How To Be Ruthless When Decluttering Clothes!

How to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

I used to feel like I had nothing to wear even though my closet was always jam-packed with clothes. On top of that, I'd feel stressed and overwhelmed every time I'd have to face the tragedy that was my wardrobe. It wasn't until I learned how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes that my perception of my closet and my personal style had changed for the better.

Nowadays, I spend less time searching for something to wear and more time doing things that matter to me, and you can too! So let's dig into how to declutter clothes and how to keep your closet decluttered!

What is ruthless decluttering?

It isn't uncommon for people to hold onto things they don't need, but a cluttered closet can take an emotional and financial toll. Ruthlessly decluttering your clothes is a bit different from organizing your closet.

While the goal of organizing is to create a system that makes it easier to find items, the goal of ruthless decluttering is to get rid of clothes that don't add value to you.

It isn't easy to find the motivation to declutter and downsize your wardrobe. But ruthless decluttering will enable you to sort through items that enhance your life and sort through items that don't. By doing so, you can learn how to fall in love with your closet and personal style once again.

Should you try ruthless decluttering?

So, you might be wondering, "does my closet need to undergo ruthless decluttering?" It might not. Maybe your closet needs light organizing over a complete transformation. So, before you start discarding clothes, ask yourself a couple of questions.

"Does my closet make me feel overwhelmed and helpless? Do I have heaps of clothes I never wear? Does my closet make me feel negative about my personal style?" If you answer any of these questions with a "yes," then a closet purge might just be what you need.

What are the benefits of ruthless decluttering?

While it is never easy to let go of clothes you spent your hard-earned money on, ruthless decluttering can be a freeing experience.

Although you lose that beloved shirt you never wear, you make space for clothes that actually serve their purpose in your life. Here are a few benefits of ruthless decluttering:

Mental clarity

Cluttered spaces can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed, which isn’t a good way to start your mornings. In fact, mothers in cluttered homes have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. You shouldn’t have to start your day feeling stressed, and a good ruthless decluttering can help mitigate that.

Similarly, clutter is said to be a visual distraction that overwhelms your brain. As a result of overstimulation, clutter can impair the working memory.

While some people have the ability to thrive under cluttered circumstances, most people respond positively to a decluttered space.

Save time in the morning

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when presented with a crowded closet in the morning. I used to waste an extra 15 minutes trying to find the perfect outfit to wear only to end up choosing the same outfit I usually do.

Ruthless decluttering will allow you to pick from fewer options. While that may sound depressing at first, these options only include items you absolutely love, so you no longer have to waste more time in your closet than you have to.

Easier to keep your closet clean

Do you spend a considerable amount of time tidying your closet but can never seem to keep it clean? One explanation is that you are organizing your closet rather than ruthlessly decluttering your clothes.

Getting rid of items that you don't need mean less clothing you have to wash, fold and organize. This can save you a whole lot of time and energy that could be used elsewhere.

Saves money in the long run

Women have an average of $1,000 to $2,500 worth of items in their closets. Additionally, 50% of women won't wear 25% of their wardrobe, which is about $600 worth of clothes wasted.

Decluttering your closet will help you understand your personal style, so you'll be more intentional with future apparel-related purchases.

Find items easily

Isn’t it frustrating when you know exactly what you want to wear but can’t quite find it? Searching for that beloved cardigan can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. According to a study by IKEA, "we spend an average of 5,000 hours looking for lost items!"

That is a lot of wasted time, and I prefer to spend no time finding exactly what I need. Additionally, ruthless decluttering will allow you to see all your pieces at first glance, so you can save yourself the stress of not finding that item when you need it.

So with that being said, let's dive into how to declutter clothes!

How to be ruthless when decluttering clothes: 8 Key tips

Now that you're aware of the benefits ruthless decluttering can have on your mental state and financial goals, it's time to get to decluttering!

Here is how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes! You can take things to the next level by checking out our list of best decluttering books! You can also check out our tips to involve your kids in the decluttering process too.

1. Get in the right headspace to start ruthless decluttering

Ruthless decluttering can feel overwhelming at first, especially if you're devastated by the idea of having fewer clothes.

However, knowing why you're decluttering in the first place will keep you motivated during the process. Think about what you want your closet to look like or how you want to feel when you step into your closet.

Maybe you want to revamp your closet so that it only includes high-quality items that you will love and wear frequently.

Perhaps you simply want to save time in the morning by having fewer clothes to dig through. Knowing your "why" can help you declutter your closet with intention and direction.

2. Set a deadline

Setting a deadline is how to declutter clothes efficiently. Schedule a day and a time where you can go through your closet thoroughly.

So, one to two hours should be enough time to get through the ruthless decluttering process. You can also include ruthless decluttering as part of your home cleaning routine or you can set aside a separate day to ruthlessly declutter your clothes.

3. Make ruthless decluttering fun

Do you want to know the secret of how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes? Make it fun! Decluttering doesn't have to feel like a chore; rather it can be quite enjoyable when paired with a fun or relaxing activity.

For instance, you could call up a friend or watch your favorite Netflix series while you sort through the clothing in your closet.

You could also turn on some good music and have a dance party while you declutter your wardrobe. The options are endless, and ruthless decluttering doesn't have to feel ruthless at all!

4. Motivate yourself with a reward

As mentioned, getting rid of your stuff is never easy, so treating yourself to a reward might motivate you to get started. Although it probably isn’t a good idea to reward yourself with a shopping spree to fill your closet again, the reward doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming!

Treat yourself to an ice cream cone or set a date with a friend afterward. You're more likely to enjoy the experience if something fun is waiting for you after the mundane task.

5. Lay out all your clothes

Dumping all your clothes into one place can help you face the number of clothes you actually have. Additionally, it can give you an idea of what you might want to keep or what you want to do away with.

You could also opt to do some light dusting of your closet and organizers before placing your clothes back inside.

6. Create a sell, keep, donate, and discard

Separating your clothing into different categories is how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes. You should create a sell, keep, donate, and discard box. Here are some things to keep in mind when you decide where each item should go.


What if your items are still in tip-top condition but it doesn’t quite fit the theme of your wardrobe or personal style? If this is the case, then you’ll certainly benefit from selling your clothes!

Make a quick buck from your items by selling them on second-hand online stores like Poshmark or ThredUP. You could also opt to sell your items at your local consignment store. You’ll be surprised by how much you could potentially make from used items!


The “keep” box is comprised of items you absolutely love and will wear frequently. There are several questions you can ask yourself to determine if an item is worth keeping. For instance, "Do I or will I wear this item often? Does this item make me happy? Does it fit? Is this item a duplicate?"


Do you have clothes that you never wear but don’t see resell value in? Sometimes the shipping fee might cost more than the item itself, so it might not be worth selling at all.

If you have an article of clothing that is still in decent condition, then head over to your local thrift shop and donate your clothes for someone else to use instead!


Do you have clothes that are completely worn out and falling apart at the seam? If the item doesn't appear to have value to you or anyone else, then your best bet is to discard it.

Alternatively, if you're a skilled sewer, then you could give your clothes new life by repairing the damage or finding ways to upcycle them!

7. Ask yourself questions as you start ruthless decluttering

As you start ruthlessly decluttering your clothes, you might struggle with distinguishing which items are worth keeping and which aren't.

Maybe you're on the fence about that cute, yellow top you loved on the mannequin but haven't yet worn. Fortunately, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help with the process.

Do I or will I wear this often?

Is this item of clothing something that you've worn many times in the past? Is this an item you'll always go back to when you've got nothing to wear? If this is the case, then you should absolutely keep that piece as you'll likely wear it again.

Similarly, you should keep clothing that might not be in season but you'll certainly wear when the time is right (think winter clothes!).

Does this item make me happy? Do I feel comfortable wearing this?

Maybe you don't wear that black dress all time, but when you do, you feel your absolute best. Keep clothing that makes you feel confident about your style and clothing that you are comfortable wearing.

Too often, we buy items that look good on a model or mannequin but we don't quite feel our authentic selves in. If the piece of clothing doesn't make you happy, then consider tossing it.

Does this item fit?

I'm guilty of keeping pieces of clothing that are too small in hopes that they'll fit one day. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as "goal weight clothes." "Goal weight clothes," serve as a reminder of one's weight loss and dieting goals.

However, this practice often has adverse effects, namely to do with one's self-confidence and inability to let go of items that don't provide true value. This is why it might be easier to let go of items we don't like over items that don't fit.

Is this a duplicate?

Do you really need five pairs of the same hoodie in different colors? The answer is usually no. Now, if you're thinking about rocking the "Steve Jobs," look, you might be an exception. However, if you have duplicates of the same article of clothing, then consider doing away with it.

8. Avoid second-guessing as you ruthlessly declutter

Whether it be digging into that "sell" box or leaving an item aside for later, avoid second-guessing your decisions. Ruthlessly decluttering your clothes requires you to commit to your choices.

All that being said, the more you practice decluttering, the easier "trusting your gut," gets. Standing firm to your decisions is how to declutter clothes with success.

Ruthless decluttering like a pro? Maintain your wardrobe!

Congrats! You've decluttered your closet. However, ruthlessly decluttering your clothes is only half the battle. The other half is to maintain a decluttered closet. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to do so.

Ruthlessly declutter by tracking your wardrobe

You can make ruthless decluttering easy by tracking the frequency you wear a particular item. There are simple and straightforward methods like the "hanger-turning trick," or you could opt for a more elaborate tracking system like the "pen and paper," method. Here are a few tricks on tracking your wardrobe:

Hanger turning

An easy tip to track your closet is by using your hangers. Every time you use a piece of clothing, turn its hanger the other way. Creating an easy wardrobe is that simple!

Set a date (perhaps every six months or once a season) to toss any clothing you haven't used within that time frame. Continue to do this as often as you feel like.

Pen and paper method

Another simple and easy method to track your clothing is by using the pen and paper method. Start by making a list of all the items you own and then add a tick next to the item every time it's worn.

This method is a little time-consuming especially if your closet is still relatively full, but it's helpful to get a visual of which items you wear the most over time. Additionally, you could use note-taking apps like Google docs or Notes if you prefer tracking digitally.


Finally, apps specifically for curating your wardrobe could be used for more complex tracking systems. In addition to tracking your "wear frequency," you could also use the app to plan future outfits.

Planning your outfits ahead will save you a lot of time and a lot of stress in the morning. There are tons of affordable apps like Stylebook and SmartCloset that will do just that.

Be conscious with your new purchases

At this point, you might feel the urge to fill the empty space with new purchases. However, one of the most important parts of ruthless decluttering is keeping your closet decluttered. Here are some things to keep in mind before you shop:

Keep your closet criteria in mind

Does the new item fit your aesthetic and style? Do you feel comfortable wearing this item, and do you anticipate wearing it often?

Asking yourself the aforementioned decluttering questions can help you decide whether the purchase is going to be of value to you or if it's going to find its way to the back of the closet.

Remember to shop your closet before making any new purchases!

Buy it later

Another way to ensure that your clothes stay ruthlessly decluttered is by saving purchases for later. For instance, there might be a pair of shoes you really want to buy. You might think that you absolutely need it at the moment.

Before making the purchase, leave that pair of shoes in your cart for about a week. 95% of the time, you'll probably forget about the item anyway. However, if you still think the purchase is still worth it, go ahead and buy it. This trick is effective in keeping you from impulse buying by delaying gratification.

Limit the number of clothes in your closet

Limiting the number of clothes you have in your closet can prevent your closet from becoming crowded and cluttered once again. I suggest building a capsule wardrobe!

A capsule wardrobe contains about 10-14 of your favorite pieces to be mixed and matched, and worn together.

Before going on a shopping spree, identify what your decluttered closet needs and what it doesn't need. Then, plan your capsule wardrobe and set a budget.

Don't feel compelled to spend on your closet all at once. It's important to take your time to find and purchase items you absolutely love.

Set a date to ruthless declutter your closet again

Don't feel bad if you end up with a cluttered closet once again. Set aside some time to ruthlessly declutter your clothes again, and find a system that works for you.

Set a date to declutter your closet again

As mentioned earlier, it's important to set an hour or two for ruthless decluttering. Check back every six months or once a season to declutter your closet, and don't forget to motivate yourself with a reward after you've finished.

Ask a friend to keep you accountable

As humans, it's easy to fall off the wagon in our decluttering journey. That's why it's helpful to commission a friend to remind you of your ruthless decluttering goals. Perhaps you both can start a ruthless decluttering routine together and keep each other accountable!

Ruthless decluttering doesn't have to feel ruthless!

Now you know how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes! Letting go of your favorite items might be hard at first, but imagine how good it'll feel to walk into your decluttered closet every morning.

You'll no longer have to stress over what to wear, you'll save more money in the long run, and you'll spend less time trying to find items in your wardrobe. Ruthless decluttering doesn't have to feel ruthless, and you can learn to love your closet once again!

Now that you are on a roll of minimizing your wardrobe and saving money from not buying new clothes, keep the momentum going by enrolling in our completely free "Savings challenge" bundle.

It features various money-saving challenges, including the "Master your spending" challenge, which will help you not spend money on anything but necessities!

Also check out our other articles about decluttering, such as books on decluttering and how to declutter paperwork. For more great tips on being fashionable on a budget, tune in to the Clever Girls Know podcast and YouTube channel!

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