Our Solution to an Overstuffed Closet

Clutter can be debilitating. We have been somewhat thankful in that both Kristin and I have moved a fair amount in the past five years. Each time we move, we go through our stuff and pare down what we don’t really need anymore. Having to cram all of your personal possessions into a Hyundai Sonata – twice – really make you think about what things you want to keep and what things you don’t.

Clothes, though, always seemed to be a little bit elusive during these moves. Thankfully, we’ve employed the same trick every year to help us keep our wardrobes relatively lean. This helps us free up closet space. Having less clutter in your house has positive psychological effects, too.

No Emotions: Just Facts

The biggest issue with decluttering in general is that it can be an emotional process. When you look at all the clothes you have, you remember when you got them and how it makes you feel. That’s all great and grand, but holding onto things that provide no utility can lead to a ton of useless clutter.

So, when we embark on our decluttering journey we agree: we won’t assess anything by any emotional tie we have to it. Instead, we’ll just deal with cold, boring facts.

We’ll only keep things that actually have utility in our lives – that is, things we actually use.

So Many Shirts

Back in 2005 I went to an event called the Electronics Entertainment Expo, or E3. If you’re a gaming nerd, you’ve heard of it. It’s one of the largest gaming/electronics expos in the world, and it’s a place for developers and producers show off new games, new gaming systems, and other electronics.

I won’t get into that story exactly, but my dad came along with me and my friend when we went. His goal for the visit? Find all the free swag he could while my friend and I got down to business (we were tasked with a specific responsibility by the folks who sent us there).

At the end of the expo, I think I had something like two-dozen t-shirts. Those shirts were great. I loved them, and they had some awesome memories tied to them. Unfortunately, I didn’t really wear them all that often – not even my Starcraft: Ghost t-shirt.

The Hanger Trick

So how do you get rid of something you love? The trick is simple – if you only care about if you wear something, just figure out what you wear. One of the easiest way to do this is to switch around all of your hangers on your clothes. Instead of forward-facing hangers (with the open part toward the back), you have backward-facing hangers where the open part is facing you.

Whenever you wear something, put it on a hanger the ‘normal’ way. After three months, assess your wardrobe again. What have you worn? What have you not worn?

Everything that you haven’t worn? That’s all on the list of things to donate/sell/throw away if it’s in bad shape.

Seasonality and Other Exceptions

One of the biggest issues with this approach is that seasonality still comes into play. If you have a variety of clothes, chances are that part of your wardrobe won’t be worn for a period of several months. It wouldn’t really make sense to get rid of winter clothes that are good and you wear in the winter if you’re doing this in July.

The easiest way to take care of that is to just do the hanger trick again in the winter months.

Likewise, some clothes are pretty situational. I only wear dressier clothes on special occasions, like weddings or if I’m interviewing for a job. I’m not going to get rid of my ties just because I didn’t wear them in three months.

Just because something doesn’t make the cut doesn’t automatically mean it exits my wardrobe; just that it’s a very viable contender. If the only tie to it is emotional, though, it gets donated.

Other Applications

The Hanger Trick works out great for a wardrobe, but you can extend the concept to other areas of your life and belongings as well. If you haven’t used those fancy dishes you got in a year, do you really need to keep them?

Finding ways to reduce your stuff has some great benefits. In addition to potentially being able to sell some things, having less stuff helps you focus on the things that matter more to you. It also means that if you move or want to downsize, it’s much easier to do so.

In the end, stuff that’s not providing value to your life in some meaningful way is just clutter, and I don’t know anybody who’s excited about clutter.

Question:

What tricks do you use to declutter your life?

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7 Comments

  1. I’ve started a new trick for decluttering. When I find an item that I want to get rid of, I stuff it in a bag. If I have no need to remove it from that bag in six months, I’ll get rid of it. The downside to this approach is that I have a bag of crap in my closet for a little while, but it ensures that I only get rid of items that I truly don’t need. I’d hate to get rid of something and then have to buy a replacement later!

    1. Oh that’s a great trick, too – pretty similar, but works on things that can’t fit on hangers lol 🙂 We might do something similar after we move (stuff will have been boxed up for about 5-6 months…when we unpack it all we’ll question: do we really need it??) Thanks for sharing!

      1. Both of these! i also rotate my summer / winter things, with the in between layers basically left year round. Each season as i pull out sweaters and hats or shorts and tank tops i assess if i still fit/like the items.

  2. My wife and I have moved a good deal as well so like you said that really helps cut down on the amount of stuff you have! Nothing like packing it all up, moving into the new house, then deciding why did I ever keep this stuff 🙂

    I agree with Mrs. Picky Pincher, I actually just did this tonight while moving my desk. If I think I might want to keep it but do not use it often, I will pack it up into a box, if the box sits unopen in the storage room for a few months, then obviously I did not need it, so we get rid of it!

    1. Yeah moving – especially cross-country twice like I’ve done in the past five years – really forces you to go through it, either when you pack or when you unpack after experiencing the pain of having to move it all! Hahah

      Thanks for reading and commenting!!

  3. The fact that you moved so much really helps. Try being in a house for 35 years! It’s really hard (especially for the hubby) to get rid of stuff. Since I retired I found time to box up a bunch of stuff and donate it to my church’s annual ‘treasure sale’. I did one room at a time. Of course doing this over the winter when the donation dates didn’t start until June meant some boxes in the house, but it sure felt good to donate. And….I’m not done yet. Time for round #2!

    1. Haha, yeah when my brother and his family moved they’d been in their house for 10 years – I know how stuff can accumulate! Lol

      That’s great that you can donate stuff to a good cause! The worst is just throwing it out; so much stuff ends up being thrown away even though it could be used by other people. Good luck on round 2!

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