Clothes can be difficult to declutter as there are lots of variables. Fluctuations in fashion, season and fit can alter the wearability of an item.
“Does it spark joy” as a measure, is too arbitrary for me. If I am in a good mood everything sparks joy. If I haven’t had my morning coffee yet, it’s the opposite. I need a more concrete procedure to follow.
Here are my various decluttering techniques for clothes.
Declutter your clothes with the death row hanger trick
Turn all your coat hangers around the wrong way. Set a reminder for six months or one year to revisit the situation. In the meantime, every time you wear something, return it facing the correct way. When your reminder buzzes, time is up for everything still facing the wrong way.
Declutter your clothes via death row due dates
Similar to the hanger trick but this time put a sticky note through the top of each coat hanger with your pre-determined date. To cover seasons and other rare occasions, six months or as much as a year can work. I usually have them all expire on the same date but you could have more than one date depending on seasons. As you wear something the sticky note comes off. Everything that remains sticky-noted on the due date, goes bye-bye. Gas chamber or firing squad? Maybe just the op shop then.
Point is, you gotta treat those use-by dates as though they are stamped on mouldering blocks of cheese in a forgotten corner of the fridge. No second chances.
Declutter your clothes by death row sectioning of your wardrobe / drawers
Yet another way of putting clothes on death row, this time by sectioning your hanging space with a coloured hanger or a bath robe or something. Every time you wear and wash something it goes to the right of the divider. Whatever remains on the left after your decided time frame, is under-utilised and needs to go.
This system works well for drawers too, because it doesn’t rely on coat hangers. Stuff you don’t wear ends up on the other side of the drawer. When the drawer gets over full or you’ve had enough, it’s obvious which items you shouldn’t be keeping.
Declutter your clothes with a death row packing party
The last declutter trick in the death row series was devised by The Minimalists. It’s pretty extreme, especially if you are Ryan Nicodemus because he did it to his entire apartment. In this case we are only talking about your clothes – for now, anyway. The system involves packing up everything as though shifting house.
It’s called a packing party because you can get your friends ’round to help out. Order some pizza and beer, give everyone some tape and a Sharpie (don’t forget the labelling, my friends) and get busy!
You unbox items as you need them, and find a cupboard for them after use. Gradually your cupboards start to fill up again. But actually you’ll probably find that most items remain boxed and can be taken straight to the op shop. It’s a fast-track to minimalism.
Declutter your clothes via a checklist
- Have you worn it recently?
- If not, do you plan to? For example if you were spontaneously going out for dinner tonight, would you put it on?
- Do you like it?
- Does it fit?
- Is it comfortable?
- Do you feel good in it?
If all these are all a yes (exception for number 1), it stays.
Declutter your clothes by holding off on your washing
This works really well if you are an infrequent clothes-washer. Hold out even longer than usual and look at when you are forced to utilise the laundry. If there are items left in your cupboard at that point which you still don’t want to wear, they are probably no longer serving you.
Declutter your clothes by wearing everything (not at the same time)
Make a commitment to go through your lesser-used garments day by day to give them a last chance of redemption. Every single time you get dressed, grab something you don’t normally wear. If you are loathe to put it on, it goes the donate bag. If you wear it and feel uncomfortable or unattractive, it’s goodbye garment.
Declutter your clothes by devising a capsule wardrobe
Instead of deciding what to throw away, create a capsule wardrobe of useful basics to keep. Items plentiful enough to get you through a washing cycle, and coordinated enough so that they can be mixed and matched. The contents depend on your lifestyle. Outside of your new selection, everything else is bundled up and removed.
Exceptions – fat clothes, skinny clothes, formal-wear, niche attire
These categories need a bit more time and consideration. You may wear a cocktail dress or ski pants once a decade but you know you’ll wear them again and they are expensive to replace. So let them be.
Clothes in aspirational sizes should be minimised because chances are, if you get down to your goal weight you’ll want some new gear anyway. By all means keep a few faves but there’s no point being haunted by bags and bags of too-small garments.
I put all my niche attire in labelled boxes or baskets at the top of the wardrobe in that hard-to-reach area.
Exceptions – mending and alterations
If you have a pile of items that need mending, put them in an area where you do your mending – in the sewing room, near the TV etc.
If they need to go to a tailor, try them on again to confirm and if you’re not convinced, donate instead. If alterations are definitely the desired outcome, put them in a bag next to the front door. Tick off this job once and for all so you can return these garments to their buddies in your wardrobe and get back to wearing them.
Give it a go. And as always feel free to get help with these and other strategies.