How to Declutter Clothing & Decide What Clothes to Keep (Podcast or Post #16)

How do you declutter clothing & decide what clothes to keep? Here are several steps & tips for decluttering clothes.

In today’s Podcast or Post, (which you can listen to or read,) we’re going to discuss 4 tips for decluttering clothes, how to determine how many clothes to have in your wardrobe, & how your laundry habits affect decluttering.

We’ll also talk about out how to decide which clothes to keep, clothes decluttering questions you can ask, 7 steps to declutter clothes, places where you can donate old clothes, & storage ideas for seasonal/clothes items you want to pack away.

(Pssst…I’m also going to continue this topic in the next Podcast or post with specific tips for decluttering outgrown baby & kids’ clothes. If you want to subscribe for future podcast/post episodes, sign up for a free download of our clothes decluttering cheat sheets.

(Below you can read the post or play the podcast version- about 30 mins.)

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Play the audio for this podcast (above) or download it by clicking on the 3 dots to the right of the volume control. (Otherwise, you can read the post below.)


FREE Clothes Decluttering Cheat Sheets- These will help you to implement the tips we go over in this Podcast or Post.

The Empowered Wife by Laura Doyle– This book has helped me to better communicate with my husband including in areas of decluttering & cleaning, which has helped him to respond positively to me & help out more.

How to Start a Capsule Wardrobe on any Budget– This is a post by the Busy Budgeter, and you can use it as a starting point and simply make any adjustments for your lifestyle & preferences.

6 Tips for Staying on Top of Laundry (as a Busy Mom)– This post shares tips to help you keep up with your family’s laundry.

How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets by Dana K. White -This book talks about how to get started with keeping your house under control. And the author explains her system of doing a laundry day.

Ideas for Upcycling Baby & Kids’ Clothes (by Kidspot)– These are some clever ways to reuse your kids’ clothes.

Vacuum Storage Bags (Amazon’s Choice)– I love using these to pack away seasonal clothes and hand-me-downs for the kids because they hold a lot and they save space.

Storage Bins (Amazon’s Choice)– I use these to store clothes and other items.

4 Tips for Decluttering Clothes

a woman declutters her clothes and separates them into piles

1.) Break your decluttering down into clothing categories & work on one category at a time.

You may want to check other items in your wardrobe to check what matches with what you want to keep or declutter. But focus on decluttering one type of clothing at a time.

Trying to do too much can make you feel overwhelmed, and it will likely take you longer to get done. Breaking things down will help you stay motivated to declutter.

2.) Use a timer & work on decluttering clothes in scheduled time blocks.

Decluttering can seem like a daunting task at times. And it may feel like it will take a long time to get through everything.

But when you break things down into time blocks, such as 15 or 30 minutes at a time, you won’t feel like you’re decluttering endlessly.

So set a timer for a specific time that works for you. It will help you to focus during that time, and you have permission to stop when the timer goes off. Then schedule the next time to work on decluttering and set an electronic reminder or put it in your planner.

Or if you feel motivated to continue and have more time, you can reset the timer and keep decluttering.

3.) Start decluttering with the categories of clothing that you know you have too much of or are limited on space to store.

a closet is full of dresses and shirts and needs to be decluttered

If you’re wondering where to start with decluttering clothing, anything you have more items than closet, drawer, or shelf-space for, is a great candidate to start with.

4.) Don’t declutter clothing for other adults without their permission.

If you’re married or have one or more other adults that live with you, show them respect by allowing them to declutter their own clothes and belongings. The only exception is if they specifically ask you to declutter for them and you agree to it.

I can understand that it is frustrating when you have someone else with extra items taking up space. This can be especially bothersome when their items end up in your space or in shared space.

But chances are, you wouldn’t want that person going through your clothes and getting rid of your stuff without your permission. So this is an opportunity to practice the golden rule- show them the respect you’d want them them to show you.

The only adult I live with is my husband, so I can only speak from my own experience.

What I have found as a wife, is that when I focus on my own responsibilities and the areas of the house that I have control over, and I show respect for his things, my husband naturally does more to help and declutters his stuff more, without me saying anything.

For wives, I always recommend the book The Empowered Wife by Laura Doyle. It has helped me to better express myself and communicate in a way with my husband that gets positive results. The skills she teaches have helped my marriage, along with the marriages of thousands of other women.

If you’re a wife, the cheat phrases she teaches can definitely help with many situations, like what we’re discussing now, if your husband has clothing or other clutter that is bothering you.

But bottom line, focus on your own decluttering for now. And it will improve your home as a whole, regardless of what your spouse or any other adult in your home is doing with their stuff.

How Many Clothes Should You Have in Your Wardrobe? 

a woman looks at her dresses in her closet and asks herself: 'How many clothes should I have in my wardrobe?'

I’m not personally going to suggest a specific amount of each type of clothing. 

And the reason I’m not going to, is because everyone is different. We all have different types of clothing we wear based on our preferences and lifestyle. 

My recommendation is to keep enough of each type of clothing you regularly wear for how often you do laundry. And I suggest having enough variety in your wardrobe so that you have unique outfits to wear each day for a week or 2 weeks, at least

Remember that you can mix and match items in a wardrobe and put clothes and accessories together in a way that you don’t look like you’re wearing the same things all the time. 

There is a great article by the Busy Budgeter about how to start a capsule wardrobe on a budget, so if you’re interested in that you can definitely check it out. And you can adapt the tips to the type of clothes you personally wear.

Personally I do laundry every week, at least a few days each week and wear mostly skirts and dresses. That’s just my preference. I don’t personally work outside the house currently.

I work from home and I like to get dressed up every day, which motivates me to accomplish more while I’m home. So I personally don’t have separate clothes I need for work. I just have my day-to-day clothes and pajamas, and clothes for special occasions. 

So for however often you do laundry, you’ll need enough of each type of regularly worn clothing for the time in between washes.

If you are able/willing to re-wear clothing more than one day before washing it, then you’ll be able to get by on less clothing, when you take that into account. 

You’ll also need to make sure that for each category of clothing you have, you have a reasonable amount for each season you use it for.

This may vary depending on where you live. But a general rule is to make sure you have enough clothes for cold and hot weather. Certain types of clothing can be layered, but others are only wearable during certain times of the year. 

Calculate What You Need in these Common Clothing Categories

~Work Clothing

a black woman is wearing business clothes at work and smiles

You’ll need work clothes (if you work,) for the number of days you work between washing your work clothes.

If you don’t have to wear a company uniform, you’ll probably want to have at least enough work outfits for a week or 2, so you have a little variety, if your job allows it.

~Regular Clothes for Day-to-Day

You’ll need daytime clothing for the days you don’t work.

If you work and it’s your preference/habit on work days to change out of your work clothes before you go to bed, you’ll also want to have enough changes of clothing for after work to compensate for the number of days between washes.


For underwear, I recommend at least enough pairs for one a day to last you between laundry washes. For bras, women should have enough for how often they change them between laundry loads.

(Some women change them every day, other women change them every 2 or 3 days.)


You’ll want enough sleepwear for how often you do laundry. Take into account if you re-wear the same clothes another night before washing them.

~Exercise Clothing, Swimwear, & Sports Wear

If you have specific sports wear or clothing you use for working out/exercising, you’ll want to have enough for how many sets you use between washing them. Most people need at least one swimsuit.

~Coats/Outdoor Wear

Make sure you have enough clothing to accommodate different changes in temperature/weather for the seasons where you live and travel to. I personally have a warmer winter coat and a couple lighter jackets.


You’ll want to have as many of each of these as you typically wear between washing them.


women's shoes on a pink floor

You’ll want to have appropriate footwear for every category of clothing you wear.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a different pair for each category of clothing you have, as some shoes may be appropriate for more than one category.

For example, you may be able to wear sneakers for both exercising and work. Or you may be able to wear dress shoes for both work and religious gatherings.

The footwear you need will depend a lot on your lifestyle and preferences.

But most people will need at least 2 or 3 pairs of shoes, if not more, to accommodate the categories of clothing they wear.

You also want to make sure you have enough shoes so you don’t have to wear ones that clash with your outfits. You may sometimes have shoes that match one or more specific outfits in your wardrobe. But neutral-colored shoes will be likely to match a larger portion of your wardrobe.

Personally, I often have brown or black shoes. But sometimes I’ll also get ones that match select outfits, such as red shoes that I have. (Full disclosure, as I’m going over this, I realize I have some shoes I can declutter too.)

Having too many shoes will take up space you could be using for something else. And you’ll likely find if you have a lot of shoes, that you aren’t consistently wearing them. Granted, some shoes you may only wear on special occasions. But there may be others that you have haven’t been wearing at all.

For footwear, it’s also important to have boots for rain or snow if that’s needed where you live or travel to.

~Clothing for Religious Gatherings/Formal Wear/Special Occasions

If you regularly attend religious gatherings, you’ll want to have enough attire appropriate for that.

Depending on your lifestyle and how often you attend formal events or other types of special gatherings, you’ll probably want to have some outfits set aside for those too.

Some people have a lifestyle where they wear formal/dressy clothing more often. 

But for most of us, this last category isn’t really a laundry issue. We need to balance having enough outfits for variety when we attend these types of gatherings, (if we don’t want to keep re-wearing the same clothing,) but not have too many for what we actually need.

The Danger of Too Many Clothes & Laundry Time

a woman's hand is shown putting clothes into a dryer

If you have too many clothes, you may currently be doing laundry less frequently. Naturally, if you have a month’s worth of clothing, you have the option of putting off doing laundry for a month. 

But a word of caution: If you only do laundry once a month, you’re going to have a lot of clothes to put away when they’re clean and a lot of dirty clothes taking up space before they’re washed. And you may feel overwhelmed at the daunting task of doing all that laundry.

In this sense, sometimes there is a strong connection between procrastination with decluttering clothing and an inconsistent laundry routine.

How Often Should You Do Laundry?

I suggest doing all of your dirty laundry at least weekly if you have your own washer.

Just a note for any readers who may not have a washing machine: If you have to go to a laundromat, I suggest going at least every 2 weeks, although once a week is better if you can manage. 

Or if you happen to be someone who hand-washes all of their laundry, do it weekly at least.

I now have a washer, but I used to go to the laundromat when we first got married. And there was a time I switched to handwashing our clothes (because it saved us probably $60/month.)

So I have experienced all these different life circumstances with laundry. And my advice is pretty consistent for all of these.

Ideally if you can wash all of your clothing every week (and your family’s clothes if you have a family,) you can manage to live with less clothes. And laundry won’t take as long.

If you do laundry at a laundromat and can’t do it every week, at least aim to get it all done every 2 weeks. But I do recommend weekly if at all possible.

I have a post I previously wrote on tips for staying on top of laundry

But one quick tip I’ll share is that you should either have a system/routine for doing laundry daily or have a ‘laundry day’ each week. Do what works best for you and your home- whatever makes it easiest for you to keep up with.

And just so you know, when I say ‘doing laundry daily’ I don’t mean literally every single day. What I mean is the days you clean and that you have dirty laundry to do. 

You may hear me say that I do laundry daily and weekly, but I’m actually not contradicting myself. Because I do all of the dirty laundry in my house at least once a week, and I break it down during the 6 days of the week that I clean.

I take at least one day off of laundry, but I also won’t do laundry other days if I’ve gotten it all done.

For the older kids, I have them sort their clothes and these get washed at least once a week. And for my husband, myself, and the younger kids, whenever our hampers are full, I sort the clothes and bring them downstairs to wash.

Now, I personally have a family with 6 people total. So you can see why I have enough dirty clothing to be able to split up a week’s worth of laundry throughout multiple days of the week.

Depending on your household size you may choose to do a laundry day or do it multiple days. As long as you figure out a system to get it done regularly enough, you’ll be fine. 

I have tried doing a ‘laundry day’ in the past. But I personally prefer to break it up throughout the week, now that our family is bigger and since we have our own washer and dryer to do it.

If you want to do a laundry day, I recommend the book How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets by Dana K. White.

She has a system for doing a weekly laundry day, which is one of the topics discussed in that book. She also has some posts on her website A Slob Comes Clean about doing a laundry day. 

How Doing Laundry Regularly Helps You Declutter Clothing

Once you’re in a habit of doing laundry consistently, you’ll likely notice that every time you put your clean clothes away, you still have other clean outfits in your drawers or closet that you haven’t been wearing.

The fact is, most people have the tendency to wear certain items more than others

It may be because we like some clothes more than others or they go with other items in our wardrobe better, or we just happen to grab the clothing on top or in front. But whatever the reason is, most people are not consistently wearing all of the clothes they own.

And taking note of what we’re not using can be helpful when we’re trying to decide what to declutter.

How to Decide What Clothes to Keep- 3 Tips

a woman holds up her shirts and sweaters deciding which clothes to keep

Here are 3 things to keep in mind when you’re decluttering clothes and choosing which to get rid of.

1.) Keep enough outfits for each type of clothing you wear- work, day-to-day wear, dress clothes, sleepwear, shoes, etc.

At minimum, you should have enough in each regularly-used category for how often you do laundry, plus items you are likely to use for special occasions in the future.

If you are going to try to keep a minimal amount of clothing, I still think it’s beneficial to keep a few extra outfits –if you already have them and like them.

This will compensate for situations such as you getting a little behind on laundry, if you need more clothes to go on vacation, if you spill something on your clothes, and for when some of your more frequently-worn outfits wear out or can no longer be worn (for whatever reason.)

2.) Keep clothes you love AND are actually wearing.

Later in this post, we’ll discuss what to do if you have too many clothes that you love and use. But when deciding which clothes to keep, always prioritize what you already love and feel comfortable in- AND are already using regularly.

If you like it and wear it currently, that’s a positive sign you’ll still be wearing it in the future.

3.) Feel free to keep more clothes than you need- if you have the space for them, like them, and are going to use them.

Successfully decluttering your closet & wardrobe doesn’t mean that you have to keep only the bare minimum you need to survive.

Yes, I do mention keeping enough for how often you do laundry. Because I think a great starting point when you declutter is recognizing how much you actually need to keep.

That said, if you have room in your closet, shelves, or drawers for more clothes than the bare minimum you need, there is no harm in keeping a little more. But just make sure you are keeping extra items you like and are going to use.

And even if you have the space, make sure you aren’t keeping so much stuff that it makes it easier to procrastinate doing laundry or makes your life more stressful.

Keep in mind that extra space on shelves and in drawers can often be used to store other items besides clothing. So use your space wisely, with the items that are most important for you to keep.

3 Clothes Decluttering Questions to Ask:

When examining each clothing item, ask yourself:

1.) Is this wearable?

a young black woman holds up a red dress while she's decluttering and asks herself if she can currently wear it

Consider if it fits, if it needs to be fixed, if it’s stained or ripped, etc.

If you can’t currently wear it, there’s no sense keeping it where you keep the clothes you are wearing regularly.

Declutter clothing that is stained, worn, or ripped in a way that you can’t use it.

If an item needs to be fixed, put it in a place where you can fix it later. However, if you know realistically you aren’t going to fix it and ultimately wear it again, declutter it.

Something I have implemented for myself is a ‘fix it’ box, where I store clothing items I’m (hopefully) going to fix. But I don’t keep more than fits in the box. Because otherwise, knowing how I am, I may feel inspired to see potential sewing projects in every unwearable item I have, that realistically I probably won’t actually do.

So I limit myself with how many items I keep that can be fixed. And I take the time to fix some things, but I don’t have enough time to do every project.

If the clothing item doesn’t fit you, either get rid of it or pack it away for if you gain or lose weight- if you think it will realistically fit you in the future (due to weight changes.)

2.) Do I like this?

If the answer is no, consider getting rid of the item as long as you have enough other items you like more that you can wear for that type of clothing.

If you end up keeping items you don’t like because you need them, then in the future, if you purchase additional clothing items in that category you like a lot more, you can weed out items you don’t like as much.

3.) Am I wearing this?

If the answer is no, consider getting rid of the item. If it’s because it’s not wearable, consider the thoughts we just addressed in the first question.

How to Declutter Clothes- 7 Steps to Take

a woman looks in a drawer at clothes she wants to declutter

Note: After you finish these 7 steps, repeat them for the next category of clothing you need to declutter until you’re all done.

1.) Choose the category of clothing you want to declutter. 

As I mentioned earlier, start with a category that you know you have too many clothes for. And focus on only one type of clothing at a time.

Tip: Try to start decluttering when all of your clothes in that category are washed and put away. That way you can look at all the clothing in that category collectively.

2.) Put all of the clothes in that category in one place so you can sort through them all at once.

I personally just put everything on our made-up bed and sort through them.

If you store clothes in that category in multiple places, grab all of them to sort through at once.

Depending on where you live and what time of year it is, you may want to sort through clothes for each season separately- whatever you think is best and easiest for you.

Personally, I break my clothes down into warmer weather/summer clothing & winter/cold weather clothing. But some clothes, such as some of my dresses, can be used for both if I layer them in the cold weather.

3.) Separate and sort through any items that are currently unwearable.

two piles of clothes are shown separating clothes the person decluttering them can wear and not currently wear

The reason we want to separate unwearable items- whether you’re keeping them or not, is so you can identify and focus on storing only currently usable clothes in your drawer, shelf, or closet space.

So address what you’re going to do with each unwearable item as we just discussed in the decluttering questions.

Again, by ‘unwearable,’ I mean something that you can’t presently wear as is. Something could be unwearable because it doesn’t currently fit, it’s stained, torn, faded, it needs to be fixed, etc.

Take care of or pack away any unwearable items that you still want to keep. We’ll talk about a few storage options at the end of this post.

For unwearable items you’re going to toss, put them in the trash bin right away.

For any other items you’re decluttering that are appropriate to be reused by someone else, put these in one pile or box.

4.) Decide how many wearable items in this category you need to keep at minimum & write it down.

The minimum amount of items you need to keep will vary depending on how often you use clothing in this category, if you wear clothes more than one day before washing them, and how often you do laundry. 

If you’re able to do laundry weekly, I recommend having at least a week’s worth of work clothes if you work. And have enough other clothes for the week, and at least a day or 2 extra of regular clothes. (Then if you get behind on laundry, clothing wears out, or you go on vacation, you have some extra clothes.)

Now that said, you don’t have to only keep the minimum amount you write down here.

This is a starting point for you to determine what you actually need to keep and what you primarily need to store in your closet, shelf, or drawer where you keep this type of clothes.

If you have room to keep more items than that and want to keep them, that’s fine. But in this step you’re just determining what you actually need to keep.

5.) Pick out the number of items you need to keep based on what you just decided in the last step.

a woman holds the sweaters she's going to keep after sorting through that category of clothing and decluttering

Choose items that are wearable and that you like the most.

Make sure they currently fit and will work with other items in your wardrobe.

For example, if you are decluttering shirts, make sure the ones you choose to keep will match at least some of the bottoms you have- skirts, pants, shorts, etc. that you have to wear.

6.) Look at the remaining wearable clothing items that you didn’t set aside in the last step to keep, & determine which of these can be decluttered.

If you have other clothing items remaining that you like and use and you have room to keep them, then there’s nothing wrong with that.

But try to get rid of any items that you don’t like and items that you don’t wear.

Personally, I do have more items in some of my clothing categories than I need. But I don’t keep more for each season than fits in my drawers, shelves, or closet, and I will get rid of things that I find myself not using or liking. For myself, I usually purge items whenever there is a change of weather and I’m packing items away anyways.

7.) Get rid of the clothes you’ve chosen to declutter.

After deciding which clothes to declutter, you want to actually get them out of your house. We’ll talk about where you can donate clothes next.

You may want to sort through multiple categories of clothing before donating or giving decluttered clothes away. But in general, I recommend getting things you choose to declutter out of your house as fast as possible. Otherwise it will continue to clutter your house.

Of course, anything you decide to throw out can be tossed immediately.

Set a date to get clothes out of your house and stick to it.

If you’re going to give items away to a specific person, check that they want the items first. Then set up a date and time to drop them off or for the person to pick them up.

Where Can You Donate Old Clothes?

a donate pile of clothes and a pile of clothes to keep after decluttering

The specific places in your region will depend on where you live, but here are 4 ideas:

1.) Homeless Shelters & Other Organizations that Help the Poor

There are often organizations, shelters, and facilities that accept clothing donations to pass on to people who are poor/need help.

If you don’t know of any shelters/organizations near you, you can do an online search for locations in your area.

2.) Thrift/Second-Hand Stores

a donations box of decluttered clothes to go to a thrift store

Depending on where you live, there may be one or more thrift or second-hand stores that accept used clothing.

Some thrift stores will give you a small percentage of cash or store credit either up-front or after your items sell. But these are often more particular about which brands & items they accept.

You can do an online search to see which second-hand stores are in your region.

Regardless of which store you choose to bring donations to, try to only bring items they will use & accept.

If you have stained and ripped clothing, there are some stores I’ve heard that will accept them and sell them to be used as rags or another second use. But not all thrift stores can use damaged clothing. So just check with them first.

3.) Friends or Family Who Can Use Them

You may have loved ones, neighbors, or coworkers who could use clothing you no longer want. If you have kids who outgrew clothes you’re decluttering, you may know parents who could use them.

Personally, as a parent clothing 4 kids, I appreciate when people have helped us by passing down clothes. Kids are constantly growing, and it is expensive to buy everything new, especially when you have multiple children.

So if you can, help someone else out by passing clothes to them that you know they can use. They will appreciate it too.

Personally, I only give away clothes that are in decent condition that don’t have rips or stains.

4.) Advertise Online or in a Paper to People in the Community

There are apps, online communities, and websites that can be used to sell items or to offer items for free. Craigslist is one example. There are also pennysavers and newspapers people will advertise items in- both free and to sell.

If you choose this option, just be careful that you are safe about meeting up with people you don’t know. Try to meet in a public place during the day. And bring a person with you or at least let someone know where you’re going/what you’re doing.

Also, be on the alert for scammers. There are unfortunately some people who take advantage of these apps and websites to defraud others.

Where Can You Store Seasonal Clothes & Other Clothing Items You Want to Pack Away?

seasonal clothes that are being packed away on a shelf

If you want to keep and pack away outgrown clothes from you or your children, seasonal clothing, or items you may use in the future but can’t fit currently, here are 3 ideas.

1.) Separate Spaces in Your Closet, Dresser, or Shelves

If you have extra closet, drawer, or shelf space, use one or more sections for for out-of-season clothes or other items you are saving for future use.

Try to keep any items that are currently unwearable separate from the items you can and do currently wear.

2.) Storage Bins

Personally, I have about 2 decent-sized bins I use for storing clothes. You can find bins in some stores. Or you can order them online, such as these storage bins recommended on Amazon.

3.) Vacuum Storage Bags

I love using vacuum bags for storage. They can hold a lot of clothes. And that’s great for our family since we have clothes packed away for at least 3 of our kids, in addition to our off-season clothes.

So this about wraps up our Podcast or Post for today on how to declutter clothing.

Don’t forget to download our Clothes Decluttering Cheat Sheets.

If you sign up, we’ll also send you some of our other home management resources. And if you stay subscribed we’ll notify you of new Podcasts or Posts when they’re published.

Our next Podcast or Post continues on the topic of decluttering clothes. But we specifically talk about how to declutter kids’ clothes and outgrown baby clothes.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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