How To Get Rid Of Old Clothes Even If You Hate Letting Go

Your closet will thank you.

Originally Published: 
Inspired by Marie Kondo, find tips for getting rid of clothes and how to decide which clothes to get...

Getting rid of clothes regularly is just good closet-keeping practice. It helps you remember forgotten pieces, like those pushed to the back of your closet as seasons change; you see your catalog with fresh eyes, AKA equipped with buzzy styling tricks from fashion TikTok; and you make room (and maybe extra cash) for other pieces you’ll actually love.

For some, the urge to purge closets and homes is pretty frequent (in my case, whenever I’m procrastinating). But while some people easily toss items that no longer bring them joy à la Marie Kondo, not everyone feels that way. It’s not easy to gauge how to decide what clothes to get rid of. And if you need some tips on letting go, read on.

Per psychology, there are two main reasons why people hang on to items they no longer need. Dr. Frank Niles, PhD, a social scientist and life and business strategist, told NBC that one reason is “our need for safety, security, and stability.” Basically, you can't stand the idea of tossing something you might one day wish you had — like that little black dress you haven't worn in years.

Another reason is nostalgia: many people feel connected to old clothing for sentimental reasons, and it results in a buildup within your dresser and on your shelves. I’m sure you’ve felt this at on point or another: romanticizing an item you wore for a special occasion, even if it no longer fits, or holding onto pieces that remind you of loved ones.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry: I compiled 16 tips to help you get started on your purging journey. Trust me, you’ll be an expert closet cleaner in no time.


Take Everything Out & Look At Each Item Individually

Photo courtesy of Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max

I know, I know. It sounds overwhelming. But Marie Kondo swears by it. Put aside a few hours of your time, then take absolutely everything out of your closet and dresser, then put it all in a huge pile on the bed or the floor. Then go through everything — even the little stuff. A huge pile you can't ignore will force you to stop putting it off and just do.


Start With The Obvious Stuff


If you point-blank refuse to try the above method, try this, intead. Start with the obvious items, like clothing that’s ripped, stained, or very worn. There's no reason to keep a pit stained T-shirt or jeans with ripped-off belt loops. Starting small like this can feel less overwhelming. (Make sure to look into where to recycle items of clothing that you can't donate.)


Organize Into Piles

YouTube/Will & Grace

The key to getting through a daunting amount of clothes is to stay organized. Make several piles: ‘sell,’ ‘donate,’ and ‘keep’ — plus, a ‘maybe’ pile you can go back to later.


Try On Everything You Want To Keep

Screenshot via HBO Max

You might be convinced you’ll wear those jeans again one day — but do they even still fit? Try every article of clothing on to see if you still like it or if it even still fits at all. If it doesn't immediately make you feel great, take it off and put it in the pile of things to get rid of.


Ask Yourself These Two Questions

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Ask yourself these questions: First, when is the last time you wore it? A good rule is: if you haven't worn something in over a year, you can likely get rid of it.

Question two: Does it bring you joy? This is straight from the Marie Kondo playbook and it’s a game-changer. Does that top bring you joy, or are you keeping it because you feel guilty selling it after one use? Does that dress bring you joy, or are you just keeping it because it was a gift? Does that tee bring you joy, or do you wear it because it’s there? You deserve clothes that make you feel joyful.


Make A ‘Maybe’ Box

Photo courtesy of Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max

Once you’ve finished your ‘maybe’ pile, put these items in a ‘maybe’ box. Seal it up and mark it with a date a few months from now, then set a reminder in your phone to look through the box on that day.

The box serves as a safety net: you're not getting rid of it yet, but you’re having a trial run on what it would be like if you did. If you decide to wear whatever’s in it during those months, keep it. If not, say goodbye.


Make A Special Space For Mementos

Disney+/Hannah Montana

There will be items you keep for sentimental reasons, even though you won’t wear them — pieces passed down from loved ones (your grandma’s church hat) or that you wore on a special occasion (heels from your wedding day). Create a special spot to store them, so they don’t gather dust or take up prime real-estate in your closet. Find a nice memory box and put it somewhere else in you house — doesn’t even have to be in a closet.


Focus On What You Want To Keep, Instead Of What You Don’t

Screenshot via HBO Max

This is a tip from Kondo's book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Ask yourself, “What do I want to keep?” instead of asking, “What do I want to get rid of?”

According to the Netflix alum, going into the cleaning process focusing on the items you truly love makes it easier to say goodbye to those you don’t. It’s a simple mindset shift that really works.


Consider The Rule Of One

Screenshot via Netflix

It’s nice to have duplicates of some items, like extra white t-shirts or a basic black tights — especially, if you wear them more often than you have time to wash them. But if you have doubles of things you barely use, it might be best to sell one. If you have two floral dresses that are almost identical, get rid of the one you don't like as much.


Visualize The End Result

YouTube/THe Devil Wears Prada

Why did you decide to declutter to begin with? Was it because your closet is a mess and you want it to be more aesthetically pleasing? Yep, that’s what I thought. Stay focussed on how lovely the vibes in there will be once you’ve got excess space and can actually move your hangers without putting your back into it. The end vision will help motivate you.


Identify Your Staples

YouTube/13 Going On 30

TikTok is a big fan of capsule wardrobes: a streamlined set of core pieces that make up the foundation of your wardrobe. While you don’t have to reduce your closet to just staples, when you’re tossing pieces, make sure you hold on to pieces that will stand the test of time, even if they may feel “boring” at first glance. But note: they should still make you feel joyful when you wear them — either through fit, texture, or color.


Consider Damage

Netflix/New York Minute

Your go-to layering turtleneck that’s now brown under the arms? Your favorite black leggings that are thinning at the thighs or covered in pills? It’s time to say goodbye. Bite the bullet and purchase a replacement. It’s time.


Sell Things That Are Still In Good Condition

Screenshot via HBO Max/Gossip Girl

That collection of rejected bridesmaid dresses, is a wad of cash just waiting to happen. Try sites like Vestiaire, The Real Real, Poshmark, and more to make a profit. Y2K-era items are especially trendy on the resale market RN (I’m talking to you Millennials).


Take Breaks

YouTube/The Princess Diaries 2

Cleaning can be totally draining. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break and come back to it later. If you feel overwhelmed, you’ll probably be less likely to make sound choices about what to give away and what to keep, anyway.


Rejoice In Donation

Netflix/New York Minute

Your favorite dress from last season is going to become someone else’s favorite dress this season. You have the power to make a stranger happy (and so well-dressed). Whether it’s a vintage T-shirt, cashmere sweater, or prom dress, there are plenty of thrift stores, consignment shops, and charity programs that will those pieces with open arms.


Remember, It’s Just Stuff

Photo courtesy of Craig Blankenhorn / HBO Max

At the end of the day, it’s just stuff. Your health, happiness, family, and friends are paramount and material things are just that: things. Even if you end up regretting it, the internet is filled with dupes. And once you see the space it frees up, chances are you won’t miss it anyway.

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