Simple tricks to deal with clutter in your closet

Simple tricks to deal with clutter in your closet

I initially thought all my blog posts would be about nutrition or BodyTalk. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized good health is more than those two things. It’s also about finding balance in your life, having peace of mind and not allowing ourselves to become stressed, worried or anxious about the small things in life. For me, one of the biggest things that causes me stress is CLUTTER. So one such small thing I’ve tackled recently is downsizing my close, and I’ve never felt better.

Seeing a mess, having things stuffed into drawers, opening an overflowing cupboard, all cause me a tinge of anxiety. Maybe more than a tinge at times! But opening a neat, tidy, organized, and minimalistic closet door give me a sense of calm. If you’re anything like me and you find peace in cleanliness and order, then read on!

The Hanger Rule

I’m guessing when it comes to cleaning out your clothes, many of you have probably heard of ‘the hanger rule’. This is when you turn all the hangers in your closet backwards and every time you wear a piece of clothing, you can turn that hanger forward again. Then after 6 months (or a season of weather) any hangers that are still facing backwards need to be thrown out. Well, the clothing on any hangers need to be thrown out. Not a bad idea.

However, I’ve found this will only work if:

  1. You’re not in a rush and you have at least 6 months to clean out your closet
  2. You know that after 6 months you’ll actually have the willpower to throw out the clothes on backwards hangers and
  3. As 6 months approaches, you won’t rush to wear all the clothes on backwards hangers one time, just so you won’t have to get rid of them.

This can be tricky. So through trial and error, here’s a different tactic that I prefer, and all the steps and tricks I use to make it work.

Choose a timeframe / set an amount

I aim to get rid of one piece of clothing every day. For you it could be every day or every week, or as often as makes sense depending on how much you want to downsize your closet. Every day may seem like a lot. But I know people that could get rid of one item of clothing every day for a year and still have more than enough. I also know people who could do that for a month and not have anything left to wear (like my husband). So you have to make that decision for yourself. Just make sure you choose something that will show results, but not be too difficult that you quit.

You can also set an end date to this. That way you can not only choose the speed at which you get rid of items, but also how many items you will ultimately be getting rid of. If you get rid of 1 item every day for a month, you’ll downsize by 30 items. If you get rid of 2 things a week for 3 months you’ll get rid of 45 items. So do the math and set some goals!

Now when I did this, it followed a pattern something like this:

1. Stains / rips / broken

I got rid of anything that had a stain on it, or a rip that I would never get sewn, or a zip/strap that I wouldn’t get fixed.

2. Size me up!

I then got rid of clothes that didn’t actually fit me. Sometimes it was because I bought them in the wrong size or because they were free. At the time I thought “well they don’t fit perfectly but you can’t go wrong when it’s free!” And a lot of items were things that used to fit me. Maybe you lost some weight and there’s items in your closet that are too big for you. Now you’re holding onto them in case you gain it back. Or maybe you gained some weight, but you’re aiming to get back down to the size you were.

There’s nothing wrong with having a few motivation pieces in your closet. 1 really nice pair of jeans, or a beautiful dress that you look at every day and tell yourself “I’m going to fit into this!” But there’s no point in having a closet full of clothes that don’t fit you. Because let’s be honest, when you reach that goal weight aren’t you going to treat yourself? You’ll go shopping and buy some new clothes that make you feel like a million bucks! I hope you do that!

3. To fit or not to fit, that is the question

So I had gotten rid of the clothes that were the wrong size. But I still had a closet full of clothes that didn’t truly fit me. By this I mean they were technically the right size and I could wear them, but they just weren’t quite right. The ones where you say “this would be such a nice shirt if…” or “this dress would look so beautiful but…”. Get rid of those ones! Unless you’re going to go get that piece of clothing tailored you’ll never reach for it. We so often look at the clothes in our closet as what we want them to look like on us. We need to look at what they actually look like when we put them on. And if they don’t look great get rid of them.

If you’ve followed steps 1-3, you’ll be surprised how many items you’ve gotten rid of! Take a moment to reflect on that after you come to this point.

Keep only wearable clothes

Isn’t it interesting that we have closets full of clothes that really aren’t wearable clothes? They’re too big or they’re too small. Oops they’re stained. They taper in the wrong places or they’re tight where they’re not supposed to be. Now you’ve probably only gotten rid of clothes that you haven’t reached for in a very long time. Mostly because they were not clothes you would’ve been seen wearing in public. And yet you held onto them for so long. It’s good to think about why that is. “Why did I buy this in the first place?” “Why did I hold onto this for so long?” If you can figure out the why, it’ll help prevent you from doing the same thing in the future.

Okay, so now you should have a closet full of awesome clothes that actually fit you (YAY!).

4. Don’t forget about Bras! (women only)

Next step is finding all the shirts and dresses I own that I don’t have the right bra for. I have a surprising number of shirts that are so beautiful, but that I can never wear because I don’t have the right bra! If this sounds like you, you have a couple of options:

A: You can go out and buy the right bra or

B: Get rid of the shirt. There’s no point having a shirt you can’t wear or have to wear a cardigan to hide bra straps.

Take a moment

Think about it. If it’s not worth time or money to find a bra for that shirt, you don’t need that shirt. And if it is worth it, you now have a shirt in your closet for whenever you want. It’s like you gained a new shirt!

This also makes sense to do with individual pieces of clothes that don’t have the right “pair.” Example- you have a beautiful skirt you never wear because you just don’t have a shirt for it. Options- either go shopping for a shirt or get rid of the skirt. You should be able to wear everything you own easily! By going through your closet this way you’ll do 2 things. You’ll not only get rid of clothes you don’t wear, you’ll actually gain outfits.

Getting there

At this point you should have a closet full of wearable clothing. You could wake up tomorrow and pick any item of clothing and it should be suitable to wear in public. It’s in decent shape, it fits you, and you always have the right thing to wear with it, woohoo!

Now this is when things get a bit tougher. Because now the only reason you have for getting rid of something, is that you don’t like it or don’t wear it.

5. The great debate

What I like to do next is actually kind of the opposite of the backward hanger rule. Go through your closet and pick out all the clothes you’re unsure about. All the items that you could maybe get rid of. All the clothes that you haven’t worn in such a long time, but you think you just might wear one day. Put all these clothes at the front of your closet. Now wear those clothes. It sounds simple, but it can actually be surprisingly difficult.

If you picked out 10 items of clothing that you could maybe get rid of, for the next 10 days you have to wear each of those items in turn. Of course this depends on the weather and if you have a special event etc. But if you can wear an outfit that day, you have to wear one. You cannot reach for that shirt you always reach for. You cannot reach for the most comfortable pair of pants over any of those clothes you’re debating getting rid of. And then when you’re wearing that piece of clothing, I want you to see how you feel wearing it.

Think about these things

  • Do you feel good wearing it?
  • Are you always pulling on it because you think it doesn’t flatter you?
  • Is it itchy or uncomfortable?
  • Are you just waiting for the day to end so you could put your old standby’s back on?
  • Do you feel like a million bucks and wonder why you don’t wear it every single day?

After the day is done and you come home either get rid of that item, or if you’ve felt awesome all day then hang it back in your closet. And now that you’ve been reminded of how good it looks on you, it’ll be something you reach for all the time!

Keep going

Once I start getting rid of the clothes that I no longer wear, it actually starts a bit of a domino effect. All of a sudden you realize if you don’t need this 1 shirt, then you don’t need these 3 shirts. If you can live without this pair of tights, you probably don’t need these other tights. It really starts to get easier the more you realize that what you’re doing this for is to have a closet full of clothes that you wear and clothes you love.

Now there’s going to be days when you don’t think you can get rid of one more single item in your closet. You are fully convinced that you love every single thing you own. But, there’s also going to be days where you think you could get rid of 3, 4, 5 or even 10 things that day! So go with your mood. If you want to get rid of 10 things in the day, definitely get rid of 10 things that day! And if you feel you can’t get rid of anything and you’re stressing out about it, then just don’t get rid of anything for the day. But try to make up for it by getting rid of two things the next day or the next week or however often you’re choosing to do this.

What now?

Those are all the steps! Sounds pretty doable right?! But in case you need a bit more motivation, here’s a few additional tips and tricks that I found helpful as I was cleaning out my closet:

1. Live in the now!

See how the clothes look on you now, in the present day. We so often associate clothes with memories. Maybe you wore that dress to a wedding and have a picture of yourself where you looked absolutely stunning. You keep that dress because you want to recreate the emotion of how you felt when you wore it to that wedding. But just because it’s the same dress, doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same when you wear it now.

It might not fit in the same anymore, in may have faded a little over time, fashion may have changed for your personal style may have changed. Or maybe you just got a couple new dresses that you like a little bit more. Let go of the dress (or whatever it may be) and hold onto that memory. It’s okay that the dress made you feel amazing two years ago and it doesn’t make you feel amazing now.

2. Ditch the reasoning!

Don’t keep things based on how much money you spent on them, how many times you wore them, or who gave them to you. Those things are not relevant to whether or not you’ll wear that piece of clothing now or how it will make you feel. Even if your husband got you a super expensive jacket for your anniversary and you absolutely loved it and it still has the tags on-if you’ve fallen out of love with it or if you can’t see yourself wearing it, get rid of it. You can sell it if that makes you feel better, but don’t keep it ‘just because.’

3. Get out the calculator!

Try counting your clothes. If you feel you want to get rid of more clothes but you just can’t find the motivation, try counting every single item of clothing you own. The number will probably surprise you and it will probably make you realize that you do not need all the things you have. When I did this I had 185 pieces of clothing (not including socks, underwear, bras, or bathing suits). Even with the fact that I live somewhere with four distinct seasons-we get rain in the spring, sun and +30˚C in the summer, chilly and windy days in the fall, and as cold as -40˚C with lots of snow in the winter, 185 pieces of clothing seems excessive.

If you think you have way more clothes than that, you could even try categorizing them: pairs of pants, shirts, sweaters, etc. It’s great motivation for times when you think that you need every item in your closet. Because if I really tried I might be able to wear all 185 items in a year, but I certainly wouldn’t love every item.

4. What comes in must go out.

No matter how much you get rid of, you won’t make a dent if you just keep on shopping! Every time you come home with something new (or used), get rid of something you already have. This makes sure you continue to downsize. It also makes sure that you LOVE what you bring home. When I’m out shopping, or my sister asks me if I want one of her nice shirts she’s getting rid of, I always think “Do I like this more than something I own already?” If the answer is yes, then it’s easy to get rid of the item I already have. If the answer is no, then I don’t take it.

Why would I take another shirt home, if the five (or ten, or twenty!) shirts I already have are going to get worn more?! And I always make sure to get rid of an item “of equal or greater value.” So if I bring home a new dress, I can’t just throw out a pair of old socks and call it even. You get to decide what that means to you, but for me it’s usually a dress for a dress, a top (tank, t-shirt, cardigan, hoodie) for a top, and a bottom (tights, jeans, shorts, sweats) for a bottom.

5. Who am I?

Recognize what kind of clothes you actually want in your closet. This one’s going to be different for everyone depending on your lifestyle, but this is what I decided for my closet. In addition to BodyTalk, I’m a Registered Nurse so I wear scrubs everyday to work. When I’m home, I have a baby to look after, which means bending over, sitting on the grass, and getting an adorable face covered in avocado nuzzled into my chest on a daily basis.

I want a closet full of easy, comfortable clothes. Things I can bend and move in, like tights and stretchy jeans with a fairly high waste so my underwear’s not popping out. Shirts that are a comfortable fabric which is easy to wash. Things that don’t need to be layered. I want to be able to throw on a pair of pants and a top, possibly a cardigan for warmth, and that’s it. Done getting dressed. If I wear a dress I don’t want it to be too short or too tight or need a belt.

Keep it simple

What I want is simple- an easy, comfortable closet. I have a few nice pieces, but when I started going through my closet I realized I had a disproportionate amount of clothes. Fancy shirts, dresses that were only suitable for weddings, and tank tops that I could only wear if I went out for a nice dinner. I had about 20 items of clothing, and about 4 occasions every year to wear them all! So decide what kind of closet will work best for your lifestyle, and keep it in mind when downsizing, as well as when you’re out shopping next. The dress may look stunning on you, but if there’s never an occasion to wear it, why buy it?

Give it a shot

Hopefully by using all the tips and tricks you can get your closet down to the size you want it. You’ll be able to open the door and be able to see all your clothes. You can choose what to wear from a selection of clothes you LOVE. You can pick out any item and know that it fits just right, is in excellent shape, and you have the perfect top or bottom to pair it with.

And most importantly (for me at least) it will look clean, orderly and bring you a sense of calm. I remember how I used to open my closet or my dresser drawer and feel overwhelmed with the amount of stuff. I was stressed because I wanted to wear something, but couldn’t figure out what to match it with. That’s a terrible way to start out every day. Now my day can start out on the right foot, with ease and order!

What’s your story?

I’d love to hear from you about how you downsize and maintain your closet, along with the tricks you use to organize! Feel free to drop me a line at and we can chat!

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Until next time, stay happy, healthy and hungry for improvement!


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