[11 Tips] How to Be Ruthless when Decluttering Clothes!

How to be Ruthless when Decluttering Clothes

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When it comes to clothes, they can just seem to breed like rabbits in the closet! I mean, where does it all come from?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and blame fast, cheap fashion. I get it, it’s hard to resist the cheap ‘throw out’ prices. But really, many of the clothing items people purchase are literally only because they’re too much of a bargain to walk past or because they’re caught up in the ‘feel’ of the store, not because they need it or want it. We’re talking multi-million dollar marketing at it’s best.

Then there’s the issue of clothing that has sentimental value. Maybe it used to fit you and you’re sure that you’re going to get back down to that size again… next year. Or was it the dress you wore once to your best friend’s wedding 6 years ago?

The thing is, there’s only so much room in the closet and you really only wear your five favourite outfits anyway.

Benefits of simplifying your wardrobe:

  1. Only own things that you love and make you feel good
  2. Less choice = less hard decisions
  3. Less guilt for not wearing half of what you own
  4. Easier to mix & match

It’s time for a closet declutter, so here’s how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes.

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How to Be Ruthless when Decluttering Clothes

The Emotions Behind Hanging onto Clothes

Clothes Pile Stressed

First up, I think it’s important to understand the emotions behind why we hang onto clothes and have such a hard time parting with them.

There are four main reasons we hang onto clothing:

  1. Guilt for purchasing the item in the first place (maybe because it never fitted properly or it was super expensive).
  2. Hope that you’ll use it again some day (when you lose weight or go back to the gym).
  3. Worry that you’ll need it if you get rid of it.
  4. Sentimentality from where you wore the item (a wedding), because of who gave it to you (your Mum) or that you worked hard to pay for the item.

The whole point of understanding the emotional charge behind why we keep clothing is to help with the process of letting go.

It’s important to recognise which items in our closet are serving our current needs and which ones are not. Feel those feelings of guilt, hope, worry and sentimentality. Then allow yourself the freedom to let those items go.

Let it go and let it flow.”

Keep in mind that items in your closet that serve no purpose are creating stuck energy, which blocks the new from coming in. Those old items are literally taking up the space of new, beautiful and practical items that could be flowing into your wardrobe.

Eliminate Anything That You Just Don’t like

Donate Keep Pile

Go through item-by-item and pull out any item that you just plain do not like.

It’s fair to say that some excuses as to why you ‘should’ keep some of those items might start creeping into your head.

Ignore those thoughts. You do not need to explain yourself to me or your overactive brain.

“If you don’t like the item, for the love of god, ditch it!”

This includes getting rid of things that just don’t match your style anymore. Maybe two summers ago you were totally embracing the boho look, but now you’re more drawn to a clean, simple style.

The way we dress is often the way to express ourselves to the world. If you don’t want to wear that old style anymore, it’s time to move those clothes along.

Eliminate Anything That Doesn’t Fit

Putting on jeans, too small

Now it’s time to be really ruthless when decluttering clothes and get rid of anything that does not fit. Whether you used to fit into it or you’re aspiring to fit into it, the time for a reality check is here.

Unless you’re pregnant or partaking in an intensive fitness regime, is the likelihood of your weight change going to accommodate fitting back into those items? Be honest with yourself and ditch what doesn’t fit.

Stand in front of a mirror and try on each item, just to be sure.

If you really do plan on fitting back into some items, keep only your absolute favourites. Store those items in a bag in the top of your cupboard so that they’re not cluttering up your current wardrobe.

Remove Damaged, Stained or ‘Needs Repair’ Items

Repair Clothes

Pull out any damaged or stained clothes. Those items are perfect for rags, so send them off to the shed or garage. I like to have a small pile of old cut up cotton T-shirt squares under the sink for cleaning the really greasy dishes. It saves ruining my good dishcloths.

With items that need to be repaired, set yourself a realistic time limit to get them done. Can you repair the items yourself, or do they need to go into a shop? If the repair pile is still sitting there in a month – it’s time for them to go.

Turn Your Hangers Around

Turn coat hangers around

Now that you’ve eliminated all of things, it’s time to turn all of your hangers around the opposite way to how you usually have them. Once you wear an item and it goes back onto the hanger, put the hanger around the right way.

This is the easiest way to keep track of what you do and don’t actually wear.

Once you get to the end of a season, assess all of the hangers to see which items were never worn. If you’ve just been through spring, summer, then autumn and there are some shirts that you never once used, it’s time for them to go. Remember, this is how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes.

Decide on a Limit

Coat Hangers

Decide on how many clothes you want for each category. Pull out all of your clothes and organise them in piles on your bed, to see what you’ve actually got for each category.

Here’s an example of how many of each category you might like, but tailor these figures to suit your own needs.

  • 5 x work outfits
  • 2 x swimwear
  • 10 x T-shirts
  • 5 x shorts
  • 3 x skirts
  • 5 x long pants
  • 5 x dresses
  • 5 x jumpers
  • 2 x jackets

I think if you’re limiting the number of clothes you have, it’s all the more important to only have items that are truly loved and comfortable. You don’t have to live like a minimalist, the idea is to have a “quality over quantity” wardrobe filled with items that you actually love and wear.

Organise your wardrobe so that each category of items are all lined up together, this will make it easier to see exactly what you’ve got.

The ‘Maybe’ Box

Yes, No, Maybe

If you’re having a hard time deciding on whether or not particular items should stay or go, create a ‘Maybe’ box or bag.

Throw anything that you can’t decide on into the ‘Maybe’ box and tuck the box away out of sight and mind. If, six months down the track, you haven’t gone searching for any of those items, you can safely say that you happily lived without them. It’s time for them to go.

Tip: Never store clothes directly in a cardboard box as they may end up with stains and markings. Store the clothes inside a bag within the box.

Know Your Body Shape

This is a big one. We all have a particular body shape, which usually sticks with us for life, even when our weight fluctuates.

I’m sure we’ve all tried on things that are the height of fashion and we totally love… only to find that they look terrible on us! “What’s wrong with me?” is usually our first thought.

Honey, there is nothing wrong with you, it’s just that that particular piece of clothing does not flatter your body shape, regardless of it’s fashion status.

Here’s a quick visual on the body shapes.

Women's Body Shapes

The most balanced body shape is the Hourglass. That is essentially the illusion that all other body shapes need to aim for, when choosing the things that suit them the most.

For example, an inverted triangle (the most common women’s body shape) should keep tops fairly streamline, while wearing skirts and bottoms with more flair to create a balanced upper and lower body.

How to work out your body shape:

Your body shape is determined by the measurements of the three main points on your torso – shoulders, waist and hips.

Grab a tape measure and get someone to help you measure the three following points (and write them down).

  1. Shoulders – Measure from the tip of one shoulder, all the way around your other shoulder and back to the tip of the first shoulder.
  2. Waist – Measure all the way around the smallest part of your waist (just above the belly button).
  3. Hips – Start on one hip and measure all the way around the largest part of your butt, back to that first hip.

Here are the typical traits of each body shape:

Inverted TriangleShoulders or bust larger than hips.
PearHips are wider than shoulders.
HourglassShoulders & hips around the same size. Very defined waistline (usually around 10cm smaller than shoulders and hips).
RectangleShoulders, bust & hips around the same size. No defined waistline.
AppleWell balanced hips & shoulders. Full midsection with no defined waist.

If you have items in your wardrobe that do not work for your body shape, you can lose all the weight in the world, but those items will still look shit on you. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. No matter how much you love the items, it’s time to be ruthless when decluttering clothes and ditch them.

If you’re keen to find out more about your own body shape and how to dress it, I highly recommend doing some reading and learning more about your body. Not only will it give you the confidence to always look great, but also the information for how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes!

No More New Clothes

No new clothes

Now that you’ve really been ruthless with the wardrobe cull, it’s time to make the most out of the clothes you’re left with. Only replace items that genuinely needed to be replaced.

Wear what you’ve already got for a while and make sure they’re things that you really love and are comfortable in.

Stand in front of the mirror and mix ‘n’ match to come up with a variety of outfits. Take a photo of each outfit that you like and create an album in your phone called ‘Outfits.’ When you need inspiration with which items pair well together, browse through your album.

To avoid impulse buying at the shops, walk away and have a good think before you make a purchase.

  • What will I pair that item with?
  • How often am I likely to wear it?
  • Does it look and feel amazing on me?
  • Is it comfortable and practical?
  • Is it a total waste of money or is it a welcome addition?

The ‘Donations’ Box

Donation Box

Keep a permanent box or bag for donations. Whenever you find an item that can go, throw it directly into the donations box.

This also applies for clothing from other members of the house. I especially like having an on-going ‘Donations’ box for kids clothes as they grow out of them or just don’t wear them.

You can keep the box in the bottom of the closet if you’ve got room. I prefer to keep a donations bag in the boot of my car. Whenever I find items that need to be donated, they go straight into that bag. Once the bag is full or I’m near an Op Shop bin, I empty the bag and start again.

A running ‘Donations’ box really keeps the clothes flowing through the house, reducing energetic stagnancy. It also means that I don’t need to do a big ruthless decluttering of clothes very often.

What to do with Your Pre-loved Clothing?

Due to the hard-earned money we’ve spent on clothes and the sentimental value that can be attached to them, what do you do with it all?

There are a few different ways to move along your pre-loved items and it really depends on the quality and condition of each item.

  • STAINED & OLD ITEMS – Cut them up and use them as rags in the shed or for cleaning. Donate the cotton-style clothing (with buttons and zips removed) to a mechanic – they go through tons of rags!
  • USEFUL ITEMS – Donate to a thrift store or friends who could use them. Advertise ‘free’ clothing on your local community page or donate to a homeless/ women’s shelter.
  • EXPENSIVE/ DESIGNER ITEMS – Sell on eBay, Marketplace or Gumtree. You could also try a local consignment store, where you’ll get a cut of what each item sells for.
  • SPECIALTY ITEMS – Find a charity to donate specialty items to, such as wedding and formal attire. Example, DARE Formal Wear in Brisbane, Australia sells donated formal wear at affordable prices. The proceeds go towards helping Year 12 students who are financially struggling, be able to go to their formal. They also do great work towards helping domestic violence victims.

Hopefully now you’re ready to tackle your closet and be ruthless with your clothes as you declutter. You’ll be clearing out the old, to bring in the fresh and new!

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