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How To Be Ruthless When Decluttering Clothes: 9 Steps

How To Be Ruthless When Decluttering Clothes: Step-by-step guide - Almost Zero Waste

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How to be ruthless when decluttering clothes? 

The truth is that over the years, we accumulate a bunch of clothes that we don’t wear.

Keeping such items is pointless – it only creates visual clutter and frustration.

That’s why now, I will share my exact process of decluttering a wardrobe fast, plus why it is a good idea.

We will go through:

  1. Clothing rules for a great wardrobe
  2. How to be ruthless when decluttering clothes: Step-by-step guide
  3. Final tips
  4. FAQ:
    – How many clothes do I need as a minimalist?
    – How to decide what clothes to keep?
    – What to ask yourself when getting rid of clothes?
    – What are the benefits of decluttering?
  5. Conclusion

Clothing rules for a great wardrobe:

Generally, you probably like most of your clothes.

But many are a little tight, too loose, overworn with a couple of tiny holes, or just the color/style isn’t your favorite. 

Maybe you think that it’s a minor flaw. Or that you will need this item in the future.

But that day never comes. Believe me – I get it. 

The point of decluttering is to eliminate all of these types of items and create a great wardrobe.

To build a beautiful and practical wardrobe, follow these set of rules:

  1. Think of your wardrobe as a collection of outfits and not a collection of separate pieces. If an item doesn’t fit in at least three outfits, consider ditching it.
  2. Ask yourself if an item sparks a sense of joy or excitement. Do you feel comfortable and good wearing it? It is pointless to keep it if it doesn’t spark excitement and joy. If an item is uncomfortable and you don’t feel good wearing it, it isn’t worth keeping it.
  3. It is very easy to catch up on things that you just like the look of. However, many times such items won’t work well with your style. Avoid items whose colors or shapes don’t work well within your style, body, and wardrobe.
  4. Try not to buy things impulsively. Always try to think if an item will fit well within your wardrobe. Regardless of how well they work on their own, if they

    can’t be well-combined with other items from your wardrobe, don’t buy it. 

All in all, a great wardrobe should include:

  • practical clothes that spark joy
  • outfits in which you feel comfortable and great 
  • pieces that can create outfits easily 
  • multiple combinations for a range of outfits
how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

How to be ruthless when decluttering clothes: Step-by-step guide

1. Count your clothes & set a limit

Counting all of your items will give you a good perspective of the amount of clothing you have.

Then you can pick a goal number lower than the current one.

The number will be specific to your lifestyle, preferences, and laundry routine. 

While setting a limit isn’t a must, it will help you be more ruthless when decluttering and motivate you to try to reach your goal. 

For example, I counted all my clothes (including shoes, jackets, swimsuits, pajamas, and bras) and ended up with about 85 items. 

Then, I decided that my goal number would be half of this, around 40 – 43 items.

how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes
Ignore the goal written on the page, I was a bit too ambitious 😀

2. Take everything out of your wardrobe

Spread all the clothes on your bed or a couch. Take everything – forgotten clothes from suitcases, boxes, or bags.

Try to find everything you own, and gather all the items in one place. 

It can be pretty interesting and an eye-opening experience to see all of your clothing together at once. 

how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

3. Divide into categories

This is ideal if you have plenty of stuff.

To avoid confusion, divide the clothes into categories.

For example, you can divide the pieces into:

  • T-shirts and tanks tops
  • Shirts with long sleeve
  • Blouses, sweaters, cardigans
  • Dresses and skirts
  • Workout clothing 
  • Bottoms: jeans, pants, etc. 
  • Pajamas 
  • Swimwear 
  • Outerwear & jackets
  • Shoes 
  • Accessories: hats, scarves, purses, etc.
how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

4. Try them out & take pictures

Get an up-to-date vision of whether you feel good in that piece of clothing, and try out the items. 

Make sure you have a mirror, or even better – take pictures of videos to see how the items fit. 

This will give you a different perspective of how the item looks on you, and you will know if you want to keep it or not.

5. Create 4 piles

While trying the items, create 4 piles.

After you try an item, decide in which one you want to put it: 

  1. Keep – The items you love to wear often and feel great in. 
  2. The maybes – The items you don’t love and don’t hate. You aren’t sure what to do with them (more about this category later).
  3. Get rid of – The items you want to get rid of and (possibly) aren’t in good condition.
  4. Donation/sell pile – Things you want to get rid of but are in good shape. It can be items that don’t fit you anymore, aren’t your style, etc.

6. Ruthless tips for the “get rid of” pile 

When you declutter your wardrobe, be ruthless and get rid of clothes that:

  • Don’t fit your CURRENT lifestyle/style. 
  • You don’t feel good wearing them. 
  • Stained clothes, ripped, torn, or worn out. 
  • You are keeping it for sentimental reasons, but don’t wear it. This includes prom or wedding dresses, gifts, etc. 
  • Clothes you didn’t wear in the past 6 – 12 months (or even worse – never). 
  • Duplicates – you have multiple items that are very similar.
  • Get rid of anything you try on often but never wear. Something about the item isn’t working for you, if you always try it but never wear it. 
how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

7. Ruthless tips for “the maybes” pile

Once you go through everything and you see that the “the maybes” pile are getting too big, ask yourself:

  • How versatile is the item? – Get rid of it if you can’t combine it with other pieces and you can’t create at least three outfits with it.
  • Is it comfortable? – Get rid of it if it’s uncomfortable, too tight, or too baggy.
  • When was the last time you wore it? – If the last time you used it was months ago (or even longer), it is unlikely you will get a lot of use from it in the future. 
  • Are there two or more similar items? – If you already have an identical clothing piece, keep the one you often wear and like — ditch other similar items. 

If you are still not sure, create a “Maybe box.” A maybe box is excellent because you will place all the items you’re not sure you should keep. 

Put it away, and keep the box for 3-4vmonths. During this period, take an item from there if you need and want to wear it. 

In the end, the box will contain the clothing items that you didn’t take out. It is safe to assume that you should get rid of these items, knowing you’ll be fine without them.  

You can set a reminder on your phone to avoid forgetting about the box. 

how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

8. Organize your wardrobe 

After decluttering, you should organize your wardrobe with the things you love and wear.

It will be much easier to organize, as you will have fewer things. 

How many clothes did I get rid of?

I got rid of – 36 items in total.

That means I currently have 49 items. I almost hit my goal (between 40 and 43). 

While I didn’t reach 100% of my goal, I’m extremely satisfied and happy with my progress!

I will repeat and declutter in a couple of months once we start entering the next season. 🙂

how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes
All of the clothes I got rid of.
how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes
(36 items in total)

9. Maintain your downsized wardrobe

Now that you have downsized your wardrobe and decluttered your clothes, you can do a couple of things to keep it that way.

Re-evaluate your wardrobe frequently:

Pay attention to what you’re wearing and what’s not being worn. If you still don’t wear some items, consider removing them. 

A good tip is to keep a tote bag in your closet to make it easier to remove items you want to get rid of. Once the bag is full – donate or sell the items.

how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

Before buying new clothes, think about what you need in advance:

When getting new items, going to a store and buying something without planning isn’t the best idea.

You might get a cute and trendy item that doesn’t fit your wardrobe or style.

That’s why after you declutter your wardrobe, you can see if there are some gaps and if you need specific items.

When you find these gaps in your closet, WRITE them down. 

The next time you buy clothes, you’ll know what you are missing and what you need. 

Plus, writing down the things you need will prevent you from getting things you already have or items that don’t work well with your clothes. 

Quick tip:

Whenever you need something, try to find it from local or online second-hand stores.

Second-hand shopping is way more sustainable, and it is good for your pocket, too.

Don’t ACT immediately on impulses:

If you see something pretty, don’t buy it immediately.

Give it a couple of days, and see if it will fit in your wardrobe and if you don’t have a similar item already.

Make outfits:

Making a couple of outfits is an excellent way to see what’s missing in your wardrobe.

This will help you see if there are missing pieces in your closet and if you need to fill it up with specific items. 

how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes
how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

Final tips 

Take a whole day off

Pick a day on the weekend when you don’t have essential things to do, as it may take a couple of hours (if not the whole day!).

Sell some of the items

You can try to sell items that are in excellent condition.

Choose some of these websites to sell clothes online, or try selling things to people in your local community. 

It is best to try to resell things and extend the life of clothing pieces, as it is estimated that only 1% of our clothing is ultimately recycled into new garments because of its complexity. 

So, giving an item a second life by selling it to somebody else, it’s the best you can do.

Gift or swap items

You can also give items to your friends and family.

Ultimately you can organize a clothing swap event to exchange items with others. 

Find how to organize a clothing swap event at home (or in a coffee shop), with many cool tips and ideas.

Recycle and upcycle

There are many creative ways to upcycle old clothing and extend its life.

You can turn a t-shirt into a produce bag, clean cloths, rags, etc.

Donate the rest

Find a charity or a local organization that will be happy to accept your items.

Make sure you donate clothes that are in good condition and still usable. 

Don’t feel guilty

Don’t keep stuff because it was a gift, expensive, or “should be something you keep,” etc.

Try to be as ruthless as possible when you declutter your clothes. 

Even though it can be challenging, you shouldn’t feel guilty.

After all, you are doing it to feel better, reduce the clutter, and eliminate things that no longer serve you.

Analyze the items you are giving away

Find out what the similarities are between these items. This will help you to avoid buying similar things in the future.

Find if the clothing you discard is:

  • Trendy items
  • Specific colors you don’t enjoy anymore
  • Specific designs that you don’t wear regularly or you need very rarely
how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes

Declutter between seasons

The transition between seasons is the best time to declutter. 

You understand what worked for you the last season and how you want to feel in the current season or the one coming. 

Plus, you can see if you are missing something for the upcoming season and get it. 

Decluttering isn’t final

Even if you don’t reach your “goal” of items, don’t worry.

Decluttering isn’t something you do once – you can always repeat it in a couple of months. 

That way, you can see which items are left out and always find a reason not to wear them.

Then, you can get rid of them.

If you want to be ruthless, declutter your wardrobe again (and soon).

Maybe after the next season comes, so in a couple of months.

Each time you declutter, you can let go of a bit more. 

One in one out rule

To maintain a manageable wardrobe, you can establish a “one in, one out” policy.

This means you must let go of an existing item each time you bring a new item to your wardrobe. 

how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes


How many clothes do I need as a minimalist? 

As many as you wear regularly, there isn’t a specific number you should aim for. 

The problem is not if you have more clothes but too many that you don’t wear and WRONG ones for your current lifestyle. The number will be specific to you, your lifestyle, your preferences, etc. 

One of the most significant factors in deciding how many items you need is how often you can wash your clothes. 

If you do laundry once a week, that means you will need enough clothing to last seven days, so about a week’s worth of clothing (for hot weather or/and cold weather – depending on your climate).

The next big factor is how often you wear something.

For example, you can wear jeans multiple times before washing them. But if you wear a new t-shirt every day of the week, that’s seven t-shirts. 

Again, always consider your lifestyle needs and personal preferences. 

How to decide what clothes to keep? 

If you love an item, wear it regularly, it fits you well, feels good in it, is in good condition, and fits your current lifestyle  – definitely keep it.

Simple as that!

What to ask yourself when getting rid of clothes?

Always ask yourself:

  • Does the item fit? 
  • How versatile is the item? 
  • Is it comfortable?  
  • When was the last time you wore it? 
  • Do you own one or more similar items? 
  • Do you genuinely love it?

Get rid of it if you can’t combine it with other pieces, if it’s uncomfortable, too tight, or too baggy, if you don’t wear it regularly, or if you already have a similar clothing piece. 

What are the benefits of decluttering?

A few of the incredible benefits of decluttering your wardrobe ruthlessly are:

  • More mindful purchases – getting rid of what you didn’t use, need, or like, can help you make more conscious purchases, and you will know what works for you and what doesn’t.
  • Getting dressed fast & easy – Owning less stuff will help you own only clothes you love. 
  • More confidence – The clothes you own will make you feel good and look good.
  • Save money & time – You won’t mindlessly go shopping for random stuff anymore and will stop buying clothes you don’t need or don’t work for you. 
  • Easier to keep your closet tidy and organized – You will be able to quickly find items and create various outfits.
  • Fewer laundry days 
how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes


Decluttering your wardrobe can be challenging. 

Maybe you have an emotional connection with a particular item.

Or you changed your lifestyle and style, but you keep your old goodies.

Or perhaps you keep other pieces for “what if I need this” in the future.

But times go by, and these items just take up space in your wardrobe, being unused, and creating visual clutter.

The truth is that once you declutter your wardrobe, you will see how incredibly rewarding and great it is.

And you will be glad that you did it. 🙂 

I hope this step-by-step guide for ruthless decluttering was helpful and inspired you to try it out! 

Let me know in the comment section if I missed something or if you want to add any additional tips.

how to be ruthless when decluttering clothes


  1. In the chapter “Analyze the items you give away”, I would add the clothes that I received from my mother, since they are small for her, but at the beginning I agreed to take, and then I realized that this was not to my taste; more clothes that I brought from the market second-hand. That is, clothes that I did not buy, but received. It looks like the closet is full of clothes. But the worst thing is that I can not make a final decision and at least change something. I do not wear these clothes, but the voice of doubt is stronger than the voice of reason. Thank you for your work . today I started listening to your book ” project 333 ” in russian language. ❤🙏👍

  2. in fact, I wanted to write something special and interesting, but it turned out as always. I’m sorry, maybe next time I’ll be able to write a decent comment. I wish you good mood and good luck 🤦🏼‍♀️🌺🥰

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