This post is all about the common reasons we keep clothes we don’t wear or love. And how to move past these common challenges to simplify and declutter your wardrobe.
Many of us (myself included!) sometimes struggle to let go of clothes, even those we know we no longer love or wear.
And in noticing this, I realized there are some common reasons why we keep clothes we don’t wear anymore. Common stumbling blocks that are easy to get tripped up on when trying to purge your closet.
And these common reasons that make it difficult to let go of clothes you no longer love or wear can be what’s holding you back from creating a simplified wardrobe you love.
Knowing why you’re holding on makes letting go easier
Understanding why it’s hard to let go of clothes you no longer wear is the first step. Often, once you understand what’s making you want to keep clothes you don’t wear or love, it’s easier to move past these mental blocks and effectively purge your closet.
*This post contains affiliate links. Click here to read our full disclosure policy.*
Why we keep clothes we don’t wear and 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.
Remind yourself that 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 you love, you are rarely or never going to wear it anyways. It’s just taking up space in your closet. Let the item go and 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
It’s easy to allow yourself to be restricted by 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’ll use myself as an example. I like to wear a lot of dark neutrals, like black and grey. But I used to believe that wearing mostly neutral, dark colors was against “the rules”. And I should include brighter colors or patterns in my wardrobe.
But since simplifying my wardrobe, I’ve realized I don’t actually like wearing bright colors or bold patterns. And now I stick to what I like instead of following someone else’s real or perceived rules.
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 never really worked for your body or life, so you never or rarely wore it. Or the trend quickly passed and it’s already out of style.
Try figuring out what your signature style is. Meaning the types of clothes you look and feel your 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 and let go of trendy items and stick with what works best for your body and life.
Figure out your signature style. Then, let any trendy stuff go that’s no longer working for you and your style preferences. It’s just taking up space.
And remember your signature style and what works best for you when you’re shopping or adding new items to your wardrobe.
4. Your weight has changed and you have clothes in multiple sizes
Try to 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, be very selective about what you keep. Only keep the items that you absolutely love and would feel excited to wear again.
Then, if possible, 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 in a smaller size that you absolutely love. 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.
But 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 smaller wardrobe.
For example, I had a few dresses 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
Keeping things, especially clothes, “just in case” is a common stumbling block many of us face.
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 overstocking.
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 “just in case” or “what-if” scenarios is all you need 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.
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 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 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 just 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 use a “maybe box”.
Put anything you are having a hard time letting go of in a box. Seal the box, put it out of sight somewhere 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 in 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 of clothing from my “maybe box” on occasion. However, each and every item 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.
Try to trust your instincts and your first reaction 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 decluttering 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
There’s no question that sentimental items can be some of the more difficult items to declutter.
But try to be intentional and selective with what you keep for sentimental reasons. Maybe set a limit for how many sentimental items you will keep. Then, only keep the things that are really important to you.
There are lots of creative ideas you can do with sentimental clothing.
There are 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, some of these ideas might be ways to honour the memory without taking up space in your closet.
But remember to 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. Or wished you lived.
Unless there are concrete future 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 you 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.
How to let go of clothes you don’t wear or love
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 to get rid of something, letting it go becomes easier.
This post covers the most common reasons we keep clothes we don’t wear. Use this list to figure out why you’re struggling to let go of some of your clothes you don’t love or wear.
Then, once letting go becomes easier, you can start decluttering and simplifying your wardrobe to create a wardrobe you love and that serves you well.
Do you find yourself struggling with any of these common reasons that make decluttering your clothes challenging? 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.