When you declutter clothes from your closet and your life, you create space for more ease. You create mornings with fewer decisions and you get to wear your favorite things every day. Start with one piece of clothing at a time. It doesn’t matter if you start with pants, blouses, jeans or a skirt. This decluttering process may take time but with the steps below, you’ll have a decluttered closet before you know it.
When I decided to simplify and eliminate a bunch of stress from my life, I had no idea that my closet clutter was stressful. I knew there was stress in my diet, in the way I managed money (not well) and that stress was in my schedule and in my job, but my wardrobe? I thought my clothes and more specifically, my shopping for clothes reduced stress. I rarely shopped because I needed new clothes, but instead shopped to feel better, to relieve the pain of boredom and working a job I didn’t enjoy, and because I honestly believed that new shoes would make me happier.
When I challenged myself to dress with less by creating minimalist fashion challenge Project 333, I realized that all the shopping I was doing was contributing to more clothes clutter, debt and stress. And, even more surprising, I noticed I had all kinds of stress and emotion wrapped up in the clothing hanging in my closet. I’ll tell you more about that later but first, let’s talk about closet clutter and decluttering clothes.
It may take years to declutter your home, choose a new career or dig your way out of debt, but if you want to reduce stress, feel lighter, and create more space, time, and money for yourself within a few hours or a few days, consider owning fewer clothes. A decluttered wardrobe is a powerful step in creating a simpler life.
Declutter Clothes: 10 Steps to End Closet Clutter
These 10 steps will help you create a capsule wardrobe, shift your mindset around stuff and shopping and rid your closet of extra hangers. You’ll also learn how to break the emotional attachment you may have with your stuff as you ask simple questions, let go of old clothes and discard everything from sweaters, scarves, t-shirts and other items. Your entire closet is going to get a make over, or rather a make under.
1. Take a picture of your closet the way it is right now.
This is your “before” pic, your “let’s never go back here” reminder. If you are feeling brave, post on Instagram or another social platform with hashtag #project333 or tag me @bemorewithless so I can cheer you on. Once you take your picture, turn on some of your favorite music and have water and snacks nearby. Make this a rewarding experience instead of a chore
2. Empty your closet … yep the whole thing.
Get all that stuff out of there. For extra motivation to complete the project, toss all of your clothing and closet goodies on your bed. When you move it all to your bed, not only do you get to see your entire collection in one area, but you’ll want to get it off your bed before it’s time for you to get in your bed. I remember seeing all of my clothes in one place. I was stunned. Because it was spread out in my dresser, closet, shelves and other storage spaces, I had no idea. Seeing it was a bit of a shock and a shock I needed to focus on less.
3. Now go get the rest of the stuff.
If (like me) you have clothes, accessories or shoes in other closets, drawers, boxes or secret hiding places. Drag that stuff out too and add it to your closet pile. Bring it all in, even winter coats and accessories. Don’t forget handbags, sunglasses, clothes you haven’t worn in years and anything that you put in the “fashion” category.
4. Take another picture.
This is your “OMG, I had no idea I had so much stuff” picture. Take a good look at your pile of stuff and feel the weight and the shock. This is a really important step. Being offended by the investment of time, money and energy I’d made on a pile of things I barely used helped me let go. It also helped me with shopping. Now before I make a purchase, I think about all that stuff and I usually resist. When you look at your stuff, all piled on your bed or the floor, ask yourself this question, “If I could get all of the time, money and energy I spent on these clothes, would I reinvest it the same way?”
5. Sort all the things.
Turn up the music and break for snacks as needed during this step. You may even want to take a walk first. I recommend moving through this step as quickly as possible so you don’t second guess your decisions.
- Pile 1: Love: I love these items. They fit me well and I wear them frequently.
- Pile 2: Maybe: I want to keep this but I don’t know why. This could include off-season items too.
- Pile 3: Donate: These items don’t fit my body or my life.
- Pile 4: Trash: These items are in poor condition. (repurpose if possible)
Pile 1 will likely be the smallest. Don’t worry! It’s better to have an honest pile of what you actually love and wear instead of a pile full of things you keep “just in case” so keep going.
6. Remove all the things.
Before you add anything back into your closet, remove the things in the piles you aren’t keeping. Remove them from the closet, the room and your home. Don’t be tempted to revisit these items by delaying their farewell. Bring them to your car and the donation center as soon as possible. An open donation box sitting in your room will only lead to more items in your closet. If you can’t remove them right away, at least get them in a box, tape the box up and don’t label the box with its contents.
7. Store all the things.
If there are items you are unsure about, box them up too. Don’t give them away and don’t keep them in your closet. Create some separation by hiding these items for at least 3 months. Revisit them after dressing with less for several months. By then you’ll have cut the emotional ties you have with those items and you’ll have more information about what you really want or need in your closet. If you didn’t miss the items you hid or don’t remember what you stored away, donate without opening the boxes. Use your time for something you actually care about.
8. Choose your own adventure.
Now that you’ve gone through the declutter clothes steps, you have clothes you wear, clothes that fit your body and your lifestyle, and hopefully clothing that you enjoy wearing. Here’s where you get to choose your own adventure …
- Adventure #1: Put the items away and admire your lighter closet. Notice how you feel choosing from a smaller selection. When you feel like you are “bored with your wardrobe,” check in. Is the unease coming from your closet or somewhere else?
- Adventure #2: Try Project 333. Take things to the next level and narrow down to 33 items including clothes, jewelry, accessories and shoes for the next 3 months. See more detailed challenge rules and resources here. Box up the rest and hide it.
9. Stop adding new clothes to your closet for a while.
Consider a shopping ban for a few months. Work with what you have before you get anything new. Enjoy the space you created and give yourself time to consider what you really want and need in your closet. Remember that even though you got rid of a lot of clothes clutter, you were probably only wearing the same few things over and over again. When you do consider buying new clothes, think about these 7 judgement-free ways to change your shopping habits. You might decide you have enough.
10. Let the guilt go too.
When you let go of anything in your closet, let the guilt go with it. You may have felt guilty for buying it, and now you feel guilty for letting it go. You paid for the item with your money, time and attention. Now you are paying with your emotion. Haven’t you paid enough? The best way to let go of the guilt is to let joy replace the guilt. Let love replace the guilt. Remind yourself that you simply don’t have room in your life for guilt.
P.S. You can apply a version of these steps to any drawer, cabinet, closet or room in your home.
Declutter the emotions connected to your clothes: What you must give up (from your wardrobe) to be free
If you want to be free, give up …
- Clothes that don’t fit your body today. Hide all of the items that don’t fit. Too small? Too big? Either way, get it out. Even if you struggle with weight fluctuation, give yourself a break. Your too small clothes aren’t making you smaller and your too big clothes aren’t making you bigger. See what happens when you accept the person you are and the body you have today and dress for that. If that changes, change your clothes.
- Items someone gave you that you never wear. Accept the gift with the intention it was given and then move on. If it’s something you would never wear, pass it on.
- Things that don’t fit your lifestyle. Are you holding on to clothes you wore for a prior life, or for a life you aspire to have? Dress for the life you have right now and you will move through it with more ease and grace. The rest can go.
- Anything that make you feel sad or bad. If there are items in your closet that are dragging you down because they remind you of a sad occasion, or a bad time, or because they make you feel like you aren’t good enough in any way, know that you are allowing that to happen. Give the items up and you give up the negative emotions too.
- Repeating old patterns and learn how to dress with less. For a deeper dive into the stress your extra clothes add to your life and how to be free, read Project 333, The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really Is So Much More.