Clothes. We all wear them. We usually have a lot of them. And it’s crazy-easy to get entirely too many. But how do you pick what to keep or get rid of?

First, you need to have some idea how to make the decision. We would suggest you start by setting some ground rules, and most people find these reasonable:

  • You shouldn’t have things in your closet that you can’t wear.
  • You shouldn’t have things in your closet that you won’t wear.
  • You shouldn’t have things in your closet that you don’t wear.

To figure out where you stand, we highly suggest that you set aside a couple of hours on a weekend and go through your clothes. If you happen to have multiple closets, just do one at a time. Other than the clothes you wear all the time (those are good – no action necessary), pull each item off the hanger / out of the drawer and try it on.

Yes. Seriously. Try on all your clothes. Each and every item, unless some of them are the same item but just in a different color. Pretend you’re at a department store trying to figure out which of the size 14 pants actually fit, and which are too big / small.

Now ask yourself some questions.

Does it fit? If not, you can’t wear it – and that’s rule #1. If you’re the sort of person that fluctuates up/down in size depending on the season, feel free to pack up some “too small clothes” or “too large clothes” boxes and sock them away in your basement / garage / an empty-looking corner. Do yourself a favor though and write a date on that box. You can deal with it later.

Will you wear it? We’re not talking about the abstract “will I ever wear this?” question here. We’re talking about “are you willing to wear it?” Maybe it’s a pair of pants that’s so hole-y it’s been invited to an audience with the Pope. If that’s your thing, no judgement – but if it’s not, you won’t wear it. And that’s rule #2. If it’s repairable and you’d like to have a box of “stuff to have repaired”, feel free. It can join the “too small” and “too large” boxes wherever you put them – boxes love company. Date this box too.

Do you wear it? This is the big question. And it usually takes more than a weekend to answer. If you’re 100% sure that you don’t wear something, that’s cool – toss it in a “donate” box. This box won’t be going to live with the other boxes; it’ll be going to the thrift store. So tell it to say its goodbyes to the other boxes. For everything you’re not 100% sure about, turn the hangers around backwards. Basically, however you normally hang hangers, flip them around so they face the other way. When you take something off the hanger and hang it back up, put the hanger back the right way. At any time, you’ll be able to look at your closet and know what you’ve worn since the last declutter.

Now wash, rinse, repeat.

Put reminders on your calendar to check back every 90 days, and do that for the next year. At the end of each season, you’ll know what you didn’t wear that season. At the end of the year, you’ll know what you haven’t worn all year. It’s usually safe to just ditch all of them, but you might want to go through and take a look again before you do. Nothing wrong with having three different sweaters for the office’s annual “ugly sweater” contest – as long as that’s an intentional decision on your part.

And if you review the stuff in your closet periodically, you’ll find that you develop a better sense of what you wear, what you don’t, and what you like. This won’t just help you figure out what to keep and what to toss, but over time you’ll likely find that it will help you avoid buying some clothes in the first place. And that’s the ultimate win!

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