Get rid of the clutter in your clothes closet

Even if you’re not a student or don’t have students in your house, the start of the school year is a terrific time to sort through your wardrobe and purge the clutter. We recently went through this process in our home, and used some new strategies as we sorted.

First, we started by looking at photo albums from before my husband and I were married (11+ years ago). If we spotted any items of clothing still in our wardrobes that we were wearing in the old pictures, those items of clothing immediately left the closet. I had just two pairs of shoes that met this standard, so I decided to increase the scope by looking at pictures from before I turned 30 (7+ years ago). This strategy yielded better results — getting rid of a fifth to a quarter of my stuff. Items I couldn’t see in pictures but that I remembered had been around this long (many old socks were part of this category), went into the purge pile.

Second, I got rid of all of my summer clothes that I didn’t put on a single time this summer. This isn’t a new strategy, but it’s a good one for this time of year. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, this process would work for your winter clothing.

Third, and this new strategy turned out better than expected, my husband and I gave each other permission to purge the two items we least liked from each other’s wardrobe. He got rid of two pairs of my yoga pants that were what I wore whenever I was sick. He was right, they needed to go. I got rid of two of his shirts that weren’t flattering on him, and he agreed they should go. If you don’t live with someone, you can implement this same strategy with a close friend or family member. Remember, though, to make it about the clothes, not about the person.

Implementing our old strategies also helped a great deal to purge even more clutter from our closets. We kept to our styles and didn’t let any clothes stay that don’t meet our current style. We limited our wardrobes to items that fit right now, things we want to wear, and clothes that project our desired image. Check out our article “Discover your style to keep clutter out of your closet” if you’re looking for more tips on what to keep in your wardrobe and what to purge.

Remember: Most clothing (except for previously worn underwear and socks) can be donated to local charities. However, clothes that someone wouldn’t buy in their current condition should be bundled up and labeled as rags. Groups like Goodwill recycle these well-worn clothes to be used again, but in a different form. Be sure to contact your favorite local charity before making any donations to be sure that they are currently accepting clothing donations.

51 Comments for “Get rid of the clutter in your clothes closet”

  1. posted by Rachel on

    Some municipalities (such as Montgomery County, Maryland, USA) will recycle textiles. Contact your local recycling department to see if this happens via curbside pickup or donor-driven drives to the dump. πŸ™‚

  2. posted by Jannie on

    I was surprised to see that mere age (e.g. worn in old pictures) was reason enough to purge something. I love me some soft, worn old jeans or sweatshirts. If its in decent shape and you still use it and like to use it, why purge it? Old clothes should be purged for the same reason as clothes you bought last season.

  3. posted by Marjoryt on

    Other candidates for recycle – anything that requires extra handling outside your usual routine, such as dry cleaning, hand washing, ironing. My body and synthetics don’t mesh well, so I’m stuck with ironing cotton and linen. That’s part of my routine. However, handwashing and laying clothes out on racks to dry are NOT! I’m getting ready to cycle off a silk top and blouse, simply because I do NOT want to handle the cleaning cycle again. I got rid of the dry cleaning stuff last year and don’t regret a single item.

  4. posted by Anita on

    I second Jannie’s question: if it’s still in good shape, and still flattering (and not desperately out of style), why get rid of it just because of its age?

    I edit my wardrobe regularly, and weed out anything that’s not flattering, that’s worn out, that I no longer likc, or that I haven’t worn in the past year and can’t imagine myself wearing in the near future. How old something is is irrelevant as long as it doesn’t scream “child of the 80s” or something…

  5. posted by Jen on

    I really like the idea of letting your spouse (or close friend) choose two items, or maybe 3 or 4 if you have a lot of stuff, to get rid of. I may try to implement this at home – the reciprocal nature of it may convince my husband to allow it!

    I have to agree with Jannie, though, that I wouldn’t get rid of something solely because I’ve owned it for a long time. That could certainly be one criterion for extra scrutiny of a clothing item, but if I’ve had an item for a long time but it still fits, is in decent condition, and I still wear it regularly, then I’d keep it. It might be worthwhile to bring in a (stylish) friend to question whether I *should* still be wearing it if it’s a 10 year old shirt or something, but it’s entirely plausible.

  6. posted by Alyssa on

    I third (fourth?) Jannie’s question: why get rid of it just because it’s old? Frankly, most clothes made nowadays are way worse quality and won’t last many years. If it’s still in good condition, fits well, and I still wear it, I hang onto it as long as I can. Plus, a lot of 80s and 90s stuff is in style again, so you can make it work.

    I definitely like the idea of purging a couple of each other’s items. I can think of a few things I’d like to get rid of from his side of the closet!

  7. posted by Jen on

    My mom is a big believer in quality over quantity when it comes to clothing. She buys nice clothes, but she doesn’t have a lot of clothes, and those she does have last a long time.
    I would also disagree with the idea of getting rid of something because of its age. A nice pair of pants or shoes could last a long time and still be a basic wardrobe staple.
    Whenever I buy new clothes, I try to get rid of roughly the same amount of clothing. It actually works pretty well for me, though it sounds a little extreme. It find it much easier to evaluate and discard a few items at a time rather than a mass purging.

  8. posted by Sherri on

    My two favourite skirts are ones that I bought from a clearance rack at Bluenotes 10 years ago for $3 each, so I’d agree with Jannie that age alone shouldn’t be a reason to ditch clothes. Luckily, my skirts are fairly timeless pieces. I don’t own anything that looks like it came off the set of Saved By The Bell!

    I was able to purge some summer clothes a couple of weeks ago, and now that the weather is cooling off, I’m ready to tackle the winter stuff. There’s a few sweaters lurking in the closet that I haven’t worn in years.

  9. posted by Silke on

    I agree with the above. I have a 12-13 year old cashmere coat which I wear nearly every winter on special occasions. It’s classy, timeless and in great condition, there’s no reason why i should get rid of it. I’m focusing on getting rid of ‘trendy stuff’, regardless whether it was cheap or expensive. If it’s no longer worn, it’s useless. If it’s still worn, age doesn’t matter.

  10. posted by Erin Doland on

    Getting rid of something because of its age might not be a good standard for everyone. For me, it was about the fact that I’m not the same person I was back then. A decade ago, I wasn’t married, I was working at a law firm on K Street, I wasn’t a mom … I wore very trendy clothes then and tend toward a more classic look now. The image I want to project now is very different than the image I wanted to project then. Plus, I’m not the same size I was more than a decade ago.

    If your style and image and size are the same as they were a decade ago, getting rid of something because of its age may not be a standard for you to adopt. Those items may not be clutter in your closet. Remember, you should look at the advice on this site is like a salad bar — take what you want and leave the rest.

    Now that I think about it, a good wool suit in a classic cut (especially for a man), could easily last more than a decade without going out of style. Something like a Brooks Brothers tuxedo can last a lifetime. I don’t have any items of clothing like that, though.

  11. posted by Sue on

    In defense of the age criterion, Erin is probably in a very different place now than she was 7+ years ago. Clothes kicking around from that time may no longer fit her current lifestyle, and that was why she decided to get rid of them.

    I have a few items that over 10 years old, but only a few. 10 years ago I had a different job with a much more casual wardrobe than I do now. 10 years ago I hadn’t yet identified my personal style. I certainly didn’t own anything of quality since I was still establishing myself in my career and was on a severe budget. So for me, using age of the clothing would be an appropriate way to help me declutter my closet.

    But, I’ve already purged the old items from my life. I kept the few items that work with my current style and life. For some reason, I’m really good at purging clothing that no longer works for me.

    I like the idea of letting your spouse pick out two items to purge. I’m afraid of what my husband would pick, but it would be interesting. I know he’s got a few items that don’t flatter him but he insists on wearing every week. πŸ™‚

  12. posted by Karen on

    I think I saw this tip in lifehacker a while age (don’t know the original source):

    1. Turn all your hangers backwards on the closet rod at the beginning of the season.
    2. At the end of the season, you can tell instantly what you haven’t worn.
    3. Donate, toss, whatever is appropriate.

  13. posted by Celeste on

    Those clothing donation bins in strip mall parking lots are for collecting clothing to be sold off for recycling. Usually the sale of it benefits a charity. This is a good way to get rid of old clothes that aren’t good enough to take to a thrift store.

    Once I get a bag full of purged clothing to donate, I put it in my trunk so that next time I’m out and near a Good Will or donation bin, I can just get rid of it without making a special trip. I don’t want them piled up and seeing them in the trunk when I go to put in groceries, etc. motivates me to get them dropped off. I live 30 miles from town so my issue is trying not to make special trips just for this stuff.

    I’m also a fan of keeping the worn and comfy jeans/sweatshirt even if they’re old, just so that I can be the one to enjoy wearing them out! It’s a different situation if they just don’t “work” for you in any way. It works for me to have something to wear for times when I don’t need to look a certain way or don’t want to endanger something nicer.

  14. posted by Celeste on

    And by recycling, I meant clothing used for shredding into filler for various industrial purposes.

  15. posted by Alyssa on

    I definitely do the hangers trick. It works! For my folded clothes, I face them the other way, and when I wear them and put them back, I face them correctly. Works just as well.

    I also follow the one-in, one-out rule. At least, the best I can πŸ˜‰ It’s not that extreme, and it works. It forces you to pay attention to what exactly you’re buying, why, and what you have to get rid of (and whether what you’re buying is worth it). I need that kind of perspective, as much as I like to shop πŸ™‚

  16. posted by Rhian on

    I’m 29, married and a mum, and I have some clothes that I bought as a teenager, when my life was pretty different. They’re just standard, pretty, lacy summer tops and the like. Nice to wear with jeans then, nice to wear with jeans now. They must be reasonably quality to have survived this long, but they’re nothing special – just good basics bought from high street stores.

  17. posted by Jodi on

    I have the opposite problem. My entire wardrobe (spring, summer, winter, fall, pjs, fancy dresses, shorts, skirts, maternity clothes, things I hope to fit again someday…~everything) takes up less than half our closet.
    If any of my friends needed to donate clothes, I would gladly take them and be so blessed by the offer. I hate to shop. Perhaps another idea for those with surplus is to offer friends to come “shop” your closet before donating what is left.

  18. posted by Christina Rodriguez | The Diva's Home on

    I decluttered and even ‘decorated’ my closet earlier this year. I felt soooooooooo much better when it was finished. I still have extra room in there and I plan to leave it like that. I love to shop, but I put it off until I actually need something because I don’t want to stuff my closet again. So far I haven’t bought much and it has saved me a lot of money too!

  19. posted by danielle on

    Love these new tips!

  20. posted by Nina on

    I think for someone who has found their style a while ago and buys good quality clothing the age rule probably doesn’t apply. Especially for things that might not get worn that often and therefor are not worn out. Or things that get better with age like leather jackets.

  21. posted by Alix on

    Gotta love the “Get rid of two items I can’t stand seeing you wear” strategy… also @Christina Rodriguez’ idea about decorating the closet. Why not make it pretty to look at?

    It is so insanely hard to get rid of clothes that are just a few pounds away from fitting…! Confession: I once held onto a pair of adorable capri pants for over **15 years** in hopes that I could wear them again some day. Alas, they were more than just a few pounds away, so off they went (sob).

  22. posted by OogieM on

    A better solution than getting rid of items just because they are old is never buy anything not a classic in the first place. I have and fully expect to continue to wear clothing I purchased 20 or more years ago, It was well made, fits well, looks good and is a classic design. Why should I get rid of it just because it’s several decades old?

  23. posted by Jay on

    If you sew and mend clothes, consider asking yourself bedore you toss an item whether it would make a good patch for other clothes.

  24. posted by Kai on

    But there’s no reason to toss based on age if it already doesn’t fit or you don’t wear it.

    Rather than looking for what you wore in old photos, why not simply ask yourself if you’ve worn it in the last year? or two?
    If you still wear it, then obviously it fits and you like it enough, and there’s no reason to get rid of it.
    If you don’t wear it, then you should get rid of it even if it’s brand new.
    I don’t see the logic here.

  25. posted by Availle on

    Erin, I don’t understand why you’d need an extra layer of “age” given your statement about the old strategies in the second-to-last paragraph of your post: “We limited our wardrobes to items that fit right now, things we want to wear, and clothes that project our desired image.”

    Unless, of course, you haven’t quite been sticking to your own rules before. πŸ˜‰

    Personally, I’m not very good at throwing out clothing. I have essentially 4 levels: fancy (weddings and the like) – work – casual (when going out of the house) – home-only.

    I have those levels for everything, including underwear and socks, and things just drift from work downwards. Once they arrive in home-only, I wear them until they fall apart. Literally.

    A few years ago, when I got a style-makeover, I did donate about half of my wardrobe. But I still have enough stuff to fit the casual/home-only category for a long time to come. And before you ask, the only clothing items I bought this year were one bra and one T-shirt, as I declared 2011 to be the year of “I don’t buy anything unnecessary”.

  26. posted by DivaJean on

    There is no way I would edit my clothes based on age alone. As a woman of size, flattering styles for my shape that are available can sometimes be far and few between. There are YEARS that go by when certain unflattering styles/colors are in vogue and I wait to buy when the tides of fashion change back to my favor- or sew my own. Did I say that most people in the office where I work repeatedly complement me on my sense of self/style? My clothes also last longer because I take immaculate care of them. I have a suit dress combo that is 17+ years old- when I wore it this summer, I got many statements from folks around me about how nice the outfit looks on me.

    I do rotate my clothes seasonally- with more skirts, shorts, tee shirts etc in the summer and heavier items for the colder months. I live in Syracuse NY- snow central- so there is a big difference in the seasons, but I tend to layer items and keep most of my clothes out year round.

    That being said, I edit meticulously based on worn looking items or items that get stained. They are sometimes harvested for scrap fabric if it is a fabric type I feel like playing around with- or out.

    I am not a shoes gal- my shoes wear themselves right out to the garbage, then I hustle to buy replacements. I’ve been in a phase of wearing sneaker soled Mary Jane shoes for the past few years (like Skechers) since I can wear them with dresses or pants AND actually be able to walk to work if I have to.

  27. posted by Laura, The "Argie" on

    I’ll practice this technique soon, while I pack for my new life in the US!! ONLY MY STYLE, AND ONLY WHAT PROJECTS THE IMAGE I WANT FOR MYSELF!!! Nothing more…

  28. posted by Jenna @ NeatFreakWannabe on

    I’m a big fan of the backwards hanger trick, and I’ve been holding myself to that pretty well. Since we’re nearing the end of summer, I’ll be purging all those backwards hangers soon!

    I like the idea of letting your significant other get rid of some of your items in exchange for you getting rid of some of theirs. There is one sweater I own that I know my boyfriend would LOVE to get rid of!

  29. posted by mili on

    To the risk of getting boring lol, I’ll have to agree with the age suggestion – it sounds like it would have so many caveats and exceptions that it’s like a unitasker of decluttering rules that’s applicable pretty much only to the Doland household and anybody who shares more than 3 or 4 traits with them πŸ™‚ I recently had to do a good closet declutter, so the whole process is fresh in my mind, and I definitely kept several pieces of clothing that are over ten years old, despite being a fair bit younger than Erin (don’t know about the other posters, sorry :-).

    These clothes have been tried and tested through several style changes. They’re not particularly classic tailoring or anything – one is a long, tiered India skirt, what is sometimes referred to as ‘gypsy style’, another is a super-warm but lightweight alpaca sweater with folk designs around the hem, neckline, and cuffs. But all of these were clothes I never stopped wearing through all those evolving stylistic approaches, possibly because I’ve never been one to take *any* style as all-or-nothing – I’ve always been much more about matching clothes to occasion and climatic conditions. For example, now I’m often in drainpipe jeans with chucks, a band tee under a biker jacket and spiky bracelets, I’d still rather wear my old fave tiered skirt to a fall evening event and my dorky alpaca sweater hiking:-)

    I think if a piece of clothing is something you’ve worn a fair bit in the past, AND felt good in it, *this* is the stuff you need to think twice about tossing, especially if it still fits (even if you need to shed a couple of pounds for it to hang just right or it needs taking in because you’re not as zaftig as you used to be). After all this is the stuff that has a proven track record, and as such least likely to be clutter. Especially if like me you’re not a decluttering newbie, so it’s likely the garment has already survived a few purges large and small πŸ˜›

    Love the mutual decluttering though! Very cool idea πŸ™‚ I also really, really liked Jodi’s idea of ‘shopping’ friends’ closets. I know you would have to be diplomatic about things to avoid having people think you’re implying they need charity or otherwise look down on them, but it can be done especially with close friends πŸ™‚

  30. posted by Gemmond on

    Depending on your age and changes in lifestyle, and changes in your own taste, you can find yourself deleting quite a few items (even if they still fit)from your wardrobe, even if they are still in good condtion.

    I, too, no longer fit into the clothes I wore a decade or two ago,because even if they still fit my physical body, they don’t fit my current lifestyle and needs.

    However, things I have purchased in the last decade are far less trendy or fashion oriented and more “classic” so it’s been a few years since I’ve tossed very much. (I purchase far less now than I did when I was in my 30s because I don’t need as many different types of clothes now that I work from a home office and am not traipsing around a big-city corporation and attending business events around the world).

    Although my life has changed, and my apparel needs, I do regret tossing some items because I simply loved them–regardless of whether they remained “in style.” (An Armani jacket, a one-of-a-kind handwoven sweater, come to mind.) I wish I had the space to keep them, even if I only wore them at home from time-to-time. And I still miss quite a few clothes I wore in my 20s and 30s again, because I loved the quality and the design. But I don’t have the room for a “memorial” closet as it were.

    Less is more is my motto now.

    Although it’s fairly easy now to delete clothes, I rarely, if ever, toss scarves and jewelry (handbags and shoes literally fall apart, so though attached to some, out they go!). I purchase a lot of unique and artisan scarves and jewelry and they are timeless and go with everything. Even if I tire of them at times, I’m not tossing them because I know they will once again be “in favor” after “resting” a bit in my closet.

  31. posted by lisa on

    I recently realized I had TOO many coats/jackets and needed to pare down for space reasons and peace of mind! I put on a skirt & boots, then handed my 6 year old the camera and did a fashion show for him, trying on each coat in the same place and same pose while he snapped away. It was a fun half hour for both of us! I could then look at the photos on my computer and pretty easily determine what colors & proportions looked best and even concluded that a few just did not fit. If you have a willing kid and a digital camera, you can have a ball putting together outfits and weeding out your wardrobe! Of course, he may want you to snap photos of him trying on outfits too and then you’ll have to clean out HIS closet!!

  32. posted by chacha1 on

    I’ve got clothes that I still like, and that still fit, but that I’ve had for ten or more years and they just aren’t very nice any more.

    Not damaged, not ruined, just old and a bit overly worn. It occurred to me recently that I would prefer to give myself – and DH – something better to look at on a more consistent basis. πŸ™‚

    So I gave myself a $100/mo allowance to add wardrobe upgrades, until I am better satisfied. Using one in, one out I can gradually replace the tattier old things.

    @lisa – I love coats and jackets. I had to give three away this year … it just made no sense to keep so many when I only need one three days a year!

  33. posted by Jennifer on

    Great post. In the last year, I’ve lost 45 lb and reassessed my life & my style in a big way — got rid of ideas about who I thought I was or should be or even who I thought I wanted to be (sounds more complicated that it was ).
    I used to have the typical closet, filled with things that didn’t fit, that fit but didn’t flatter me, that I just plain didn’t like all that much, that never got worn — the usual tale. The thing that worked for me was to figure out once & for all what clothing style I loved — what looks great on me, what makes me feel great when I wear it, what does my lifestyle support, what am I most comfortable & happy in. For me, it’s jeans, a white tee, black leather jacket, boots. Works all the time, just about anywhere for me. Even when I’m in a skirt & heels, the overall “feel” is casual, but with a slight edge.

  34. posted by Jennifer on

    Don’t know why that previous bit got away without my last sentence (which probably isn’t that earth-shattering but I’ll send it anyway):
    It’s great posts like this one, Erin, that got me started on my whole “life reassessment” thing in the first place — my whole life used to be cluttered with clothing, things, ideas, beliefs and even people that simply did NOT support or reflect who I really am! Figuring that out made the rest dead easy! (And yes, I got a tattoo! LOL!)
    Thanks, everyone, for yet another great topic!

  35. posted by Wanda on

    I could not stop laughing about using the first rule. It happened to me and my sisters made a joke — Remember that sailor shirt — I bet you still have it. She was right…for about a day. This was a great excuse to get rid of many old items I hadn’t had the courage on my own to purge. The risk of being “outdated” by my own family was embarrassment enough.

    Chacha1 — kudos to you for splurging on yourself on a regular basis. That’s a good investment.

  36. posted by jodi on

    Mili…that idea started in high school. My friends and I would “borrow” each others clothes and never return them. The day I found this amazing shirt in my friend’s closet and asked if i could borrow it. Apparently she had borrowed it from me months earlier and i forgot about it. We decided we could save money by just sharing closets and instantly tripled our wardrobes. πŸ™‚ I wish I had friends my size of clothing as a mom because borrowing beats shopping any day in my book!

  37. posted by Tasmanian Minimalist on

    I love this post. I have already gotten rid of about 500 items of clothing, but still have lots left. I am even being photographed and interviewed for Grazia Magazine Australia about it all. This is a top piece, thank you.

  38. posted by kalle on

    I’d like to second what OogieM said – decluttering your closet starts when you are shopping. How many times have you (we) bought something because it’s pretty, on sale, fits great, might look good with…… And then worn it once – maybe. Or it goes with only 1 thing. My unclutterer goal is to either make a list of clothes I have, or a list of items I need, and buy ONLY what I absolutely need and love and can wear more than one way.

  39. posted by Another Deb on

    lisa has a great idea about taking pictures of yourself in the outfit. I remember back in the 60’s when my aunt getting her a full-length mirror in the hall. Within a week she had tossed half of her wardrobe away!

  40. posted by Janet on

    The best tip to having a clutter free closet (or any place else) is the second one – get rid of the clothes that you don’t wear for the entire season. When I learned that tip my messy closets disappeared.

    I give myself the “year” rule for any household items – have I used it within the last year? This gives you four seasons to see if an item is being used for some purpose. If it’s not why are you keeping it?

  41. posted by evelyn Cucchiara on

    I especially like the idea about asking your significant other what they want to see go. Unique & effective – what all good organizing tips should be! How about asking your kids too?

  42. posted by henave on

    Another vote for getting rid of old clothing not in use before too much time passes…I’m old enough to have had the experience of finding boxes of clothing I had stored for later use that I forgot I owned and that was no longer fit to wear anyway due to deterioration from improper storage. It’s a shame as someone else could have easily used that clothing- I’m much better now at keeping up with what I actually use and keeping it out where I can see it to evaluate it.

  43. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    I LOVE the idea of allowing someone else to identify two items to toss.
    Goodbye husband’s hideous Hawaiian shirt!

    I have nothing against Hawaiian shirts on the right occasion (luau?), but this one looks like someone threw it in the street then ran over it with a truck to finish it off.

  44. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    I’m the youngest of 4 girls. By the time clothes got to be they were 4th-or-more-hand after being passed around the extended family. I remember only 4 pieces of clothing from my childhood that were new and distinctly ‘mine’ when I got them (which isn’t to say that there weren’t more than that, just that I don’t remember them – I confess I don’t count the several dresses that were exactly the same as my sisters’ when my mother made 4 sizes of the one dress or the new school uniform because the uniform style was changed in my last year of primary school).

    My sisters became much more fashion conscious as we aged. I’m far too pragmatic to care about fashion trends, especially as most ‘off-the-rack’ stuff doesn’t fit me. Consequently, great chunks of my wardrobe are in the 8-15 years old bracket – if I liked it then, chances are I will now too – and significant portions of the rest are speciality items (like square dancing skirts and ‘going to a wedding’ items).

    I’d say, if you’re sure that you want to have nothing to do with the style of your x-years-ago-self, then maybe the photos idea will work for you. For me it’s much more about whether an item is clean, comfortable and I like it.

  45. posted by [email protected] on

    Love it. Especially the part about purging your spouse’s clothes. I have numerous things that I know look terrible – also my sick/sad clothes. I could tell you exactly what my spouse would toss.
    I am going to try to pare down my wardrobe radically this September. Getting me out the door in the morning is almost as hard as getting the kids out. Thank-you for the inspiration.

  46. posted by richard on

    Erin says not to donate socks and underwear. … Well every single church sale and thrift shop I go to has boxes of STAIN FREE yet used underwear and still-usable socks… and yes people buy them. Everyone has had the experience of buying a new brand of underwear (advertising works…), trying them at home and find they just don’t fit your bodytype quite right… and they just end up as clutter.

  47. posted by Elaine on

    I see a possible danger in Jay’s suggestion of considering whether a worn item can be used to patch something else. That’s where hoarding starts for a lot of people: “Oh, it would be a waste to throw out these ripped jeans — I’ll just tuck them away because sooner or later I can use the denim to patch another pair…” I did exactly that with 2 pairs, thinking one of my craft-happy friends might use them. No takers. I advertised them on Freecycle. No takers. What to do, what to do? Finally I just threw them out in the trash, and the guilt dissipated almost as soon as the sanitation truck rolled away. However, Celeste’s comment about the donation bins in strip malls being used to recycle fabric for industrial use was something I didn’t know, and will keep in mind for the future. I’d much prefer having my castoffs come to some use rather than being consigned (no pun intended) to a landfill. Thanks!!

  48. posted by richard on


    recycling is a big hidden industry . Those collection boxes end up in huge depots – where professional pickers sift through them — looking for denim, leather, and vintage items first. Ditto for shoes and sport shoes

    First – the clothing is sold to vintage shops and outlets like Value Village

    The second route is export – clothing is sent to the Third World (mainly) for resale there – that is how you see starving African kids wearing Branded Clothing. This market is a bit in peril, because there is SO much poorly made made in China crap sold , that can’t be re-purposed at all anymore, there just isn’t a second life in them., and wholesalers don’t know what to do with this garbage.

    Those items end up being shredded and fibers re-used for industrial purposes.

    This is only a quick explanation.

    you can learn more here


  49. posted by Nicole in Paris on

    I read a similar article once on how to pare down clothing. It suggested getting rid of old, worn out clothes that don’t fit well or are in bad shape. I was on an organizing binge and went in with a flurry, tossing out or donating clothes I would never wear outside the house, like the yoga pants mentioned here.

    Then I had some painting to do and I had nothing ratty to wear. Then I was taking care of my sick daughter, vomiting and so and had nothing to wear. My husband and I were cuddling up on the sofa, he was in his soft jogging pants and I had only nice nightgowns to choose from.

    I am all about de-cluttering, but we do need ugly, thin, full of holes clothes for some tasks too.

  50. posted by Alex on

    I went extreme on this one.

    I went to visit my sister in NYC this summer. Everywhere we went she wore beautiful designer clothes and looked fabulous. Then she told me how she was able to do this: She only owns a few outfits. She takes good care of them and just wears them all the time.

    I went shopping and bought 6 outfits that look great on me. Then I got rid of everything else in my closet. Seriously. (Except one old pair of pants and tee shirt for doing any “dirty work” – as mentioned in the previous comment.) I live and work in a relatively casual place so I can wear jeans to work. I have dark denim pants and denim skirts along with a few nicer pieces. I can wear these clothes to work, for going out, or just around the house. They all fit well and look good. Granted, this wouldn’t work if I had to dress up more, but for me it’s perfect. Because I have fewer clothes I have found I am taking care of them better – if something gets stained I tend to it immediately rather than dumping it in a laundry pile and leaving it until laundry time. My husband says I should go up to 8 outfits so I can rotate them a little more. The only other thing I want is a dress that will work for a wedding and/or funeral.

    I’m not sure how this will turn out long term. For now, I know this will sound extreme or crazy to some of you but I love it. I live in a really small house, so now I have less laundry and less clutter. I hung up my outfits on less than half a clothing rod and my dresser and the rest of my closet are now used mostly for storage of other things. I’m not advocating shopping for all new clothes for all of you (in my case after two pregnancies I had been holding onto clothes that used to fit and/or maternity clothes that no longer fit, so I needed some new things). I am done shopping for clothes hopefully for several years unless something needs to be replaced or suddenly goes out of style (which I don’t think will happen – these are mostly classic clothes.) Now I can look good and focus on other things in life.

  51. posted by Lori on

    This is one of the most valuable articles I’ve ever read! I have been stuck with my decluttering projects. Some of the ideas shared here are not new , but the simplicity and practical applications discussed make it feel do-able! Thank U!

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