9 Reasons You Fear Decluttering Clothes {And How to Get Past It}

IN THIS POST: We’ll discuss nine reasons why so many of us fear decluttering clothes. To successfully declutter your closet and manage your wardrobe, it’s imperative to recognize many of the seemingly logical excuses we make are actually based on fear.

It’s hard to declutter clothes, so we’ll also talk about mindset shifts and strategies you can practice to conquer your fears about getting rid of clothes you don’t wear.

white jacket and black purse hanging on rack against white wall with text overlay let go of decluttering clothing fears

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These are part of my essential declutter tips to help you enjoy a clutter-free home and life. Whether you struggle with one of all of these issues, I know you can reach your goal of a decluttered — and amazing — wardrobe.

There is some tough love in this post… Please understand that it comes from a place of wanting you to be happy and comfortable with your home. 

Ready to stop feeling like a clothes hoarder and end the fear of decluttering your clothes? Keep reading… 

How to Recognize That You Fear Decluttering Clothes 

The first obstacle many face when learning how to declutter your wardrobe is thinking it’s necessary to keep everything. We may not actually recognize this as fear, but that’s what it is. 

We often phrase this fear in a way that gives us a logical-sounding reason to keep too many clothes. 

But in the end, fear is just an excuse. Which is awesome, because it means you can find even better reasons to get rid of clothing you don’t need.

Here are some of the fears I and many others have worked through, along with some tips to help you stop making excuses due to fear. 

1. What if I declutter too many clothes?

Are you afraid you’ll declutter so much that you won’t be able to assemble complete outfits?

The odds of that happening are SO low that you really REALLY shouldn’t worry about it. If you manage to dress yourself daily now, and you don’t wear everything you own, then you have nothing to worry about! 

Besides, after you declutter, you will still have at least a base wardrobe. Many people call this a capsule wardrobe and find it makes creating a variety of outfits easier than when trying to work with an overwhelming wardrobe.

Try this:

  • Store half of your current-season clothes in covered bins. 
  • Put the bins somewhere you won’t see them every day. If you don’t have a space for bins, store them in zippered bags under your bed.
  • Then, just see how it goes for two months. Set a reminder on your phone or in your planner to do a wardrobe review at that time.
  • Did you miss anything? Did you forget about those clothes you didn’t wear?
  • If you didn’t miss anything, pack those bins into your vehicle and drop them off at a donation center. Don’t even open them. Just let the decluttered clothing go.
  • Do this every season for a year. By that time, you could have decluttered half of your wardrobe! And during that time, your mind will adjust to working with fewer pieces. You will probably even find it easier to plan your outfits every week now that you can actually see what you have!

2. I’ll be sad if my closet isn’t full.

This fear is so powerful. Triggered by our need to fill and desire to exceed the basic necessities of life, we start to equate a smaller wardrobe with an ‘empty’ closet. We confuse it with lack, poverty, and failure.

Turn that thinking on its head: 

  • Rejoice because you can find all of your clothes, which means you are successful at organizing. 
  • Everything works together… or works on its own because it’s an amazing piece. This means you continue to provide well for yourself.
  • Your clothes have room to breathe, so they will be less wrinkled and require less preparation time before wearing. You are caring for yourself and your possessions admirably.

3. My clothes are my identity. Getting rid of them would be like losing part of myself.

No. A wardrobe is simply a collection of inanimate objects.

Keeping the best of your clothing is making a conscious and positive choice. And when you keep and wear only the clothes that make you feel amazing, it means you’re not afraid to be your very best self all the time.

Or — a related fear — you just ‘know’ people would talk about you… how you used to dress so well, but obviously now you can’t afford a decent wardrobe.

Well, first of all, most people really won’t notice. We’re all naturally less observant of what others wear than ourselves. So, stop letting that concern you. 

Second, if you have ‘friends’ like that, it may be time to expand your circle to include people who really care about you and don’t gossip. I know, not exactly the point here… but not all of our decluttering is about physical objects. 

pile of decluttered clothing on wood floor

4. What if I have to go back to work? 

Maybe you successfully work from home right now, but in the back of your mind lives the niggling worry that something will happen and you will have to get a ‘real’ job again. 

So you hold on to your old work wardrobe, because you want to be ready ‘just in case.’ 

Plus, the idea of replacing those expensive work clothes makes you cringe. 

Been there, felt that. This one’s very personal. Guess what I kept in my closet for two years after I quit a job to which I knew I would never return? Yep, work clothes that I had no other reason to wear. 

Here are some things to consider:

  • If you do decide to return to work outside the home, wearing newer clothes that are more stylish will give you a confidence boost.
  • Your old work wardrobe may not be appropriate for a new work position.
  • Most importantly, hanging on to those clothes is a limiting belief. You’re telling yourself that you don’t truly believe in your abilities or your decision to work from home. 
  • Let go of the old clothes, let go of the doubt, and go all-in on your belief in yourself!
  • If you want to move forward in your business — and your life — you have to release things from the past. That includes the clothes that represent the ‘old work you’ — you aren’t that person now. You’ve moved on.

Try this:

Keep a few things from your previous professional work wardrobe that are comfortable to wear and make you feel confident and productive. Then, wear those clothes even when you’re working from home and nobody can see you. 

Don’t worry about wrecking them. You weren’t wearing them anyway, so what would it matter? 

You just may boost your productivity and your business. If the clothes don’t help and you don’t love them, then it’s truly better to let those clothes go completely.

5. I Have A Hard Time Finding Clothes That Fit

For many of us, shopping is difficult because stores carry limited sizes, and anything outside that selection is hard to find and often expensive. We feel like we have to keep everything even if it’s not particularly comfortable or we don’t really like it much.

A couple of things to try:

  • From your closet, pull out the things you like and fit you. The ones you wear all the time. See how many outfits you can make from those. It’s likely you really do have enough clothing you love and you can just let the other things go.
  • If you have a difficult time finding clothing in brick and mortar stores, check online. If you have an Amazon Prime membership, you can often purchase clothing with free Prime shipping. Also check the description, because many companies also offer free return shipping when you buy through Amazon. It’s a good way to try on clothing without as much frustration.
  • For larger women, another option is Old Navy online. Old Navy clothes are cute, very generously sized, and are often on sale. They usually do charge shipping, so take that into consideration, but I find that a fair price to pay for being able to find clothes I like.

So don’t be afraid to get rid of those things that aren’t you… that aren’t comfortable… that don’t make you feel good when you’re wearing them. A good base wardrobe means it’s simpler to plan outfits and keep track of your stuff.

6. Shopping is Overwhelming

Oh, I hear you! Even when most stores carry your size, simply finding them can feel like an immense effort. 

Walking into a store, seeing so many options that you forget what you needed to purchase, searching through racks and racks of clothes just to find a few things that you like… 

Then, you finally try them on only to discover they look weird. Or you suddenly realize they won’t work with anything you already have. Ugh! 

You end up keeping all of your old unworn and unloved clothes simply because you already have them and it makes you feel like you don’t have to search for anything new.

Once again, online shopping is your friend. It might take a little while to find a store that caters to your personal style with clothes that fit and make you feel amazing, but once you do, sign up for their email list and periodically browse their site. 

It’s so much less overwhelming than shopping ‘in person’ and you’ll often end up with clothes that are more unique than what everyone else is wearing.

In the meantime, slowly weed out the clothes you’ve hung onto and either never worn or that don’t work with your favorites. Keeping them isn’t helping you or preventing the need to occasionally have to replace your favorite items.

two stacks of decluttered clothes ready to donate

7. What if I Gain or Lose Weight?

I often hear people say something like, ‘My weight fluctuates so regularly that I have to keep all the things.’

I can understand that. I’ve been there. 

But I would suggest just keeping only one or two outfits in one size higher and lower than where you are now.

Whatever size you’re in right now is probably the one you wear most often, so just go with it and build your wardrobe around that base. 

Then consider… what can you do to stay in one size of clothing? Some of that is personal health choices, some of it can feel out of your control. 

For now, work with your body. Keep clothes that have a little bit of give… some stretch, etc. Use your current accessories to help you feel more stylish in your outfits even if they don’t fit perfectly.

If you’re a large size right now and you’re hoping that you’re going to reduce five sizes into the things you’re still keeping from years ago, you really need to let all of those very tiny clothes go. 

Realistically, it will take a while to lose enough weight to change that many sizes. Plus, something you can look forward to… clothing in those smaller sizes will be easier to find when the time comes. 😉 

If you’re afraid you’re going to gain 10 or 20 pounds because that’s been your history… What can you do to prevent that?

Dress for the person you are today. You’ll be happier because you won’t have to face negative reminders every time you open your closet. 

You might be surprised that it’s easier to stay one size if you don’t have so many ‘just in case’ pieces on hand.

8. Everyone Saves Their Special Clothing

No, many people don’t. That statement in your head is simply more flawed thinking.

Keeping all those old clothes ‘for the memories’ is doing you no good at all. How often do you pull them out to help you remember events from your past?

Probably never.

As an example, here’s how I learned this lesson:

I saved my wedding dress, high school graduation dress, and several other ‘special’ pieces for many years through several moves. I don’t recall ever pulling those things out to look at, only packing them up to move.

Then we had an incident with one of our pets. My special clothes were ruined and discarded. I definitely shed some tears. 

But most importantly, I made a discovery… I didn’t actually need the clothes to remember those events. It kind of blew my mind, but it was also incredibly liberating!

Try this:

Pull out some of the ‘memory’ clothes you’ve been saving. Take a picture. Cut a swatch of fabric if you enjoy the texture. Make a scrapbook or a quilt. 

Keep the memories. Let the clothing go.

white jacket and black purse hanging against white wall

9. What if I make a mistake when decluttering my clothes?

At the root of everything, this is our biggest fear. It encompasses everything I’ve already talked about in this post.

Somewhere deep inside, we’re sure that we’ll regret our decisions. Or that we’ll accidentally give away our all-time favorite piece of clothing.

Try this:

Trust yourself and trust the decluttering process.

People who have been right where you are now have been successfully decluttering their clothing every single day without regrets or ‘mistakes.’ 

Believe that you can do this, because you really can!

Help for the Decluttering and Organizing Mindset

Stop Being a Victim of Clutter {Mindset Transformation} – Filling the Jars

The Essentials of a Well-Balanced Wardrobe – Real Simple

4 Mindset Shifts to Help Clear Your Cluttered House – Filling the Jars

How to Organize a Small Master Closet – Filling the Jars

Why Decluttering is Important for Self-Care – Simple Lionheart Life

More Decluttering Help

Want a free printable Simple Closet Decluttering checklist? Sign up below to have it sent right to your email box!

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decluttered clothing on wood background with text how to declutter old clothes

17 thoughts on “9 Reasons You Fear Decluttering Clothes {And How to Get Past It}”

    1. Found my way here down a rabbit trail started from a Pinterest spiral…it’s a habit I keep trying to break but the effort is sabotaged when I find something as life-changing as this website might be. “Overwhelmed Overthinker”–if anything ever described me that’s it! So much of this article was exactly what *I* needed, and truly helpful HOW,, instead of the same old tired advice I already know. I’m just thrilled to have found it! Score one for rabbit trails!

  1. So happy to find a older women (I’m in my 50’s) that understands where I am. We are both disabled so decluttering is physically difficult for us. My best friend is so organized and was helping me go through every closet. Then hit the pandemic! I did declutter my clothing the Marikondo way a year and a half ago. This was wrong for me. I’ve ended up spending thousands replacing my closet! Clothing is more important to me than other items. This was my career field, how I express myself, and my degree. I have decided to pack clothing away in totes after first letting go of older clothing items.

    1. This is to let you know where I am now in 2024. All my closets are decluttered!! Yes, my Master Bedroom Closet of clothing as well!! The only thing I must do that you don’t recommend is keep two sizes of clothing because I’m on dialysis and gaining 10 pounds on a weekend is normal for us. It’s all fluid!! Otherwise I wouldn’t have anything for church!! I continue to read your blog and learn new things on decluttering all the time!!! Thank you!!!

  2. This hit the reasons I kept so many clothes. A few years ago I got rid of my someday I will fit into these clothes, after I had my daughter realizing the change your body goes thru with pregnancy these clothes might not ever fit the same. And also they were no longer me, I would rather shop again. And a couple years ago got rid of my “bigger” clothes, due to weight Flux. They were all either hand me downs, or clearance items. That I needed as nothing fit. But when I did wear some of it. They looked sloppy and as this said keeping them was a bad reminder. I did keep two pairs of jeans from each. Which glad I did since working from home I gained, so I have jeans. And the smaller size my daughter can now wear which gives me inspiration to eat healthier.

  3. These are such useful tips! I especially love the idea of setting things aside for a while and then checking in to see if you missed them. We’ve been doing that in different areas around our house and I’ve only gone back to grab one cheese grater! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I have never had a fear of decluttering my closet as I have found that having less actually helps me be more creative. Easier to find things, not having to look at things I do not enjoy wearing… I style shop but try to have shopping fasts, where I do my best to wear my closet and decide what I might want. The main thing for me is to resist impulse shopping.

  5. Boy, you’ve done it again!
    Hit the nail on the head!
    This is so apt, and I’m working on this! We have a shed full of clothes that we have not worn in three years! But they are hard to get rid of! I’m starting with my husband’s, lol! Then I’m moving on to my own!

    Great post!
    Ridge Haven Homestead

  6. I’m literally reading all kinds of pinterest articles about decluttering my stuff!! Decluttering my shoes and clothes the past 2 days has been actually shocking!! Oh wow!! I forgot about this outfit or pants or whatever. I have chosen to give them to friends who could use them first!! The shoe article was a biggie!! Gratefully I found someone who wears the same size!! 5 1/2 – 6!!! Happy to share!! Thank u for the articles they are very helpful!!

  7. Thanks for the tough love. Very kindly said but firm enough to give me the kick in the butt. Now I feel I have the strength and courage to declutter my wardrobe and potentially my entire house now. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m not afraid of much or so I thought…so thank you for putting a label on the issue I’m having getting rid of things. Wasn’t aware it was fear but it truly makes so much sense and I strongly believe I’m going to grow so much from this one article. Will definitely have to look around on your site, I believe there’s much more I can learn from you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. <3 p.s. My husband might be more thankful thank I am for this post here soon when he sees the change.

  8. Thank you for all your wonderful suggestions on cleaning out a Master Closet!! I will never have a closet like yours but I’m a different person!! Personal style & Fashion really matter to me!! I ‘ve learned I must get rid of items slowly or I will go on a purchasing spree!!! I allow myself to keep my items in plastic sealed totes before deciding if they leave permanently!! You have great storing idea’s for closets as well!!! Thank you for the encouragement & great idea’s!!!

  9. As a former fashion editor I have always loved clothes, and I especially like clothing that might be a little advant garde for others. But my basic wardrobe is solid colors (rarely prints or geometricals). I add interest to my plain clothing by pairing with interesting scarves, jewelry or jackets (including sweaters and throws, serapes, ruanas etc.) that are worn on top of the solid colors.

    As an editor I always wrote stories about how to wear older clothing in new ways. I would go through a person’s wardrobe, pick out items, photograph them as originally worn, then pair them with other items in the wardrobe or new additions to update them. A little imagination, color sense, proportion sense can go a long way to making the old feel new again.

    I find Filling the Jars so informative in so many ways, but unless a clothing item
    is so worn that it has to be turned into cleaning cloths, or so big or small that it will be more useful to someone else, I struggle with getting rid of clothes and accessories.

    I profess I can declutter other areas of my home much easier than my closet. Do I need help or less imagination?
    Ruth A

  10. I decluttered one sweater too many (a seasonal sweater appropriate for Christmas or Thanksgiving). Guess what? I got to go shopping!!!!

  11. It is easy to say let go of clothes but when you are a very small petite woman it is hard. In todays world no one or no one I can find carry jeans or dress pants in 00 size and long enough in boot cut. If you know any where or a brand please let me know.
    Alterations are expensive!

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