How To Declutter Your Clothes Closet Pseudo Ruthlessly

I don’t do well with tough love and hard rules. They make me want to either run away or hide. But sometimes, when I need to declutter clothes, I require a gentle push to make it happen. That’s what today’s post is all about, how to declutter a closet and your own wardrobe with some pseudo ruthless decluttering tips.

How to declutter clothes hanging from a long closet rod in a walk-in attic closet

I’ll be honest Marie Kondo and the Konmari method is overwhelming to me. I tried it once, failed miserably, and my at-the-time small closet remained overstuffed. Same with a capsule wardrobe. Too many decisions, too many what-ifs, too harsh.

AND too many possibilities to bend the rules. Like where does the capsule wardrobe stand on underwear?! Do leggings count as underwear so I don’t have to include them in my 33 items? Follow me for more non-lawyering loophole-finding skills. It’s my non-superhero superpower.

Decision fatigue is real when it comes to decluttering clothes. So when I dove into my own closet in hopes of paring it down, I came up with a few easy steps for a simpler process (for me…everyone is different…but hopefully you get something out of this). And spoiler alert…I got it done! In the words of Tigger, “Hoo hoo hoo hoooooo!”

PS…I’m in the small kids, diapers, and elementary school era of parenting.

For reference, here is my attic turned closet before starting the decluttering process.

Walk-in closet in an attic before decluttering clothes, hanging rod on the left filled with clothes and a free standing dresser to the right of a window

Make Time For Decluttering Clothes

Decluttering a closet is one of those medium-sized projects that can sometimes get lost in the black hole of project work. It’s not so big that you dedicate a weekend, or even a Saturday to it. But it’s not small enough to squeeze in after a rare solo shower and before getting the kids ready for school. The kicker is, you THINK you can squeeze it in but it’s not always possible and then it never happens.

Break out the planner, find a block of time, and schedule decluttering clothes like a doctor’s appointment. If you’re a mom, especially a mom of littles, I  highly recommend doing this when you’re kids-less. Kids want to keep everything even if it’s not theirs and they are so dang cute trying on the dresses and heels you never wear anymore. True story. But how can you get rid of a dress your two-year-old loves to try on but doesn’t fit you?!

How to declutter closet with a walk-in closet with a long hanging rod filled with neutral clothes hanging from it

Storage Containers Aren’t Your Best Friends

Hear me out. It’s a Field of Dreams situation. If you build it, they will come. In this case, if you have space in your attic and empty storage containers, you will fill them and create some crazy clothes rotation system. I’m even a big advocate of not storing seasonal clothes elsewhere but mostly because I’m lazy about packing them up and getting them out. I just don’t want to do it.

I created a zero-tolerance policy for storing clothes anywhere other than my closet except for one instance to help me declutter. But I’ll get to that in a moment.

Clothes storage containers including a fabric storage box with a lid and two woven baskets

Keep Only Your FAVORITE Favorite Things

Can you imagine if every item in your closet was your favorite? And I mean FAVORITE favorite! Like keeping only the dresses that make you feel Sasha Fierce or only the softest, most luxurious wrap sweatshirt you reach for at cozy times.

It’s like the saying, “If it’s not a heck yes, it’s a heck no.” Except insert some more flowery language there instead. You should be excited about the clothes you wear and those clothes should make you feel good. Bad fits and patterns that aren’t you, be damned! If your wardrobe isn’t full of those heck yes-es, slowly switch things out over time. 

I’m still slowly trading in my “eh” clothes for “heck yeses.” Case in point, while sorting through my clothes for the declutter challenge I attacked the leggings section of my drawer. I’m in my stay-at-home mom leggings era and wear them most days. I have one pair of Pact leggings that are so soft, so comfy, AND they have a pocket so I can stash my phone. I recently ordered three more pairs and tossed five pairs of old, synthetic fabric leggings that I don’t love.

Favorite things in my closet, stack of Pact leggings with pockets

Give It A Mantra

THIS. This has helped my decluttering process so so much when it comes to removing clothes from my closet. My mantra is, “I want to love everything in my closet as much as my Hunter rain boots.” I wear my Hunter rain boots to death. Well…did. I finally tossed them because I wore them out so badly but they’re on my short list of items to add to my closet. Anyway…

This mantra helped me with the point above, only keeping my favorite things. It’s a short, concise phrase that generates a certain feeling for me. I repeat it to myself regularly, often while getting dressed every day. It helps me grab an item or two on a random Tuesday to toss in the donate pile. This leads me to…

Ruthless decluttering tips for a walk-in clothes closet, picture of an attic closet with hanging clothes to the left of the window and a dresser to the right of the window

Make A System To Declutter Slowly

This goes against the “schedule it and do it all at once” suggestion above, but everyone is different. Sometimes in certain seasons of life, there is not enough time to dedicate a whole chunk of free time to a decluttering task. Instead, create a system that makes decluttering your closet an ongoing process.

I’ve been the most successful when I make decluttering part of my daily life. I keep a basket in my closet for donations to local charities. As I get ready I’ll toss one or two items in good condition into the basket. When the basket is full, I’ll put the clothes in trash bags (or the plastic bags the mail carriers put our packages in because I like repurposing things) and take the unwanted items to the thrift store.

Keeping a donation basket in a closet for an easy way to declutter clothes closet

This slow and steady process works much better for me, especially since it’s developing a habit and regularly working that decluttering muscle.

Bonus…I don’t end up crying on the closet floor surrounded by the entire contents of my wardrobe after I’ve taken everything out, debated “does it spark joy?” sorted it, and now have to put it all back or deal with it en masse. True story. So much stuff, so overwhelming.

Remove Clothes That Don’t Fit

If the end goal is to have a closet full of clothes that make you feel good and items you LOVE, clothes that don’t fit don’t belong. It’s a good idea to remove those pieces and dress for the life and size you are now.

I recently shed all my too-small clothes, which at first was a hard pill to swallow, but since has made getting dressed so much easier. I gained a lot of weight when I was breastfeeding our youngest, who is now two. Apparently, I’m the odd duck who loses weight when pregnant but gains weight breastfeeding. I thought I would work hard and lose weight, but a year later the scale still hasn’t budged and I’ve settled into a different size. So I tossed the clothes.

Part of the decluttering process is removing clothes too small, which are pilled on the closet floor while sorting through a clothes closet

Do you know what happened? I feel freer and those clothes aren’t taunting my larger size anymore.

Although, I did keep one pair of jeans and one skirt which used to be my ride or dies that I want to wear again SOOOOOOO badly. The skirt in particular motivates my workouts!

Remove Shoes That Hurt Your Feet

Life is too short to wear uncomfortable shoes. Goodbye, faux calf-har pointy-toe slingbacks, and hello mom-era Birkenstocks. This is the way.

Decluttering shoes that don't fit and are uncomfortable from closet wardrobe, a pair of faux calf hair slingback pumps going into the donation pile

Let Go Of The Guilt

It’s tough to just say “Let go of the guilt.” If someone told me this, I would likely want to high-five them in the face. But it’s true. Guilt serves no one in closet organization and decluttering.

Yes, you will feel guilty about the money you spent on that leather jacket that no longer serves you or the evening dresses you’ve only worn once.

Bless me for purchasing all my evening dresses from Gap for a steal so I have zero guilt over how little I spent on them when I pass them on.

Decluttering evening dresses hanging from a clothing rack

What helps me the most in dealing with this guilt is replacing it with self-compassion. I tell myself it was a lesson learned to spend too much money on a statement piece I only wore a few times. Or that it was worth it to spend the money on the bridesmaid dress because of the joy it brought of being in my best friend’s wedding. Or my favorite, the clothing items served me well for a season but now it’s time for them to serve someone else.

Find what serves you in dealing with the guilt. Everyone’s best approach is different.

Dress For The Life You Have Now

Can you imagine if we all stuck with the wardrobe we had many moons ago? I would sport neon dresses with chunky Doc Martens and a choker necklace for a movie night out or wide-leg corduroys with an oversized flannel for fifth period. Oh, high school. However, I will forever wear flannel.

Dress for the life you have now, reflecting on your current personal style, and make everything else go in the donation box.

I made a big decluttering play this week and finally removed all my office clothes. Gone are my days of working in a law school marketing office, replaced with momming and building a successful blog business. I don’t need suits, 12 pairs of dress pants, a slew of button-downs and blouses, and a million dress shoes to type words from my couch while the children are nestled in their beds.

Office clothes section of a closet with dress pants, suits, dress shoes and blouses that don't suit how I dress my current life

​​Deal With Second Thoughts

I am Captain of the overthinking, second thoughts ship. Welcome aboard. My best tip for dealing with indecision when decluttering your clothes is to pack the questionable items in plastic bins and store them in the attic for a season. Out of sight, out of mind.

Leave them there for a month or two. I’ve even left totes of donations in the attic for a year because I REALLY forgot about them. If you don’t go searching for an item you tucked away, it’s time to officially let them go. And it gives you the peace of mind that you will be okay without those items.

Dealing with second thoughts when it comes to decluttering a clothes closet with baskets under a clothes rack filled with items debating on whether or not to donate

​Declutter Sentimental Items Last

Sometimes we hold onto items for sentimental reasons or emotional attachment. The same holds true for clothing. It’s a daunting task to remove items like that tank top you wore on your first date with your husband, the Toby Keith concert t-shirt (see below for evidence of said garment), or even your wedding dress.

Declutter those items in time, after you’ve built decluttering stamina. You will have the good memories (and photos!) of those items forever. It doesn’t mean you also need to keep the physical items. And if it’s too hard, sometimes taking a photo of the item before removing it from your closet is enough to help you let go of clothes.

Decluttering sentimental items of clothing like this vintage Toby Keith concert t-shirt

Honor Space Constraints

Some get annoyed with closet space constraints. I like to spin them as lovely limitations that make us creative with solutions. But no matter how you spin it, many of us have space constraints for our wardrobes. 

If your hanging rod is so jam-packed you can’t sift through its contents, your wardrobe doors don’t close, or your dresser drawers are overflowing, it’s time to declutter. Drawer dividers won’t solve this problem.

For most of my life, I’ve had tiny postage stamp-sized closets, and I’ve been overstuffing them. Now, with a massive attic turned walk-in closet I want the most minimal amount of clothes. Such irony.

Dresser drawers overstuffed and overflowing with clothes

Enough, Not Excess, In Different Categories

Similar to honoring space constraints, also consider having enough in different categories but not to the point of excess. For example, you might have 28 sweaters, 8 sweatshirts, and 6 t-shirts. When getting dressed, you realize the t-shirts combined with the sweatshirts are your go-to. And of those 28 sweaters, three are very similar items (same color, same texture, slightly different cuts)…true story.

Or for someone who rarely wears heels anymore, four pairs of black heels is a bit excessive.

Four pairs of black high heels sitting in a closet

Maybe it’s time to pare down the categories with excess and boost the number of items you’re limited in but wear often.

My Experience Decluttering My Closet

I’ll admit, I went into decluttering my entire closet thinking I had very few items to remove for a decluttered wardrobe. I’m pretty good about decluttering my own clothes on the regular. Boy was I wrong!

The before…including a few baskets that are usually tucked on the other side of the closet that house shorts, shoes, and purses.

Closet before decluttering clothes with most clothes hanging from a curtain rod with baskets of shoes and shorts underneath

Random side note. My closet is ginormous so I didn’t need to declutter my clothes because of space constraints. I wanted fewer clothes to make it easier to find my favorites without sifting through a lot of subpar clothing. I don’t have or want a lot of clothes, but I do want the right clothes for me and my season of life. There are holes in my wardrobe. Pun intended. So decluttering was a great starting point to see what I have and love and where I need to fill in with new clothes.

My first step was removing anything that didn’t serve my current life. AKA…all the office clothes had to go. It was an easy way to start because my closet is full of classic-style office wear. Think wide-leg trousers and button-down shirts. I don’t wear these things outside of an office so why would I keep them? This step alone eliminated about a quarter of the clothes in my closet. I did keep my suit and a couple of trousers (for now) but they might go in another round of decluttering.

The next step was filtering out anything that didn’t fit. I was harsh and removed all my old clothes in a previous size minus my two favorite items I’m dying to wear again someday. Also in this doesn’t fit decluttering step, I eliminated anything uncomfortable. A whole stack of underwear got tossed because of the comfort factor. I’ll spare you the underwear drawer pic for a later date. Instead, feast your eyes on my donation pile:

Donation box overflowing with clothes and shoes from a closet decluttering session

Finally, I went through category by category to remove the last layer of clothing. By this point, I had a very organized closet and could easily see where I had excess (cardigans) and where I was lacking (jeans). I mean, I knew I needed jeans but I didn’t realize it was so dire, down to one pair of skinny jeans with holes in the inner thigh area. Thigh holes are the arch nemesis of my jeans.

In a single day, scratch that, in a single hour I had removed 131 items from my closet and packed them up for the donation center (or tossed them if they were underwear…fear not). On top of that, I had a list, like a literal list written down on actual paper, of items my wardrobe needed. This gave me a clear vision of what I have and am missing. Now every time a Pact or Madewell sale comes along (two of my favorite places to shop!) I know what I need to look for.

Closet after decluttering clothes with a much smaller number of clothing items hanging

​Carry On My Decluttering Warriors

And there you have it. All of my best, most helpful tips for how to pseudo-ruthlessly declutter your clothes closet. Decluttering your closet doesn’t need to be harsh, like starting with a clean slate or whittling down to five pairs of jeans. It’s about you doing you and finding ways to easily simplify, pare down, and move toward a closet where every item of clothing serves you well. Here’s to a freshly decluttered closet!

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