5 Good Things You’ll Get When You Clear Out Your Closet


This post was originally published in May, 2011.

Our new house is 100 years old and spacious closets are not among its assets, so I decided to edit our clothing.

With kids’ clothing, of course, it’s easy: it either fits or it doesn’t.  With adults, there is so much psychological baggage weighing us down:

  • Oh, that was from my thin days, but I’ll get there again.
  • My grandmother gave me that.
  • I spent too much money on that.
  • That reminds me of when I was young and carefree.
  • I’ve only worn that once.
  • One day I’m going to get the job I’ve always wanted and I’ll need that.

It’s complicated. But only if you let it be.

I feel fantastic after having dropped off seven bags of my husband’s and my clothing and shoes to the Salvation Army. Getting rid of the stuff was easier than I thought, and I am still reaping the good feeling after-effects.

Yet I still dread getting rid of things sometimes, so I thought I would write down some of the reasons why I was glad I did.

So here is what you’ll get when you give:


1. Money: no more buying stuff you already have

Even though it’s great practice to check our closets before we go shopping, sometimes we don’t plan to buy clothes. (Hello, Target!)  That’s why it pays to regularly go through our things.

My husband discovered in a storage room four pairs of good shoes he had completely forgotten about. In the meantime, he complained about not having any shoes and we even bought some more. When you have too many things, you can’t keep track of them and they get lost or forgotten. So what’s the use of having them?

In the old days, people wore one pair of shoes until the soles got worn out. Then they went to the cobbler, had the soles replaced, and wore the same pair of shoes until the soles got worn out. I think many of us would do well to replace shoe racks and self-consciousness with a dose of old-fashioned frugality.

2. Space: your house will feel bigger

Overstuffed closets and basements make us feel cramped and closed in.  Some people get so overwhelmed that they feel they need a bigger house. My aunt built an addition on her house so she could create a walk-in closet. Some people just love clothes. That’s their thing.

But paring down your belongings can mean:

  • Life is simpler
  • You have more breathing space
  • You spend less time organizing and cleaning
  • You can easily fit into a smaller, less expensive house if you want or need to move

Just the visual of having space around our things can give us a big sigh of relief.

3. Peace of mind: the risks are relatively low

Even if you don’t shop at thrift stores, rummage sales, or discounters like Marshall’s, clothing these days is relatively inexpensive.

Let’s say you realize later that you really needed something that you tossed.  Chances are you can go get another without too much damage. (But I suspect this won’t happen, if you check out the guidelines in how to clear out your closet.)

If you buy more expensive clothes, then you’ll save money by investing in classic rather than trendy pieces. And since no one needs a closetful of white blouses, you’ll save space too. (Even though I love whimsical colorful clothes, I think it’s time for me to move in the Frenchwoman direction.)

4. Ease: stop wrangling clothes and storage bins

If you’ve got teetering piles of turtlenecks like I used to have, then you know that some inevitably end up smushed and forgotten at the back of the closet. Sometimes my hanging clothes have been so tight that pulling them apart to see what I had equalled an upper body workout.

If you have to spill out to another closet in the house, getting what you need is even more onerous. So you end up wearing the same stuff over and over and feeling yucky or sorry for yourself. Which brings me to my last point.

5. A feel-good rush: without the aerobic exercise

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin says that if you need to self-medicate, clean out a closet. I agree. After filling the trunk with bags of clothes that I was hanging on to for dubious reasons, I felt so free and light. I kept only the things that fit me or made me feel good.

We change more quickly than we think we do — our shapes, our tastes, our outlooks. Clothes can be a powerful vehicle for self-expression, but what if they no longer reflect who we are?


I love looking across the room at my new closet, with slivers of air between the hangers and three short piles of folded clothing on the shelf. I even organized the hanging clothing according to color. Silly? Maybe. Fun? Yes.

Do you feel good when you get rid of clothes? Do you think it saves you money?

p.s.  The next step: How to Clear Out Your Closet

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  • Little Linz March 15, 2015, 5:20 pm

    Ok I need help! Having purged my closets I decided not to buy anything else I havent been to the mall or shopping online for clothes! However, I now find im buying more food it’s almost as if I’m subconsciously compensating for not buyin clothes!!! Have you ever found a similar issue? How do you get over the urge to shop? Lx

    • Amy March 18, 2015, 1:36 pm

      Hi Little Linz,

      It sounds like you have the shopping bug. Try to refocus your energy away from spending toward a hobby or volunteer activity that keeps you challenged — and so engaged that you won’t have time to shop!

      Good luck,

  • our website January 12, 2015, 10:11 am

    I donate all the clothes I haven’t’ worn for a year. That way, even if it has a sentimental value, it’s easier to give it away and I feel good, because I help someone.

  • Wendy June 28, 2013, 4:21 pm

    You are so right. I cleaned out our closets two years ago when we moved and a few months ago when we moved again. I must have dropped off 10 or more bags full of clothes and shoes we no longer wear, but that still have a bit of use in them. A few pieces that I don’t wear (or hardly wear) didn’t get tossed because of sentimental value, but sometimes it’s important to hang on to those too.
    Just today I read a blog post about the emotional archive/personal archeology that our clothes can represent… You can read it here:

    • Amy June 28, 2013, 8:40 pm

      Hi Wendy,

      Thanks for the thoughtful article on the sentimental value of some clothing (like birthing gowns, wedding dresses or military uniforms). I totally agree that there are exceptions.

      Take care,

  • Shannon July 25, 2012, 1:57 pm

    Great post! I’m currently dealing with a more limited wardrobe due to my 2nd pregnancy, but I’m still trying to be more conscious about what I decide to add to my closet. I’m an avid thrift shopper, but low prices can lead to major closet clutter — especially since we are blessed with a large closet. With that much room, it’s easy to buy too much.

    I hang all of my clothes and sort all of them by type (shirts, dresses, skirts) and by color. Once I took the time to arrange my clothes by color, it was simple to keep it up. It helps me so much when I’m figuring out what I need to purchase! “Okay, I already have three purple tops, so I probably don’t need another one… ”

    I just found your blog recently, and am enjoying it immensely! Thanks for the encouragement to live simply and frugally!


    • Amy August 1, 2012, 9:29 pm

      Hi Shannon,

      Welcome, it’s so good to have you here! I totally agree that thrift shopping has its downsides, in that we often buy too much. I love your color-coordinated system. I might need to try that…

      Take care and thank you for taking the time to write in,

  • April May 18, 2011, 9:35 pm

    Love this post!

    • Amy May 20, 2011, 11:33 am

      Thank you for saying so, April!


  • Amy May 18, 2011, 3:29 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for the tip about the hangers! Easy, non-emotional way to keep track of what gets packed away or not.


  • Jenny May 17, 2011, 10:24 pm

    This is a great post. It is so true, you only end up wearing your favorites over and over again. I heard someone say that they put all of their hanging clothes hangers the wrong way…then, every time they wear something they turn the hanger hook the right way. If they haven’t worn it within one year…it goes to Salvation Army!

  • Jen @ Jen Spends May 17, 2011, 6:24 pm

    I did this exact thing a couple of months ago, and it felt GREAT! I totally blew away my wardrobe. I have a virtually empty dresser and a half empty closet. I had been clinging to my expensive work wardrobe for some unknown reason, but I realized that even if I did for some reason need those clothes again, they wouldn’t fit anyway – I’m down about 45 pounds from where I was then. I replaced my old wardrobe with high quality pieces that I got for cheap on clearance, and they all mix and match so I don’t feel overwhelmed trying to decide what to wear every day. I never had a lot of clothes growing up, and it was especially tough during my teenage years…so once I had money, I kind of overcompensated. Now I just want simplicity!

    • Amy May 18, 2011, 3:29 pm

      Thank Jen, for your input. Yes, our sizes tend to change, and I’ve noticed that, after several pregnancies, my shape has changed. And I agree — after going all out in my earlier years, I prefer simplicity now.

      Take care,