Skip to Content

How to Clean Out Your Closet With a Quick Closet Purge

How to Clean Out Your Closet With a Quick Closet Purge

Today I’m undertaking a good, old-fashioned closet cleanout. I’m rolling up my sleeves, clearing the racks, and embarking on a no-holds-barred closet purge.

What do you see when you open your closet? Is it full of so many things you can’t squeeze another item inside? Is it overrun by unworn clothes you thought you’d love but never wear?

Do you feel anxious when you open your closet doors or stressed by the amount of money you spent on your wardrobe? Do you feel guilty for buying things that still have tags on them? When you get dressed, do you feel uncomfortable in the clothes that hang on your body?

If you do, I’m here to help. You shouldn’t feel bad about yourself when you get dressed every morning or stare at a rack full of clothes you never wear. It’s time to clean out your closet and kick those negative feelings to the curb.

Money Concerns While Purging Clothes

If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m a money nerd, which means I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about money. As a money nerd, I know it’s challenging to purge clothes you spent your hard-earned money buying. 

I understand that feeling all too well, but if you are staring at a closet full of clothes you don’t wear, it’s time to get rid of them.

We all make mistakes in life, and I’ve purchased plenty of garments that sat in my closet with the tags still hanging. I’ve also bought plenty of clothes that no longer feel good on my skin.

In the beginning, it can be hard to let go. Unfortunately, if you can’t part with your unwanted belongings, they will continue to take up space in your world.

Lessons Learned While Getting Rid of Clothes

If your closet is full of barely worn garments, you must purge your clothes and learn from your prior mistakes. If you don’t, you will continue to hunt for bargains on the clearance rack and buy clothes that don’t fit your style or body.

Please, do not keep clothes just because you paid a lot for them. Instead, purge the ones that don’t fit. That includes anything too big, tight, or generally uncomfortable. It also includes clothes that fit but don’t match your style.

Is it hard to purge clothes you spent hard-earned money buying? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it anyway. 

If opening your closet makes you feel guilty, it’s time to let go of your guilt. If you stare at a wall full of garments that never leave the closet, it’s time to donate them to someone else.

I want you to look in your closet and feel a sense of calm. Free yourself from the clothes that make you feel bad about yourself. If you can recoup money by selling them, do so. Otherwise, get rid of them immediately.

Why Do You Need to Purge Clothes From Your Closet?

Staring into your closet shouldn’t make you feel anxious or guilty, but it’s easy to feel bad when you open those doors and peek inside. 

Maybe you feel bad about the money you spent. Perhaps you feel bad about how your body has changed over time. I’ve experienced both hangups.

For years, I kept skinny jeans from my pre-pregnancy days on a shelf in my closet.

“One day, I’ll fit into these,” I thought. “One day, I will look as good as before my kids were born.”

So I bought myself a gym membership and worked out four days a week. I hired a personal trainer and shed the weight. But you know what?

Those pants still didn’t fit. My pregnancies changed the shape of my body, and those skinny pants couldn’t fit over my newfound curves.

Feel Fabulous After Your Closet Purge

You can carefully measure the amount of weight you need to lose. You can dream of fitting back into your favorite pair of pants, or you can move on from them. 

If standing on the scale hoping to drop five pounds is weighing too heavily on your shoulders, it’s time to purge those pants. It’s time to decide that those articles of clothing aren’t benefiting you. 

Purge clothes that don’t fit rather than using them to indicate the weight or size you wish to be. You can hold on to the hope of being someone else or embrace the best version of yourself right now. 

It’s great if you want to lose weight, but don’t let some old pair of pants be your prize. Ditch them and find clothes that make you feel incredible right now!

purge clothes

Define Your Style Before You Purge

Hopefully, you are on board and ready to clean out your closet, but don’t dump out the contents just yet.

Have you ever bought something you didn’t wear? I have many times.

Why didn’t I wear it? Because it didn’t match my style. Every season, the clothes I pull from the rack are bright and flowy. Although I might buy form-fitting clothing or garments with neutral colors or bold patterns, I won’t wear them.

I didn’t always love soft, romantic styles. My preferences have changed as I age. I once loved wearing tall boots and miniskirts, but I now appreciate long flowing dresses and comfortable materials.

The more I define my style, the easier it is to stop buying stuff I don’t love in the first place.

How to Define Your Style

Before you begin your closeout cleanout, you need to create a vision for your wardrobe. Before taking a single hanger off the rack, it’s time to define your style.

My style consists of comfortable clothes with soft textures and flowy silhouettes. I remind myself that I prefer black, white, and bright solid colors over the neutrals found in most capsule wardrobes.

I encourage you to define your style before starting your closet purge. If you aren’t sure what styles you like, search the internet for ideas.

If you feel stuck, ask yourself the following:

  • What colors do you like?
  • Do you like solids or patterns?
  • Do you prefer lighter fabrics or heavier ones?
  • Do you like form-fitting clothing or looser styles?
  • What materials feel comfortable?
  • What clothes make you feel good when you look in the mirror?

Ask a friend to act as your wardrobe consultant if you still aren’t sure. Bring them over before you purge any clothes, and try on different outfits to see which ones they like on you.

You can also take an online quiz to find your personal style. Do you like minimalist, classic, romantic, retro, artsy, or boho fashions?

You don’t have to choose one particular style for your entire wardrobe, but try to create a vision of the clothes you love to wear before you begin purging.

Do the Clothes in Your Closet Match Your Style?

After defining your style, it’s time to purge clothes. Evaluate each item you see. Does it represent your style? If not, are you likely to wear it in the future?

When I begin my closet purge, I search for garments that don’t match my style preferences and set them aside. I remind myself that I wasted good money on clothes I’ll never wear. Then I release the guilt of wasting money and vow to evaluate new clothes against my preferences when shopping in the future.

closet cleanout

How to Get Rid of Clothes in Your Closet

With your style in mind, it’s time to begin your closet cleanout. The first step is to dump everything out of your closet. We’ll go through each item using straightforward steps to make purging clothes easier.

What are the steps for getting rid of clothes? 

1 – Purge Worn Out Clothing

First, remove any worn-out garments with holes, tears, stains, or worn-out elastic, that you cannot repair or don’t want to take the time to fix. 

Discard all clothing items that are not in good condition. Most of these items should land in the trash, not the donate pile.

2 – Purge Unwanted Gifts

The next step is to get rid of any gifted items you don’t wear. Maybe it’s a sweater grandma sent you last Christmas or a nightgown your partner bought that is too small. It could be a blouse your mom thought you would love, a cheap, thoughtless gift, or a shirt that says #1, Mom.

We rarely tell people we don’t like their gifts. Instead, we tuck unwanted presents into the back of our drawers and closets. But remember, keeping unwanted clothing doesn’t honor those items or the people who love us.

Do not hold on to gifts you don’t intend to wear. Instead, release your guilt by imagining each item going to a place where someone will wear it and appreciate it.

I know this can be hard to do. Getting rid of gifts is never easy, but there is no sense in keeping clothes that you won’t wear. Give away presents you don’t love so someone else can enjoy them.

3 – Purge Clothes That Don’t Fit

Next, get rid of any clothing that doesn’t fit anymore. This step can be challenging! I wish I could squeeze into the jeans I wore in my pre-pandemic days or the miniskirts I wore a decade ago.

Unfortunately, I can’t, and staring at clothes that don’t fit isn’t providing a boost to my self-esteem. Rather than hoping that I will suddenly drop twenty pounds, I’m moving on and purging clothes that don’t make me feel good.

I think your closet should be a peaceful place. If opening the doors makes you feel bad about the state of your body, it’s time to lighten the mood in there.

I encourage you to let go of clothes that don’t fit so you can make space for clothes you genuinely love. Keep things that make you feel good about being you.

4 – Purge Clothes That Feel Uncomfortable

I used to wear uncomfortable clothes all the time. I bought dresses with scratchy materials, shoes with tight straps, and boots that cramped my toes.

The pandemic changed all of that for me. I want to wear leggings, oversized tunics, comfy cotton materials, and soft, flexible shoes. I don’t want to own a single piece of clothing that doesn’t feel comfortable on my body.

Don’t endure uncomfortable clothing even if it looks good. If it hurts to wear it, send it out the door! In my opinion, painful dress shoes should be the first to go!

5 – Purge Duplicate Clothing

As you select items to keep, sort them in piles by color. Sorting allows you to spot duplicates easily. Do you own a handful of white shirts or twenty pairs of jeans? Do you own too many sweaters or a small mountain of unnecessary workout gear?

Decide how many items you need and get rid of the rest. I have a knack for buying too many gym shorts. When I looked in my closet, I found eight pairs. 

I wash my clothes every time I come home from the gym. With regular washing, I certainly don’t need to own so many. When I’m ready to work out, my clothes are clean and ready to be worn again.

6 – Try On Everything You Want to Keep

So you’ve gotten rid of unwanted gifts, worn-out clothing, and clothes that feel uncomfortable.

Now it’s time to model everything you think you want to keep. Find a full-length mirror and try on every article of clothing you want to place back into your closet.

Walk around in your clothes. Lift your arms up and down, bend, wiggle, and dance. Do anything you can to see if the clothes are comfortable and look good on you.

This step may seem like a waste of time, but it isn’t. Our bodies change constantly.

The special occasion dress you wore two years ago might not fit the way it did for your cousin’s wedding, and your work pants might not fit the same after a two-year pandemic.

The only way to know how something fits and feels is to try it on and move around in it. So try everything on before you label it a keeper.

Each time you put something on, ask yourself:

  • Does it feel good on your skin? 
  • Does it fit well?
  • Do you feel great about wearing it?

If you like what you see and feel, set them aside. If not, add those clothes to the donate pile.

7 – Be Realistic

Even if something fits doesn’t mean you’ll wear it. Remember to reflect on your personal style. Will you wear a bold, colorful print when you prefer to wear muted colors? Will you wear a loose dress if you like fitted styles?

It’s tough to be realistic when unworn clothes are in good condition, especially when an item looks as good on the hanger as it did the day you bought it.

But be tough with yourself and realistic. If you didn’t wear it last year, will you wear it this one? If not, it needs to go.

If you can’t bear to get rid of your clothes, force yourself to wear them for a day. If you can’t stand the thought of that idea, get rid of them!

8 – Face Hangers Backwards When Returning to Your Closet

After purging clothes, it’s time to put the keepers back into your closet. Hang each hanger backward on the rod, and don’t turn it around until you wear it.

When the season ends, perform another closet cleanout by purging all clothes with backward hangers. If you haven’t worn these in the last six months, you probably won’t ever wear them again.

If you don’t like hanging things backward, you can add a small flag to each hanger and remove it only after wearing an item.

Do this every time you perform a closet purge. It makes it much easier to figure out what you wear each season.

9 – Get Rid of Your Unwanted Clothing

After placing all of your favorite items back into the closet, it’s time to get rid of the stuff you don’t love. Gather up your donate pile and trash bag and walk them straight out to the car.

Get them out of your house and out of your life. Take a mental snapshot before you drive off or a real one if it helps to imprint the image in your mind.

The next time you go shopping, remind yourself that you should only look for clothes that feel good, fit well, and match your style.

10 – Feel Good About Getting Dressed

When your closet purge is over, take a moment to reflect on your progress. Open your closet and feel the zen-like state you’ve been hoping to find there.

Release your guilt and negative feelings if you haven’t already. I hope you look forward to getting dressed!

Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early

Wednesday 18th of May 2022

If only you weren't so tall....I'd tell you to send stuff my way! :P

Gov Worker

Friday 6th of May 2022

These are great tips. At times I have struggled with feeling like I need to keep clothes I don't like because I feel bad about "wasting money" on buying them or because I received them as a gift. Recently, I've been ruthless about getting rid of anything that I wouldn't feel happy wearing and I'm also on a strict "one-in-one-out" policy for clothes. If I get a new shirt, I make myself get rid of an old one immediately.