Practical hints to cut clutter in your wardrobe

Clothes hanging on a rack

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 you want to keep, and which you can let go. 

Before you start:

1 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 you avoid even looking at them because of bad memories.

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. Get at least three large bags or boxes – one each for charity, friends or family, and the bin.

3 Be selective when donating to charities. Don’t offload 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.

4 Commit to immediately getting clothes for donation out of the house. If they lie around, the clutter will annoy you.

In addition, you’ll be tempted to rescue items – and that will defeat 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, throw them away.

6 Commit to buying extra items that you can wear with clothes that don’t match anything else you have. If you don’t, you’ll never use these items, and may as well donate them anyway.

7 So you have plenty of space, clear off your bed before you start sorting your wardrobe.

8 Use the following checklist to decide whether you’ll keep various items. 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. 

Level of liking: love it, like it, don’t really care, hate it.
Fit: too big, too small, uncomfortable, wrong for your build. Be honest. Let go of clothes that realistically you’ll never fit into again.
Style: too young, too old, out of fashion, 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.

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

9 If you have only short blocks of time, start with clothes you like and wear a lot. Put those on your bed, and go straight to step 11 below. Once you’ve done that, continue the next steps when you have time.

10 If you have a large block of time, put all your clothes in a pile on your bed. Leave the rest of the bed free. Without thinking too much, sort them quickly into the following groups:

Those you like and wear often
Those you wear occasionally
Everyday comfort clothes
Those you never wear.

11 Start with those you like and wear often.

Use the above checklist to identify the ones you really want to keep. Make sure these are ones you enjoy wearing, and which make you feel good. Put them back in your cupboard.

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

Put clothes left over from this group into one of the three bags you organised previously.

12 Next, pick out the clothes you never wear.

Put these on your bed (if you haven’t already). 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? If so, put these back in the cupboard. Make a list of 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 to keep 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 Everyday comfort clothes

Go through the same process with these. Only return those that are useful and look good.

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

Result of your wardrobe revamp

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. Now’s a good time to work out what made you buy so many clothes in the first place. Working this out can also help you reduce clothing waste.

Maintaining 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 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. 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 vulnerable to temptation, because your emotions are trying to highjack your better judgment.

Sit down with a healthy snack, and 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

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.

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

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 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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