How to declutter your wardrobe

A woman removes clothes from a number of organised boxes during a clear out.

If you frequently find yourself wearing the same outfits, it could be time to have a declutter. Not only does decluttering free up valuable physical space within your wardrobe, but it can also be financially beneficial, too. After all, if you sell a few items you no longer want, you can use that extra cash to buy something new.

But first, you have to assess your current wardrobe and decide what can stay and what must go.

How to clear out your wardrobe

Decluttering is simple, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy. Going through your whole wardrobe and deciding on each item can be time-consuming, so you may wish to split the job up over several days. You could split it up into categories like blouses or skirts, or seasons. By the end of your declutter, you should have four piles:

  • Keep – items you definitely want to keep wearing
  • Maybe – items you're not sure about
  • Donate/Sell – items you no longer want that are in good condition
  • Throw out – items that are broken or damaged and can be recycled or binned

One of the easiest ways to decide which pile an item belongs to is to think about how often you wear it. But just because you don’t wear something often, that doesn’t mean you should automatically get rid of it. Think about the item and how it fits into your wardrobe as a whole.

For example, seasonal clothes typically get worn less than those that can be worn all year round – particularly those items made for extremes of temperature, such as swimwear or snow boots. Alternatively, the type of occasion the clothing is for can have an impact. You might not wear formal evening wear very often, but it’s worth having for those occasions where it’s required.

Deciding whether to keep these less often worn pieces can be made easier by asking yourself the following three questions:

  1. If the right circumstances came about tomorrow, would this item be a strong contender for part of my outfit?
  2. Can I pair this item with other pieces of clothing to make at least three outfits?
  3. Does this item of clothing have special sentimental value?

These questions can also help you to make decisions about other items of clothing where you need a little extra something to help you decide.

Once you’ve split your wardrobe into the four categories, you can get rid of the donate and throw away items and put the keep pile back in your wardrobe. Put the maybe pile in a box and pop it somewhere out of the way, then add a reminder to your calendar or phone. If you haven’t missed any of the items inside in three months, that’s a good sign you won’t miss them if you get rid of them.

How to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

If you still find yourself coming up with reasons to keep everything and not actually decluttering anything from your wardrobe, there is another technique you can use to decide whether or not an item is worth keeping: the hanger trick. It works best for clothes you could wear any day, so you might find it best to segment your wardrobe and try it first with whichever season you’re currently in.

The hanger trick involves turning all the hangers in your wardrobe so that they face the same way. Then, choose a review period, such as three months, and wear whichever clothes you like, remembering to turn the hanger the other way when you put the clothes back into your wardrobe.

At the end of the review period, you should have a good understanding of which clothes you’ve worn and which you haven’t. For the clothes you haven’t worn, you can then think about why you haven’t worn them and, using the three questions detailed above, decide whether to keep them.

If you want to go one step further, attach a piece of paper to each hanger. Write a description of the item of clothing on it (so you don’t accidentally put it back on the wrong hanger), then keep a tally of how many times you wear it. You might also find it helpful to keep a record of details about the clothing. For example, if a shirt is scratchy, write that down so that when you come to declutter, you can take that information into account.

To be even more ruthless, you might want to set restrictions on your wardrobe. For instance, you could set limits on how many items of a specific type of clothing, such as dresses, you’ll keep. Creating a capsule wardrobe can be a great way to cut down on excess clothes.

How often should you declutter your wardrobe?

There is no right or wrong answer on how often you should have a clear out of your wardrobe, and different timescales can suit different people. For the most part, a whole-wardrobe, ruthless declutter can be done once a year. Even if you haven’t bought many new items in that time, your preferences, lifestyle and circumstances may have changed, which can make it beneficial to take another look at your wardrobe’s contents.

If you’ve split your wardrobe up into seasons, however, it’s a good idea to do a declutter of each season’s clothes at the end of that part of the year. For example, clearing out your summer wardrobe in September or October while the summer is still fresh in your mind. Alternatively, you might wish to have a continuous declutter going on all year round. Using the hanger trick, you can perform four declutters a year without taking much time to do it.

As you can tell, there are lots of different ways to declutter a wardrobe, and not all of them will work for everyone. The best way to find out is to pick a technique and see how it goes – happy decluttering.

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