Droves of Clothes
With a new house on the horizon and the prospect of moving, Jon and I have turned an eye toward our possessions. Moving sucks — there is no denying it. No matter how excited we are to get into the new house, the actual act of hauling our belongings down two flights of stairs and into a truck never ceases to be a huge pain in the ass. So we decided to make it easier on ourselves by decluttering some of our stuff before the big move actually happens. Our wardrobes seemed like the natural place to start, and I’m happy to say that we managed to cut our clothing down by about half. Here are seven methods that helped me through the difficult process of decluttering clothes.
#1 – Identify Your Anxieties
As I was digging through my closets and drawers, I felt like an archeologist. There were relics from a time before my current life that had somehow tagged along for years and years. I even found one piece of clothing that I’ve had since seventh grade! As you might have guessed, I struggle with the concept of decluttering. I find myself clinging to old clothes and possessions for reasons I often can’t quite explain. During the decluttering process, I had to confront some fears and anxieties that I didn’t even know I had. Here are some of the biggest culprits for my discomfort.
Clothes From My Teenage Years
I found several old dresses and shirts that I’ve had for 8-10 years that I simply don’t wear anymore. Either they are uncomfortable because my body has changed or they don’t feel like me anymore. I’m firmly in my mid-twenties, and what suited my style at 17 years old doesn’t quite cut it anymore. I was holding onto those items because I was afraid of letting go of my past. Of course, I’ve considered getting rid of them in past purges, but I held on because I was holding onto a fear of growing away from the goals and dreams of my youth. A part of me is afraid of aging, of losing that youthful enthusiasm, and of simply losing the good memories from those days.
But as I set those clothes into the donation bag (or trash — some were pretty beat up), I had to remind myself of a few things. First, I have plenty of things to remember my high school years by. Photos, music, and real life people who I still keep in touch with are much better ways to help me remember those good old days. Second, I am a much better version of myself than I could have ever dreamed when I was a teenager. I don’t need to worry about giving up on my teenage dreams. I’m living my dreams right now. There is a whole beautiful future that is full of unexpected and marvelous things, but I won’t get to experience them fully if I insist on clinging to the past.
Clothes From College
Initially, I planned on going into research psychology of some kind. I fully expected to work in a professional setting with doctorates and professors, so I began creating a wardrobe to reflect this career choice. Slacks, skirts, blouses, cardigans, pumps… I spent plenty of money curating a smart wardrobe for my future job. The problem is, my career took an unexpected turn into the wild world of blogging. Suddenly, I found that my collection of cute office clothes were rendered obsolete. What could I possibly need slacks for when I work from home? Why would I wear heels around my house?
Despite being a full-time blogger for three years now, I have held onto these sharp office clothes. Why? Part of the reason I didn’t get rid of my office digs is because of enormous money guilt. I spent my hard earned money on these clothes during a time when I didn’t have much money to spend. I have always experienced guilt with buying clothes for some reason. Something about spending money on something as unnecessary as a new blouse feels like a huge indulgence, and it has always been a big deal for me. I had to build up the courage to purchase these professional clothes. The idea of getting rid of them after I spent all that money made me stubbornly dig my heels into the dirt.
Another deep-seated fear that led to me holding onto office clothes was a fear of failure. What if my business goes under and I need to get a “real” job? What if I can’t cut it and I need these clothes later? These office outfits felt like a safety net of sorts. But after three years of a successful and growing business, I can finally ditch my safety net and donate those clothes.
Clothes I Recently Bought
I spent years wearing stuff I bought with limited funds or stuff that was bought for me. So about two years ago, I decided that I am a grown woman with a bit of disposable income and I want to develop a wardrobe that reflects who I am. Without a solid idea of what that wardrobe might look like, I started slowly acquiring a few items here and there. I tried shopping online, in stores, and thrifting. Still, though, I have weird levels of guilt when buying nice things for myself, and I had big emotional battles for each purchase. I simply cannot buy a new item of clothing without going through this process.
But as I started decluttering my clothes, I had to be brutally honest with each piece. Did I really want it? Did I ever wear it? I realized that being bought recently wasn’t a great indicator of whether an item should stay or not. This was a mountain for me to overcome. It is incredibly hard to admit that an item just doesn’t work for me if I haven’t had it long. I think that maybe I haven’t quite worn it right, or to the right occasion, or with the right accessory. Maybe there is something that I’m doing wrong that I can fix. In reality, if I find that I don’t reach for that particular item of clothing, then it simply isn’t right for me.
#2 – Wear Less Used Items
If you’re planning on a decluttering session soon, then find a few items you like but don’t often wear and give them a chance again. I pulled out a cute army green dress that I never wear and put it on for a day. While I liked the way I looked in this dress, I realized after wearing it a few hours that it wasn’t going to work. It just didn’t feel like me.
Leading up to the day of decluttering, pull out a few less used items and actually wear them for a day. See how it feels on your body and how you feel style-wise. This makes it much easier to decide on decluttering day because you have a recent memory of wearing that item instead of a guess.
#3 – Pull Everything Out
Decluttering clothes is a big job, and it was made all the more chaotic by the fact that Jon was paring down his clothing at the same time. Needless to say, our bedroom was a clothing tornado for a few hours while we worked through it all. Messy as it may have been, it was completely necessary to decluttering effectively. You need to be able to see your whole wardrobe to figure out what you really need.
For example, I had lots of dresses ranging from casual to cocktail that I needed to pare down. If I pulled out each dress one by one, it would be easy to think I only have a few casual dresses. However, when they were all laid bare, I could see that I had way more than I needed. This allowed me to pick the ones I loved the most and donate the rest. If we’re being honest, how many dresses do I need when the laundry gets done once a week?
Pull out everything at once and lay it on your bed or on the floor. When you decide to keep an item, place it back in the closet or the dresser and slowly fill it up. If you can’t quite fit all of your clothes in your room at once (we couldn’t because we were tackling two wardrobes instead of just one), then take it in batches. First, pull out the contents of your closet and sort through those. Then lay out all the clothes from your dresser. As long as you can compare all the like items at once, that ought to do it. The key is to completely empty out the storages spaces and slowly add instead of slowly pulling things out as you go. This allows you to start from scratch and visualize your complete decluttered wardrobe.
#4 – Lean On Emotional Support
If you can, try and get a friend, family member, or spouse to help you with decluttering your clothes. Make sure that person is gentle, but firm, and won’t allow you to bullshit your way into keeping a bunch of stuff. If you share a closet with someone, see if they might be interested in decluttering their wardrobe as well. Jon and I tackled both of our closets at the same time. This just helped me know I wasn’t in it alone.
When I was going through my closet piece by piece, I would regularly get stuck on a certain item. I’d explain my reasoning, and Jon would help me decide if I should keep the item. It’s much easier to fully flesh out the thought process out loud to another person. I found that my reasons often sounded particularly weak when spoken out loud. That made it much easier to part with an item.
#5 – Donate
This might seem rather obvious, but donate your clothes! It will be much harder to justify getting rid of clothing if you know it is bound for the garbage. Instead, see if there is a second-hand store nearby that will accept your gently used clothing. Fashion is one of the leading contributors to climate crisis thanks to the prominence of fast fashion, and you certainly don’t want to be a part of the problem! There are millions of people across the country who would love the opportunity to buy your lovely clothing. Who knows? The clothing you give away could be the difference between a young adult getting their first job or not. Your donation can make someone feel fabulous, powerful, and confident. That cute dress you never wear could be the dress someone wears on a magical first date.
You might want to try and sell your clothes to a store that specializes in fashionable second-hand clothes like Plato’s Closet. You most certainly can do this, but I would caution against it. I have hung onto clothes for months with the intention of selling. In the end, I always end up forgetting or changing my mind later. It is much easier, cleaner, and more final if you just donate your clothes and get it over with. If you do decide to sell your items, make sure you pick a date and time to go run that errand and get it done. Otherwise, you may find that you procrastinate and hold onto clothes for much longer than you intended.
The clothes you never reach for are wasted just sitting in your closet. Let those items live to their potential and become favorites to others. Donate and give yourself a pat on the back for making an environmentally friendly choice that helps others who are less fortunate. It really is a win-win.
#6 – Thank Each Item and Forgive Yourself
You’ve probably heard people talking about the power of thanking the items in your home since the rise in popularity of the KonMari Method, and it really works.
This was one small way that I was able to emotionally let go of beloved pieces from my past was to simply talk about what each piece meant to me. Jon didn’t deeply care as I did about my hopes and ambitions for a certain pair of pants, but he listened nonetheless. It was almost like I was giving a eulogy for the items I struggled to part with. Each piece served me in some way, and I wanted to appreciate it before I let it go. Just tossing it into a bag didn’t feel like enough, so I found myself going through this little ritual with every important item that I donated. Perhaps it was silly, but it helped me get through this difficult process with a little less grief.
After you state what you appreciate about an item, say why it doesn’t work for you anymore. Then forgive yourself.
“I appreciate this blouse’s gorgeous color and how it fits on me, but I don’t have a job that needs this kind of clothing and I am allowed to give it away.”
“This dress was my go-to back in college, and I am thankful for how it made me feel. But it doesn’t fit as comfortably as it used to and I don’t need to hold onto it.”
“I am glad that I tried this style of dress, but I acknowledge that it wasn’t my style. It’s okay that I spent money on it and I can let it go now.”
You are a dynamic human being, and your wants and needs change. It’s okay to shed the old versions of yourself so that the new you may thrive. Forgive yourself. If you have a partner or friend there helping you, ask them to tell you it’s okay. It is time to move on and forgive yourself.
#7 – Take It Out Immediately
After completely decluttering my clothes, we took the bulging bags right to the car. Then off to the donation center we went. Getting it out of your house right away is crucial to clearing away any negative feelings you might have around decluttering. If the decluttered clothes are still sitting around in your house for a while after you’re done, anxiety and guilt will hang around like a cloud. Plus you’ll have physical bags of stuff all over the place, and that doesn’t exactly look great. If the donation center is closed when you’re done, load it into the car so you can go first thing in the morning. Every moment those items stick around your house is another moment you might second guess yourself or change your mind. Do yourself a favor and whisk it away as soon as humanly possible.
Keeping Clutter At Bay
Because we use clothes to represent ourselves to the world, it is very easy to attach a part of yourself to an item of clothing. It’s never easy to throw away a part of yourself. But I promise you will be amazed by how light you feel. Decluttering clothes will help you truly appreciate the pieces you keep and feel better about your look every day.
To keep clothes from accumulating again in the future, there are a few things you can do. The first step is to be more selective about what new items you buy. Don’t just get new clothes on a whim. Give it some time and see if you desire an item after a month or so. If you’re still pining for those shoes, then there is a better chance you will truly want them in your wardrobe for more than a few uses. You can also buy new items with the understanding that you replacing another item. If you want a new blouse, an old blouse must go. This keeps you from adding and adding until you must go through another difficult decluttering.
Decluttering Clothes FTW
Decluttering is a tough process that is ultimately worth the work. It dredges up unpleasant emotions, but the end result is so much better than I expected. I am relieved now that my wardrobe has been halved, and I look forward to decluttering other areas of our lives. Hopefully, you can find some of my experiences and tips helpful as you tackle your own decluttering projects, whether for spring cleaning, a big move, or just the sheer satisfaction of owning less unnecessary stuff.