How to Declutter your Wardrobe in a Ruthless Manner

I had a very quiet January, mostly because I was broke after my beauty shop, so I decided to use a free weekend to get something productive, time consuming but necessary, done.

I cleared out my wardrobe.

Cher's wardrobe, Clueless
Oh Cher, I feel your pain. 

I do a version of this once or twice a year, where I have a look through and toss out handful of items that I’ve not worn or are ready to be recycled. This was the full-length, unabridged version of a clear out;  a deep clean, a complete gutting of my wardrobe.

Let me give you a brief history of my wardrobe. I was once very fat and then over a handful of years I got very thin (nope, this wasn't a good thing, no congratulations necessary). This means you have to throw your entire wardrobe out and start again. However, when I was starting again I was not financially cozy and therefore couldn't buy many clothes. I had great friends who offloaded their hand-me-downs on to me when they didn't want items and I’ve always loved the bargain hunt aspect of a charity shop, so these became the seedlings from where the majority of my wardrobe sprouted from. When I moved to London I had one wardrobe rail of clothes and a small chest of drawers. I travelled light.

Cut to today, 8 years has passed and life has changed. I’ve put some weight back on (coz who frigging cares) which means some of my ‘new’ wardrobe doesn’t fit anymore and I’ve got a good level of disposable income going on, which means hello shopping! My wardrobe has grown and grown and as much as I did yearly clear outs, I never really dug deep down to the 8 years ago level and cleared out the stuff buried under all the new stuff. The one rail of clothes doubled to two and the chest of drawers now comes with two storage crates. Now I’m here, quietly suffocating under a pile of clothes. Sigh.

So, how does one do such a thing as gut a wardrobe? You eat a meal, take an antihistamine (my storage is dusty), put as much of your clothing in one place as possible, get a comedy series running on Netflix and get stuck in. No stopping is allowed until significant headway has been made (I recommend barricading yourself in your bedroom by putting the ‘stuff to toss’ bin liners in the way of the door, then there’s no escape).  As I have ALL THE CLOTHING EVER (conservative estimate) I structured my attack into two sessions over the two days of the weekend, this was the only way to not lose all hope to carry on and be willing to carry on into day two.

My strategy was to reduce my total wardrobe by 40%. I know that sounds like a lot, and it is, but I have enough to work with when only 60% of my wardrobe remains; a fact which should indicate exactly how big this task was and that I am clearly insane and/or brave for committing to do it in the first place.

I’d also be lying if I said I got to this point and didn’t say 'I hate myself! What am I doing with my life?!'. I did say this outloud, several times over the course of the weekend to myself and other people in my life.

How to declutter your wardrobe
I hate myself! What am I doing with my life??!

I went through every item of clothing that I own and assessed it to this set of criteria:

  • Have I worn it in the last 6-12 months?
  • Will I wear it again (even if my size changes for it to fit me again)?
  • Is it still my style?
  • Is it one of a kind (as in not a duplicate purchase)?
  • Is it in good condition (as in not so old and tatty that it needs replacing)?

As long as I got a majority YES vote to these ruthlessly strict criteria, then the item stayed. Otherwise, it got tossed out. 

For those interested in how long this process took me, it was 9 hours over two days. I did clothing, lingerie, shoes and bags.  I reduced my wardrobe by over 30% and got rid of 4 bin liners of stuff.  

You know how the tagline on the Macmillian clothes charity bags read ‘stuff me until I’m fit to burst!’? I did. Some twice as the bags did actually burst. I told you;  ALL THE CLOTHING EVER.

How to declutter your wardrobe
Sweet Charideeeeeeeeee!

Now I can genuinely say I know what I have in my wardrobe. ALL OF IT. This is because I looked at every item and it’s been kept for a good reason. This system has meant it’s dispelled some of my wardrobe myths;  I was convinced I had a tiny work wardrobe (it’s massive; I have 10 pencil skirts, 6 flared skirts, 3 minis and 7 stylish wrap-over dresses), I was convinced I had a massive summer wardrobe (it’s tiny and fits into one weekend bag) and I was convinced I had a sensible number of nerdy tshirts (13 Doctor Who, 2 Star Wars, 3 Harry Potter, 2 Game of Thrones, 1 Ghostbusters, and that’s just off the top of my head. 21. I need therapy).  

This will help me get better at mentally trawling through my wardrobe when I have an event to go to and stop me uttering the senseless line ‘I don’t think I have anything to wear’. Oh yes you bloody well do, missy. Oh yes you do.

It’s also made me go on a clothes shopping ban for six months. Don’t get me wrong, I’m allowed essentials (leggings, tights, vests for layering etc) but as for big purchases, no more. I’m going to try to note how much the big purchases are and tuck that money away, totalling up as I go along. I reckon by the time autumn rolls in I’ll have enough mentally tucked away to afford a pair of Louboutins, which is exciting and alarming in equal measure.

What I couldn’t prepare for was how much better this declutter made me feel. It made me so happy. That might just be me being a cleaning and organising nerd, though. I accept not everyone gets the warm and fuzzies after throwing a third of their belongings away, but having less things always makes me feel more free, less tied down, with less baggage to carry. There’s traveller blood in me for sure, I just don’t let it run wild. Yet.

So that’s my good deed for the New Year done. In case you’re wondering how to spot this decluttering goddess, I’ll be the woman walking down the high streets of West London carrying no clothes shopping bags and wearing jeans, a blazer and a nerdy tshirt; I gotta get my money’s worth.

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  1. I love this post!

    I also got a thrill at the very end as you reminded me that one day it will be possible to walk around outside wearing a t shirt and blazer and not a bloody massive winter coat!! Thank you Alex :)

  2. I love clothes and this is a great blog post!