Ways to declutter your closet and reduce your wardrobe (without getting overwhelmed)

By IN Create Outfits, Find Your Style

Clean out your closet without feeling overwhelmed

Let’s be honest, mamas. We all know that transitioning our clothes between seasons is also a great time to declutter our closets, right?

But knowing you can (and maybe even should) reduce your wardrobe while you’re swapping out your seasonal clothes isn’t the problem.

It’s, well, doing it. It can seem pretty dang daunting. There’s the physical and time-requiring work of sorting and so on. And then there’s the intangible work (emotional? spiritual?) of letting go not just of stuff, but of stuff you put on your body.

Luckily, there are ways to go about the closet decluttering process that remove some of the overwhelm by making it simpler, smaller and more manageable.

How to declutter your closet and reduce your wardrobe (without getting overwhelmed)

First suggestion: you don’t have to tackle it all at once. Pick one category and start there with one of these strategies. Your momentum may carry you through to the rest of your closet, but if it doesn’t, that’s OK, too. Your wardrobe’s still smaller than when you started.

  • The item “bake-off”: I love this idea [archived link] from Beautiful Again. Trim down clothing in a category through a straightforward process of elimination. It’s not scary, it’s math!
  • Put it to the test: Figure out whether it stays or it goes by answering a few questions. Apartment Therapy has one set of closet organization questions and Tiny House Talk has another.
  • Use one criteria: Or ask just this question. If the answer is “no,” it’s time for it to go.
  • Does it spark joy? This one comes from the international best-seller by Japanese organizing expert Marie Kondo, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” creator of the self-styled KonMari method. One of her fundamental principles of decluttering—and this goes for everything, not just clothes—is to touch an object and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” As with the one criteria method above, if the answer is “no,” then let it go. It has no place in your life any longer.
  • The 80/20 rule: With Organized Home’s method, you don’t have to do active sorting. What you actually choose to wear every day is a decision about what stays. (And their clothing clusters = capsule wardrobes.)
  • Try a remix. Remixing is the concept of choosing a small number of items and then wearing just those garments for a specified period of time. Picking the items is a sorting exercise; what you don’t miss after the remix period ends is another. Project 333’s concept is 33 items to wear for 3 months. The 30 for 30 remix is a little gentler: 30 items in 30 days.

And here are some words of decluttering encouragement from a self-described “hoarder” who gave up half her clothes (half!).

I especially like the idea of inviting a friend over to shop your closet and take whatever she wants. It’s harder to hang on to stuff when a friend can wear it and use it.

Which wardrobe edit method is right for me?

Which of the wardrobe edit methods above will work best for you depends on a combination of time and personality.

If you’re a go-it-slow mama, you’ll probably prefer the 80/20 or remix methods. These processes will take longer, but require less of an upfront time commitment.

If you’re ready to make a big change, you have the time and you want to see instant results, the other methods will get you where you want to go. The first three are almost entirely analytical; you’re evaluating based on more straightforward criteria like use, fit and value.

KonMari, on the other hand, sets that aside and asks you to make decisions based on how you feel about your clothes. You may wear them all the time, they may fit you perfectly and they may match 50 other things in your closet, but if you put them on and feel just OK, that’s all that matters.

Even if you do practice the clean sweep philosophy of getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy, you may find that you come across pieces that you’re just not sure about. Yes, this should automatically disqualify them, but maybe you haven’t worn this item in a while, yet you remember a time when it did spark joy.

For those items, I’ve found it’s helpful to give them what I think of as “one more try.” I set them aside to wear again in the next week or two and pay attention to how I feel as I’m wearing them. Do I remember why I liked this thing or has the moment of joy passed?

And sometimes a further sorting happens with clothes you thought you liked even as you’re wearing them. If you find yourself looking in the mirror and wondering “Do I like this?”—the answer is you don’t. Joy-sparking items are not a mystery.

If you get through these small steps and you’re ready for the full wardrobe edit? The No More Yoga Pants: How to Dress Better, Shop Smarter and Reclaim Your Style workshop series includes a comprehensive process for finally, once and for all cleaning out that closet—and figuring out what key pieces you need to add to your newly reduced wardrobe. (Knowing what you really need before you go shopping = spending less time and money. We could all use a little more of both, right?)

15 Responses to “Ways to declutter your closet and reduce your wardrobe (without getting overwhelmed)”

    • Heidi Strom Moon

      Thanks! Hopefully everyone will find an approach that works best for them. I’m thinking of trying the 80/20 rule myself. I’ll be curious to see if I wear some things as much as I think I do.

  1. Linda

    Thank you so much for linking to my post, and I love the name you came up with, the “item bake-off”. That fits it well. I hope it’s helpful to your readers 🙂