7 Signs It's Time to Get Rid of Your Clothes

Woman looking at clothes
kupicoo/Getty Images

So you want to get rid of some of your clothes but you're not unsure how? Or when? Maybe it's old and outdated or you're just not wearing it anymore. But maybe you should hang onto it, just in case?

If you're not sure when you should get rid of a piece of clothing, a pair of shoes or boots, an old accessory or even a handbag, this 7-step process is for you.

You might have some clothes and shoes taking up space in your closet that you could let go of. It might be time to recycle, donate, consign if your clothing falls into one of the following categories:

1. Clothing Is Full of Stains or a Musty Smell

Okay, so these seem obvious, but for some extreme clothes hoarders, getting rid of clothes is very emotional. However, in the case of clothes moths or mold, dye, or ink stains, you need to accept that your clothing is beyond recovering.

While clothes moths, a musty smell or mold stains indicate you haven't worn these items in a while, ink stains on clothes are especially aggravating because this clothing item is clearly something you wear. Bring the sweater, shirt or pant to the best dry cleaner you can find, and tell them exactly what kind of ink caused the stain. They may be able to get it out. If not, cut your losses and get rid of this clothing.

2. You No Longer Love It

This is the best reason to get rid of clothes and shoes. Closets are typically small spaces in our homes so maximizing space is key. If you don’t love something, there’s really no reason to give up space to it in your closet.

3. It’s Overly Trendy (& the Trend Has Passed)

If you bought something trendy that you cannot incorporate into outfits going forward, it’s time to toss or donate. Once again, get rid of clothes that you don't wear. There is no value is storing something you will never wear again.

4. It Hasn't Fit in Over a Year

This one is emotional. Our bodies are quite obviously alive and will react to new environments, changes in our routine and major shifts in diet, hormones, etc. This is all by way of saying that even if something fits perfectly at some point, there are a lot of outside factors working against it fitting forever.

5. You Haven't Worn It in Over a Year

This one is pretty obvious, but what if you're just not sure if you'll wear it again? What's the barometer for donating something that fits, you love, and you once wore often? Here's a good rule of thumb:

  • If you live in a 1-2 season climate and you haven't worn an item in 6 months, it's time to let it go.
  • If you live in a 4 season climate and you haven't worn it in a year, time to donate.

Sometimes, even if it meets all of the other criteria for keeping a garment, you're just over it. Maybe you wore it too much at one point -- no matter, someone else will love it as much as you did. Pay it forward by donating.

6. It No Longer Fits Your Style

I love this metric from organizing guru Julie Morgenstern. Let’s say you used to be a corporate type but have decided to pursue a career as a yoga instructor. At this point, you don’t’ need to have a closet full of oxford shirts and tailored slacks (I hate the word “slacks”). Or the opposite: you wore juicy couture jumpsuits and are now pursuing a career as a fashion buyer.

This isn’t just limited to work: I remember graduating from college and thinking that my converse-flannel-shirt-and-jeans days were going to be over soon. I wanted more tailored clothes and I did not want to be seen as just a kid anymore.

7. It Itches, Scratches or Pinches

I'm all for suffering for fashion, but there's a limit! If something is truly uncomfortable, you need to let it go. This includes scratchy fabrics that are irritating your skin, itchy fabrics (you may be allergic) and high heels that pinch your toes.

If you really love an item, then commit to working on it by finding a good tailor or cobbler.

Bottom line: Everything in your closet should:

  • Fit well
  • Be worn regularly
  • Comfortable enough that it is not distracting
  • Project the image you want to project

Any items that do not fall into one of these categories are ready to be let go.