21 Signs It's Time to Declutter Your Closet

Dresses hanging in closet
Jacqui Miller/Stocksy United

Most everyone agrees that closets should be cleaned out fairly regularly, but when is the best time to get rid of clothes? Life provides us with lots of good opportunities to reevaluate our wardrobes, so if any of these 21 signs resonate with you, take that as a cue to start decluttering.

1. The season has changed.

If it’s warm outside but your wool pants and fuzzy sweaters are making your closet look like the dead of winter, you’re overdue for a cleaning session.

Organizing clothes by season can really help cut down on clutter, and it’s especially important for people with small closets who can’t fit four seasons of clothes into their closet at once.

If you’ve never rotated your closet seasonally, here’s how to organize your clothes in summer, winter, spring, and fall.

2. Because it’s a mess.

If your closet looks like it was taken from the set of a movie about a lazy, spoiled teenager, you probably already know you need to clean it out. If you’re overwhelmed by the mere thought of it, here’s a complete closet organization checklist.

3. You start working.

If you’re starting your first job or going back to work after a break, you’ll need to evaluate your wardrobe to make sure it’s work-appropriate.

4. You start working more hours.

People who work a lot of hours need very efficient closets. As you declutter, move your work clothes to the easiest-to-reach spot in your closet.

Consider establishing a work “uniform” (like dress pants, a button-down shirt, and ballet flats), at least for stressful Mondays. Third, choose simple, time-saving outfits; many women find dresses easier to wear than separates.

5. You stop working.

Maybe you’re retiring, or just  moving from a formal office to working at home or in a more casual environment.

If you’re left with a closet full of smart slacks and crisp button-downs that you will never wear again, it’s a good time to donate those items to someone who needs them.

6. You begin going to the gym.

When you take up a new activity requiring new clothes, support your good habit by making it easier to retrieve and wear your workout gear. Dedicate an entire “fitness drawer” to gym clothes, and separate your sports bras and workout socks from their dressier counterparts.

7. You stop going to the gym.

No longer using the clothes in the “fitness drawer?” Then free up that space for other items, and while you’re at it, see what other unworn clothing is lurking in your closet.

8. You add a new member of the household.

Having a baby? Sharing space with a new partner or roommate? Clear out some room by removing any closet clutter you can find.

9. You begin a hobby or stop doing a hobby.

Whether you’re giving up skiing or getting really into historical reenacting, a change in hobbies can leave you with a lot of unworn clothes or a lot of new clothes that don’t fit easily into your closet. Take this opportunity to sort through your closet and decide what stays and what goes.

10. You’re feeling blue.

If you’re sad or stressed, the cause could be your cluttered home.

UCLA study found a link between “levels of diurnal cortisol, a measure of stress,” and “how families, especially mothers, talk about their home spaces.” Women who used words like "mess," "not fun" and "very chaotic” when talking about their homes had higher stress levels.

11. You suddenly start going to more social events.

Going out more, especially to the sorts of places or events you rarely attended before, can demand a wardrobe shake-up even more dramatic than starting a new job.

12. You’ve gotten older (and your clothes haven’t.)

If you’re still wearing the same clothes you wore 10, 20, or 30 years ago, it’s long past the time for a good closet clear-out. This goes double if you’re not even wearing your old clothes, but still holding on to them anyway.

13. You’ve made a large life change.

Some of life’s changes require major wardrobe revamps.

Your clothing needs will change drastically if you go from full-time student to banker, or from traveling salesperson to stay-at-home parent.

14. Your clothes are trying to escape.

When your clothes start permanently congregating outside your closet (draping themselves over the treadmill, let’s say), either you own too many clothes or something about your closet is so off-putting that you’re not even trying to put things away where they belong.

15. You’re moving.

Before you pack up everything you own, think about having to lug all those clothes across the country (or even across town.) That should help you to be ruthless about getting rid of what you don’t need.

16. You’ve moved to a different climate or culture.

If you moved without taking stock of your wardrobe beforehand, do it now - especially if your new home has different weather or social norms than your last place of residence.

17. You have “nothing to wear.”

It might sound odd, but the feeling of having “no clothes” usually strikes when you have too many of the wrong clothes.

18. Your body has changed.

Whether you’ve had a baby, lost or gained weight, or sustained an injury that makes once comfortable clothes constricting, you can make life easier by sorting through the contents of your closet and getting rid of what no longer serves your needs.

19. You’re becoming more minimalist.

Thinking about exploring a more minimalist lifestyle? An easy and fun place to start is by downsizing your wardrobe.

20. Your priorities are changing.

Whether you’re going vegan, protesting fast fashion, or wanting to live more simply, clearing out your closet so that your stuff aligns with your values can be a good first step.

21. You need some cash.

Is your closet stocked with unworn clothes or accessories in good condition? Host a tag sale, visit a consignment shop, or use a resale website or app to see how much your clutter is worth to someone else. Selling your used clothing is a great way to declutter your closet.