tips that Sturino and Bauer used to make the transformation. (We’re taking notes).

1. Be realistic. “If your dream is to have a Pinterest-perfect closet, that’s great. But be realistic about how long it will take you to adhere to the vision you have,” cautions Bauer. Sometimes it’s best to work piecemeal. “Start with organizing the shoes or setting up all of your dresses together, chipping away at things so it feels less overwhelming,” she advises. In the end, perfection isn’t attainable, so don’t hold yourself to an unreasonable standard. “It may be that you have to tweak some things so your idea of perfection matches the reality of your life,” she says.

2. Break it down. Not sure where to start? Sticking to specific criteria can help you stay on track. “Make categories!” says Bauer. “Going through all of your belongings is daunting, so keep it simple by making piles of keep, donate/resale, and trash. This will help you get a better picture of how many items you really have,” she says. Keeping count, in turn, can help you develop systems that accommodate those pieces.

3. Make space for what you really love. Sentimental items aren’t the enemy: Throughout the process, Bauer made sure to make space for Sturino’s truly beloved items. Her best advice for knowing the difference? “Talk it out,” she says. (This is where it really helps to buddy up on your closet clean.) “Whether it’s an internal dialogue or out loud, don’t be afraid to talk through each item you are sorting through.” While you might not feel like thanking your inanimate objects a la Marie Kondo, even talking about the item can help you process. For example, Bauer said, let’s say you pull out a gift you received ages ago and forgot about immediately. “The first thought might be that you’re pumped you just found it!” Bauer says. “But continue to ask yourself some questions: How long was it hidden away? Had you ever thought about where it was? Was your life significantly worse because you didn’t have it?” After a few minutes, you might realize your priorities aren’t what you thought they were.

4. Know when to admit the truth. “If you have to justify keeping it, it probably means you shouldn’t,” says Bauer. Her rule of thumb seems brutal at first, but there’s definitely some sense to it. “There’s a distinct difference between knowing in your gut that it’s something you have to keep, versus quickly giving in to the sentimental justification that blocking you from rationally knowing what to do.”

5. Use labeled sections to keep your system working. Resist the inevitable backslide into laziness by making it crystal-clear what goes where using labels. “I’m honestly so shocked the labeling system has worked. It really, really helps me put clothes away in their correct section,” says Sturino of her new system. As for how it’s working after the fact, she says there’s just no going back: “It’s super important to me and it makes me feel like my closet isn’t a big black hole of garbage… I’m actually happy going into it now.”

Tackling a closet clean of your own? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know how it goes!

(Images via The 12ish Style)