One of my 21 goals for 2021 was to de-clutter my closet and dresser and donate clothes that I no longer need or want.

This de-cluttering was long overdue, especially since I purchased some new clothing items in 2020 like leggings and more sweaters after we started working remotely.

The challenge? I was having a hard time finding a couple hours together where I could dive in. I knew that I would need to try on some clothes to check their fit and I figured that process might take some time.

Then, one morning before work, I decided to just start. I knew that I might not finish it all in one go, but I also knew that if I never started then it would never get done.

Surprisingly, it took me only about an hour to cull my entire closet and a dresser. Here’s what I decided to donate:

  • 3 pairs of lounge pants
  • 5 pairs of dress socks
  • 8 pairs of pants/capris (these included jeans and dress pants)
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 vest
  • 5 fabric headbands
  • 14 sweaters
  • 5 sweatshirts
  • 2 tank tops
  • 2 bras
  • 2 active wear shorts
  • 5 active wear shirts
  • 7 t-shirts

All of this together ended up being two large garbage bags worth of clothes to donate, and it was so satisfying to see those piles getting bigger as I went through the process and made decisions about what to keep and what to give away.

It was a lot easier (and quicker) to do this process than I thought it would be and now my closet and dresser have a lot more room to store the clothes that I’m wearing on a regular basis.

If you are planning a culling of your own closet, here are some of the lessons that I took away:

Set a deadline. Giving myself a deadline to do this first de-clutter in January was a great motivator to build this task into my schedule. As the end of the month was approaching, it also helped me to hold myself accountable for finding time to get this done.

Choose parameters for what to keep and what to donate. Going into this process, I knew that I had a lot of clothes that I had not worn in a long time, several pieces that I did not really like any more, and quite a few things that did not fit my body after I lost some weight this past year. Those were my main variables to consider as I looked at each item: do I wear it, do I like it, and does it fit me.

Ignore the sunk cost. I went into the process trying to be as realistic as possible about what I really needed in my wardrobe and what I really wanted in my wardrobe. I did not focus on how much I had paid for an item, which is often a reason that I have kept something for too long in the past.

Sort one kind of clothing a time. I started in my closet with sweaters and hanging clothes like dresses. Then I went through each drawer in my dresser one at a time, taking everything out and considering each item one at a time. Since my dresser is ordered by clothing type (i.e. one drawer for active wear, one drawer for lounge pants, one drawer for shirts, etc.), this made it easy for me to consider things in comparison with one another. After I finished with my closet and dresser, I had time left over to go through accessories and sort those as well.

Try clothes on. I haven’t worn most of my dress pants, skirts, and jeans in almost a year since I transitioned to remote work. I had a sense that losing some weight in 2020 impacted my body proportions, but I wasn’t sure by how much since I’ve been wearing a lot of leggings and sweatpants. Other than some skinny jeans I had, it turns out that all of my pants no longer fit. I have two pairs of dress pants that I think I can get tailored, so I decided to keep those for now.

Don’t forget shoes. I also haven’t been wearing shoes much from being in the house all the time, so I took a glance at these as well. Since I culled my shoes before we moved last year, I actually didn’t have any pairs to donate in this round.

After that de-cluttering process, here are the main items left in my wardrobe:

  • 6 pairs of pants
  • 7 skirts
  • 4 dresses
  • 27 sweaters (this still seems like a lot, but I also wear them all)
  • 2 vests
  • 11 scarves
  • 4 active wear shirts
  • 5 active wear jackets / second layers
  • 2 active wear shorts
  • 7 active wear leggings
  • 10 pairs of lounge / pajama pants
  • 6 pairs of leggings
  • 6 pairs of lounge / pajama shorts
  • 10 sweatshirts
  • 7 layering t-shirts
  • 12 layering undershirts / camisoles
  • 5 bras (including 3 sports bras)
  • Misc socks and underwear
  • 4 suit jackets
  • 2 outerwear jackets 
  • 9 pairs of shoes / sandals

Some of these numbers still seem pretty high to me, so I’m planning to do another de-clutter about halfway through the year to see what else I might want to donate. 

I think that de-cluttering works best in stages, so I may need multiple rounds of culling to get down to my most needed essentials. While I’m certainly not a minimalist when it comes to clothes, I do appreciate having less things to choose from in the morning as I get ready for my day.

Are you planning on de-cluttering anything this year? What are your most useful de-cluttering strategies?