How to Downsize Your Wardrobe with Common Sense

A reader’s question:

Rachel,

Do you have any guidelines for how many clothes to keep/have? It is so hard to follow the “6 month rule.” I know that I end up wearing the same 10-15 shirts and the same bottoms over and over because they fit best, but I still keep the rest of the stuff around *in case* I want to wear it someday once because it *could* go with one other sweater I have.

I also have a huge box full of clothes that may never fit again because I had twins last year. How long do you give yourself before tossing pre-pregnancy clothes, especially if you are not done having kids?

-J.

First things first, I never follow the six-month rule that says you give away clothes that you haven’t worn in six months (or in a year). It’s too arbitrary.

Never let organization get in the way of common sense.

I get the general idea, and it’s that if you haven’t worn a garment within a certain amount of time, you most likely never will, and it’s just taking up space. What’s more important to me is not how long it’s been since I’ve worn it, but why I haven’t worn it.

So if something has remained on the hanger, I start questioning it: Is it the right color? Is it too long or too short? Does it make me look frumpy? Is it worn out? Or do I just have too many clothes?

Understanding why I’m not wearing something helps me make better choices on future shopping trips, and I think that’s smarter than simply tossing clothes just to replace them with more later.

I used to work at Saks Fifth Avenue where the attire was “dressy professional” and in other companies where the code was “business casual.” To go to work I felt like I needed a variety of clothes even though I tried to be creative and use what I had in different ways. Now that I stay at home I get by with fewer pieces, and I can wear my favorite outfits many times without anyone else noticing.

My tastes have gradually changed toward having fewer, but better, articles of clothing. I want clothes that I can wear for many seasons and will always make me feel great. If I were to go back to work outside the home again, I think I would stick with this strategy and not worry so much about having variety. Maybe as I grow older I am more confident and not as worried about what other people think, and I’ve also developed more of a sense of my personal style (more classic, and not trendy).

Over the last five years I’ve let my clothing collection dwindle smaller naturally by buying less to replace what has worn out. My current wardrobe is the size that most people take on vacation.

Boxed up in storage, I do keep other clothes that are not in my current size. In the last two years I have been so many different sizes. Let’s see, there is what I consider my normal size, and then there is mid-pregnancy, late pregnancy, post pregnancy and nursing, and even a smaller “gluten-free pants” size. It’s entirely possible for me to go through all of these sizes again, but I don’t want to buy a new wardrobe each time. I think people who tell you that you should only keep clothes in your current size haven’t considered pregnancy and all that comes along with it.

It’s important that my clothes fit me well. Actually, how they fit is more important to me than how many there are, which is why I make do with less variety. I keep fewer, better clothes in each of my sizes, and this helps to manage my wardrobe costs for the sizes that I may transition through for only a few months.

If you keep just the best clothes, they really shouldn’t take up much space. For me, it’s one box stored away to give me a good start, no matter what size I am, in clothes that were specially chosen for me.

Tips on keeping clothes in other sizes:

• Keep only the clothes that you’ll be happy to see again. Keep the best stuff, not everything.

• Don’t save any clothes that are worn out. The maternity pants that you wore every day during those last weeks because they were the only pair that still fit (and therefore have drops of chocolate ice cream stains on them, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything) can be thrown away.

• You want to keep them in a box in your storage space, not in useful closet space with your current size.

• Go through them every year or so to see if you can size down your collection. Even classic styles can change every five or seven years. (Think how different denim looks now from a few years ago.)

• If you think it’s not likely you will wear them again, don’t save them, but don’t be afraid to set clothes aside in case you can wear them in the future. That’s kind of the whole point of storage space: using it for good, not for clutter.

What guidelines do you use to approach and manage your wardrobe? How many times a year do you evaluate your clothes and decide what to keep?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. O, I love this advice! I’ve got lots of clothes I don’t wear anymore and I just put them in the back of my closet. At first glance my dresser looks pretty neat, but behind the first row of clothes is all the old stuff. I guess now is a good time to work in it. Thanks for the motivation, Rachel!
    Maaike Quinn @ Life with FlyLady´s last post…You’ve fallen behind Big time How to get back on the FlyLady bandwagon

  2. I have just started Project 333 (http://www.theproject333.com/getting-started/).

    Although I don’t know that I will be able to limit myself to 33 items for 3 months, it has been a wonderful process to go through.

    I have gotten rid of so many things that I was hanging onto “just in case.” The question of why I haven’t worn something has been extremely helpful in this process. Although I haven’t posted recently, you can see the thought processes that I went through that led up my decision to do Project 333 and all that I have gone through to prepare for it at dimewellspent.blogspot.com. I will say it has been much more than a weekend project.

    I love that the size of your wardrobe is the size most people would take on vacation! I would love to be there and, thanks to you, is a new goal of mine.

  3. I work outside the home and require dressy professional (I sell insurance). So while I do have nice pieces, I’ve moved passed the mentality that I need to have a huge closet full of clothes. Especially when so many of those items were ill fitting or worn out. I have cleared out most of those space wasters and replaced them with accessories that will bring a new look to the few pieces I wear. Scarves, necklaces, tanks, etc can bring a fresh look. Even a different pair of shoes can make an outfit look new. I do have those comfy outfits for work on days I know I won’t see clients and just need to be comfortable. Plus I’ve donated so many items to a local charity to help women looking for employment. They do no good gathering dust in my closet!

  4. Karen (scotland) says:

    Oh, hear, hear on the pregnancy boxes! I keep reading that I have to toss clothes that don’t fit but I’m still carrying a lot of post-baby weight and I just can’t bring myself to toss the three boxes that I still have.
    I have, however, gone through them and tossed everything that I don’t “love” or wouldn’t miss. Even then, I’m thinking of re-doing that as my tastes are changing again.
    This winter, I have had a “uniform” of black leggings, one wooly tunic and one denim tunic. Under the tunics, I’ve worn vest tops and long sleeve cheapy tops and this is the comfiest, warmest winter I have ever had.
    I don’t have to think about what I wear every day and it’s been such a relief.
    Thanks for some solid advice, Rachel.
    Karen (Scotland)

  5. Great post. I agree with the maternity clothes. After each pregnancy I donated the clothes when they were no longer necessary. I have a simple wardrobe, that I purge clothes from or box up as they get too big/small, so that I can get ready quickly in the morning. Recently, when my school offered spirit staff polo’s for purchase, I ordered two. This way, I look nice and professional. (In addition to getting my self ready, I have to make sure the baby and my toddler are also ready for “school.”)

  6. This is the next thing on my to-simplify list! If only there was some “common-sense” rules to apply to books!

    One thing I’ve tried is to put clothes I haven’t worn in a while (but still fit) out-of-sight- to see how out-of-mind it goes and go from there!
    Mariana´s last post…The Pleasure of Books

  7. Great post! I love that you take your time to get a wardrobe that works for you, rather than just do clear outs of everything all at once. Such useful tips.

  8. Until last summer, I had a corporate job in a beauty company where image was everything. I accumulated a LOT of clothes, some shoes and a lot of jewelry (much from the company). When I left that job due to mental meltdown last year, once I knew I would not be returning to the same company, I began to reduce my wardrobe. I have done it in stages. I am now like the reader at the top of your post, wearing jeans and the same 10-15 shirts. I am nowhere near the 33 pieces in the 333 project, but I have decreased my wardrobe by probably 75% (which gives you an idea of the excess I had!). I have kept a few pieces that were a little snug (trying to lose 15 pounds!) Most of the stuff I bought while working was of higher quality, so I kept a lot fo the basic pieces I bought during that time, while I sold most of the professional wear.
    It feels so much better to have lightened this load. It makes it much easier to get dressed in the morning!
    I do have to agree about keeping the clothes that are not the proper size currently packed away if possible, and not in your closet!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Learning to turn work OFF

  9. My problem is that I don’t have many clothes. Downsizing any further would get me arrested. ;)
    Tammy´s last post…Summer Jammies

    • trinity says:

      HA!! Me too! I am a nurse and wear scrubs to work. I have to wash every few days. I can go all year with just a few outfits, but pajamas!! Can’t pass up some awesome PJs.

  10. Practical as ever, Rachel! Great advice and excellent tips. I, too, have clothes that fit me in the different seasons of life. The ones I give away are either too worn out, too outdated , too much of an impulse buy, too illfitting :-)
    Prerna´s last post…Organized Kitchen Cabinets- An Unusual Way to a Healthy Diet

  11. I used to be a personal stylist and I LOVE clothes. I have been the same size since high school (I haven’t had kids and likely will not have them in the future) so that does help. however, I own a ton of clothes. As in, soooo many but I realized that they make me happy! Not in an eternal way (Jesus does that), but they are fun for me. I used to feel guilty about them but then I realized that people who own a huge personal library don’t feel guilty for owning so many books, or someone with an art collection doesn’t feel guilty buying another painting, and my grandma who grows a bazillion varieties of dahlias every year doesn’t feel guilty for owning more varieties than she “needs” so why should I feel guilty? Everything I have I love and I agree fit is the MOST IMPORTANT part. So, my take on wardrobe is different, but works for me.

    • Anna, makes total sense!

      I was definitely the same body type from high school until I had a baby at 39.

      Pre baby, I just kept anything I really liked and could invest in pieces knowing they’d fit (or be easily altered, and be paired with something to update them) for years, even decades, if they were well made and classic. And had all sorts of things that only worked for one or two occasions.

      Now, post baby and long-term nursing, all of that is out the window. I’m getting rid of my entire closet and starting over in a new body, new shape, and new priorities!

  12. The BEST single thing that has helped me manage my clothing is a seemingly gimmick-y tip — hang all the hangers backward in the closet, then each time you wear something re-hang the hanger the “normal” way. After awhile, you can see which garments aren’t getting used. Then you can ask yourself, “Why?”

    That lets me make decisions in real time and in a somewhat ongoing way, because I do the flipped hanger treatment at the beginning of the warm weather season and again at the beginning of the cold time. I keep a donations box on the floor of the closet and the whole family adds to it at will. When full, I put everything into a bag and drop it off and pick up my tax receipt — easy peasy.
    Lori´s last post…A Week of Meals and a Winter Warm-up- Too-easy Stew

    • How absolutely innovative! Think I may use this one in the new apartment… though a lot of my clothes are folded and put on shelves/in drawers as well. Still a great idea!
      Tara´s last post…Big City Bliss- Chicago

    • I have seen this mentioned so many times and thought, “I should try that,” and gone my merry way without bothering. Now you have inspired me — I am going to turn my hangers around today! So much of what I have, I keep because I have worn it in the past — so it must be coming around again, right? And yet I’m thinking a lot of it never does. I’m going to do the same thing with my husband’s clothes, too.

      My tendency is to keep certain clothes for many years because they *are* useful and *do* fit, and then augment those with ones I find from the thrift store that interest/suit me at the moment. I probably spend more on clothes than I ought to this way, but certainly less than if I were going out and buying a whole new wardrobe each season.
      jennifer´s last post…OFF my needles!

  13. Another way of answering the question, “how many clothes to keep” is to ask yourself, “how often do I want to do laundry?”

    The more clothes you have, the easier it is to put off doing laundry for 2 weeks because you always have more clean clothes in the back of the closet to wear. Then when it comes time to do your 2 weeks’ worth of laundry, you are faced with doing about 10 loads of laundry all at once. That’s all day spent sorting, washing, drying, folding and putting away. Most people can’t devote all day to such a task, which is how they end up with the perpetual pile of clean clothes heaped on the couch that the family picks through during the week.

    You can probably tell by this point that I’m a big fan of having fewer clothes and doing laundry a couple of times a week. It’s so much simpler in the long run!

    I wrote a blog post about the laundry dilemma here, if you want more info: http://respacedpdx.blogspot.com/2010/12/which-is-better-7-days-worth-of.html

    • Excellent point! We definitely suffer from the “perpetual piles of clean laundry” syndrome. I can’t remember the last time all of the clothes in our house were actually clean and put away.
      Kate´s last post…Bedtime Success

    • This is so funny. I thought I was the only one with the perpetual piles of clean laundry. At least it is clean. :)

  14. Thanks so much for this posting. I love what you said about it is not how long since you have worn something, but why you have not worn something. I hardly ever wear a dress anymore. Even to church I usually wear dressy trousers. But I would not want to get rid of my (several) dresses. Even if I only wear them a couple of times a year. Thanks and God bless.

    • I don’t wear my “date night” dress nearly often enough, but I don’t dare get rid of it!

  15. Oprah says the same thing! I keep downsizing my closet and my mom keeps buying me clothes
    Katie @ Imperfect People´s last post…No Judgment

  16. This is a good discussion. I kept two whole maternity tops that were my favorite and gave the rest away. I could have kept them, but there were people in my church who needed something to wear and I was happy to see them being used. Besides, I may or may not have another child, but I think by that point, those clothes will be out of style and I’ll hate them even more. I’d encourage people to give what they can.

  17. Ha! Using things for good, not for clutter. What a great rule–not just for clothes, but for everything. I, for one, used to have an exploding closet, and I would sift through mountains of clothes I never wore to find the one or two items I did. What a waste of fabric!

    Now that I’ve simplified, I only have clothes I wear. If I don’t wear them, out they go. I also have a replacement rule. The other day we were out shopping, I said I wanted to find a new shirt. My husband asked which shirt I would replace, and I had to rack my brain to think of one I didn’t love wearing. I chose one (one I’ve had for a very long time), but didn’t end up buying anything new. When I got home and put on that old shirt, I said, “I can’t believe I thought about getting rid of this!!!” :) Just goes to show that it is possible to love what you have!
    Jennie´s last post…Confessions or something

  18. Now that I’m done having babies, I want to BURN the entire contents of my closet. Hoodies, t-shirts, tanks. All from Old Navy. All stretched and frayed. Ugh.

    It’s been so long since I’ve bought clothes for myself, I wouldn’t know where to start…

    Can we peek in your closet? And is life in Florence influencing your wardrobe choices?

    • Vanessa says:

      I feel the same way (my post below). I’m also interested in knowing if living in Florence has influenced your wardrobe choices. From what I hear, Europeans dress so much better than Americans, especially in Italy.

      • I was also wondering if Florence/moving abroad has changed your wardrobe choices?
        anne´s last post…1000

        • Actually I wear the same clothes here that I wore back in Texas. I feel like my clothes are versatile enough to work anywhere, and I do like to wear scarves like everyone else here.

    • Wait don’t burn those frayed clothes. Chop them up and turn them into cleaning rags!
      Slackerjo´s last post…The Secret Life of Call Centres

  19. I think focusing on the *why* behind an item not being worn is a great tip! Also, I counsel many of my organizing clients (that are self proclaimed shoppers) to consider their clothing storage situation before buying new items. When bringing in a new item of clothing – try to find one (or two) to remove from your collection that has not been getting much wear for whatever the reason. If you love to shop, you KNOW you’re going to buy more, but the storage will always remain the same, however.
    heidi @ wonder woman wannabe´s last post…Interview with a Blogger – Sarah of Clover Lane

  20. One thing to try is to actually put that shirt on that you never wear…or whatever it is. Wear it for a few hours and then you will for sure know why you don’t wear it anymore, or you will fall in love with it again.

  21. Vanessa says:

    Do you have any tips for someone who needs to build a whole wardrobe from scratch? Like a couple of the posters said, I don’t have enough clothes and the ones I have are so old and worn out. I know fit is important but coming from an ultra frugal mentality it’s hard for me to spend money on better quality clothes which may fit better. Having no sewing skills I can’t tailor my own clothes. I also feel like if I spend more on something I shouldn’t have to go and have a seamstress tailor it for me. What about style? Mine is too boring. How to add some interest to the wardrobe without looking too trendy or like a creative clown? Oh, and have I mentioned how much I hate shopping? Help please!

    • The only kind of tailoring I usually have done is hemming pants to the right length, and that’s usually about $10 or I do it myself. I factor that into the cost of the pants.

      In the next post I’ll mention a couple of ways I add style to otherwise basic clothes.

    • I think you are a perfect candidate for a “uniform.” Think of one outfit you’ve worn (either recently or in the past) that you just loved and felt great/pretty/comfortable in – you felt the most like yourself. Now, build a small collection of those pieces in a variety of colors and voila, you will have the perfect wardrobe for YOU. (Think, Katharine Hepburn, then do your own version that fits your lifestyle).

  22. I’m with you Vanessa! I secretly wish someone would submit me to “What Not to Wear” so I could have a fresh start with better quality, better fitting clothes that will stand the test of time and changing trends. That being said, it still wouldn’t solve all my problems now as I’m a breastfeeding mom, and like others, have to deal with a bunch of different sizes to account for nursing and for future pregnancies, Lord willing.

    I do know, Vanessa, that often when you buy better quality clothes, the store will actually cover the costs of alterations which is an added bonus.
    Elisabeth´s last post…Cloth Diapering – Getting Started

    • Vanessa says:

      Glad I’m not the only one Elisabeth, although sorry to hear you’re in the same predicament! Thanks for the store alterations tip. I suppose the whole process of figuring out what to buy, taking into account both style, activity, and cost is daunting. I can look online at clothes I think are gorgeous which I’d like to have, but transitioning that into a practical plan of action is hard. Plus at this point in my life, I need less articles on telling me how not to dress too young but rather on how not to dress too old!

      • I try to shop at ‘good’ store clearance outlets, and sign up for email notifications so that I know when the sales are. in the uk sales often start at midnight for online customers. we are on a budget now I’m a SAHM so I have to be strict about what I need. I bought tons of things last summer because they were cheap and I was desperate to be out of maternity, but I’ve just got rid of lots of them because they haven’t lasted well. I’m trying to replace with quality but doing it slowly and through sales and only buying things that will be really useful. since christmas I have bought 1 long cardigan in a colour I didn’t have but that goes with several tshirts/blouses so helps me wear those more, and replaced 4 pairs of illfitting jeans with 2 pairs that fit well. My family have treated me to a few necklaces that suit my style right now as well. I know I need to replace some tanks and maybe a couple of blouses and buy 1 skirt for summer, so I’m keeping an eye out for those when I am looking at sales/thrift stores and outlets now. planning a wardrobe while breastfeeding is difficult, there are so many cute styles I hhave to avoid right now, but its only a short period in my life, and feeding my baby is more important right now, so my style just has to be a little less varied for now.

        I get my pre-pregnancy goodies out every so often and check that they are all things I want to keep. They have gone from 4 boxes to 2 since I first packed up, and I’d done a clearout of sorts before I packed them. This article is so in line with my thinking right now.

  23. This is great advice. I love the idea of only keeping what makes you feel gorgeous. There’s nothing worse than putting on clothes and feeling ugly. Why would you even keep those in your closet, especially if that feeling never changes when you put those particular clothes on.
    This reminds me I have a bunch of pants in my closet that do that to me. Maybe it’s time to let someone else wear them. :)
    Jackie´s last post…Pet Strollers for Large Dogs

  24. Michal Crum says:

    This is great advice. My wardrobe is about the size most peoPle take on vacation, too. And I love it that way. I don’t have to feel guilty for wearing my favorite sweaters and jeans over and over. I keep my out of season clothes stored so I can see quickly and easily what’s available to wear each day. We don’t have a dresser. DH and I share one small closet (not walk-in) and we get rid of stuff when it doesn’t fit.

    I’m also a total clothes horse. I love clothes, and I buy most of my wardrobe from GoodWill (and I wait until their 50% off sales to do my real shopping). That way, I can get designer brands (J Crew, Calvin Klein) that I know will fit me well and last longer. And when it comes to articles I don’t expect to find at GoodWill, I can afford to buy one item I really want (winter coat, or bathing suit, for example), and make it last several years.

    • Go thrift store shopping! I have hardly had to buy anything new since I found a great resale shop near me that is extremely choosy about the brands and conditions of the items they accept. Every day they have a different color tag on sale for 50% off, so no matter when I go in I can find a bargain. It’s resisting those bargains that don’t really need to come home with me that I need to work on!
      jennifer´s last post…OFF my needles!

  25. I love the fact that you don’t follow the “6 month – 1 year rule” :) it makes me smile. :) I also liked the thought about evaluating clothes that I haven’t been wearing. I think I’ll do a combo of the two, evaluating clothing I haven’t worn for 6 months and getting rid of the bad, storing things I might use later and wearing the things I haven’t had time to wear because of too much stuff! Thanks for the idea’s!

    • I usually need my husband’s help to evaluate the clothes. I might know that something’s not right, but he can usually tell me what it is.

    • I like the ‘not following a time rule too much’ too. I have a dress I bought in 2005 for a friend’s wedding. It is still one of my favourites, but only gets worn a couple of times each summer because its my ‘feel special’ dress, the cut is great on me and the fabric is floaty and colourful but not too bold or trendy. there have been a few years I couldn’t wear it due to babyweight and breastfeeding, but I wouldn’t part with it for anything.

  26. Oh please please please let me comment!!! Please!!! I confess I am a closet minimalist, I never meant to be it kind of evolved… I did keep pregnancy clothes for subsequent pregnancies and I did keep pre-pregnancy clothes and well all sorts of potential clothes… I just found that while I may return to a previous weight and size I never return to the same shape and clothes that were favorites just never fitted the same again. Really its about being comfortable… so I tossed the lot and now only buy a few clothes for the shape I am in – whatever that is… by the time they wear thin I am usually changing shape and need a new set of clothes anyway.

    I have been working through Project Simplify the last few weeks… and the first project was the closet so here is a view of my closet: http://www.se7en.org.za/2011/03/12/project-simplify-the-closet

  27. I so struggle with this…I have a lot of shirts I don’t wear, some for good reasons, some for not, but it’s hard to let go of them because I feel like I spent good money on them…definitely should spend some time thinning down the closet!
    jodi @ back40life´s last post…Time to Celebrate–It’s Giveaway Day!

  28. I highly value modesty in my clothing, but I also like pretty, yet comfortable clothes. (I also hate synthetic fibers, buying only cotton, silk, linen, wool, etc.) This is a difficult combo to find, so my wardrobe is naturally limited. In fact, usually it is too scanty. However, as soon as I realize I no longer like something, it goes in the donation bag I keep hanging in my closet. Life’s too short to waste on possessions I don’t need or like.

  29. I have birthed ten children in the past 17 years and have yo-yo-ed up and down the scale accordingly. I have been following the advice in this post somewhat instinctively, and I find it works well. I currently use 3 different pairs of pants and the same 3 or 4 shirts for the most part. I have 3 boxes (labeled!) packed away of previous sizes that get rotated in or out as necessary. I also only keep what really works well. I am always glad to rediscover a box of old favorites when I lose the baby weight!

  30. You give such sensible advice. Reminds me of your greeting-card and photo storage posts, which I also loved.

  31. I work full time, I have kids, I attempt to have a social life every now and then (and definitely don’t want to wear ‘work’ clothes when I go out!) so I have a selection of dressy clothes as well. So yeah, probably have more clothes than I need. As I have got older though, my tastes lean toward natural fibres, classic lines and well, black. I have a little navy, and some grey (I have recently conceded that red is in fact a colour, and pink is acceptable in small doses, and hey, just about everything goes with black!) so 95% of my wardrobe co-ordinates with itself. And it varies in age from a couple of months old to 15-20 years.

    I probably cull my wardrobe once a year – worn out stuff goes to rags (and goes on the list to be replaced), don’t really love it goes to the oppy, and the quality “what on earth was I thinking” stuff – some of that, I flog off on ebay if I can be bothered, or off to the oppy with it as well.

    The main thing that keeps my wardrobe under control is only having limited space. About a metre of hanging space, six small drawers and two big ones, and a shelf. That’s it. If it don’t fit – I can’t have it or I have to get rid of something else.
    Jodi´s last post…Viva la Revolucion!

  32. Great advice. I have a few ‘dress up’ outfits because I do go to one or two balls a year, and the odd formal dinner. I have two beautiful suits I haven’t worn for two years (since I left corporate life) but they are tailored by a dressmaker, and one day I might just put one on to go for lunch or an interview or something. So sometimes it is worth keeping things you might not have worn for six months. I think your best advice is to store it rather than having it sitting in the wardrobe. That also helps clothes last longer – they are not being ‘swished about’ as you rummage around.
    Natalia´s last post…Ten Questions with The Mother of All Trips

  33. i continually go through my closet (we have a very small closet my husband and i share and no dresser) to downsize and purge. i am not a big shopper and still get hand-me-downs as an adult, which usually are really cute things that my friends can’t fit. i agree with the pregnancy dilemma. i have been pregnant or nursing, or both at the same time, for the past 8 years solid. my sizes are always changing, especially my bra sizes! good tips on downsizing realistically and not just having to go out and buy all new things, which isn’t realistic for most people.
    Charis´s last post…its all about perspective

  34. Danielle says:

    My clothing is limited by the space I have to keep it. I only keep what can fit in my closet on my wooden hangers and my chest of drawers comfortably. There are certainly items in there that I haven’t worn in years, but just because I haven’t had the occasion. I go through all my clothes every season to make sure they all fit and I donate the ones that don’t.

  35. Great tips! I have a mental block when it comes to getting rid of clothes. For too many years I worked low-wage jobs and had trouble affording clothes so I hung on to what I had FOREVER. When things were too worn to wear to work, I wore them around the house or as pjs. When they got even worse, they were repurposed as rags. Now that I am able to better afford clothing I still have trouble parting with servicable things even if I am tired of them in good enough shape to donate to charity. I need to work on letting go – both the clothes and the poverty mentality.

  36. I’ve been changing sizes lately – not due to pregnancy, but happily due to intentional weight loss!
    I’ve only kept really important clothes that are too big – so the jeans I wore when I met my husband, the tshirt from the gym I belonged to in Denmark, my rowing shirt from college.
    Then there’s the LBD. I bought it in 1999. It’s machine washable. It’s flattering. It’s seen me through weddings, funerals, debate tournaments, and job interviews. It goes with everything. I’m going to have it altered to fit. I don’t wear it every year, but there is NO WAY I’m getting rid of it. It’s my perfect LBD.

  37. I love talking clothes this way!
    One of my guidelines is: if I feel the need to give a piece of clothing a “turn” so I wear because I haven’t for a while, it’s probably time for it to be given away or refashioned somehow. I keep only clothes that I enjoy wearing.
    Margo´s last post…An Accidental Clean Leading to a Marker Roll

  38. Rosamond says:

    I like the tips here. I too have been using this method rather instinctively, but I need to get a little more ruthless about cutting out clothes that are just ok, or that I *might* wear. My problem is that I have a bunch of clothes for so many different activities. There is the full time work wardrobe (business casual–need to have at least 5-7 pants for this and double that number of tops, because I need some variety and can’t count on doing laundry mid-week with my schedule), the formal work wardrobe (client meetings, etc.), the casual weekend wear, the dressy weekend wear, then you get into athletic clothes (running shorts, microfiber tops, etc.), yard and housework clothes (stuff I don’t mind getting dirty/painty), hiking clothes (rain gear, etc.), snow/ski clothes (turtlenecks, silk underwear, etc.), horse riding clothes (specific pants, mostly), etc. Add to that the fact that several of these categories come in regular size, pregnancy size, and post-pregnancy size versions, and before you know it my small closet is jam-packed with stuff I don’t wear very often at all but can’t bear to get rid of (skiing, hiking, riding, and exercise don’t happen as much as they used to now that I have a baby and a toddler, but I WILL get back to them someday soon). I’ve moved some stuff to the basement for storage, but even that’s getting full since I also save outgrown kids’ clothes and toys down there (saving my toddler’s stuff for the baby, and the baby stuff because we don’t think we’re done with having kids yet). So, just, oy. I feel like there’s no help for it.

    • I totally understand. Even though I’m past the baby thing there are still those “special” clothes for workouts, yard work, etc. Some wardrobes are not “all purpose” for every lifestyle.

  39. If you can sew, create smaller clothes or accessories from your old clothes – such as a scarf, tank top, halter top or vest.

    Make clothes for your kids, such as shorts and summer tops.

  40. Inspired by you, I just donated about HALF of my clothes, only keeping the things that I LOVE. I feel like my closet can breathe again.

    Thank you!

  41. Heather says:

    You are going to laugh at me, but I am downsizing my wardrobe majorly…so I can feel pulled together and stop obsessing over having to many choices but not enough to make a decent outfit. My deciding factor- would I be caught in *insert article of clothing* in Paris??? This is really making me think about each piece and I must be able to use it in at least 3 different ways- with the exception of work out clothes and my around the house, painting, bleachy, yardwork clothing. : )

  42. Kirsten says:

    With four kids we manage their clothes with a simple index card system There is one for spring/summer and one for fall/winter. Basically it boils down to each kid having, for summer: 7 bottoms, 10 tops, 7-10 pr unders and socks, a hoodie, 3 swim suits, one pr jeans, one pr khakis, running shoes, crocs/flips, 2 pr jammies, goggles, an Easter outfit and a 4th of July T-shirt. We sit down and go through all of the hand me downs and make a list of what is missing and then we head out to the thrift stores. We retail a few awesome pieces that make summer fantastic. And that’s it. It keeps their clothing manageable and laundry isn’t ever a months worth of clothes, it can’t be.
    My husband and I do the same, now I am sadly trying to get my wardrobe UP to this amount of clothing. I’ve been skimping on me for too long! But now I only buy pieces that I LOVE and that are machine washable (I’m a stay home mom).

  43. Jeremy S says:

    I like to wear simple clothes, like a nice white button-up shirt, nice jeans, and black Converse. But….then I like to throw in something fun like a hat or a vintage tie.

  44. I love that you included that it’s ok to keep pregnancy-related clothes! Most advice about keeping clothes leaves that out, you’re right.
    The hardest part is the transition period post-partum when some of your smaller sized clothes fit, but not all of them and not all the time (especially with nursing thrown in the mix). I just end up with a big mess since there’s only room in my closet for 1 set… I’m going through that right now, can you tell?

  45. RachelNichols says:

    I discovered I only need 3 t-shirts, 1 sweater, 1 long-sleeved shirt, 1 dressy jacket, 4 pairs of pants, and a dressy outfit for special occasions. I also find two pairs of shoes to be adequate and only carry one purse till it is worn out. Unless I lose or gain weight, this wardrobe will last me indefinitely–all year round.
    Because I live in Indiana I also own a stadium jacket, raincoat, and winter overcoat. As Thoreau said once, “Simplify, simplify.”

  46. This is great! I always get hung up on the issue of having maternity clothes, post pregnancy clothes etc in my closet that don’t fit right now, but hopefully will be used again in the near future. Thank you for giving me the freedom to hang onto these clothes (and the ones for all the in-between stages)!