Are your wardrobes crammed so full you can never find what you need? Or maybe you are racked with the guilt of knowing you have a lot of clothing gathering dust that could go to a better home? Either way, our guide to how to declutter your wardrobe is designed with you in mind.
A good clear out can really soothe the soul, especially at the start of the year, but opening those doors or drawers to mounds of mismatched socks or unpaired shoes can feel overwhelming. That is why we have come up with a clothes tidying battle plan. Read on to get your clothes in order.
From deciding what to part with, to tips and tricks on keeping it tidy after the cull if you are ready for a tidier new year, you have come to the right place.
Jump to a section:
Choosing which clothes to keep
Yes, we know. It's hard to part with clothes. So excited when you bought them... inevitably it's time to say goodbye to some of them at least once a year (if there's ever to be room for more). Love to hoard? Find decluttering a challenge? Adopt these wardrobe-sorting tricks to slimline your clothing collection.
1. Think about what you want to keep, not what you want to throw away
Find it hard to part with anything, let alone clothes? We're with you... but setting yourself the target of getting rid of a drawer's worth of clothes isn't the way to go, because the value you assign to your clothes doesn't correlate with how much space they take up.
Instead, think of it not as what you need to get rid of but what you need to keep. We all do this every time we go on holiday – you're just applying the same principles to your everyday wardrobe on a bigger scale – and anything that doesn't make that mental (or physical) list can go.
Unhelpful hoarder's guilt? Gone.
2. Sign up to the Marie Kondo method and only keep items that 'spark joy'
Tidying consultant Marie Kondo has been a household name for the most organised among us for some years, with her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, transforming many people's homes. The cornerstone of her decluttering philosophy is an extension of the idea above (focussing on what to keep) and to do this she asks her clients to look for the items that 'spark joy'.
The sceptic in you may be asking 'what is this hokum?' and 'how can a pair of socks possibly spark joy?', but that joy will be different things to different people: the blouse you wore on your first date with your now-husband, the pair of jeans that fit so well, or even the paint-splattered tracksuit bottoms that you don for any DIY mission – when you pick it up you just know. Find out about Marie Kondo tidying up methods – we promise, it's not as out there as you'd think.
Not working for you? If the item you pick up sparks indifference/disgust, it's on the 'to get rid of' pile.
3. Do a stock take
Piling all (yes, all) of your clothes in one place (another tip from Marie Kondo) and picking each item up one by one, is another good does-it-stay or does-it-go ploy. This means emptying every drawer, cupboard and shelf onto a bed or clean floor to face the sheer volume of what you own.
Sorting items en masse also allows you to see how much of any one type of clothing you have and rationalise your wardrobe effectively – and might stop you buying that (seventh) black jumper you had your eye on.
Having plenty of bags and boxes ready for what you want to discard and keep will keep the stock take moving forwards neatly.
4. Use it or lose it
Struggling with the above methods? It might be time to dial down the emotional attachments and dial up the practical approach. This means taking everything out that you haven't worn in the last six months except seasonal items (swimming costumes, ski wear...) and occasion wear (favourite little black dress/dress shirt).
Then, go through the remaining items, getting rid of any clothes you don't wear because they don't suit you or don't fit (handy to have a friend to advise here). That also means getting rid of items to 'slim in to'. Next, chuck the clothes that you don't wear because you have nothing to wear them with (and probably never will).
Finally, when you hang the clothes back up, ensure the coat-hanger hook is facing backwards. When you next wear the item, you can hang it back up the right way round. Discard anything that is still facing the wrong way after six months.
Items that can't be hung up can be put in a storage box. If you wear it, put it back away in drawers with the rest of your clothes. Again, anything still in the box after six months also needs to go.
Oh yes, we're that strict.
How to dispose of unwanted clothes
You will be pleased to know that you can clear a whole wardrobe without sending anything to landfill. What's more, you could raise money for charity or yourself in the process.
5. Sell clothes and accessories online
Your best quality items may earn you a few pounds online. Barely-worn and designer items do best and there are a number of apps or websites that can be used to sell them. Ebay is a familiar choice, but consider apps such as Vinted that is dedicated to clothes and accessories, or Depop.
Some rag merchants will also buy old clothes by the kilo. You only get around 40p per kilo, but could generate a nice bit of pocket money for those with a lot of dispose of. The clothes get sorted and sold on if of any value, or recycled.
6. Take old clothes to a charity shop
Let your clothes find love elsewhere by taking them to your local charity shop. Make sure everything is in good condition and clean and they could earn some money for a good cause.
Or... ask your local school if they're planning a jumble sale soon... or your local church might be doing a night shelter that needs extra items. You are awash with choice when it comes to giving them away.
7. Recycle in a rag bank
Most towns will have a rag bank alongside their other recycling facilities. This is the perfect place for your holey old jeans or that jumper that you shrunk. Rag banks accept most unsoiled cloth and sometimes paired shoes (there is often a shoe bank there too if not) so you can also recycle bed linen and towels.
How to store your clothes
Good storage is essential, but don't go overboard – the more space you have for stuff, the more likely you are to fill it, right? When it comes to putting everything away, try to leave a little breathing space in your cupboards and drawers as a crammed drawer is hard to keep on top of.
8. Hang or fold?
How you store your clothes will largely depend on what kind of bedroom storage you have. If space allows you will want at least one cupboard or wardrobe for items of clothing that need to be hung up. Dresses, skirts, coats, blouses and trousers that are like to crease are best stored this way.
Everything else can be folded. Marie Kondo's KonMari method promotes folding your clothes neatly into a rectangle than can be stored upright (see our guide to folding clothes like Marie Kondo or view the video below), allowing you to see everything in your drawer at a glance.
If you are storing clothes on shelves in a walk-in wardrobe or dressing room, you may wish to stack them or store them folded and upright in clothes storage boxes.
In real life, ladies and gents, just do your best.
9. Divide by type
Organise your wardrobe and drawers into groupings that make sense to you. A large drawer for underwear can be split into sections using boxes for neatly folded socks, pants and bras. If you have a lot of clothes for a particular activity, such as working out, you may want to keep them together rather than with other T-shirts or shorts.
Boxes will be your best friend for organising your clothes. Ikea do a great range of storage for compartmentalising your drawers but you can use shoe boxes or gift boxes.
Take it from us, once you start organising your drawers like this, it becomes somewhat addictive.
Keeping your wardrobe tidy
Don't get stuck in a six-month cycle of having to declutter allover again. Stay on top of your closet with these tips.
10. One in, one out
Desperate to stay on top of a hoarding tendency or shopping addiction? Try (really, really hard) to only buy new clothes when you have thrown something else out. Avoid buying imperfect replacements of old items though – you could search forever and not find exactly what you are looking for, then buy something that you never wear.
11. Apply the 'spark joy' mentality when you buy
If you have spent so much time clearing through items only for those which spark joy, why would you bring anything new in to your home that doesn't? Before you buy new clothes, try and get that same feeling. Then, when you get that feeling, apply your mental powers to your stock take and think, 'do I need an 8th pair of black trousers?'.
12. Use a good old shopping list
Try to stop treating shopping for clothes as a leisure activity and base it around what you need rather than what you want (your bank account will thank you). Create a shopping list when you do need new clothes and stick to it. Going with a strong-willed friend who helps you stick to that list is a good idea and can mean you still enjoy buying clothes. No unseemly grappling with him/her in the aisles, though, please.
13. Allow time for laundry and putting clothes away
Try to avoid hurriedly putting everything away after it is washed. Take time to fold or hang your clothes carefully, putting them back where you would expect to find them rather than ramming them in the nearest drawer. You'll never manage this every single time (unless, by now, you're treating wardrobe decluttering as a hobby, obvs), but aiming to give your wardrobe or drawers a quick neaten once a week will keep them tidy.