There is something uniquely attractive about open space in a closet.
When was the last time you saw a staged photo of a closet stuffed to overflowing with clothes? Rarely, if ever. Instead, clothes hang neatly and are organized tidily–with room for air and energy and open spaces. This is attractive to most of us but many of us don’t bother with learning how to get rid of clothes for a minimalist closet.
Instead, our closets are stuffed full of shirts and pants and shoes and belts and jackets. We run out of hangers or shelf space, and then we shop for storage solutions so we can store even more clothes. Our closets become cluttered all too quickly.
Still, we are drawn to the idea of a thinned-out, minimalist closet.
Of course, they offer more benefits than simple beauty. It saves time in the morning (and sometimes, the evening). It reduces stress and frustration. It saves money. There is a special pleasure reserved for those who look in their closet and love everything they see.
If you are looking for help on how to get rid of clothes and form a more minimalist closet, here are nine simple tips to get you started:
1. Start easy. Begin by removing the clothes that are stained, ripped, or faded beyond recognition. Items that are no longer in wearable condition can still be donated.
2. Remove seasonal items. Remove off-season clothing from your closet to free up some needed space. If you didn’t wear an item at all last year, get rid of it. Then, store the remaining pieces in a separate closet where they will not be in your way cluttering up your closet.
3. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit once and for all. If you’re in-between sizes, certainly keep some clothing from both. But if you haven’t cleaned out your closet for quite some time, there are likely a number of ill-fitting items that can be removed entirely—whether you changed sizes, the item shrunk or stretched, or it never did fit quite right. Those ill-fitting items are weighing you down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Pass them on to someone who can use them.
4. Reduce your need for additional accessories. If you’re holding on to something until you find the “perfect accessory,” let it go. Clothes often multiply in our closets because of the Diderot effect (one purchase leads to another, which leads to another). In the future, look for pieces that compliment your existing accessory pile. After all, if you’re constantly adding things to your closet, you’ll never get ahead (not in your closet and not in your checkbook).
5. Consider the idea of one. If one can be enough, embrace it. Rather than owning an entire assortment, try owning just your favorite black dress, belt, handbag, or jacket (just to name a few ideas). A closet filled with only things you love and use will be a closet that you love to use.
6. Reassess current trend purchases. The fashion industry gets rich on one principle: constantly changing fashion trends. You see, the fashion industry cannot survive on people buying only the clothes they need. So the industry invents false need by boldly declaring new fashion trends and colors for every changing season. But you don’t to have fall for their tricks. Find your favorite timeless fashion and start playing by your own rules.
7. Physically handle every item. If you want to make significant progress thinning out your closet, remove every item entirely from the closet. Return only the pieces you truly love. If that task seems too overwhelming, complete the process in sections (i.e. shoes today, shirts tomorrow). However you seek to accomplish this project, it is important that you physically handle each item at some point. The physical touch forces decisions.
8. If all else fails, pick a number. To start, choose 10. Thumb through the clothes in your closet and remove 10 items—any 10 you want. Put them in a bag and drop off at your nearest donation center. Likely, you will find the task was not that difficult. In fact, once you get started, you may find 15 or 20 things to remove without even breaking a sweat.
9. Experiment with less. Test your assumptions about the optimal amount of clothing with a few, simple experiments. Try placing half of your clothing in a different room for two weeks. You will be surprised how much easier is to function and get ready with fewer clothes in your closet. Most of us wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time and would live much happier with fewer wardrobe choices than we have now. But you’ll never realize that until you test it out.
There are many reasons the capsule wardrobe movement is growing so rapidly. A thinned out minimalist wardrobe is less stressful, less time-consuming, and more convenient. You’ll love it once you experience it yourself.
And there’s no time like the present to get started.
I am a bit of a clothing junky, but my biggest problem with pairing down my wardrobe is that I need a lot of clothing, because of all variety of things I am involved with. I work a professional job. I manage a large property, so I need outdoor work wear that can withstand abrasion and provide protection for some of the work I do on the property. I have to maintain a number of farm vehicles, so I have mechanics gear that can get dirty and oily. I coach my daughter’s soccer team and workout regularly, so I have soccer, running gear and swimming gear for lap swimming. I have several outfits of each to accomodate the several times a week that I do these activities. I also have all my casual clothing, such as jeans, chinos, t-shirts, etc.. Multiply that all times 4, because I live in an area that experiences 4 seasons. I have very few duplicates. So when I go through my closet, I see very few items that I have not actually warn in the last year. I am quick to get rid of anything that I have not warn or that does not fit or any nice clothing that gets stained. So I just don’t know how I get past that.
I applaud you sir!
I’ve struggled with weight most of my life and I also perspire a lot.
I’ve tried to wear less of my tops, jackets and coats; but only to having to get rid of most of them due to the stains and odor. Then, I go back to buying more again to have some decent nicer smelling clothing.
I have also changed my eating habits, drink a lot of water and exercise.
The weight fluctuation is up and down for a few years off and on.
I like to reuse and recycle and stuff and purchase most of my clothes at Thrift stores and follow my own personal fashion trend.
What advise and help could you give me to become minimalist on my wardrobe in spite of what I shared here? Thank you in advance!
There is medical help for excessive sweating. A family member was helped by the doctor and has no problems now.
Analou Alcantara says
Hi! Maybe you could send a box of donation in the Philippines. We need it here more than you guys there. Thank you.
Saydie Holland says
How do we do that?
Hi Analou. Do you happen to know how we can go about donating clothes in the Philippines?
clic aqui says
Es por eso que las personas deberían vestir lo que quieren reflejando quiénes son y expresándose de una manera unica esa es la gran importancia de la moda en la actualidad.
Great content. Sorry, just had to point out there’s a typo on second-to-last sentence on part 6. I had to reread it a couple times to make sense of it. Thank you for the great tips!
Our collections is made to be as unique as those who wear it – clothing for independent women who defy expectations, move to their own beat and spread the love. We’re out here for the powerful free spirits out there.
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Ella Starr says
How helpful that you suggest to choose a number and take that number of clothes out of your closet. I want to get my closet very organized this summer. I will find a great closet organizer service in my area.
Wow, some of these comments/stories are sad. Lots of addiction. If your son or husband are bothered by it, you should be as well. They don’t care about the volume of stuff, they’re concerned about you, and responding with “sorry, it’s who I am, deal with it” is just plain selfish. Enabling this behavior with extra closet-rooms, garages, etc. is def. not normal…its hoarding, gluttony and it is enslaving you. The article discusses logical steps to minimize any trauma associated with change of these behaviors and it does ‘snowball’ in a very productive way for once you take the first step. We started 1-bin of baby/toddler clothes at a time.,,,our only child is 28 so we’ve been storing 7-8 bins of that stuff a long time! Finally, (we) realize, clothes are NOT keepsakes! We have progressed to other closets and realize how foolish accumulation is.
I found several local community groups we prefer donating wearable clothing , as well as household items. One is the family relief centers for families in crisis and the other is the high school. The crisis center business office is where I deliver mine after calling to make sure they need the items. The high school is always looking for items for students that are in need. Amazing what the staff do for that larger than you want to believe group of kids. Just a few ideas that work well for us and the recipients. This is not for everyone, but wanted to mention it. Last, please be kind before you submit a comment to good people giving heartfelt input. Be Kind and Generous in what you give including your words.
ellen octone says
I tried it and it is no help.
trisha linday says
did you really try it? or did you juust rush
trisha linday says
same for me.
I recently retired as a pr professional. I have a room with a window that is outfitted with the California concept closet system. As a child I didn’t have many clothes. At 16 I had my first job after school,and that’s where it started. At 58, there are stacks of clothes everywhere in the bedroom, even in the whirl pool tub. Like a previous poster, I dressed as a costume or mood. Before children would buy only designer fashion. I have also enjoyed shopping at thrift. I’ve gained weight since covid and teleworking… my goal, to free myself. The past two weeks, I have gifted friends and donated to charity 47 xtra large lawn bags full of purses, shoes and clothing. It’s certainly overwhelming. My goal is to have our master bedroom and slower room floors clear. There is no way I will wear all these clothes. All the Talbots jackets, suits etc are gone. I kept a few of the more expensive ones. Coach bags, dooney, lv given to a friend.. there is still so much. I will have to do a second purge. I also have a problem with buying vintage dishes, linens.. and a garage full of furniture and other home decor. I’ve given myself 6 months to get this done! Please cheer me on. I want to be able to travel, paint, renovate etc with my free time and space! We have a 4 bedroom, 4 bath home and empty nest.
Good for you! Keep going! I recently got my travel trailer back with all my stuff in it and instead of being excited, I dreaded putting everything away. It’s fun to pick the favorites, the things you teach for over and over, instead of finding room for so much you won’t use.
Brave! ? congratulations
regina gail wright says
Good for you, I know I need to clean out my junk too, and just do it. I hope you have good adventures on your travel’s
Steve P says
You are making amazing progress and inspiring others! Focus on what you have done and celebrate! Have you considered volunteering at a donation location, or a local church clothing pantry, or a refugee center, or the Red Cross? Seeing the needs of others will lead to greater joy in giving! ?
Great advice! I was just thinking of the same thing if I volunteer at a donation location and see the needs of others it will lead me to give more, and free me of this bondage of storing unused clothes!
I hope it went well, and you accomplished your goal. I do not have quite as much, but still I feel the need to pare down and I hope to keep the needless spending and collecting under control before it does get out of control and get to the overwhelming stage. Thank you for the inspiration
Christine Purcell says
My weight fluctuates 3-4 sizes. Add that to 4 seasons, that’s a lot of clothes. But since I live a temperate climate, I can make do with 2 seasonal groups, and I keep them together as there is considerable overlap – if I stretch them anywhere but the closets, I forget what I have.
Also I used to buy clothes loving them in the store and rarely wore them, and could not figure out why. Then I had done some analysis done:
1. Color analysis – this works if you use it correctly. I can wear essentially any color, as long as it has a cool base – true clear blue and red undertones, whites (which I avoid for other reasons), black and grey / no coral, orange, or beige, unless it has a grayish tinge.
2. Proportion analysis – I could never figure out why sometimes the right colors didn’t work. It was the cut. Figure out ideal body or portions, then aim clothing for where your proportions are best, avoid cuts that focus on your less than ideal promotions. As an example, I am long waisted, so never buy any tops or dresses with a very fitted or elastic waist – they make me look dumpy and are ill fitting. I can use belts and scarves to accentuate my natural my waist though. Jackets and tops should either end at my natural waist or at my fingertips with arms down – nothing in between. Dresses, pants and and skirts should be full length to ankles or just at or slightly above knee, nothing in between. I am endowed, so absolutely no horizontal stripes anywhere, and no patch chest pockets of any kind, and no double breasted tops, jackets, coats or dresses. V-necks and boat line necks are best – not round necks. Use can high google proportions and analyze your own proportions, or there are wardrobe services that do, often combined with color analysis. I did this decades ago, so can’t advise on where. BTW, the same color analysis works for Male-up choices too.
Bottom line – you feel more comfortable in the right choices and knowing your ideal colors and proportions allows you to streamline shopping in person and online, dressing, packing and purging closets/drawers.
Steve M says
Just thought of something ironic. One of the comments was that there is incredible poverty in South Africa, and some of the people only have the clothes on their back. And here we are trying to get rid of as many things as possible. In a way, the articles ultimate goal would be to have very few items, ie, only the clothes on our back. So in some weird way, the people that don’t have anything are already in the position we’re trying to get to. Difference is one is by choice and one is by circumstance, but either way, it’s the same… in a way…
Katie Harvey says
Are you an author?
Do you have an address for somewhere in South Africa , I too am retired but have very good name brand clothing . Anne Taylor/ Calvin K, J crew etc etc , I want my clothes to go to girls/women that have nothing . Thx in adv
Pat Charad says
I love your site, and on a personal note, fell in love with the Mari Kondo ideas.
I have simplified my wardrobe and the more I give away, the better I feel. 1 new item in then 2 out works very well and then you only buy what is needed eg new white shirts. Sort your clothes and you find old favorites hiding under other shirts.
We have incredible poverty in South Africa and the churches collect for the homeless so it’s very easy to part with clothes one doesn’t need. Some of them only own what they are wearing!!
Just a thought nobody needs more than 1 tracksuit, trainers etc. give and you will feel lighter
Lori Ruth says
I recently moved into a home w/fewer closets & space for me to hang & store my clothes. Paring down was necessary. I realize I have a “sickness” when it comes to clothes. I love them! I tend to buy classics & only in pure materials i.e. cotton, wool, silk, linen. I don’t buy trendy pieces. I’ve owned some of them since I was in college & I’m 60! I was a theater major & think perhaps the idea of clothing as costumes is how I view them? I dress depending on weather, mood (how I’d like to feel that day), where I’m going & what I’ll be doing. Putting together an outfit is enjoyable to me. I will admit I have, for instance many white shirts, from casual to very dressy. When I pared down I first tried on each & every item, making sure it fit & that there were no stains or tears, buttons missing & so on, discarding those that didn’t pass the test. I also donated everything I hadn’t worn in the last 2 years. I am not exaggerating when I say that I gave away at least 40 large 42-gallon garbage bags full, making a minimum of 8 trips to thrift stores to donate them, leading up the rear of my SUV. I still have completely filled the 2 closets plus have 3 very large piles of hanging clothes neatly stacked on the bedroom floors. In addition, I have 12 large clear, plastic bins full of t-shirts, sweaters & pants, plus a few laundry baskets-full. It tore my heart out to part with some of the items I did but I forced myself to be brutal & ruthless. I also have 4 dressers, only 1 if which is large. I don’t know what to do now? There’s nowhere to store the clothing in piles or bins. I know it is not normal & unrealistic to have so many clothes. My son says I could change clothes twice a day for the rest of my life, and never wear the same thing twice. While that might be an exaggeration, I know it’s probably close to the truth. My clothes are my personality. They’re like a part of me; they’re like my “friends”. There are quite a few things I wear over & over. In winter, I always wear a camisole w/a turtleneck under everything as I’m always cold. I have 2 bins that are just turtlenecks of every thickness and color. I like having options but it can sometimes take me a long time to choose an outfit for the day. People often comment on what a “fashionista” I am & I admit I enjoy that. I give a lot of clothing to friends. If they admire something, I’ll often just give it to them. I have acquired the majority of my clothing from thrift shops. I am very good at finding quality items, often w/the price tag still on. I’ve spent $25 & gotten 2 large bags full of clothes at a time! It’s like a “high” for me to go into a thrift shop & do my thing! It gives me a great deal of enjoyment. I don’t know why or when this obsession originated? I also realize it probably isn’t considered normal; but I don’t know how to go about changing this part of me or even if I want to? The motivation to change would be to make my family happy, not myself. I’ve been trying but it’s very hard & I just don’t know how to pare down even more than I already have. Ideally, I would like to make 1 bedroom (of 3) a dressing room & store all my clothes neatly in there, purchasing garment racks to hang the clothes that don’t fit in the closet and some sort of cubes or other neat & attractive way to store the clothes currently in bins. I have a friend who’s done this and it works very well for her as I believe it would for me. My problem here is that my son very generously purchased the house for me & basically insists that I continue to get rid of clothes until they all fit in what’s currently available. I’ve done my best to accommodate him by getting rid of so many clothes already. I am very grateful to him but feel that he doesn’t live here and if he truly wants me to be happy, he’d accept my idea of the dressing room. I would promise to stop buying very many additional clothes & for each new item I should purchase, at least one old one would have to go. I think that’s fair but he’s not buying it. I’m at a loss to know what to do? I don’t do this with anything else; I’m not a hoarder; it’s just the clothes that have become a problem. Any insights or suggestions would be appreciated.
Hi Lori, I read through your post, and I can definitely relate to your issue. We moved about 2 years ago to a new home with less closet space, and I still have a garage filled with totes that have clothes in them. I am trying to unpack these totes but it is so frustrating because there is not enough room in my house for the items. I am trying to go through and eliminate as much as possible, but it is very hard because they are very nice pieces that I purchased at Macy’s and Von Maur, or other boutiques. I find it extremely depressing going through the items. My passion is fashion! I love shopping for clothes, purses, and shoes. It truly makes me feel good dressing each morning and coordinate my outfit! My husband tells me that I am not normal, and wants me to get rid of a lot of the things I have. I don’t think that he realizes how sad this makes me. He does not understand that this is who I am and have always been. He tells me that I ‘hoard’ clothes. I am definitely not a hoarder.. I like to keep things organized by type and color so that I can find what I am looking for and so that I can coordinate an outfit. I also have been the same size for many years, so it’s not like the pieces do not fit anymore. Were you able to figure out a way to reduce your wardrobe successfully? I am having a very hard time parting with things without feeling mentally exhausted. Maybe I should get rid of the husband instead?
Messy ME says
Lori & Rebecca, I can relate to both of you. I was an immigrant to the US and moved here with my family of 5 with 6 suitcases total. I had to leave behind clothes, toys, books, you name it. I think that developed an insecurity in me that also creates some sort of satisfaction and pleasure at purchasing clothes- plus, I love to dress up!
So… fast forward 40 years. I am currently emptying out my closet because I have to climb on piles of clothes. I know it’s wrong and somewhere the line got crossed. I would like to tell you “THANK YOU” for being so open and honest here. I was feeling very anxious about cleaning out my closet and reading your views helped me to see my own feelings reflected.
I think it’s okay to have a love for clothes – I want to validate that.
I think it’s okay to let some go, especially when they stop making you feel good and start causing anxiety (as in my case!).
I think YOU (not your son, not your husband, not any others who don’t “get it”) need to be the one to say what and when. For me, it was getting out of hand and I know it.
So… wish me luck as I clean out this week! :) I have one trash bag size going to a friend and one to donation so far. I have a ways to go! :)
Boy, do I relate to these stories! Please don’t beat yourselves up! I have often joked, I have enough clothes to clothe a small village, and I’m not exaggerating! I know I have more than I need or will use in my lifetime, but, clothes are such a creative outlet for me! I’m moving, so for a few years, I’ve put several bins of clothes, in the rafters of our garage, but still have a huge closet, 2 dressers full and many stacks and cupboards! Ughh! It’s not fun anymore…I know I probably won’t have an extra bedroom where i move, just to organize and store my clothes, scarfs, purses and accessories! I too have been thru and survived many tragedies and health challenges and I know I’ve felt drawn to beautiful, luxurious clothes as a way to celebrate the trappings of still being here in this beautiful life! It’s been a joy and a comfort to have clothes that highlight how beautiful I feel and great weight-loss when I got myself healthy and fit again! I know, for a few years tho, the amount I have is no longer enjoyable and I’ll need to purge to truly feel freedom from “accumulation” as well! This article, and your beautiful, candid & vulnerable comments, have given me a new perspective I Thank You for, from the Bottom of my Heart ❤! I look forward to sharing again, after I’ve made this change for my life and sanity! At some point, I know that it’s not “quality” of life anymore–having so much more than I need, when so many have so much less than they need! May God Bless ? all of you on this journey toward truly living, however that looks for each of us! We all have our journey and we must ask, “Is this the hill (of clothes) we want to die on?”?
Please turn the bedroom into the walking closet your heart desires. Your son might have bought you the house, but he’s not the boss of you. No one is and you are free to make the choices you wish in your home.
Life is short and as we all are now experiencing we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so might as well do what makes us happy.
Btw, there is nothing wrong with you. You sound like a creative soul who expresses herself through what she wears.
Janet Ruth says
As Susan said, you can make the bedroom a walk in closet. Its all great to be creative. I downsized several times starting in 2010. I found my style in 2020. Mom passed away May 2019 and I received most of her dress clothes. I was not her size and the style belonged to her. I had three white trash bags to donate. With the pandemic, the Family Outlet took everything first of August. I have two dressers, small type and will go through those and get the types of pants organized. I might have had a sickness too, I had an abusive marriage of 26 years and worked as nurse wearing scrubs for 36 years. Best wishes in these months and years ahead I’ll be 62 in October and I look forward to my creative side too.
Linda Martinez says
As a yoga teacher, my work clothes are yoga pants. To my dismay, discovered, I own 35 yoga pants. Thought I needed more until I actually looked at all I had. Have weeded and donated 10. This was the first pass, want to eliminate more.
Love having ab emptier closet but lately it’s piling up again. This had inspired me to get in there and clean it out again.
“Items that are no longer in wearable condition can still be donated.” ??
For whom to be worn? Some respect, please for the less fortunate.
Heard of fabric recycling?
If you tell Goodwill or Savers that some of the clothes have a stain, or missing a button etc…they will set them aside for their BULK transfers. These are clothing items that get SOLD to a purchaser who CLEANS SHREDS & REUSES MATERIAL IN OTHER PRODUCTS LIKE STUFFED ANIMALS. some of the clothing is also given by these organizations to Truly Impoverished countries orphanages etc. ( ie: the kid in the Nike shirt in the World Relief or Christian Children’s Fundraising ad. etc. really doesn’t mind a small stain. It was free and he’s thankful.)
I agree. If it is of such poor condition that you do not wear it, please do not donate it for the less fortunate to wear.
My local thrift shops lament the amount of money they have to spend for the extra trash that people dump on them.
Many thrift stores bale and donate the clothing for fabric recycling
Marj Kammueller says
Most thrift shops have sources where they resell textiles that are stained, too worn, etc. to sell. They get paid a set price per pound. We also recycle worn out small appliances, Cut the ends off the cords and recycle the cords and metal recycling for what we can. People buy cotton towels, etc, that are too shabby for human use for rags and also for one time use – cleaning up oil, etc. When donating please tell the people that it is for the penny a pound or whatever recycling purpose there is.
Ellen M. Newth says
I agree. I only donate items in “good” condition.
They are sold as rags in bulk. Cotton is used in papermaking.
Yes, it’s a great idea, but where I live there isn’t a place that does that.
There used to be but it closed
I was thinking the same thing, why would you donate scrap clothing ??
The donation place can’t sell it, so now they have to pay to have dumpster of junk trashed. I cut up things that can be used as cleaning rags, and unfortunately add the rest to the landfill ?
This is what I thought as well
Janine Doney says
We recently travelled in a camptrailer for a fortnight and I gave the children a very strict packing list. They did so well! We found a washing machine every third day. Some items they were persuaded to wear multiple times which is different to usual. I could have taken less but was hoping for a warm beach day, which didn’t happen. Our biggest issue was socks. Four pairs each didn’t seem to be enough, and they are easily lost, got wet, etc. And towels that didn’t dry properly. We managed, though.
Going through my closet seems to be something I return to every few months to assess what I am wearing and what I still like, and what fits properly and is in good condition. I buy most of my clothing at thrift shops and also donate the unwanted ones there. There are a few things I rarely wear, such as my job interview outfit, but still have to keep for that occasion. For the most part I own simple clothes in the same fit and style. Since clothing is easily gotten and discarded at thrift shops I have clothes moving in and out of my home all the time.