IN THIS POST: We humans are great at coming up with completely logical excuses to keep things we don’t use or need. Today it’s time to stop making excuses to avoid decluttering clothes.
We’ll discuss the big reasons people don’t get rid of old clothes. We’ll also cover a clothes decluttering solution that will help change your mindset so you can confidently ditch excess clothing. It really does get easier with practice!
How to keep a decluttered wardrobe is one of my favorite wardrobe management tips that will truly make your life easier after you do the initial work. Keep reading…
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Why Do We Make Excuses to Avoid Decluttering Clothes?
There are 5 major emotional reasons we keep too much clothing and avoid decluttering the things we never wear. This makes it seem nearly impossible to control the excess that collects within our entire household:
From those main reasons emerge alllll the excuses. (Spoiler alert… they’re still excuses!)
Here are a few common issues I hear all the time. And I totally understand them, because I’ve felt these things too!
- Is it difficult for you to shop, so you feel like you must keep everything that you finally manage to buy?
- Do you find amazing bargains on the clearance rack, yet you never wear them?
- Is your closet just too small for any normal-size wardrobe?
- Did you spend a LOT of money on some items? And then you only wore them once? Or maybe never? But you can’t get rid of those items because… all that money.
- You think you should probably try to sell those expensive pieces of clothing, but the idea makes you break out in a cold sweat.
Let’s get past those issues and do the necessary closet decluttering to leave the excuses behind and have a fantastic wardrobe.
How to Work Through the Guilt of Letting Go of Excess Clothing
Let’s talk about some of the guilt we feel about clothing and some ways we can kick that excuse to the curb so we can love our wardrobe again.
‘It would be like wasting money.’
Perhaps you’ve spent a lot of money on your clothing, especially on ‘classic’ pieces. Then you discovered those ‘classic’ pieces really don’t work forever like you told yourself when you bought them.
Or maybe you’ve purchased a lot of fantastic things on clearance, so many that you haven’t even worn them. They probably still have the tags on them.
You feel extremely guilty about spending so much and not getting your money’s worth out of those clothes.
Point-blank, you have take money out of the equation. Here’s the thing… You have already spent that money. Keeping those clothes in your closet is not going to change the fact that the money is gone.
‘I should sell my clothes.’
You’re still hung up on the money, trying to ‘get it back.’
Well, I’ll tell you this… Unless you have extremely expensive designer clothing, that’s going to be very difficult.
You’re going to spend a lot of time and effort trying to sell your stuff.
You can try to put ‘regular clothes’ up on Facebook marketplace or a similar site, but it’s pretty rare that somebody local is going to want your used clothes. You may be able to move brand new clothes, but only if they are very nice and currently stylish.
And garage sales? Straight talk, you’re not going to be able to sell regular used adult clothes. They either won’t sell at all, or the amount you would get is not at all worth the effort and time.
What if you actually do have expensive designer clothing? If you absolutely need the money, the best option is to take it all to a consignment store. Whatever they don’t accept, donate immediately. This will require the least time and effort on your part.
No time to read the entire post? Just want to start decluttering your closet? Click here to have the free printable Simple Closet Decluttering checklist sent right to your email.
‘I should deduct the donation value from my taxes.’
You can try to do that. But the itemization limits in the United States have changed in the past year. It’s very likely you will not be able to deduct the value of the donations unless it’s a significant portion of your income.
Fully check the tax requirements. Then you can decide whether it’s actually worth your time to evaluate every single piece of clothing and do all the work it takes for the tax deduction.
The best thing you can do is admit you made a purchasing mistake and let it go. Donate the clothing to help others, not for the money.
Then, move on with your life, because your energy is the most important thing you need to preserve.
‘People have given me clothes and it would be ungrateful to get rid of them.’
This is simply incorrect thinking, a limitation you have placed on yourself.
When people give you clothes, they are not giving them to you with an expectation that you will keep them forever.
Someone giving you a gift does not obligate you to make it work. If it’s not your style, your size, or anything else, it’s okay to donate it and let it go.
If you can’t use it and love it, then you’re actually being more ungrateful by keeping it than letting it go to someone who could get use out of it and absolutely adore it.
Why would you deny someone else the joy of using that piece of clothing?
Pass the items along in the spirit in which they were given to you. Think of it as a circle of goodness.
Why Hope Is a Bad Reason to Keep Clothing
Sure, hope is a good thing. But not when we use it as an excuse to hold on to clothing. Here are some ‘hopeful’ excuses and why they are flawed thinking.
‘Having goal clothing will motivate me to lose weight.’
How many of us hope that we will lose 10 pounds or 100 pounds and be able to wear our ‘real’ wardrobe again?
We just KNOW it’s going to happen, so we keep all those old clothes that are no longer our correct size.
Let’s face it, if we haven’t been able to wear our ‘real’ clothes in years, then we’re probably not doing what it takes to make that happen. And that, my friend, is actually causing guilty feelings, not hope.
You’re the same person no matter what size you are.
So let those old things go. Keep ONE piece as a ‘goal’ and put that thing out of sight until you’re ready to do the work of making changes.
Keep the hope alive, but you don’t have to keep a bunch of old clothes for that. A closet full of clothes that fit you well right now will help your personal confidence level.
You’ll be in a better mindspace to decide to make lifestyle changes for positive reasons instead of guilt.
‘I want to wear it, I just haven’t had the opportunity.’
We tell ourselves, ‘I still love that piece and WANT to wear it.’ Which seems to be a good reason, right?
Dig a little deeper… Why haven’t you worn that piece of clothing you ‘love’ and that actually fits?
This excuse is difficult to overcome because it’s not related to how much you weigh or whether you feel amazing in the clothing piece.
Well, what’s stopping you from wearing it in your everyday life?
Dress up, feel awesome. There’s nothing wrong with that at all.
Otherwise, if it’s an over-the-top piece that simply doesn’t work in any part of your life, the harsh truth is that you need to let it go.
When the Clothing Clutter is Overwhelming
Those of us who aren’t great at fashion tend to collect a lot of clothes that don’t always work well together. Over time, this can be a mountain that seems impossible to sort.
‘Decluttering my clothes is just too hard.’
Do you feel like there’s just so much stuff that it completely overwhelms you when you open your closet?
Or maybe you don’t even use your closet. Maybe your clothes are in piles all over the house.
You want to declutter, but there are just so. many. clothes.
Start with one pile at a time. And you can do this. Go through the individual steps of how to downsize your wardrobe. It doesn’t have to happen in a day, but you can make it happen.
‘I’m not good at assembling outfits, so I need lots of clothing options.’
I hear you!
The thing is, as you declutter what really doesn’t work at all, you will naturally gravitate toward keeping clothes you like. Often those are clothes that people have complimented you on.
Taken together, your newly decluttered wardrobe will likely show a similarity of style, which will help you create more outfits with fewer pieces.
If, however, you’re left with a mish-mash, now is a great time to begin developing your style! Here are some great capsule wardrobe outfit ideas.
Conquer the Decluttering Roadblock of Fear
Fear of letting your old clothes go is usually the biggest obstacle to successfully right-sizing your closet.
In fact, the issue is so huge that I wrote an entire blog post about the reasons you fear decluttering clothes and how to get past it.
Briefly, it encompasses this:
- What if I declutter too many clothes?
- An empty closet makes me sad
- My clothes are my identity
- What if I have to go back to work?
- I have a hard time finding clothes that fit
- Shopping is overwhelming
- What if I gain or lose weight?
- Sentimental clothing
- What if I make a mistake?
(Go ahead, click that link above and read it now, then come back. I’ll wait.)
Once you recognize what’s really going on, you can change your thinking and stomp those fears into the ground.
Are You Too Stubborn to Let Go of Old Clothes?
Guess what? This isn’t always about the clothes. Sometimes it’s about relationships. And sometimes it’s mental baggage or something we’ve conditioned ourselves to think of as ‘normal.’
Do you recognize any of these in yourself?
‘I like it, so I’m keeping it. Case closed.’
How many times have you said, ‘I just love all of my clothes and can’t imagine getting rid of any of them.’ And maybe, ‘Nobody can tell me what to do.’
I can understand that. Building a wardrobe takes time and we almost feel like we’ve formed a relationship with some of our pieces.
And you’re right… Nobody can ‘make’ you get rid of your clothes.
But let me ask you this: How many pieces do you ‘love’ and that fit you, but you haven’t worn in months or years?
I would imagine there are at least a few. Maybe a lot.
And let’s be honest… Nobody LOVES every single thing in their closet on the same level.
Plus, why are you reading a blog post about decluttering clothes if you don’t think you need to get rid of anything?
Start slow. Let go of the things you don’t love ‘as much’ and the things that don’t fit you ‘as well’ as everything else.
Do that once a month or so. Gradually you will work your way down to a manageable wardrobe level.
‘I don’t have too many clothes. My closet is too small.’
That’s possible, but extremely unlikely. It’s just a very easy excuse to make, especially when we’re bombarded with images of gorgeous room-sized closets everywhere from Pinterest to HGTV to Instagram.
The truth is, most of us have adequate storage for our clothing.
However, for some reason we think we need a new wardrobe every season… and then we never get rid of the old things. Which means we ‘need’ more and more closet space.
Eventually, that’s a problem.
It is possible to organize a full wardrobe in a small closet, but first you have to let go of the things you no longer need.
What do you love? What’s current? Keep those, and gradually let go of the rest.
‘My clothes aren’t the issue. It’s my partner/spouse/children.’
This could be partially true! Maybe you actually only have a few pieces of clothing. Yet your entire closet is overstuffed with your partner’s clothes. Your children have so many clothes that they’re all over their bedroom.
There are piles of clean laundry on the furniture. There are so many clothes that the task of caring for them seems endless and overwhelming.
And… you’re wondering what this has to do with stubbornness?
I’ll put it this way: Other people’s clutter is not your fault.
However… when it affects you, your home, and other members of the family, you do have a responsibility to step up and say something. If you don’t, then you’re being stubborn and making yourself a martyr for ‘having’ to deal with the issue.
You suffer in silence, allowing resentment to build because others refuse to accept personal responsibility.
Or you take on the task of decluttering everyone else’s stuff, resulting in arguments or family members who learn to expect you to take care of everything.
Any of those reactions on your part are exhibiting a stubborn attitude.
Taking action by introducing the subject as a family matter isn’t whining or nagging.
It’s a good opportunity for teamwork between you and your partner. You can work together to get the closet down to a manageable level.
If your children are young, then it’s your responsibility as a parent to give them the gift of fewer things so they will be less overwhelmed, learn to appreciate and care for the clothing they have, and you will be less frustrated with clutter.
If your children are teenagers and they’re buying all these clothes with their own money… Well, you can have some pretty good conversations with your teenager about excess and the consumer world that we live in. As a last resort, you can pull the parent card and just say stop.
Setting boundaries is tough, but working together for the benefit of the family is always a positive move. Offer to work WITH the other family members, but don’t force them to your ideals. Compromise until you’re all on the same page.
Miscellaneous Excuses We Use to Keep Too Many Clothes
‘Seasonal clothing takes a lot of space.’
I live in Michigan, where the weather can be 20 or 30 below zero (Farenheit) in the winter and 100 degrees or more in the summer with about 98% humidity. We need everything — cold weather clothes, snow clothes, hot summer clothes, and everything in between.
If you’re the active and outdoorsy type, then yes, you may need a lot of clothes for the different seasons.
However, most of us spend a large percentage of our time indoors. More and more, the indoors is climate-controlled, which means we don’t need a huge selection of clothing for every season.
The next time you switch out your seasonal wardrobe, ask yourself how many of the pieces you’re getting ready to store were never worn during the season that’s ending. Those can go immediately.
If you have a lot of outerwear that you’ve been holding ‘just in case’ you ever take another weekend at a ski resort, ask yourself how likely that is.
Uncomfortable questions, yes. But letting go only means more room in your closet for the things you actually wear!
‘I love having a lot of clothes now that I’ve lost weight.’
Perhaps you’ve worked incredibly hard and gotten to a place in your life where you’re thrilled with how clothes look on you.
You want to buy all the clothes — and you do. You have so many clothes that you will never be able to wear them all.
Now is absolutely the perfect time to keep only the things that make you feel MOST amazing. Deep down, you know every single piece of clothing you have does not do that for you.
Be a little choosier about what you purchase in the first place. Bring home fewer things. Understand that if you don’t buy this thing today, you will find something at least as nice, at least as inexpensive, and at least as amazing the next time you shop.
Now is also the time to develop your own style. Let go of all the ‘extras’ in your current collection that don’t fit that style.
Extra Tips for Dropping the Excuses and Decluttering Clothing
When you’re learning to stop making excuses to avoid decluttering clothes, eliminate these four terms from your vocabulary:
Every time you think of a ‘reason’ that contains one of these words, you will KNOW it’s just an excuse.
Decluttering is rarely easy. For some reason, getting rid of unworn clothes seems to be particularly difficult.
If you know you’re making excuses, but you still can’t seem to make much progress, try this:
Take 5 things to the donation center.
Wait a week and see how you feel.
Doing okay? Now try donating 10 things.
Keep doing this, waiting a week in between donations to gauge your feelings.
Try to increase the number of items you donate every week. But even if you can only bring yourself to let go of 10 at a time, that will make a big difference to your closet over a few weeks!
Got more clutter? Click here to read more declutter tips for your entire home!
You’ve got this!
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9 thoughts on “Stop Making These 14 Excuses to Avoid Decluttering Clothes”
Oh my how true this me I have clothes with tags not worsen sitting for 5 years and I can’t fit anymore as I can’t let go this has hit the nail on the head
I found this post very encouraging because it’s so realistic! I’m pretty minimalist in general but clothes are my struggle!! I don’t shop a lot but I have found that most of my clothes much longer than I like them. I keep them and suffer through when I could probably just let go. It’s not like I buy expensive things anyway.
Thanks so much for helping us realize that decluttering is not as simple as it might seem. We put it off because, oftentimes, it can be mentally draining. (I hate to be dramatic.) I have directed my readers to your blog (Qstylethebook.com).
I’m working on getting rid of a lot. I stay at my boyfriends house mostly with only a small dresser and can hang about 5 things. I have down sized a lot. This post inspired me to do want I need to, and go through the rest of my clothes in my apartment and give it to charity. I’m an Army Veteran and some VA hospital’s will take clothes in good shape for someone going to an interview. Amvets also have some donation stores. I like to give back to those who have helped me become who I am today.
As a senior, living on a very limited budget, I wind up keeping excess items in all categories. My underlying thought is always, “What if I won’t have the money to replace/upgrade this item in the future? If I ever need or want it again, and cannot afford to re-buy it, I’ll really be sorry. Therefore, I’d better keep what I have now.” How does one get past that monetary limitation?
That’s a great question! First, I would be really honest about how that strategy has worked in the past. Have you actually used those things that you held onto for years? If so, then it won’t hurt to keep a backup. If not (be honest!), then practice letting those backups go a little at a time. Nobody says you have to get rid of everything at once!
But the amazing thing about working to move past our mind’s monetary limitations is… the less we worry and hang on too tightly, the easier things tend to flow. I know, it sounds a little ‘woo’ — but I’m not a ‘woo’ kind of person and I’ve found it really does work that way. We become generous givers, and in return, that generosity tends to be returned to us with things or the money to buy the things we need.
Julie, thank you for the introspective and inspiring article on decluttering one’s closet. I have a suggestion that has worked really well for me that I would like to add. Usually it requires the help of a friend or spouse.
It works like this; I try on pieces of clothing I’m not sure about and have my helper take a front and back digital photo (that can be easily deleted). Next I view them on the camera or computer and usually what happens is that I learn which pieces are flattering and which are not–in an instant. Unflattering go bye-bye and then the flattering proceed to the gauntlet outlined in your article–stay or go. It works even better when full outfits are photographed.
Not only is this a very quick way to whittle down unflattering or unfitting clothes, but it also helps educate on what actually looks attractive. I suppose nobody wants to look bad even if it is just going to the grocery store!
Hi, Nancy! Thank you for your comment and that’s a GREAT idea! Love it! If you don’t have anyone to help, you might also be able to do this with a tripod and a remote control where you can just click to take a picture on your phone. Something like this set would work nicely.
Thank you for your article. I am trying to declutter my clothes. I have sooo many clothes, I was disgusted with myself. So many clothes have tags. I say I’m going to sell them but the thought gives me a headache. I’m on board. Thank you.