How to Declutter Your Wardrobe {and Still Have Plenty to Wear}

In this post, we’re going to discuss exactly how to declutter your wardrobe. If you’re afraid that means getting rid of all your clothes, don’t worry! It really is possible to downsize your closet and still have plenty of outfits to wear. 

Having a simplified closet is one of my favorite declutter tips. There’s just something joyful about a well-curated wardrobe that reduces daily overwhelm and frustration. I would love for you to experience that feeling!

split image of woman folding clothes and bright shirts in closet with text overlay how to declutter your wardrobe

Have you really looked at your closet lately? Do you enjoy assembling your daily outfits, or do you dread the process of digging through piles of shoes, crowded racks, and too-full drawers? 

And should we even mention the clothes that have migrated onto surfaces where they don’t belong? (My husband claims exercise equipment should come with a rating of how much clothing can be piled on top of it.) 

Having an overabundance of clothes is not a sign of success, wealth, or good fashion sense.

It may be tough, but after you read this post and go through the process to simplify your wardrobe, you will be so glad you did the work!

In particular, this post will cover how to simplify your closet in the following ways:

  • The benefits of decluttering your closet — You need a GOOD reason to go to all this effort, right?
  • The decluttering rules that allow you to keep enough clothing to be happy and well-dressed
  • Exactly HOW to declutter when you’re faced with a mountain of wardrobe ‘essentials’
  • What should you keep, and how much should you have left?
  • What to do with decluttered clothing?

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Benefits of Decluttering Your Closet

When your closet isn’t full of clutter, it’s easier and faster to coordinate outfits. With proper organizing, you can make this work even if you have a tiny closet. Just remember, decluttering always comes first!

When your clothes have more space to ‘live,’ they stay nicer. Which means they need less prep (steaming, ironing) before wearing.

Realizing that you don’t NEED all that clothing will eventually help you save money when you stop feeling like you constantly have to shop to find the ‘right’ new outfit because you ‘don’t have anything to wear.’

Finally, you may not believe this benefit right now, but just try it and see… You will actually wear more of your clothes, and enjoy wearing them more, when you simplify your closet and only keep the RIGHT items.

overwhelmed woman with long dark ponytail in front of wardrobe that needs to be decluttered

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How Do You Decide to Get Rid of Clothes?

There’s a little more involved in sorting the clothes in your closet than just throwing everything into a big pile and getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy. 

Let’s be real, just because you love a piece of clothing doesn’t mean it belongs in your wardrobe.

When you keep things that no longer work for you, or that you feel guilty about letting go because of the money… you are only causing yourself constant stress and unnecessary pain.

First, think about your goal for decluttering your wardrobe. 

Are you trying to make space for new clothes? 

Are you trying to get rid of a dresser and have everything fit in your closet? 

Are you trying to make space for another person to share your closet? 

Or do you just want to have fewer things in your closet so you can see what you have and make easier clothing choices? 

Your goal will determine how hard you have to work to get this done. 

Do you have a huge wardrobe, love everything, and THINK you wear all the pieces, but just feel like your space is too small? Then you are going to have a tougher time making choices. 

If everything does not fit in the space that you have, you may resent ‘having’ to downsize. 

In that case, maybe organizing is your solution. But just try decluttering first with a positive attitude. You may be surprised at how much you let go!

Perhaps your goal is to develop a capsule wardrobe? Then your choices should be easier because you’re already in a positive mindset. 🙂 

Once you determine your goal, then it’s time to do the work…  

How to Downsize Your Wardrobe

Before you begin, make sure you have a donation box handy. You don’t want to throw things into a big pile and then ‘forget’ which things you were going to keep and which were going. Sort as you go.

If you have a deep fear that you will end up keeping everything, call a trusted friend to help give you feedback on the pieces. Ask for and accept complete honesty.

bright rainbow of shirts hanging in clutter-free closet

Rules of Decluttering Your Wardrobe

Do NOT pull all of your clothes out of storage and throw them on your bed. You will end the day completely exhausted, with a huge mess, a partially-finished job, and nowhere to sleep. 

Instead, work in 10-20 minute increments. Go through 10 items at a time.

Work as you can, setting a timer if necessary, until you’ve sorted everything.

You may not get the whole thing done in a day or a weekend or a week. 

But that’s okay. You don’t have to have it done in a day. It might take you a month to declutter your wardrobe, but you’ll get it done. Just work steadily every day for whatever time you have available. This is a concept from Slow Decluttering, and it WORKS.

Immediately discard anything you haven’t worn in a year, is worn out, or doesn’t fit you. Unless you have a medical condition that causes you to change sizes often, then just stick with what fits right now. Don’t keep ‘just in case’ clothing.

If you have been holding on to clothing that needs to be repaired, think VERY hard about whether that will ever happen. If you haven’t done it by now, then you probably won’t, so don’t feel bad about discarding those items.

Try everything on if you have to. Don’t just look at it, remember that you used to like it, think ‘I need to wear that again,’ and keep it. It may no longer fit you or work with anything else you have.

Get rid of items that you don’t wear because they require special care. No matter how beautiful they are, if you wear them, you’ll probably just be worrying about making sure they don’t get stained or wrinkled.

Discard as you go. When a bag or box is full, get it out of your working space. Place donations in your vehicle or make an appointment for pickup. Click here for information on where to donate.

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

Emotional Questions to Ask When Decluttering Clothing

Do you feel good when you wear it? 

Is the clothing comfortable?

Do you feel confident when you wear that piece?

Does it match your personal style?

If you answer yes to everything, it’s a keeper. If you answer no to anything… it goes into the discard box.

What about sentimental pieces like wedding gowns or that little bikini you wore once many years ago? 

Set a strict limit of how much you will keep and always ask yourself WHY. You need to have a REALLY good reason. Otherwise, take a photo and let the actual clothing go.

Related reading: Stop Making These 14 Excuses to Avoid Decluttering Clothes

Declutter Your Wardrobe in This Order

1. Hanging items. Remember, sort about 10 items at a time. Determine what to keep according to the guidelines earlier in this post.

2. Folded clothes from your closet. Next, sort through the folded items. These may be on shelves or drawers inside your closet. 

3. Shoes. Good heavens, if you have shoes that hurt your feet, please get rid of them!

4. Accessories. Sort through all of your accessories like scarves, belts, and jewelry.

5. Dresser. Bonus points if you declutter so much that you can get rid of the dresser!

Are you thinking ‘who doesn’t have a dresser?’ 

Well… me. 😉 I absolutely hate dressers. They’re big, awkward, and impossible to keep organized. Plus, what lands on top? Clutter and dust!

I don’t care how cute those Konmari-style pictures are with 100 t-shirts folded up into tiny squares and ‘filed’ in the drawer. Be honest… are you really going to fold your clothes that way? Hangers and shelves work so much better!

6. Return and evaluate. Once you have sorted through everything and placed what you’re keeping in it’s proper place, quickly scan to see if you’ve missed anything.

woman in striped shirt sorting folded clothes on clutter-free closet shelf

What Should You Have In Your wardrobe?

At this point, the only things left should be things that fit you. That are comfortable and flattering. That you’ve worn in the last year. That don’t need to be repaired. That don’t require so much special care that you hesitate to wear them.

You might be wondering exactly how many clothes should you have?

That is so personal that I can’t make an exact recommendation. Some people function perfectly well with 20 or 30 total items. Others have more activities and events that require perhaps 100, or more items.

I will say… less clothing makes your life much, much easier. A base of 10-20 items will get you through most of the year and quite a few social occasions.

Look at what you have left. 

Can you create outfits with every piece? 

What fits in the space you have to store your clothing?

Do you have odd pieces that don’t work with anything else? 

Unless it’s an amazing piece that makes you look and feel like a powerful queen and would be worth finding other pieces to help it work, it may be better to donate that item. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for beginning a new clothing clutter collection.

What if nothing works together? 

Well, in the nearly-impossible event that this is the case, then let’s be real. You actually already had that problem… It was just hidden by all the other clothing you kept as you tried to pretend you had a great wardrobe.

If you really have nothing left, then now is the perfect opportunity to start from scratch and build a fantastic wardrobe that you love.

A great place to start is with a capsule wardrobe.

How Do You Dispose of Old Clothes?

After you declutter, you may be staring at a mountain of clothing that needs to GO. If you have a lot of new, tags-on, beautiful pieces, the temptation is always to try to ‘get your money back’ by selling.

That’s definitely an option. You can try consignment stores, online marketplaces like Facebook, ebay, or similar sites. You could have a garage sale — although I can tell you this… Adult clothing rarely sells well at garage sales, and it’s almost never worth the effort.

That leaves donating and tossing as options.

Donate, donate, donate! Read more here about why I love donating, and why it’s almost always a great choice.

Reader question: ‘But some of my stuff is just plain worn out or stained. Should I throw away my old clothes?’

Throwing clothing in the trash is usually unnecessary. There are nearly always options for clothing. 

Donate it to schools or activity centers to be deconstructed for craft projects. Or recycle it yourself into craft projects or rags.

Something I was happy to learn recently is that Goodwill accepts ANY textiles. They recycle what doesn’t sell or doesn’t meet their standards for selling.

However, if you can’t do any of those things, and it’s a choice between throwing your stuff in a trash bag to have it GONE vs. letting it sit in an ever-growing clutter pile, then grab your black trash bags and get the stuff out of your home by whatever means necessary.

WHY You’re Decluttering Those Clothes… And What’s Next?

Show yourself and your wardrobe some love by clearing out the things you no longer need and no longer serve you.

Once you know how to declutter your wardrobe properly, you can get to work making use of the GREAT pieces you have left. 

Even if you LOVE clothes, have a large space for them, and still want to keep many pieces… decluttering will serve you well by leaving you with the best of the best.

You owe it to yourself and your beautiful clothing to only keep the items you will love, care for well, and wear with confidence and pride.

You’ve got this!

More Simple Resources

Eliminate Decision Fatigue {Add “Flow” to Your Day & Relieve Stress} — Filling the Jars

Wardrobe Basics Checklist — Real Simple

9 Awesome Ways Your Life Will Become Simpler When You Declutter — Filling the Jars


Did you enjoy this post? Please take a moment to share on Pinterest or your favorite social media… thank you!

split image of empty black hangers and stacked sweaters with text how to declutter your wardrobe



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