How to Pare Down Your Closet and Be Happy With It

Like I said, I now only have about half as many clothes, shoes, purses, and accessories in my closet as I did before our move. And I couldn't be happier about this clean sweep of mine.

It can be so freeing to get rid of the extras and only see your favorite pieces staring back. Especially when all that the others were doing was taking up space and making you feel guilty for not wearing them anymore.

Does it make you want to take the pruning shears to your own wardrobe? Or even just to a section of it?

If so, here are some tips for how to pare down your closet and be happy with it:

Determine your personal style
The first thing to consider when you start flitting through your closet is what do you want it to become? What kind of fashion statement do you want your clothing to speak when you put them together? Keeping this in mind when you're examining pieces will really help set the bar for what you keep and what you cast out.

For me, I decided that I wanted my closet to be one of laidback sophistication. Pieces that are casual but in a grown-up sort of way.

What kind of personal style do you want to cultivate with your clothing?

Be honest about what you actually wear
It doesn't matter how cute it is if you aren't comfortable enough to wear it. Those items should go, as well. For me, that was my small collection of high heels. I had some that were beautiful: sweet mary-janes, knee-high boots, office-worthy pumps. But the the truth is that I never felt comfortable wearing them and only wore them on rare occassions, in which awkward self-consciousness ensued.

I have to embrace that I'm a flats kinda girl. And that's okay. My shoe collection (which you can see here) is now pared down to my favorite flats, which all get major use.

What's taking up space in your closet that you wish you wore but never feel quite right in?

Divide and conquer: Sort into piles
I created three piles: Yes, No, Maybe.

Everything that I loved and actually wore went into the "Yes" pile. Those were things I wouldn't think twice about getting rid of. They were things that fit my personal sense of style and were things I actually wore. Those are the easy decisions to make.

Then you have the "No" pile, which, for me, are the next easiest decisions to make. These are things you've held onto but know you haven't worn in a long time—too long. Or the things that have a stain on them or just aren't flattering.

The last pile is the "Maybe" pile. This is where things get murky, because you can start justifying to yourself why they could work. "Well, if it was a little shorter. Well, maybe I'll have an opportunity to wear it. Well, I might find a skirt that goes with it perfectly."

Justifications like these can easily grow the "Maybe" pile into a hulk. But the reality is that most of the items in this pile should eventually make their way to the "No" pile. It's more of a stepping stone to ease you into that part of the break-up, because kissing your wardrobe goodbye isn't always easy.

What clothes are you holding onto  "just in case"?

Say your goodbyes
Now you've done your organizing, and you should now have a "Yes" and a "No" pile. (Remember the "Maybe" one should now have faced the truth and made its way into "No.")

If it makes you feel better, you can hold onto the "No" pile for a couple of weeks, sealed up and out of sight, to make sure that you really can live without those items. I did this and found that I was completely satisfied with all my "Yes" decisions, and that helped me be okay with getting rid of all the rest.

You can try to sell some of your clothes to consignment stores or on eBay to ease a little of the guilt of getting rid of so much. But once you've done that, give the rest to a good cause. That'll help you feel better about it, too!

Rejoice in renewed simplicity
Go figure out what to wear. Because it should be easier now, not harder. That's part of the joy of simplicity. It can be difficult to get there, but once you are, it sure feels like home!

Related Posts
Living with Less: Why I Got Rid of Half My Clothes
An Epiphany About Reorganizing
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  1. I'm one of those people who loves purging possessions, so going through my closet is fun! I have a rule - if I haven't worn it in a year then it gets tossed. Period. My wedding dress is the only piece of clothing that gets past that rule. You're totally right about figuring out what works for you! I've found that dresses, skirts, and cardigans are most useful to me, because I'll wear them for much longer. So I buy cheap shirts that I won't feel bad about getting rid of when they begin to lose their shape or start to look not as good on me.

  2. You've inspired me to take another look into my closet tonight! I have such a hard time of letting go of the 'maybes'.

  3. @ Eat & Write - I am totally with you on figuring out what your key items are. Cardigans are definitely on my list, too!

    @ Britt - I'm so glad to hear that! Let me know how it goes. I really think holding onto your "No" pile for a week or two is really helpful in easing you to get rid of the stuff. It's like a trial run, and afterward you have more confidence about getting rid of the rest!

  4. I'm so bad at each point. I purge over and over thinking all of these points and more. Then a year later I have this sentimental melt down that I missed the item I tossed/gave/sold. I feel like it's good for me though...I attachment myself to earthly things when it really doesn't matter. So, more over it's a matter of my heart. I just this past year forgave myself (hah!) and stop resenting the fact that I gave away gorgeous Marc Jacob pants to a girl I met once (the pants then didn't fit but now they would). For me...a purged closet helps me in SO many ways: organizing, valued items, and deals with my heart.

  5. May I just say that your collection of flats is impressive? haha I'm a flats girl myself and those orange-y ones with the little peep toe are super cute! :) Anyway, love love love your tips here. I'll definitely keep them in mind when I go to set aside my next round of purging. Good thing is I'm having a garage sale here soon so I can toss this stuff into that. :)

  6. I love how you compare the "maybe" pile to easing into a break-up! I've so been there. Letting go is hard, but once you do, you can fly!

  7. I am actually working on a similar post! It's taking me a while though. I am a flats and converse girl with **maybe** a kitten heel or wedge thrown in there. I love going through my closet but then I never truly get rid of it because I find another way to use it. There was this shirt that I loved but it had this god aweful bleach stain. Clearly not wearable but there was good fabric left. So I cut it up and made it into this cute fabric braided bracelet. So my cleaning out closet usually goes like "no this fabric isn't amazing enough to mBe remade into anything "no...but what could this be made into?" and then "yes"!

  8. @ Melissa - If you do post a similar post, please pass it on. I'd be interested to see your take! I also try to figure out how to re-use stuff in my closet, but I made sure I didn't use that as an excuse to keep too much!!

  9. I've been on a purging mission for a few months now and my closet was actually the first to be hit. And it's about time to do it again. I know we'll be moving in the next year so that is giving me motivation to get rid of even more stuff. I'm sick of moving it around when I don't wear the stuff.


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