I admit it: I hoard clothes. And I know I'm not alone – so many of my friends and family keep outfits we no longer wear in our clothing collections 'just in case'. And because of that emotional connection we feel to clothing – or perhaps the guilt of knowing we have bought something that we've barely worn, clearing out our closets can be one of the more difficult home cleaning tasks. Well it is for me, at least.
So, I turned to mom for some down-to-earth closet organization ideas. She's a pretty practical person and I knew I could count on her simple tips to help make my burgeoning clothes collection more manageable. I asked her for help in making more space in my closet for newer pieces, and to help me see what I already had. 'More importantly, mom, how do I declutter my clothes fast?' I asked.
This is what she told me – and it finally got me over my clothes hoarding habit.
1. 'Only do it when you're in the right mood'
My mom's best piece of advice was: 'Honey, wait until you are in the right frame of mind before decluttering clothes, otherwise you'll never get it done, or done well. And give yourself nothing else to do that day.'
Usually, I find that forcing myself into decluttering when I'm not in the mood for it means that I simply cannot purge items as ruthlessly as I had set out to. Waiting to be in the right frame of mind for a clear out means that I am more able to make decisions and let pieces go.
Setting some time aside to carry out my closet declutter has meant I don't find excuses to leave the task unfinished, too, making the time I'd spent on my clear out thus far almost pointless.
2. 'Sort your clothes into seasons, then take a deep dive'
'How can you tell what's even in that closet? Sort it into seasons and you'll be able to tell what you've got!'
Thanks mom. Sorting my clothes into seasons has helped me to create categories that are more easily digestible. Having a large pile of unorganized clothes that I had removed from my closet was overwhelming, however, my mother's rule of separating spring and summer clothes from the fall and winter pieces is not only helpful for making space in small closets, I discovered, but for organizing clothes more generally.
My mom also recommended decluttering seasonal clothes during the seasons I will be wearing them. Trying on items at the right time of year helped me decide more clearly which pieces I was looking forward to wearing in the months ahead, as opposed to guessing what I might want to wear in six months' time.
Categorizing my clothes in this way encouraged me to pull all of my items out of my closet so that I could see everything I own – and to clean my clothes closet too to keep the clothes I am keeping fresher for longer.
3. 'Try your clothes on to ensure they fit and make you feel good'
Doh! Like everyone, I have a half closet full of clothes that no longer fit or that I no longer feel comfortable in, so that made sense. And while that 'just in case' voice in my head was telling me to keep clothes I'm not wearing anymore, I faced the fact that keeping ill-fitting clothes can affect my self-esteem and make me feel bad for not being the same shape or size I once was.
So, I tried on all my clothes and put the pieces that no longer worked into a 'donate' pile.
I did still have a modest 'just in case' pile but my mom's last, and cleverest, tip was what transformed my clothes hoarding habit entirely.
4. 'Use the reverse coat hanger trick'
My mom says the reverse coat hanger trick isn't hers originally, but it is one of the smartest tips I've used to conquer a clothes hoarding habit.
'When you hang clothes back up in your closet after you've organized it, hook the hangers onto the railing backward,' she told me. 'Every time you wear something, hook the hanger onto the railing forwards. After a couple of months, six months, even a year, you'll quickly see what you never, ever wear, which makes getting rid of those clothes that much easier.'
This very simple tracking system alone will help you get over your clothes hoarding habit, even if you never reorganize your closet again.
The moral of this story...
My favorite benefit of my mom's decluttering technique was the new space it gave me. While it was tempting to refill that space with new clothes, I was able to enjoy wearing the clothes that I kept. I also had more space for closet organizers to store my shoes, belts, and hats.
It won't surprise you that it also had an unexpectedly positive psychological benefit too. By getting rid of items that no longer fit or did not look as good on me as other pieces did allowed me to shift my mentality from hating the clothes in my closet to loving the pieces I had.
So, will you be trying out my mom's decluttering techniques too?
How often should I declutter clothes?
How often you declutter your clothes can depend on how often you purchase new items and how much time you want to devote to home organization. It is a good idea to declutter clothes at least twice a year, once during spring cleaning and once during fall cleaning as you change out your wardrobe for the changing seasons.
If you are frequently buying new clothes it may be a good idea to declutter more frequently, taking out items you find yourself less excited about every few months.
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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