January 3, 2013

Too Many Clothes

January is a good time to start a clothing purge project
After I went traveling for a year and got by with a tiny wardrobe of about 15 items (including socks and underwear), I started to wonder why I needed any more than that. It was one reason I stopped buying anything new for my wardrobe.

To say I haven't bought any new clothes for years would be a bit of an exaggeration - I have bought new socks and underwear. But that is about it. And yet, I still seem to have more clothes than I need.

How To Tell If You Have Too Many Clothes
  1. You have clothing bought long ago that is still in its packaging.
  2. You have more clothes than closet (the answer is not a bigger closet).
  3. You have clothes in boxes that haven't been opened in years.
  4. You have clothes you didn't even know you had.
  5. You keep losing things under piles of clothes.
Getting rid of stuff is a challenge for most of us, but getting rid of clothes presents some unique challenges. Giving away dust-collecting trinkets may be easy, but how does one get rid of something as practical and useful as clothes? Clothes are kind of like foodstuffs - you can't survive without them. 

Without clothes we are naked, and being out and about in your birthday suit is not socially acceptable in most places I know. We need clothes not only to cover our bumps and bits, but in a climate like I live in, clothes are essential for survival as well. 

Parting with essentials is difficult, but really, you can only wear one shirt or one pair of pants at a time. I know how many clothes I really need, and my entire light wardrobe can fit into a backpack with room to spare. The rest of the stuff is just taking up space in my closet, and my head. 

Clearing The Clothes

A necessary first step is admitting that you have too many clothes, and have a desire to cut back to a more manageable and useful level.

The hanger method shown in the photo above is one way, albeit a slow one, to weed out the unnecessary clothing from your closet. This is the equivalent of pulling a band aid off very, very slowly. It may not be the most efficient method if you can feel a big purge coming on.

To pull the band aid off in one fell swoop, one must be brave and go all in from the start. Having committed to reduction, attack the clothes like they are your enemy and show them who is boss. Wrestle the clothing into 4 piles:
  1. Clothes that don't fit you.
  2. Clothes that you haven't worn in over a year.
  3. Clothes that need to be repaired.
  4. Clothes that you can't live without.
Take piles 1 and 2 to a second hand store, or offer them to someone you know that would appreciate them. Pile number 3 should be taken to a tailor, or handy friend or mom, for repair. 

Pile number 4 should be set aside and gone through one more time. Pull out redundant clothes, such as more than 2 or 3 pairs of jeans, or white shirts. Get the pile down to a manageable amount of practical, functional clothes that you will use on a regular basis.

If you are having trouble with the task, think of how organized you will feel owning only clothing in good repair, that fits you, and that you feel good wearing. 

A clothing purge is excellent for resetting your wardrobe, but a moratorium on the purchase of new clothes will prevent the build up from happening again. Oh, the money you will save.

And remember, "people seldom notice old clothes if you are wearing a big smile".


  1. I have relatively few clothes (and recently donated a large sack of clothes to charity) but I too feel like I have too many. I'm going to turn my hangers round and ditch what I don't use by the end of the year.
    I'd love to end up with two or three dresses and pairs of leggings and nothing else. I think my sports clothes collection could be reduced, as although I need some of it, I am also hanging on to some things in the hope I will wear them out eventually, but even with my fairly small wardrobe, I don't seem to wear many things often enough for them to physically disintegrate..

    1. You are on your way to the ultimate minimalist wardrobe - great goal, and an on-going project. Hope the hanger method helps.

      It feels right to use clothes to maximum benefit. Good, basic clothes can last a long time and still look good.

  2. I have been reading your blog for a while and enjoy the posts a lot. Especially this post seems to be near to my heart as I like to donate some of my clothes every once in a while - last time was today. I have relatively little clothes compared to my husband who loves having many clothes, which is sometimes difficult for me to understand. Anyway, it seems like a good time to start the clothes project at the beginning of the year and look what is left after twelve months. Thanks for your great blog!

    1. Good luck with your project. Maybe your husband will join you in your downsizing efforts.

  3. Michelle1/04/2013

    Of all my minimalist efforts, this one has come with the most stigma attached to it. People don't seem to mind if you eat local, stay out of big box stores and get rid of your tv, but if you wear the same sweatshirt for 20 years, they freak out. My family and friends just cannot wrap their heads around not buying all new wardrobes every season. As a consolation, my kids have noticed that they don't need too many clothes either. My daughter said to me the other day, after coming out of her Grandma's walk-in closet, "Why does Grandma have 45 pairs of shoes? You only have 3 and that works just fine!" Victory for Mama!!

    1. Clothing can be a very personal, and we have hangups and fears associated with how we look. I have had friends tease me about my old gear before, but I just let them work and spend their money on replacing things that don't need to be replaced. I prefer to make things last.

      Kids are great! The question is of the type that we should all be asking ourselves and each other. What is all the extra stuff for when just a little bit will suffice?

      Victory indeed.

  4. Anonymous1/27/2013

    Hello, I've lurked your website a few times. Abandoning the hanger method, I pulled the bandaid off smartly. Six bags recently winged their way to the Salvation Army, then yesterday, a few more pairs of shoes took their leave of my wardrobe. Now I have two neat lines of footwear and space between the hangers - but I still feel I have too much. Being a housewife, I could easily do with even less. It is said that most women wear only 20 percent of their clothes 80 percent of the time and to get rid of everything else. Looks like I must try harder.

    1. Anon,

      Thank you for sharing your success and ongoing efforts in the clothing challenge. You are doing it. Congratulations - six bags is a lot of clothes.

  5. When I really stall on throwing something in the donation pile, I remind myself that allowing something to languish unworn in my closet is preventing it being worn/loved by someone else. It's better to allow it to have a life elsewhere than taking up space in mine. Usually that helps me let go.

    1. D. Wells,

      This is a good point that is effective in helping work through our attachment to things. It is good to keep stuff in circulation where it will be loved and used.

      Letting go is often difficult, so thank you for sharing this strategy.

      Give it away, give it away, give it away.

  6. Anonymous4/05/2013

    Living in WinterPeg where temperatures can range from 42C in summer to -47C in winter means having two wardrobes, but minimalizing is still possible. The "outside" job (helps ensure the rent gets paid every month) has a very relaxed dress code so a couple pair of jeans with either one of half a dozen turtleneck sweaters in the winter or t-shirts in the summer works fine. Doing the actual work of the inside job can be done in my pjs--usual "at home" work wardrobe is leggings and an oversized t-shirt (this is where they go when they get too grubby for work). But, there is also the meeting the client wardrobe that has been pared down to a couple pair of good black dress pants and two classic black blazers--right now in the winter they get paired with either a red or a cobalt blue turtleneck sweater and in summer with either a hot pink or turquoise tank. Realized a few years ago that the "dressy" winter coat was a complete waste of money and closet space--when it's -40C outside it doesn't matter how formal the occasion is I am wearing my arctic rated parka!


    1. Mela,

      You are being very sensible in WinterPeg's -40C. Brrr. Your approach to clothing makes a lot of sense.

  7. Anonymous11/03/2013

    I started a no buying clothes challenge at the beginning of the year and am still going strong. I cleared out all the things I didn't wear and donated to charity. It has really made me realise just how many unnecessary purchases I used to make, Its also made me realise where my wardrobe is lacking, and focused my mind on what I actually NEED and not what I want!

    1. Anon,

      Fantastic! A whole year of sticking to it and clearing unneeded clothing out of your closet and your life. If you have made the shift to focusing on what you need rather than want, you are on your way to freedom and contentment.

      Congratulations on your year of no buying clothes challenge. Any other takers willing to plunge into a year of no buying clothes?

  8. Anonymous11/18/2013

    I started two years ago! so I just buy what I really need and I only buy something with good quality so I would use it for several years.

  9. Anonymous3/07/2021

    Found this blog by accident and am slowly working through all the posts.Thank you so much for making me feel less of a "cheapie freak" as I was described recently.
    I have a wardrobe system that has 25 hangers holding all my clothes including coats ( not undies ) when I make something new I have to replace something else. This only happens about once per year. My friends didn't believe me until I showed them the wardrobe.One friend actually had an extension built onto her house to use as her wardrobe.


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