The clothes closet is a great space to begin the decluttering process because we generally accept that our current wardrobe will not serve our needs forever. We purchase clothing items with the knowledge that they will eventually wear out physically or cease being useful to us; this assumption makes it easier to let go of them. Unless you’re like me, and love sewing and/or hate shopping. In which case, you might be hoarding clothes “to wear some time” or “to fix/patch/upcycle/dye some day.” Whether the closet-thinning process comes naturally to you or not, here are some tips to guide your work:
1. Sort by size
If you have a range of sizes in your wardrobe, it is helpful to sort them by type (dress pants, casual pants, dress shirts, etc) and then size- even if more than one size fits you currently. Grouping the clothes like this is beneficial because it
- creates a real-time bar graph of how your clothing is distributed between the sizes
- breaks the decluttering task into manageable chunks automatically
- prepares you for documenting any clothing you donate for tax purposes
Don’t worry, it’s totally alright to retain clothing from throughout the size range if you want.
2. Yes, No, Maybe
Do a QUICK first pass to sort items into “Yes, keep this,” “No, donate or trash it,” or “Maybe keep it” piles. Go with your instinct on this, especially on the “No”s. You may even find that everything of a certain size or type can be placed in the “No”s because you don’t anticipate using it.
3. Review Maybes
Review each maybe item and place it in Yes or No. Trust your initial instinct to place something in the No pile, and resist the urge to rescue “No”s. Remember we are FAAAR more likely to keep things we won’t use than we are to discard something we’ll miss. A few questions to guide this process:
- When is the last time you used this?
- Would you wear this tomorrow? If not, identify why.
- What stops you from using this, and is it likely to change? This will help you discard items that you continually pass over as wardrobe choices because they are too clingy/baggy/short/hot/itchy…have the wrong neckline or sleeve cut….are no longer your style….are stained or damaged….
- If you’re considering keeping a usable item “just in case” (in case you’re that size again; you do that activity again; a specific occasion comes up; could use it for a craft; find time to alter it) ask yourself if you would prefer to enjoy the extra closet space until “that case” arises, if it ever does, and then purchase a new or used replacement at that time instead. In fact, if you sell the item in question and purchase a used replacement later, this option can actually be very cheap or free.
4. Review Yes pile
Now that you have a lot of practice using your No pile, go through the Yeses one last time for a final cut. Use the same questions as with the Maybes.
5. Salvage, Trash, and Donate
This is an important step. After the hard work of sorting, GET RID of the NOs promptly or they’ll stick around for MONTHS or years.
- If you craft or sew, you can glean useful bits like buttons, elastic, belts, logos, and zippers before discarding items.
- Then take the trash pile ALL THE WAY to the curb or dumpster. Not in a trash bag in the corner. Not in a forgotten trash can near your closet. Not in a “to throw away” box in the spare bedroom.
- For donations, sort and catalog the items if you’re going to seek a tax deduction for them. There are handy programs and apps to track items and suggest values like ItsDeductible from Turbo Tax.
- Take the items ALL THE WAY to the donation spot, whether it’s a church, Goodwill, Salvation Army, a local charity drive, or a family you know. It takes surprising persistence to get the items boxed/bagged, to the vehicle, and to the charity. Don’t stop until you’re really done, so that someone else can use that item now and you can start enjoying your free space!