How to declutter your closet
Organizing your closet can be tough as clothes are often quite sentimental. Whether it’s a blouse that brought you through numerous interviews, or band t-shirt you loved wearing as a teen, we’re bound to have some items in our wardrobe that are tough to part from!
As the Marie Kondo craze continues, many of us are determined to tackle the amount of clothing that has accumulated in our closet. Yet as we continue to declutter, there is an ongoing issue of textile waste and overproduction of clothing as consumers always crave something next from the runway: Every year, 80 billion articles of clothing are produced and sold around the world, and the average American throws away about 82 lbs to make room for more.
There’s nothing wrong with decluttering, as I myself am also looking for a bit of a facelift for my closet as I’ve recently changed my career — I no longer need 90% of the business wear in my closet. But we can be smarter with what we do with our clothing after we decide to purge them instead of throwing them straight to landfill, so I’d like to share my thought process of how to declutter my clothing more sustainably. Check out the video above but all the finer details and ideas below.
Four steps to declutter your closet
Go through everything
This step may take more time than others, since it’s now your chance to go through each item in your closet to decide what you’d like to do with each. Some guidelines I keep in mind to help me declutter items are:
Clothing that hasn’t been worn in 3 months can go
Clothing that doesn’t fit me well or is uncomfortable might be best for someone else
Special event pieces like a nice dress or suit can stay because I’ll probably need it in the future
Categorize the items you’d like to get rid of into these actions
For the items I know a friend or family member will love
Or host a clothing swap with your friends! Gather some friends that would like to revamp their wardrobe, have everyone bring their unwanted items, and start swapping.
If you’d like to earn a bit of extra cash, you can sell gently used clothing at secondhand stores or online. I like to sell at:
Physical stores like Crossroads Trading - a secondhand store where you can sell and buy used clothing. Check out their buying guides to see what they’re looking for. I also love to shop there for used items! Here are some more stores you might have in your area:
Online stores like Poshmark - Post pictures and descriptions of your clothing pieces, and Poshmark will help pay for your shipping label, but as you use their service, they will also take a 20% cut from your selling price. You can also purchase used items from here, which I have been trying out recently! Other options include:
I also love this compiled list by clothing type by the Spruce if you’re looking to understand the distinction of each secondhand store, to see what types of clothing they each take.
If you aren’t looking to sell or gift, drop your clothing off at local homeless shelters or thrift stores. Make sure these items are still wearable and in fair condition, otherwise they will probably be tossed. You can also call homeless shelters beforehand to check and see what they may need.
If there’s a small hole in a piece of clothing, I’ll mend it on my own with a needle and thread. Can’t sew? Try asking a relative or friend that may be able to help, and extend the lifespan of your clothing
If there’s a bigger repair needed, try to find a local repair shop. I’m also a big fan of repairing my shoes at the local cobbler - you can extend the lifespan of your boots or heels so much more, and it’s cheaper and more eco friendly than buying a completely new shoe.
Have some pieces that aren’t terribly out of shape and think you could repurpose them into something else? I love to repurpose old clothing to make into rags for wiping down things, and I also use old clothing to stuff my puppy’s bed.
For clothing that are near their end of life, there are more textile recycling options today and some municipalities even offer recycling, so check your local waste management entities. Clothing businesses are also starting to close the loop by offering recycling programs - I’ve dropped off textiles at H&M, but here are some other textile recycling options:
In the case that you have any clothing made of natural fibers like cotton or linen, you can compost those naturally at home. Textiles will take a few months, or you can also try giving it to your worms if you vermicompost.
Reorganize the items you want to keep
With items that are staying in my closet, I like to organize the clothing by type (underwear, socks, t-shirts, long sleeves, etc.) and color, which helps me to find clothing more easily
I roll or fold all my clothes so they fit upright in my drawers which saves space in my drawers, yet also makes it easier to find the clothing. This is a super old video of how to fold t-shirts in seconds, but I’ve done this since high school and I’m not going back.
The last thing I also like to keep in mind is folding all my sweaters instead of hanging them up, to avoid the knits from stretching out over time.
Refuse and plan before shopping again
I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again because it’s so important. The only way to truly reduce clutter is by refusing what you don’t need from the start.
If I do want to shop for something new, I make a list or bookmark an item on my browser and wait 30 days. Those 30 days help me to calm down and process whether or not my life would be improved if I bought that new item or piece of clothing.
If you need some guidance or a worksheet to declutter, check out my other home decluttering guide here. Also stay tuned for how to build a capsule wardrobe, what to look out for to keep it more sustainable, and more. This post will be updated as new information also comes up!