Are you feeling overwhelmed by a closet full of clothes you rarely wear but feel bad about parting with? Choosing to downsize your wardrobe can help simplify your life and make getting dressed in the morning easier. Follow these tips to simplify your wardrobe and declutter your closet.

Step One: Plan your ideal wardrobe.

Before you start downsizing your wardrobe, take some time to plan out your ideal wardrobe. Consider your lifestyle, personal style, and the types of clothes you wear most often. Make a list of the essential items you need in your wardrobe, such as basic tops, versatile pants, and comfortable shoes. Having a plan in place will help you stay focused and avoid buying clothes that don’t fit your needs.

Making a plan

Next, go ahead and put together some outfits you love for the occasions you may need to dress for, such as:

  • Work
  • Dinner out
  • Relaxing at home
  • Attending a wedding
  • Outdoor activities
  • Exercising

For these outfits, choose pieces that can be combined in multiple ways to create several different looks. Consider layers you might add or remove to make the same outfit work in either cold or warm weather. This is your opportunity to decide what type of clothing you want to wear, and to keep only clothing that you truly love, that makes you feel good about yourself. This is the foundation of a capsule wardrobe.

By making intentional decisions about what TO wear, and possibly even deciding to replace items that are starting to look worn or never fit quite right, you can sort your remaining clothing without having to worry that you might end up needing an item you got rid of.

Step Two: Sort Your Clothes

Once you’re clear on what clothing you actually need and have set aside an outfit you love for each occasion, it’s time to sort through the rest of your clothes.

You may find it easier to start by sorting through one dresser drawer or bin at a time, since you probably feel less emotional about old socks than you do about a sweater you want to like but never wear. After you sort any clothing in drawers or bins, you can move on to the clothes hanging in your closet.

Woman sorting clothes

As you sort your clothes, follow this process:

  1. Prepare two empty laundry baskets for sorting your clothes into.
  2. Put the clothes in a pile on your bed.
  3. Examine each piece of clothing. Think about the quality, whether it fits and is comfortable (try it on if necessary), whether you like how it looks on you, and whether it’s an item you typically grab when getting dressed.
  4. Sort the clothes into the two laundry baskets, one for clothes you’re keeping, and the other for clothes you’re not keeping. The key to moving quickly through the sorting process is to avoid trying to decide what to do with the clothes you’re getting rid of just yet. Thoughts like, “This blouse is so nice; I wonder if I can sell it?” will slow you down. Just think, “Keep”, or “Don’t Keep”.
  5. Be honest with yourself. If there’s some subconscious reason you avoid wearing an item of clothing, don’t hang onto it thinking you might eventually wear it. Just let it go.

Then, put away the clothes you’ve decided to keep, and separate the clothes you’re getting rid of into three piles: sell, donate, or recycle.

What to do if you can’t decide: If you truly can’t decide whether or not to keep an item or find yourself struggling to let go of something you know you probably shouldn’t keep, rather than just giving up and putting it away, instead put clothing you’re undecided about in a box or trash bag. After you’re finished sorting, close up this box or bag and put it somewhere “out of sight, out of mind”. In a few months, open it up and see if you find it easier to let go of these items having not seen them for some time. If you decide at that point you still want to keep the item, you can if you wish.

Step Three: Get Rid of Clothes

After you’ve sorted your clothes, it’s time to get rid of the ones you’re not keeping.

Clothes that are still in good condition can be donated to a local charity or thrift store. If you want to try to make some extra cash, you can try selling clothes that are in excellent condition at a local resale shop or on online marketplaces such as Poshmark or eBay. Clothes that are stained, faded, or otherwise unwearable should be recycled. Reference this list of places to recycle clothing to help decide where to take these items.

Avoid keeping the clothing you plan to sell for very long or hauling around bags of clothes to donate in the trunk of your car for months. Instead, take action now. Go ahead and list the items online. Schedule a time to drop off your donations, including any clothes that haven’t sold by then.

Box of clothes to donate

Optional Step: Buy New Clothes

If you’ve downsized your wardrobe and still find that you’re missing essential items, it’s okay to buy new clothes. However, it’s important to be intentional with your purchases and only buy clothes that fit your ideal wardrobe. Consider investing in quality pieces that will last longer and avoid impulse purchases. Remember, a smaller wardrobe doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style or variety.

A good practice is to add clothing items you need to a shopping list, and then reference that list when you’re browsing at a thrift store or shopping a clearance sale.

Woman shopping for clothes

While downsizing your wardrobe may seem daunting, it’s a worthwhile endeavor that can simplify your life and reduce clutter. By planning your ideal wardrobe, sorting your clothes, and getting rid of clothes you no longer need, you can create a wardrobe that fits your needs and makes getting dressed in the morning an activity you actually enjoy.