12 Reasons We Keep Clothes We Don’t Wear and How to Move Past Them

12 Reasons We Keep Clothes We Don't Wear & How to Move Past Them

In last week’s post I told you about my best trick to purge your closet, plus 6 questions to help you purge and create a wardrobe you love. However, a lot of us, myself included, have a hard time letting go of some of our clothes, even though we no longer love or wear them. So I started looking at the reasons why we keep clothes we don’t wear anymore.

I realized there are some common reasons why we keep clothes we don’t wear anymore. I think a lot of people face these common stumbling blocks when trying to purge their closet. They can make it difficult to let go of what you no longer love and wear and create a minimalist wardrobe you love.

Understanding why it’s hard to let go of clothes you no longer wear is the first step. Once we understand what’s making us want to keep clothes we don’t wear, it easier to move past these mental blocks and effectively purge your closet.

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Why we keep clothes we don’t wear and how to move past them:

12 Reasons We Keep Clothes We Don't Wear & How to Move Past Them

1. The item is new or barely worn and you feel guilty about wasting money on it.

Sometimes you buy something you think you’ll love and wear, but it just doesn’t work for you. Maybe it shrank or lost its shape in the wash. Or it doesn’t match with anything else in your closet. Maybe you bought something trendy, but never feel comfortable in it. Or you wanted something new, but settled for something that was just ok, rather than waiting to find something you love.

Whatever the reason, it’s in your closet but you aren’t wearing it. It’s time to let it go, the money is already spent. Keeping it in your closet will not get the money back. In fact, keeping it will only prolong your negative feelings, making you feel guilty every time you see it. If it’s not something that you love, you are never going to wear it anyways. It’s just taking up space in your closet. Let the item go. Use it as a lesson for how to make better choices when shopping in the future.

2. It’s something you are “supposed” to have in your wardrobe.

Sometimes we allow ourselves to be restricted to someone else’s rules. Maybe you’ve heard there are certain classic wardrobe staples everyone should own, like a little black dress. But when you try on your classic black dress, you realize it actually doesn’t fit quite right. Don’t keep something that doesn’t look and feel great just because it’s a classic staple you should have. If you don’t love the way it looks and feels, you won’t wear it anyways.

Your wardrobe should reflect your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to make your own rules. If you don’t need or want a little black dress, let it go. If having a little black dress fits your taste and lifestyle, but you don’t love or wear the one you have, let it go. Then shop thoughtfully for a new one. Take your time to find a replacement that really suits your body and needs.

Another example of following someone else’s rules is with color. I like to wear a lot of dark neutrals like black, navy and grey. But I had it in my head that wearing mostly neutral, dark colors is against the rules and you should include brighter colors or patterns. But I realized I don’t actually LIKE wearing bright colors or bold patterns.

Let go of trying to follow someone else’s rules and figure out what works for your body, preferences and lifestyle. That’s how you’ll end up with a wardrobe you love!

3. You tried a new trend, but it doesn’t work for your body or life, or is already out of style.

Maybe you bought something trendy to update your wardrobe, but the item isn’t working for your body or life, so you never or rarely wear it. Or the trend quickly passed and it’s already out of style.

Try to figure out what your signature style is, meaning the types of clothes you look and feel best in. Think about your favourite kinds of outfits, or your go-to outfit choice when you want to look and feel great. For me, I feel best in skinny jeans, a longer loose-fitting top, a cardigan and a pretty necklace or scarf to finish it off. That’s my signature style.

Once you figure this out, it’s easier to resist trendy items and stick with what works best for your body and life. Let any trendy stuff go that’s no longer working for you, it’s just taking up space. Figure out your signature style and shop for those kind of items when adding to your wardrobe.

4. Your weight has changed and you have clothes in multiple sizes

I think you should only keep clothes in your closet that fit you right now. Having clothes in sizes that don’t currently fit, adds to the visual clutter in your closet and makes deciding what to wear more difficult. Plus, if your weight change is not something you are happy about, seeing clothes that no longer fit can cause negative feelings.

If you want to keep some clothes in different sizes than you are wearing right now, I recommend being VERY selective about what you keep. Only keep the items that you absolutely LOVE and would feel excited to wear again. Rather than storing them with your current wardrobe, box them up and put them out of sight. Or keep them in a spare closet if you have one.

For example, if you’re planning to lose weight, you’ll probably want to treat yourself to a few new items to celebrate when you do. Only store the items you currently own that you absolutely love, and then add a few new pieces as needed.

The great thing about a minimalist wardrobe is that you don’t need many pieces to have a complete wardrobe. You can easily have a versatile wardrobe with 30 pieces or less. By saving only the pieces you love, and adding in a few new pieces if your weight changes in the future, you’ll still have a functional capsule wardrobe without storing boxes and boxes of clothing in various sizes.

5. You’re keeping an item for a certain type of event or occasion.

Sometimes you have an item you rarely wear, but are keeping “just in case” a certain occasion arises. Instead of keeping something you rarely have occasion to wear, try to think of alternatives you own that you could wear for that occasion, but also wear other times. Versatile pieces are essential to a minimal wardrobe.

For example, I had a few dresses that I only wore when we were on a tropical vacation. Because of the style or cut of them, I didn’t usually wear them at other times. I also had a few dresses and skirts that I could wear regularly and also wear on a tropical vacation. I realized I only need to keep the ones that I could wear for more than one occasion.

Try to limit the things you keep in your wardrobe that are very specific to one event or occasion. Keep things that are versatile enough to work for a variety of different occasions in your life.

6. You’re keeping an item “just in case” or as a back-up.

My thought process was something like “What if I can’t do laundry for 45 days in a row? Shouldn’t I make sure I have enough clothes so I can wear something new for all 45 days?!” In reality, I do some kind of laundry almost every day. And if we ever are without laundry for more time than usual (away on holidays, our washing machine breaks down, etc.) even if I only had 7 shirts, I could wear each one twice and be decently clothed for two weeks.

Another thing I often found myself doing was over stocking. I thought “if I like to wear black t-shirts I better make sure I have 10 so I always have one available!” Again I reminded myself that I can do laundry and have an item clean again very easily.

Sometimes rationally thinking through these “what-if” scenarios was all I needed to do to let go of this scarcity mindset. Think about what you actually need and wear in your wardrobe. Chances are you don’t need as much as you think.12 Reasons We Keep Clothes We Don't Wear & How to Move Past Them

7. You don’t have anything to match or wear with an item.

Sometimes you buy something you like, but for some reason it doesn’t work with the rest of your wardrobe. You try to convince yourself that the item will work…as soon as you find the right pants/bra/sweater/scarf/accessories/whatever.

The key to a smaller, but more loved and useful wardrobe is the ability to mix and match the pieces. Keep things that you can wear in lots of ways, with lots of other things you own. If an item is already causing you trouble because you don’t have the right pieces to make it work, that’s a sign it’s not a good fit for your lifestyle or your wardrobe. Time to let it go. Stick with pieces that easily work with the rest of your wardrobe.

8. Some things look and feel good, but you’re tired of wearing them.

Sometimes you have things that still look and feel good on, but you’re tired of wearing them. This can even happen with things that used to be your favourites. You used to wear an item often, but now find yourself tired of it and not wearing it anymore.

When this happens, it’s ok. You got your use out of the item, now let it go and let someone else love wearing it.

9. You know you don’t wear an item, but you are having a really hard time letting it go.

These items can be tricky. Sometimes the best way around this situation is to make a “maybe box”. Put anything you are having a hard time letting go of in a box. Seal the box and mark it with a date in the future, maybe 2 or 3 months from now. Put a reminder in your phone for that date. If you haven’t thought about or wanted any of the items from the box when the reminder goes, donate the box.

Having a “maybe box” gives you a safety net if you’re worried about purging too ruthlessly and then regretting your decisions.

I often use a “maybe box” when I’m having a hard time letting something go. I have even retrieved a few items from my “maybe box” on occasion. However, each and every thing I’ve brought back from the “maybe box” was always donated shortly after. There was always something that made it go in the “maybe box” to begin with.

Trust your instincts when deciding what to keep or get rid of. But if there are a few items that you’re struggling with, try creating a “maybe box” to take the pressure off yourself. It can ease the fear of regretting any of your purging decisions and let you be bolder with what you are willing to try living without.

10. Something was a gift and you feel guilty getting rid of it.

Remind yourself that whoever gave you the gift gave it to you to make you happy. They wouldn’t want it to be making you feel bad or guilty now. The gift was given, you appreciated it and thanked the giver. What you do with the item now is up to you. If it no longer makes you look and feel great, it’s time to let it go.

11. It’s something that holds sentimental value and is hard to let go.

Be intentional and selective with what you keep for sentimental reasons. Maybe set a limit about how many sentimental items you will keep. Only keep the things that are really important to you.

There are lots of creative ideas you can do with sentimental clothing. There’s t-shirt quilts, framing a small piece of the fabric, transforming a special item into a pillow cover, taking a picture of the item or you wearing the item, etc. If you’re really struggling with too many sentimental items, this might be a way to honour the memory without taking up space in your closet. Just be selective with these ideas too. You don’t want to transfer sentimental clutter from your closet to unfinished projects in your craft room or décor items that add clutter to your home.

12. It’s something you’d wear in your past or future lifestyle

The clothes in your closet should reflect your lifestyle NOW. If your lifestyle is different from what it was 5 or 10 years ago, let go of the clothes from your past lifestyle. The same goes for the future. Don’t fill your closet with things in anticipation of a future lifestyle you want to live. Unless there are concrete plans for what you’ll need and when you’ll need it, make your wardrobe a reflection of your current lifestyle, not one that may or may not occur at some time in the future.

Think about your life, right now. How do you spend your time? What types of clothing do need for those activities? Keep the clothes that work for your life, right now. Be realistic about what you actually need in your wardrobe and get rid of the things that don’t fit with your lifestyle.

 

If you’re having a hard time letting go of clothes you no longer wear or love, I hope this list helps you make some progress purging your wardrobe. Often once you’ve identified the reason why you’re struggling get rid of something, letting it go becomes easier. Check out this post to learn more about the best trick to ruthlessly purge your closet, plus 6 questions to help you create a wardrobe you love.

These are some common reasons we keep clothes we don’t wear. Do you find yourself struggling with any of them? What holds you back from getting rid of clothes you know you don’t love or wear? What has been your biggest struggle when it comes to purging your clothes? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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43 Comments

  1. Ok I totally needed this!! I’m always going through my wardrobe to clear it out but always seem to keep things I don’t need! I’m definitely guilty of keeping gifts because I’d feel bad getting rid of them. Thanks for such a great post. 🙂

    1. Thanks Sarah! Letting go of clothes can be tricky sometimes, I totally understand! Sometimes once we understand WHY it’s hard to let them go, it makes it easier to let go. Thanks for reading, I’m glad you found it helpful!

  2. It is great to hear more and more bloggers/writers/influencers referring to the “why”. We do need to clear that up first, before we start unnecessarily acquiring more stuff, clothes and books at the top of the list. Great tips!

  3. The multiple sizes of clothing is so true! One of the ladies I go to the gym with is down to a size 8 from a size 20 (massive yay’s for her!). And she still has 2 size 20 outfits in her closet. She can’t tell you why she has them. The closest we’ve all come up with is that they’re a reminder to not let herself get that big again.

    1. Wow, good for your friend, that’s amazing! If you’re weight is fluctuating it’s easy to hang on to clothes in different sizes, even if you don’t mean to! I think it’s important to be intentional and take out anything that no longer fits before you add new clothes in a different size.

      In your friend’s case though, if keeping a couple of things to remind her how far she has come and to keep her motivated it maintain a healthier weight, I think that’s great! Even though she no longer wears those items, they are serving a purpose to keep her motivated. As long as they are a positive reminder for her and it’s only a couple of things, if it works for her, that’s great! Thanks for reading and for sharing 🙂

    1. Yes, those are tricky ones and I think a lot of us hang on to clothes for those reasons! Sometimes acknowledging WHY you’re keeping stuff you no longer wear is enough to give yourself permission to let them go. Thanks for reading, I’m glad you found it helpful!

  4. Haha. I totally related to this today. Ive been putting this off for months. I finally sorted everything the other day with the intention of getting rid, but theyve ended up back in my bed draw 😂 Ive done exactly the same with my little boys clothes that hes outgrowing. I cant bring myself to get rid of his baby clothes!! 😒

    1. Yes, even with the best of intentions some of these roadblocks can make it really difficult to let things go! Hopefully recognizing WHY you’re having a hard time letting things go will make it easier to actually give yourself permission to get rid of some things. Thanks for reading!

    1. Yes, those things can be hard to let go of for sure! Just remember that the money has already been spent, if you’re not wearing it, it’s just adding clutter to your closet and making you feel guilty about not wearing an expensive item. It can be hard to let go in the moment, but it feels so much better once it’s gone! Thanks for reading! 🙂

  5. My biggest problem is I have gained weight and they don’t fit….but….of corse I think I will get into them again. NOT

    1. Weight changes can certainly make things challenging. I think it’s best to only keep the clothes that fit you RIGHT NOW in your closet. You can store your favorite items in different sizes for when/if you need them again. But that way you feel good knowing everything in your closet looks and feels great on you. Thanks for reading!

  6. One of the smartest approaches to a common problem I’ve read recently. You’ve helped me think of everything that is sensible when I approach hangups that keep my closet too stuffed. Job well done. Thanks.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words Liz! I really appreciate it! I’m so glad to hear this post helped you. I hope it will make it easier to let go of things you don’t love or wear in your closet. Thanks for reading and thanks again for your support!

  7. I’ve been purging my dressing room, lots of clothing for occasions- yoga, gym, cruising, evening, shopping, house and garden clothes etc… Literally bags of clothes gone, not replacing them but still more to purge – the ‘hard’ things, thats where your brilliant article will help. The reasons why we keep things- how obvious but have not read this before and it makes perfect sense. Am looking forward to revisiting my clothing armed with your 12 reasons! Thankyou Melissa for writing this inspirational and commonsense approach to minimising a lifelong accumulation of clothing clutter.
    P

    1. Wow, that’s awesome Linda! Good for you!! I’m so glad you found my article helpful. You’re totally right, clothes have a funny way of accumulating and it can be tricky to let some of the “hard” ones go. Sometimes once we figure out WHY we are keeping things, it’s makes it easier to let them go. Thanks for reading and sharing your progress. I’m so happy I was able to help and inspire you!

  8. I read this article this morning and got rid of quite a few cloths in my closet. I’m sure if I did a second round I’d find more stuff to depart from!
    Thank you for the insdpiration!!!

    1. Thanks Megan. Good for you for letting go of more than half your wardrobe, that’s awesome! What prompted you to do your big declutter? I’m always interested to hear what inspires people to take the plunge! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who had too many back up items! 😉 Thanks for reading 🙂

  9. I have done 3 separate Konmari passes. Each time I find more that just don’t spark joy. The amount is smaller but still more to cull. I’m at the point that everything I have sparks joy in the sense that it fits, looks, good, great shape BUT…I have so many in that category that the volume is not sparking joy.
    Ex: I have 4 pairs of knee high boots, 2 pairs of Uggs (old comfy for heavy snow and new cute shoe boot comfy cuteness). I have 11 pairs of short boots all colors and good brands (Born, Frye, Ralph Lauren) hiking boots, water shoes, flip flop TEVA, Keens, 2 running, gym show, several Keds 4 Sandels. Over all near 40 pairs of shoes. I tend to wear my cognac Frye and black combat boots the most. Should I just cut the number in half just to get the number down. I’m heading towards ‘cozy minimalism’ and think 40’pairs of foot wear is too much. Today was the first day all winter that I wore the tall gray boots.

    My question is do you get rid of nice well fitting items for the sake of reducing volume?

    1. This is such a good question Susan, and a really tricky part of decluttering. It can be hard to decide what to do with things that look and feel good, but you just have too many. I think when you say the volume you have left is not sparking joy, that’s your answer. All the “stuff” we have in our homes and closets adds weight to our lives. Even if it’s neatly organized and out of sight, it’s still there and weighing on our mind.

      If the amount of clothing and shoes you have in your closet is causing you stress, or even just not bringing you joy, I think it would be worth it to try to reduce it further. You could even try boxing some of it up and storing it somewhere outside of your closet. Set a reminder for yourself for a few months in the future. If you haven’t needed, wanted, or even thought about the things in the box you could donate them and feel confident that you won’t miss them. This would be a great thing to try with your shoes. Box up half of them and store them somewhere with a reminder to revisit them in 3 months. See if having fewer items makes you feel happier and more at peace with your closet in the meantime. If at the end of 3 months, you haven’t needed or wanted the shoes, get rid of them!

      It can be really hard to get rid of things that are in great condition and fit you well, but if you’re not wearing them often anyways, they are just adding clutter to your closet. Keep the things you love and wear often. I hope this helps. I’d love to hear an update about what you decide to do and how it goes! Thanks for reading 🙂

  10. Great post, I’m going to have another go at purging this Easter weekend. I often go to de-clutter my wardrobe and end up only getting rid of one or 2 items! my wardrobe is bursting at the seams! One thing I’m trying is that I’ve put all the hangers one way and then change it the other way if I’ve worn it. Those that have not changed after 6 months are going! I did this in January and there are still so many things I’ve not worn. This post has definitely helped! Thank-you 🙂

    1. Turning your hangers around is an awesome way to see what you actually wear on a regular basis. I’m glad the post has helped as well! I find letting go of clothes can be a tricky thing for a lot of us. Good luck as you do another purge this weekend, I’d love to hear how it goes! Thanks for reading 🙂

  11. I find it helpful to think of people that WOULD wear and enjoy the clothes that I don’t. Lots of thrift stores are thrilled to get stylish clothing, and many put the proceeds directly back into the community. It always makes me feel good to drop off a trunk-full of unneeded clothing, and they can usually give you a receipt to use as a tax deduction! It’s a win-win for all parties!😊

    1. That’s such a great mindset Dawn! It does make it easier to let go of clothes you aren’t wearing when you think about the people who will benefit from them. Thanks for reading and for sharing your excellent advice!

  12. Your list inspires me to further declutter my wardrobe. The comment about clothing for the present so valid. That’s my weak spot – forget I no longer need business type outfits. Thank you.

    1. That’s great Cynthia! I’m glad you found it helpful! It took me a long time to let go of my work clothes as well. Not only had I invested a lot of money in building that area of my wardrobe while I was working outside the home, but it also required some mental letting go of that part of my life. Thanks for reading!

  13. I would have one more category: I love this item and don’t want to wear it in case it gets ruined. I have many items I love, but rarely wear because they are “too special” or “too nice.” My life revolves around going to a job where I might be outside loading boxes to inside the office in airconditioning answering emails and so I dress to lower common denominator never quite feeling “put together” but then again never wanting to look overdressed. As a minimalist, I don’t want to purchase new things only to find they don’t fit my lifestyle but I have yet to find a look or style that works for tropical weather/indoor/outdoor/professional mostly male workplace. (I am the a rare female missionary bush pilot.)

    1. Wow, what an interesting career! That is another good reason why clothes sit unworn. My philosophy is to wear my favourite items and enjoy them. If they get wrecked or damaged, I’ll be sad, but at least I got a chance to wear and enjoy them. If you aren’t wanting to do this, perhaps another solution would be to put together a work clothes capsule wardrobe, with pieces carefully selected to work for you job and make you feel good as well. And wear your nicer clothes during your off time. It may take some thinking, planning and searching, to find items that will meet your requirements, but it’s an idea! Good luck as you figure out what will work for you. Thanks for reading and for sharing!

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