How to Downsize Your Wardrobe in 5 Simple Steps

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downsize wardrobe to a small closet with hanging clothes

When you decide to declutter your closet, it’s normal to have feelings of both excitement and overwhelm. Thinking of how to downsize your wardrobe can be exhausting.

Let’s go back to 2014. The carpet was barely visible under the mounds of clothes in the spare room of our condo. I had gathered up containers from all corners of the house and dumped their contents on the floor. Now I just sat in silence as a feeling of doubt washed over me.

When it came to my things, there was an enormous gap between my actual life and the life I wanted to live. So I decided to start the emotional journey of downsizing my wardrobe. It was both life-changing and a bit terrifying, but I made the choice to start right there on my floor, drowning in a pile of clothes.

5 Simple Steps to a Closet You’ll Love

Since that day when I made the decision to take control of my wardrobe, I’ve turned my self-doubt into a passion for small living. Particularly within my closet.

Here are five steps to learning how to downsize your wardrobe and create a simplified closet.

Read the article or watch the video below.

1. How to Downsize Clothes: Find Your “Why”

The first step in the decluttering process is to define your purpose. This is your “why”, and the motivation to begin (and continue) to downsize to a minimalist wardrobe.

So ask yourself this – what problem is downsizing your wardrobe going to help you solve?

Your “why” could be:

  • To live on a sailboat, travel the country in an RV, or live in a tiny house to simplify your life
  • To move to a smaller house to save money for travel, pay off debt, or fulfill another dream
  • To make room for a new baby, or turn your ‘junk’ room into an office to work from home

Whatever the reason for taking this journey into a minimalist lifestyle, it has to be a goal that is a priority for you.

2. Set Realistic Goals

Whether you own 100 pairs of shoes or 10, the emotional process of discarding parts of your wardrobe is a long one.

shorts folded and organized in basket

Start downsizing your closet as soon as you can to limit frustration and allow yourself time to rejoice in the small victories.

Getting Started Downsizing Clothes

I began seriously downsizing about a year and a half before we planned to leave our home in Colorado and begin our adventure of living tiny. At the time, I had a lot of clutter in my closet.

Our closet (of which I held the majority of storage space) was packed. It was difficult to grab any piece of clothing without generating a tidal wave of clothes. The dresser was overflowing, and the hall closet was hemorrhaging hats, purses (lord the purses), shoes, and outerwear.

As humans, a change as drastic as getting rid of 50% or more of your clothes requires time to process. Things that might seem impossible to part with one day will mean less to you further down the road, especially as you hone your skills to understand what each item of clothing means to you. Is it actually functional? Or is it a sentimental clothing item? The more you dig into the reasons you struggle to let go of items of clothing, the easier downsizing will be in the long run! 

Set Your Primary Goal

Before we get into how you’ll decide what to put in your keep pile, there’s one main goal you’ll need to set. 

Number of Clothes. Decide on an approximate number of items that you want to end up with in your new closet. Don’t make your goal too aggressive. The last thing you want is to get frustrated and abandon your downsize altogether. Start with a flexible, achievable number.

Write down how many items of each type of clothing you need and come up with a number. This number can change as you get deeper into the process, but having something to shoot for will help keep you on track and hold you accountable.

Creating a smaller wardrobe is a journey. It’s just not a short one. So keep at it!

READ NEXT: You may also want to consider a capsule wardrobe when you are downsizing. Learn more about creating a minimalist capsule wardrobe.

3. Define a Downsizing Strategy

So many people are on a mission to tidy their lives. It has become quite the trend lately. From Marie Kondo’s Netflix series to the tons of articles on things you ‘must’ buy to organize your life.

Whether you buy into Marie’s Konmari method or other approaches to decluttering, you need to define your strategy. Set some rules and live by them throughout your downsizing process. A few I follow are below.

  1. Doesn’t fit or is uncomfortable.
  2. No longer my personal style (I haven’t worn it in the past year).
  3. It no longer fits my lifestyle.
  4. Damaged or worn beyond repair (allow one month to address or fix any repairable issues).
  5. Don’t love it (these are tougher, but I usually ask myself if I would buy the item again today).

I try to hold myself accountable to this list, but the answers aren’t always black and white.

By diving deeper into your emotional attachments to your items, it will become easier to be consistent with your decisions.

Here are a few important questions you can ask yourself.

  • Am I struggling with letting it go because it’s sentimental?
  • Do I feel guilty about getting rid of it because I’ve never worn it?
  • Am I keeping it “just-in-case”?

These questions will help you decipher if each clothing item is serving you in the life you are living now.

Setting a Weekly Goal

Weekly goals were a game-changer for me. The nearby consignment shop would take 20 pieces of clothing a week. I held myself accountable for dropping off the max amount of unwanted clothing items.

I highly recommend a measurable, achievable goal to keep the process moving.

The consignment shop goal also encouraged me to reevaluate my wardrobe on a regular basis. Every seven days, to be exact. Things I was attached to a few months ago would start to make less sense if I wasn’t wearing them. Eventually, I would run out of excuses for the things I didn’t need and off to the consignment store they went. 

PRO TIP: Consignment stores are great for selling clothes in good condition. This allows you to make a small commission on your clothes, and you can add that extra cash to your travel fund, savings, etc.

4. Beginning to Love Your Wardrobe

Now you’re at the peak of the journey (finally!) The more I got rid of, the more I could actually see my clothes and enjoy opening my closet.

Once you get to this stage, it becomes motivating to continue the process because you are starting to see the benefits of having less stuff.

Valuable space has been cleared, and less clothing is able to hide at the back of your closet. It also becomes less difficult to avoid buying new clothes. After all, you spent a lot of time and hard work curating your closet. The last thing you want to do is junk it up again!

Here are a few tips to help further organize and structure your wardrobe so you can easily see everything.

Downsizing Wardrobe Tips

  • Choose hangers in one style/color (this is an easy way to create an aesthetically pleasing closet, allowing you to focus on your clothes).
  • Organize clothing from light to dark to create a closet that’s easy on the eyes.
  • Use containers in drawers and the closet to create separation and organization.
  • Learn to fold, this seems silly, but it was a game-changer for me and really keeps items in order.
  • Avoid packing away seasonal items, so you have access to your entire closet year round.

Dive into folding, organizing, and more in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. You can watch the Netflix series for a little motivation, but I highly recommend reading the book.

kindle book of the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo shown on iPhone

Besides being a huge motivator to start your downsizing process, there are some great tips and tricks that I still use years after reading this book. Thanks to Marie for teaching me that even folding your underwear is a wonderful thing!

5. Maintain Your Minimalist Wardrobe

It’s been over five years since we moved out of our condo. Since then, I have lived with my in-laws, in a motorhome, on a sailboat, and in a travel trailer. Throughout this time, I have continued to curate my wardrobe. Creating and keeping a minimalist wardrobe is something you have to continue to work at.

READ NEXT: Find more info on curating a small wardrobe in our post, Want a Minimalist Wardrobe? Here’s What to Get Rid of.

Our lives are constantly shifting. We change jobs, move, build families, change hobbies. What’s in our closet space should evolve with our lifestyle.

woman in hammock free of cluttered closet

I’m sure there will always be surprises when it comes to what I decide to eliminate from my wardrobe. Items I once thought were necessities I may not reach for next year or clothes I used to love just aren’t practical for my nomadic lifestyle.

The goal is to continue learning from this process and always enjoy opening your closet, no matter the size.

Final Thoughts on How to Downsize Your Closet

I hope these tips have been helpful or inspired you in some way to take a step toward downsizing your closet. Remember to define your “why” and set realistic goals to keep yourself motivated to continue striving for a clutter-free wardrobe.

READ NEXT: Check out more tips on how to get rid of clothes in our article on How to Be Ruthless Decluttering Clothes.

Want to learn more about downsizing?

For more on decluttering your stuff and downsizing your life, view our complete guide.

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pin of close up of tanks and long sleeve shirts hanging in closet

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