Declutter Your Clothing

If your closet represents the best of several decades of fashion or contains multiple sizes of the same article of clothing, it’s time to declutter your clothing.  Knowing how and where to begin can be intimidating.  Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Invite a Friend

Letting go of clothing can be difficult.  Often we form attachments to our clothes.  We make excuses for why we need to keep something we’re better off without.  Having a friend around when you declutter your clothing can help you keep things in perspective.

Gather Supplies

You’re not serious about your intent to declutter your clothing if you don’t have a donation bag or box handy.  I recommend a trash bag as well.  Let’s face it, some things should not be passed on.  If you think you’d like to sell some things, bring along a separate container for those items as well.

Guidelines for Sorting

Make a plan for how you will declutter your clothing.  Are you going to start with the dresser before tackling the closet or vice versa? 

Consider working in chunks.  Do the dresser one day and the closet another.  If that’s too overwhelming, do one drawer at a time. 

Know your limitations and set yourself up for success. Don’t try to do more than you are physically, mentally, or emotionally capable of at one time.  This will only lead to frustration

Frustration will result in shoddy work.  In your eagerness to be done you will not be as thorough as you should be.  Pace yourself.

Discard the Following:

Clothing that is stained, ripped, or otherwise damaged beyond simple repair.

Depending on the type of fabric such items could be cut up and used as rags.  Otherwise, they should go in the trash. 

Clothing that does not fit.

Are you holding onto clothing that is too small in the hopes you will one day be able to fit into it again?  Trust me, I can relate.  That said, now is the time to pass it on. 

When you succeed in dropping those extra pounds, reward yourself with a new outfit.  You deserve it! 

In the meantime, don’t clutter your closet with clothes that don’t fit. 

In addition to taking up valuable space, such items serve as a negative reminder of your personal struggles. Fill you life with things that motivate and inspire you and get rid of the stuff that weighs you down.

Clothing that isn't flattering

Most of us have had the experience of falling in love with an item in the store only to get it home and realize we aren't comfortable with the way we look in it.  These items are no-brainers when you are working to declutter your clothing.  No matter how stylish an item may be, if it doesn't make you feel good about you, it’s not a keeper. 

Clothing you never wear

If you don’t wear it, why are you keeping it?  Toss it.

Clothing that is obviously out of style

I know, I know the 70’s are back, but do you really want to wait forty years for an item to once again become stylish, assuming it ever does? 

Where to Donate Out-of-Style Clothing

A great place to donate seemingly out-of-style clothing is your local community theater group or high school drama department.  Often plays call for period clothing.  The wider the selection they have to choose from, the better!

Another option is your local pre-school or daycare center.  Children love to play dress-up.  Handbags, high heels, fancy hats, elbow length gloves, and frilly dresses are all the rage with the four-year-old crowd!

When making a donation, be sure to call in advance and confirm that your donation will be useful to the organization.

Clothing that is worn out

We all have items we've loved to death.  If it’s thread-bare it’s past its prime.  Bid it a fond farewell.

Clothing you're keeping simply out of guilt

Sometimes we hang on to items because we feel guilty for not wearing something we spent a lot of money on.  Other times, we keep things simply because they were a gift and we don’t want to offend the gift giver.  I get it.  In fact, I've done it.

If you’re worried about the cost, try selling the item or swapping it online at a clothing swap site.  Then you can feel like your money didn’t go to waste. 

If you’re worried about offending the person who gave you the item, only you can decide whether it’s safe to pass it on.  Relationships are worth more than closet space

If you decide to keep a gift out of guilt, think about storing it in a more out-of-the way location like the top shelf of the closet or in a box under the bed.

Things to Keep

As you declutter your clothing, you may come across items that you've hung on to for purely sentimental reasons – things that bring back fond memories of people and places you love: your child’s christening outfit, your grandfather’s old scarf that still smells like him, your wedding dress, whatever it may be. 

Please don’t part with these items unless you really, really want to.  The space they occupy in your heart and memory is far more valuable than the space they’re taking up in your closet.  Decluttering is about getting rid of the things that you don’t want, need, or use. 

That said, when selecting treasured keepsakes to hold on to, try to limit them to a reasonable number.  The more items you keep, the less special they become.  It’s a little like the law of supply and demand.  The more you have, the less they’re worth.  Hang on to the dearest and the best. 


Suggestions for Preserving Keepsake Clothing

If an article of clothing is particularly meaningful to you or a member of your family, maybe the closet or dresser isn’t the best place for it.  Consider the following ways of displaying clothing keepsakes.

Make or commission a quilt – My husband’s mother is a talented quilter.  She’s also tremendously creative.  She has made t-shirt quilts for my husband and each of my children.  These are made from favorite t-shirts obtained through school activities, sports, camps and other events they’ve participated in.  When my father-in-law’s mother passed away, she made quilts from his mother’s clothing for his two sisters.  This was a wonderful way of preserving something that reminded them of their mother in a fashion that was both beautiful and useful.    

Frame it – sports jerseys, cultural costumes, and even plain old t-shirts become art when carefully preserved in a shadow-box style frame. 

Make a pillow – T-shirts, sweatshirts, and other clothing items can be used to create unique, personalized throw pillows.

Make an apron – Visit Lori at Bee in My Bonnet Blogspot for examples.

Just about anything you can craft from fabric can be made using the fabric from clothing keepsakes.  The possibilities are endless. 


Once you've achieved your goal to declutter your clothing, it’s time to put the keepers away.  You’ll want to sort like items together.  Most of us do this when it comes to our dresser, but not so much when it comes to the closet.  Instead of jumbling pants, skirts, dresses, and shirts all together in a confused mess, create sections for each type of hanging item.  Click here for more tips on How to Organize Your Closet.

I recommend making an effort to declutter your clothing twice a year with the major changes in the weather.  It’s a good time to evaluate your wardrobe and discard items you haven’t worn at all during the appropriate season. 

If you store out-of-season clothing in boxes, be sure to launder everything before packing it away.  Perspiration, dirt, and oils from the skin all attract pests. 

Often when you sort through your clothing with the intent of getting rid of some things you find items you forgot you had.  We tend to get in a rut of wearing the same things over and over.   Expand your wardrobe by reintroducing yourself to some old favorites as you declutter your clothing!

For information on where to donate used clothing, check out Donate Clothes.

Click here to return to Declutter Your Bedroom.

Click here to return to Step-by-Step Declutter.

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