I am a thrift store shopper – and I struggled with a clothes clutter problem

I love that I can have LOTS of NICE clothes for a fraction of what they would have cost new. I love that I don’t have to be limited to the 2 pairs of jeans per year I would probably buy if I couldn’t get them from thrift shops.

I love that I can replace things when I get tired of them, rather than when they get worn.

…Oh wait.

I don’t do that.

I just buy more things and add to the pile.

Related: Organizing the Bathroom Cupboard: Facing the Truth Under the Sink


closet organization and clothing clutter solutions

I’ve been a clothing hoarder, but it’s time to talk about how to get rid of clothes clutter.

This is hard for me to admit (the clothing hoarder part). Because I am a big advocate of gettin’ rid of stuff you’re not using. I talk about it alot.

Too much tupperware? Not me.

Books I haven’t read in ten years? Nope.

Useless shelves full of knick-knacks? Just one (and those are carefully selected knick-knacks).

But clothes?

It’s easy to justify my bursting closet, because I live in a place with temperatures that zoom wildly up and down from season to season and I NEED clothes for all climates. Also because I am only a few pounds too heavy for THOSE jeans, and because I MIGHT go work in an office again and wear this stuff then. And some things I have sentimental attachment too, and it’s ok to just keep a FEW of those things… and…. reason, reason, reason.

I can justify my clothing hoarding all day long – and some of the reasons are even valid.

That does not change the fact that clothing is my number one clutter issue, and that sometimes it feels like the cloths are taking over my house.

They’re in the bathroom, they’re in the laundry room.

And of course, my room. There’s even clothes in my car.

IT’s way way worse now that I have kids too – because now there are MORE people I can hoard clothing for!

My husband has pointed out that if I just put the clothes away, they wouldn’t be all over the place. (He is, in fact, right.) But the ROOT of the problem is that I can’t put the clothes away. I have so many clothes that there isn’t room for them all to be put away at once. (Not to mention I can set them down anywhere and not think about them again for weeks. Because I can wear other clothes. I have enough underwear that if I don’t do laundry for one month, I will only just then run out.)

So I need to tackle the clothing clutter. I need to seriously pare down. (And make room in the closet for putting clothes away.)

SO, now that I’ve laid that all out there, I have one other confession to make.

I know what it’ll take to make the clothing clutter problem go away, and I just haven’t done it.

Why? Because I don’t want to, because it’s hard for me. (Brutal honesty is the straightest path to decluttering your clothes – or anything else!)

I watch these shows on TV and I feel genuinely bad for the “hoarders” because I understand what seems like almost physical paralysis when it comes to the ability to clean up and get rid of things.

I have been there – I have stood in the middle of a fully-piled-with-crap room, and felt absolutely overwhelmed, to the point of complete and utter despair. Tears were the only option.

But I am a very different person now – I even consider myself strong. As a strong person, I recognize that that cause of my clothing clutter problem is me and my lack of action. 

Related: A Simple Solution to Clutter & Disorganization

SO this clothes clutter thing ends now, I am taking action. I am getting my clothing clutter under control.

Here’s a plan that I KNOW works to de-clutter clothing, because it worked for all the other areas of my life. And I know exactly where I’ve gone wrong with it when it comes to clothes. (I’ll show you how to not make the same mistakes I’ve made that have got me right back to clothes cluttered in no time.)

How to de-clutter your closet in 10 steps:

1) Wash all the dirty laundry in the house. Leave no t-shirt crumpled in the bottom of the basket.

2) Pile each and every last article of (now clean) clothing that you own on the bed. (I’m tempted to tell you to do this naked – so all your clothes are included – but that’s not really necessary. Just make sure you want to keep the outfit you’re wearing.) Next to the pile put a big garbage bag to place items for donating. (No, you can’t just make a separate ‘donate’ pile. You want to not be able to see the clothes after you make your decision to donate. Use the bag, or you will second guess yourself on things as time goes on.)

3) You can easily spot the things you wear ALL THE TIME  / REGULARLY. Put these things away. Back into the closet or the drawer. No need to get rid of something you are using often!

4) Things that are worn or have seen better days can be relegated to the trash or maybe the rag drawer. But cut them up – these things have sneaked back out into my closet before! (Seriously.)

5) If there is anything in the pile that you obviously won’t wear and have no problem taking out and donating, that goes next.

6) Remove the sentimental but useless items from the pile. (If you have anything you’re hanging onto that you can flat out acknowledge that you will never wear again, but are keeping because it’s special, that’s what we’re talking about. If you have a very few sentimental items – maybe your wedding dress and a t-shirt you got at your first concert – it’s fine to keep those. If you have more than 5-10 sentimental items, you probably need to address an emotional attachment to things. This is a whole ‘nother issue, but for now, set those sentimental items aside. No, not back in the closet. Aside.)

7) Sort what’s left (things you don’t use regularly – for whatever reason – but aren’t emotionally attached to) into appropriate “specific event categories” – so I’d make a pile for “dressy”, for “beach holiday” and one pile for “everyday stuff I just don’t wear”. (Because I know me, and I know that’s what will be left when I finish with “stuff I wear all the time / stuff I can get rid of / stuff I have sentimental feelings about”. You might have other categories, like “camping clothes” or “gym clothes”.)

8) Pare down each “specific event” category based on if you would wear an item today. So, from the dressy pile, if I was going to a wedding today, what would I choose to wear? Most people only need a few dressy outfits / one week of beach holiday outfits etc, in their closets. Get rid of anything that you wouldn’t be excited to wear. Put the things you are keeping back in the closet, and the rest in the donation box.

9) At this point, all that should be left is “everyday stuff you just don’t wear”.  THIS IS WHERE I HAVE GONE WRONG IN THE PAST: I look at this stuff, and I assume I’ll wear it in the future, and I put 80% of it back in my closet. Even though some of it I have owned for YEARS and worn three times, I still put it back in the closet. Just DON’T. Unless you have a rock solid reason to keep this stuff (and I can’t even come up with one as an example), get rid of all of it. Hanging on to stuff I hardly wear is what is causing the bulk of my clothing clutter issues.  Following is a partial list of reasons that are NOT GOOD ENOUGH to put this stuff back in your closet. If you are keeping things for any of these reasons, just don’t.

  • It was really expensive. (Then sell it!)
  • I’m 5 lbs too heavy and I’ll fit it again.
  • I use to wear it all the time and I’ll probably wear it again soon. (Not. The. Case.)
  • I paid for it and I should wear it.
  • I’m tired of it, but it’s perfectly useful.
  • It’s gorgeous (but when I put it on I look a little…7  months pregnant).
  • I love it (but don’t have the confidence to leave the house in it… so I don’t).
  • It was a gift and the person who gifted it will be hurt if I get rid of it.
  • I might really miss it. (Because if I haven’t worn something in 8 months, this makes sense – right?)

(I don’t know about you, but my closet is significantly emptier after doing step #9).

BUT if  the bulk of your clothing clutter problems are sentimental items, you still need to deal with that. If there’s lots of room in the closet and it’s 3 or 4 things, I think it’s fine to keep them. If you have 27 things you are sentimental about, you need to learn to let go. Think about taking photos of the clothes. I won’t go into all the ways I deal with emotional clutter here, but you can read my process for getting rid of this stuff here: How I conquer clutter when it’s emotionally difficult. Don’t put these sentimental but useless things back in your closet. Store that wedding dress somewhere else!

10) GET RID OF EVERYTHING THAT’S GOING NOW. This is the single most important step. If you keep that donation bag around, the clothes will creep back out of it. I don’t know how, but it’s happened to me over and over. Drive that bag right down to the charity shop.

Now – ORGANIZE your closet, girl!

Just cleaning out the closet isn’t good enough. 

If your closet is chronically disorganized, check out The Organized Home Course by Hilary from Pulling Curls. There is an entire section in there on organizing closets (as well as every other area of your home!)

This is the perfect course for organizing a messy home (and closet)  if:

  • You always need hours of notice before having guests because you’re embarrassed about the state of your home.
  • You’re always worried you misplaced an important document or won’t be able to find things when you need them.
  • You’ve ever wondered why can’t YOU enjoy peaceful time on the couch or enjoying your family instead of always stressing out about the state of your home?

If you need someone to TEACH you how to address clutter and get organized, Hilary is your girl, and you can get 10% off the course here with the code MOP10. 

Finally, Be diligent about NOT bringing clothes clutter back into your home.

Whenever you are tempted to purchase something, remind yourself how overwhelming it feels to be buried in clothes clutter.

Annnnd … now I’ll work on making sure the clothes get put away after they’re cleaned. And when I take them off. But this won’t be as hard as it was before, because I actually have a place to put them 🙂

Related: Where to Start When You Are Drowning in Clutter

Related: where to start when cleaning a messy house

how to tackle clothing clutter and closet organization ideas!