Practical hints to cut clutter in your wardrobe

Blue and white striped T shirts on a clothes rack in a shop

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Most of us gravitate towards wearing our favourite clothes out of habit. The problem is we then ignore the bulk of clothes we’ve bought. Why not slim down how much stuff you’re hanging on to? Downsizing will banish clothes clutter, and make it easier to decide what to wear each day. Not only that, you’ll save time and feel calmer.

Here are some easy steps to reduce the number of clothes you own. In addition, the checklist below will help you decide which clothes to keep, and which to let go. 

Prepare yourself mentally:

1 Firstly, think about why it’s hard to get rid of certain items of clothing.

Are you hoping to lose weight so you can wear them again? Do they remind you of better times? Or perhaps it’s the exact opposite – you avoid even looking at them because of bad memories.

To really cut clutter in your wardrobe, don’t allow your emotions to rule your head. Get rid of anything that isn’t right for you. 

Decide if the inconvenience and clutter they cause is worth keeping them.

2 Would you be happier to get rid of clothes if you knew someone else would appreciate them?

Give away good clothes to others who’ll love them as much as you. Before you start clearing out your wardrobe, get at least three large bags or boxes – one each for charity, friends or family, and the bin.

In addition, have a pen and paper handy to jot down a few notes, to remind yourself of what you need to make what you have more useful.

3 Be selective when donating to charities.

Avoid offloading old-fashioned, dirty or damaged clothes. After all, people on limited incomes want to look good too. And charities shouldn’t have to waste money getting rid of rubbish.

Get practical

4 Commit to immediately getting clothes for donation out of the house.

If they lie around, the clutter will annoy you. You’ll also be tempted to rescue items – which defeats the whole purpose of the exercise.

5 Mend any clothes that need fixing as soon as possible, or ask someone to do it for you. Otherwise, donate them to someone who will mend them. 

6 Commit to buying items that match those that don’t go with anything you have.

If you don’t, you’ll never use these items, and may as well donate them anyway.

Be strategic when planning

7 Plan whether you’ll clear your wardrobe in one hit, or over several days.

8 If you don’t have large chunks of time, or if you want to reduce the chaos, only tackle one small group of clothes at a time. 

For example, do one drawer, one section of your wardrobe, and so on.

9 Clear off your bed before you start sorting your wardrobe.

10 Assuming you have a complete day available, sort all your clothes into the following groups. Do this quickly, without thinking too much. 

Those you like and wear often

Those you wear occasionally

Everyday comfort clothes

Those you never wear.

Start with the pile of those you like and wear often. 

Making the hard decisions

11 Use the following checklist to help decide if you’ll keep each item: 

Level of liking: love it, like it, don’t really care, hate it.

Fit: too big, too small, uncomfortable, wrong for your build. 

Style: too young, too old, wrong for your build, doesn’t fit your lifestyle.

Quality: too faded, worn, damaged, dirty, or needs cleaning or mending.

Colour: too light, bright or dark, doesn’t suit you, doesn’t match the rest of your wardrobe.

Nothing to wear with it: needs another item to make it useful, such as a belt or scarf, contrasting pants or T-shirt.

Good enough to donate to others.

Could be used as rags round the house.

11 What’s left from the first group of clothes should be items you enjoy wearing, and which make you feel good.

Check to make sure they’re in good shape. Do any mending or cleaning as soon as possible, or give them to someone who will.

Those clothes from this group that you want to get rid of can be donated or thrown out. Put them into one of the three bags you organised previously.

Don’t give up now!

12 Next, start on the clothes you never wear.

Put these on your bed. Use the checklist above to work out what the problem is with each item.

Would you wear some things if you could find other items to go with them?

Immediately make a list the extra pieces you need, and get them as soon as possible.

Donate good quality items that are the wrong fit or wrong colour, or that you don’t like.

Throw out the ones that are too old, dirty, or damaged.

Be ruthless

Don’t keep things you desperately want to fit into, but know deep down you never will.

If some were expensive, allow others to enjoy them now. Let them go without regret or guilt. Accept they were mistakes, and commit to making better choices in future.

Don’t take too long for each item – the more you agonise, the more you’ll keep.

Sort what you don’t want into the appropriate bags. Put the rest back in your cupboard.

13 Now work on clothes you wear occasionally. Repeat the steps above, using the checklist as a guide.

Could you downgrade any items for wear round the house or garden?

Put what you don’t want into the appropriate bags. Replace the rest in your cupboard.

14 Repeat the process with everyday comfort clothes. Only keep those that are useful and look good.

15 If you wish, you could also do this exercise with accessories.

After you’ve cut the clutter 

What’s left in your wardrobe should only be items that you like, fit well, suit you, and are comfortable.

You’ll also have three groups of clothes to deal with as soon as you can.

1 Ones to keep, but which need mending or cleaning.

2 Those that need other items to match.

3 Bags of clothes for charity, family and friends, and to throw away.

However, now you’ve cut the clutter in your wardrobe, you want it to stay organised. So see if you can work out what made you buy so many clothes in the first place.

Then you’ll be able to tackle these habits and reduce clothing waste.

You’ll cut how much you spend while looking after the environment at the same time. 

Maintaining a streamlined wardrobe

The aim is now to maintain a streamlined wardrobe. Downsizing your clothes collection isn’t an excuse to buy a heap of new ones you don’t need.

Here are a few pointers to keep your wardrobe slimmed down.

1 Be more discerning

When shopping, focus only on filling gaps you’ve identified in your wardrobe.

List the extra clothes you need for work, leisure and social activities. Note pointers from the checklist above to help make better choices. Never go into a clothes shop without your list or these reminders.

Be brutally honest with yourself.

If something isn’t the right colour, size, fit, or makes you look ridiculous, leave it. Don’t kid yourself that you’ll sit bolt upright all day, or suddenly lose weight, to make something look better. You won’t.

Test how comfortable items are, by sitting down and standing up. Check the back view to make sure they look good.

Aim to create mix and match outfits as much as possible. Don’t buy clothes that don’t match the rest of your wardrobe. They’ll only end up lonely orphans that are never used.

Check whether items are synthetic or natural fibres. And be realistic. If you never hand-wash or iron, don’t buy anything that needs special care.

2 Recognise the urge to impulse-buy

When you’re shopping, notice your urge to splurge. That’s a warning to be mindful. You’re now more vulnerable to temptation, because your emotions are trying to highjack your better judgment.

To prevent this, sit down with a healthy snack. Take the time to let these emotions subside.

Think about what’s driving your desire to buy. Is it fear of missing out, low mood or irritation, hunger or tiredness, or something else?

Remember why impulse buying is a problem. You don’t want to waste money on something that doesn’t flatter you. Every time you see it languishing in your wardrobe, you’ll feel guilty.

3 Stay away from temptation

To stop the whole cycle of buying too many clothes again, the easiest thing is to stay away from temptation.

Don’t put yourself in danger’s way. Stay away from shops that tempt you with fabulous bargains you can’t resist. 

And look again at the list of gaps you’re trying to fill. Only go to shops in which you’ve a good chance of finding these items.

Reassure yourself you’re not missing out. You’ll find some great clothes another day. Finish what you need to do, go home and do something to take your mind off clothes.

Talk to a friend, do some exercise, cook a healthy meal, play with a pet, read a good book, or learn mindfulness.

If you rely on shopping to lift your mood, try to find other interesting activities unrelated to clothes

If you can cut the clutter in your wardrobe, you’ll reduce clothing waste, save time and money, and simplify life. Once you’ve taken the first steps, be sure to keep up the good work!

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