15 Ways to Purge Your Closet of Unwanted Clothing

Cynthia J. Drake
July 25, 2016
Find Self-Storage

When it comes to holding on to old clothing, the excuses are endless.

What if you change sizes? What if a friend could use it sometime in the distant future? What if you need something to wear to paint your house in? What if you are invited to a costume party, and you really need that tack vintage jacket to complete the look?

Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.

A recent SpareFoot survey found that 43 percent of Americans held onto clothing they rarely wore because they felt guilty getting rid of it.

We spoke to some experts to get their tips for sorting, organizing and passing clothes on so that you and your closet can develop a healthier relationship.

1. Create Wardrobe Capsules

“Try sorting your closet into groupings, whether it’s work versus play, or by color. Make sure within each capsule all the items mix and match together so you never have to think about if they work. Then donate all other items,” said  Kendra Porter, image consultant.

2. Color Coding

Organize like items together, and then by color. “That way the next time we purge, [my clients] see they have ten black tops and can determine how many black tops they actually need. Again that makes it faster and easier to purge.” said organizer Suzy Wilkoff.

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3. Hold the Tears

“Often, I find clients holding on to items for sentimental reasons. As a rule, I allow for no more than 10 items that you hold dear. Otherwise, divide everything into four piles: Keep, Toss, Tailor and Donate,” said Porter.

4. Set Some Limits

Several organizers like the “box it up” strategy. Seal everything you don’t think you want in a box, and see if you still need it after six months or a year. In a closet, you can adapt this idea to your clothes by hanging all of them on the left side, and only transfer them to the middle when you wear them. “A few months down the road, take inventory of what stays at the far left. That’s proof that, in six months or one year, you haven’t worn that outfit.” said author Carrie Aulenbacher.

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5. Hire a Personal Stylist

“If you want to get the most out of your wardrobe, you’ll need a pair of fresh eyes and a new perspective. Hiring a stylist will help you to see how you can maximize what you have, even with half of your closet,” said Porter.

6. Weighty Issues

Opinions vary on whether to hang on to something that is too big or too small. If you want to be conservative, you can hang onto these items for a predetermined time. Some organizers say that once you lose weight, your clothes may be out of style, and it’s not worth keeping them. Keep in mind it is easier to tailor clothes to make them smaller than to let them out.

7. Ask Your Clothes Some Questions.

Consider each item in your closet and decide: Would I buy this today if I had the chance? If the answer is no, it goes. It doesn’t even matter what the reason is. If the answer is yes, it stays. It’s that simple,” said organizer Hazel Thornton.

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8. No Touching

I do not let the client touch the item, if it isn’t necessary,” said Wilkoff. “It is easier to get rid of something if they don’t put their hands on it. Naturally, if it’s in good shape and they want to try it on, that policy goes by the wayside, but it sure is helpful when someone has 50 T-shirts or 40 pair of jeans to purge more quickly and efficiently.”

9. Host a Sorting Party

Have a few girlfriends over to help you decide what to keep and what to toss. Picture the scene from the “Sex and the City” movie, where Carrie’s moving out of her apartment.  They play some music, have some drinks and her girls raise a “take” or “toss” sign for each item she pulls out of her overflowing closet,” said life coach Christina Michelle.

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10. Throw a Virtual Closet Sale

Upload photos of your clothing onto an existing buy/sell/trade local Facebook group. “I usually sell shirts for $1, pants for $2, dresses for $3, shoes for $4,” said Michelle. “People go nuts for clothes here in Juneau, because it’s a remote area with very few places to shop. These groups can work well anywhere though, as long as your clothes are in good shape.”

11. Have a Consignment Strategy

Writer Angelina Aucello employs the following strategy for her unwanted clothing: “High-end consignment stores, Poshmark and eBay for the more expensive and high-demand brands. I use Mercari, flea markets and Craigslist for the lower-end items for quick sale. Items valued under $5 automatically get donated.”

12. Host a Swap Party

Host a clothing swap with friends and family.  “Have wine and appetizers to make it more fun. Everyone brings their clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry, etc. and instead of using money to buy, just swap items. It can be set up like a boutique to make it more visually appealing,” said Melinda Pollard.

13. Be Charitable

If you are looking for places aside from Goodwill and Salvation Army to donate your clothes, DonationTown.org is searchable by ZIP code for local charities that will pick up. Dress for Success donates professional clothing to women in need. The Fashion Foundation uses profits from donated clothing to purchase school supplies to underprivileged kids.

14. Recycle

If clothing is no longer wearable, you can help the environment by donating it to a place that will recycle it. Uniqlo and H&M have drop off stations at their stores that will do this,” said wardrobe consultant Diane Pollack.

15. Reclaim your Lost Money

For items with tags still on them, head over to ThredUp.com. You fill up one of their bags and send it off — shipping is free, said Jamie Novak, author of Keep This Toss That. Some retailers also have generous return policies, and even if you can’t get cash back you might score some store credit.


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