How to be ruthless when decluttering your clothes

3 simple steps to downsize your wardrobe (inspired by Marie Kondo)

Be honest: how many times have you been DETERMINED to declutter your wardrobe because it’s overstuffed, full of items you never wear, and means you spend way too long getting dressed…

…but when you go to do it, you take a few things out, try them on, decide most of them are too good to waste (hardly worn, cost a fortune, has sentimental value, the list goes on) and put them back in?

If you’ve done it at least once, you’re not alone. 

And I’m very happy you found this article because it was written for you.

The purpose of this post: Help you create a wardrobe you love (by ruthlessly culling the clothes that no longer serve you)

It’s going to take some commitment and focus from you, but I want you to picture what’s on the other side.

You open your wardrobe each day and get a little buzz of excitement.

There’s room in there to breathe. 

Every single item makes sense, makes you feel good in it, and is easy to create outfits from.

Somehow you own less than you ever have, and yet you’ve never felt so spoiled for choice. You have countless options when it comes to outfits – and they all are wearable for the lifestyle you have now (rather than the aspirational lifestyle most of us tend to shop for!)

Now before you start freaking out about this meaning a move to minimalism or having to replace everything you currently own, I have some good news for you.

You probably have *most* of what you already need.

What’s making getting dressed so difficult is actually because of…

  • Owning so much you can’t even see half of your items
  • Not having a color palette to pull your outfits together
  • Never having spent time deciding how you want to look (a “signature style”)
  • Not having done any actual wardrobe planning to create outfits in advance

We’re not going to have time to tackle that entire list in 1 session, but don’t worry – this is the first in a series of guides that’ll walk you through each one.

What we *will* deal with today is that dreaded declutter so you can reduce the number of clothes you wear and have a much better idea of what remains so you can start planning your dream wardrobe.

So are you ready for this? Let’s get ruthless!

Step 1: get it ALL OUT

While it’s never been proven, there appears to be some sort of mystical power that lives in your wardrobe, meaning that once clothes go in… they never want to come out.

This is why decluttering with everything still hanging up and stacked on shelves doesn’t work. You’re lucky to declutter a few pieces at a time.

As a former clothes hoarder, I’m speaking from experience. 5 years ago I could fill an entire walk in wardrobe, 4 under-bed drawers, and still have extra dumped in a storage unit. It was out of control… but I didn’t know *how* out of control until I removed it all from my closet.

Yep, I read Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and took her sweetly worded – but extremely firm advice – to empty it aaaall out.

I won’t sugar-coat it for you. The experience was traumatic.

Picture an over-sized open plan living and dining room covered – I mean COVERED… no visible floor – in clothing and shoes, stacked 10 inches high.

Seeing it all out there gave me head spins and nausea. A few tears may have slipped out too.

Anyways, back to the instructions.

Marie Kondo says this needs to be done all in one go – not category by category. I questioned her when I first ready her advice, but once the shock factor hit me, I kinda understood her reasoning.

So empty your entire wardrobe out onto your bed or in a room you can take over for the afternoon (or entire day if you’re a professional clothes hoarder) and embrace the mess.

*Important note: I don’t actually recommend turning on music while you do this as it has such an effect on our emotions, it may cloud your judgement. That said, you’re absolutely allowed – and encouraged – to take regular breaks and get some physical activity (including dancing to Taylor Swift) as this can get a little intense.

Step two: assess your clothes piece by piece

This is where things slow down a bit because this ain’t your grandma’s declutter. We’re going to take each piece of clothing through a process that’s part logic and part woo. Because every good wardrobe is a mix of strategy and soul (if you ask me).

So here’s how it goes:

Pick up an item 

I want you to physically hold it so you’re connected to it – not just look at it on the pile where it seems kinda sad.

Before you ask the deeper questions, decide if this item is wearable

In other words, if it’s…

  • Faulty
  • Missing a button
  • Stained
  • Torn
  • Faded (not by design)
  • Pilling
  • Or anything else that makes it look sad or tired

It should go in the no pile UNLESS it can be repaired.

If it’s unrepairable, it’s an immediate no.

If it’s repairable, it’ll need to pass the next two steps to stay in your wardrobe. However, you must commit to having it repaired within the next 2 weeks. No putting it back in your wardrobe until it’s done. Otherwise, it’s a no.

Next, ask yourself “Does this item bring me joy?” (The soul check)

Yes, joy. This is a Marie Kondo thing, but I want to give you a bit more than that because “joy” could sound a little weird when it comes to clothing.

Some clues this item “sparks joy”:

  • You always look forward to wearing it
  • It’s what you reach for when you want to feel extra confident
  • Looking at it makes you smile
  • There’s an expansive feeling in your body when you think about it

Some clues this item needs to go:

  • You’ve gone to throw it out multiple times (yet never follow through)
  • You always feel a little “meh” when you wear it
  • You feel a bit embarrassed when you wear it
  • There’s a contractive feeling in your body when you think about it

Run a practical analysis of it’s potential (The strategy check)

Joy on it’s own won’t cut it… sorry. These pieces of clothing need to earn the right to take up precious wardrobe space.

So now it’s time to see what kind of potential they hold by seeing if they check at least three of the following boxes:

  • You wear it regularly (and feel good in it)
  • It’s a color that suits you (or makes you really happy)
  • It’s comfortable and well-fitting
  • It fits one of the lifestyle categories you need clothing for – eg:
    • Work
    • Work from home
    • Physical activity
    • Social day
    • Social night
    • Lounging at home (and could answer the door in)
    • Special occasions you get invited to

Unless you have a really good reason for them not checking at least three boxes (for instance it’s a work uniform or something you wear to auditions — although they should still fit and be comfortable!) then it’s time for that item to go in the “no” pile. Don’t worry about what to do with the no’s except separate them for now. I’m less worried about what happens to these and more focused on you decluttering!

Rinse and repeat

You’re now going to continue this for every single item of clothing you own, dumping all of the no’s in one big pile, and putting the yes’s to the side until you’re finished*.

*You could put them back in your wardrobe as you go, but I find it easier to do it all at once as it gives you the chance to see how much you have leftover and “redesign” your wardrobe so it feels fresh and more inspiring.

Step three: say good-bye

A very cathartic step Marie Kondo includes in the process is saying a formal goodbye to each piece that goes in the no pile. This involves thanking it for its service (even if it was never worn – it still played a part in your journey!) and placing it on the pile with love.

I fought this at first because it seemed, well, odd. But it actually helped a lot as it eased the pain of all that wasted money and taught me to take future purchases more seriously.

You do you though. This part is completely optional. What isn’t optional is your commitment to getting all of this leftover clothing out of your house ASAP.

GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

From the way I see it, you have 2 options with the wearable pieces:

  1. Donate ‘em
  2. Sell ‘em

Photographing and listing clothing takes time, so your “return on investment” won’t be massive. But hey, if you’re short on cash right now and/or want to use these rejects to help fund your wardrobe updates, then utilising something like Poshmark, eBay or Facebook Marketplace could be exactly what you need!

Not concerned about making anything for them or can’t deal with the level of effort? Do your research and find a clothing donation place that truly needs it. While thrift shops will probably take them, you may find a shelter who gives the clothing straight to the homeless or if you have some decent workwear, an organisation like Dress for Success https://dressforsuccess.org/ will be incredibly grateful for your donations.

Step four: celebrate what you just accomplished!

Seriously. What you did (or about to do) is a big deal. And while you may be like… “eh, it’s just clothes” – it’s actually much more than that.

You’re taking charge of your wardrobe. Setting new standards for yourself. Making space for the new. 

And most excitingly: one step closer to having a wardrobe you love. Full of clothes that make you feel amazing and confident. Outfits that express who you are and attract opportunities you deserve.

So when you’re done, stop for a moment and celebrate! Set some intentions for what “the new” looks and feels like.

And come back to read part 2: How to create a color palette for your wardrobe (and why you really need one) so we can continue this journey together.

Deal?

See you soon. And happy decluttering!

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