How to declutter your wardrobe – 10 tips to tame clothing chaos

Knowing how to declutter your wardrobe is the path towards a seamless, serene and irritation-free dressing experience.

Wondering how to declutter a wardrobe but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. It’s all too easy for your clothes rails and cupboards to become dumping grounds, full of shoes, jackets, jeans and dresses you haven’t worn in years.

Though it can feel like a time-consuming – and sometimes emotional – task, decluttering a wardrobe will make getting ready for your day seamless, rather than stressful. A busy and disorganised wardrobe means you’re forced to sift through items you don’t particularly like, or can’t wear anyway – and it means you’re likely missing out on wearing items you do love, simply because you can’t see them underneath the clutter.

Blue bedroom with built-in wardrobes by SharpsCredit: Sharps

So if your wardrobe declutter is well overdue, here’s how to tackle it according to decluttering experts, for a streamlined space that is functional and allows you to get ready in a flash.


1. Start by realistically assessing your lifestyle

Honesty is the best policy

You can’t declutter your wardrobe without being honest about the kind of clothing you actually need on a daily basis. So before you start pulling items out, Kate Yiannacou, a member of Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO) and founder of Tidy Happy Calm, encourages you to consider how your wardrobe should function. “How do you spend your time? What ‘uniforms’ best serve you in the life you are living now?” she says. “For example, if you spend 50% of your time seeing friends and going on relaxed holidays, then 50% of your wardrobe should be suitable for those activities.”

She acknowledges that this could bring up some emotions – but if you want a wardrobe that really works, it’s important you don’t stand in your own way. “It can be unexpectedly difficult to let go of former versions of ourselves. But instead, see it as a chance to celebrate who you are now,” she suggests.

2. Declutter by category

Start small so you’re not overwhelmed

Most people start a declutter by getting everything out of their wardrobe – and this isn’t a bad option. However, if you have a lot of items, don’t have lots of space, or worry about being overwhelmed, it may be easier to sort the contents by category instead.

“I find it useful to start with one category (such as short-sleeve tops, jumpers, or jeans), to weed out the unloved, unwanted or unworn, and then move onto something else,” says decluttering expert Gillian Gudgeon, APDO member and founder of Restore the Calm.

And don’t worry about putting each category back in your wardrobe in order. “You can group types of garments together in one spot of the wardrobe for now, before settling on where they should live when you’ve blitzed the entire wardrobe,” says Gudgeon.

Hammonds Mirrored Sliding Wardrobe in white bedroomCredit: Hammonds

3. Pick out the easy ‘yes’ and easy ‘no’ items first

Focus on your favourites

Part of the difficulty with decluttering is feeling as though you must get rid of things. That’s why Jane Lee, decluttering expert and founder of Jane Lee Interiors, recommends starting with your must-keeps.

“The trick is to pick out the absolute favourites first. For example, what do you always reach for? What always goes away with you on holiday? This method is so much more positive than going into it thinking: ‘What can I get rid of?’”

Before you get into the items that leave you divided, you can also try and quickly scout out the items you know for certain you don’t want any more – be it jeans with a rip, or an out-of-style blouse.

Questions to ask yourself when decluttering

 Ask yourself if the item even matches your current style or preferred way of dressing. “And if you’re unsure about anything, put it to one side and come back to it,” says Lee.

If you haven’t worn an item in months or years, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever wear it again, realistically.

Lee explains that thinking about an item’s possible future usage can make it easier to part with it. For example, might a friend get more wear out of your old summer dress than you?

4. Address duplicates

You don’t need 10 of everything

Another handy trick if you’re conflicted over what to declutter first, or next, is to analyse how many similar items you should keep.

“A couple of pairs of navy trousers could be considered useful; ten pairs might be considered surplus to requirements,” says Yiannacou. “Really think about which ones in your collection you wear the most, you’re most comfortable in, and are most practical.”


5. Take photos of sentimental items

Make sure you can always look back on things

Oftentimes, the biggest obstacle to decluttering is getting rid of items you feel have sentimental value – be it a dress worn on a special day, or a piece of clothing from a lost loved one. And while there’s absolutely no need to get rid of these items if you don’t want to, there’s a helpful way to maintain the memory of them if keeping them is no longer serving you.

“Taking a photo as a memento might be enough of a reminder if you no longer wear that item of clothing,” says Lee. “But if in doubt, never feel pressure to get rid of anything, and always go at a pace that feels comfortable.”

Green bedroom with built-in storage and en suiteCredit: Sharps

6. Declutter your wardrobe seasonally

Hello summer, hello winter

If you don’t do it already, it’s logical to declutter regularly at the beginning of a new season. At this point, it’s likely that a few months have gone by since you last wore certain seasonal items, so reassess their worth in your wardrobe.

“Having a detox allows you to ‘shop’ your wardrobe and rediscover items,” explain Charlotte Reddington-Smith and Gemma Lilly, the organising duo who make up the Style Sisters. “And so doing it in line with when the seasons change can help to avoid over-purchasing items you might think you need, before realising they are actually tucked away at the back of the wardrobe already.”

Don’t clog up your wardrobe with items that aren’t right for the current season either. “Store out of season items in vacuum-pack bags, or in decorative storage baskets on top of the wardrobe,” they say.

7. Take the next step ASAP

Get decluttered items out of the house pronto

After sorting through the contents of your wardrobe, it can be tempting to let clothes linger in your bedroom. To avoid this and keep your wardrobe clear, don’t let any ‘no’ items back into that space. Lee says: “Don’t let anything back into the room you’re working in; instead, put donations straight into the boot of the car, so they’re ready to drop off at the charity shop or wherever.”

You may also want to have a plan of action in place – decide where you’re going to donate items, which ones you can sell and where (places like eBay and Vinted are good options), and which can be repurposed.

Shoe storage in Sharps wardrobeCredit: Sharps

8. Store shoes according to your usage

Protect heels in boxes

Once you know which items you’re keeping, it’s time to put everything that remains back into your wardrobe in the most organised way possible. And shoes can be among the most awkward items to store. But to make picking out a pair simple, Gudgeon suggests arranging them by how often you use them.

For shoes you don’t keep by your front door, there are two options. “On the inside of the wardrobe door, you can place a hanging reinforced fabric shoe rack (with pockets for shoes to sit in), for flat shoes. When it comes to heels, I always keep them in shoe boxes to protect them; I label them, and stack them at the bottom of the wardrobe.” If you haven’t kept your shoe boxes, she suggests “you can also buy plastic shoe boxes that will allow you to see what’s inside”.

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9. Use hangers that create more space

Swap wooden hangers for slim velvet ones

To make the most of the space inside your wardrobe, thin velvet hangers are a no-brainer, especially when compared to heavy wooden hangers that take up more room. “Velvet coat hangers are cheap as chips, non-slip and magically create extra space in wardrobes,” says Lee. “Places like John Lewis, Argos, Dunelm and The Range usually have them.”

And for bulkier items, she recommends space-saving S-type metal hangers. ‘These also have several stronger ‘rungs’, and are better for hanging jeans and trousers.”

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10. Store less fragile items in drawers

Fitness gear should live there

Not all items in your wardrobe need to be hanging, and you may be able to save valuable hanging space by utilising drawer space instead. As such, store less ‘crease-prone’ items in drawers or pull out boxes on shelves.

“I love drawers because it’s so much easier to grab something without disrupting the rest of your things,” Lee says. “The best items to store like this are underwear, fitness gear and nightwear. In theory, anything that’s rolled should be more-or-less ready to wear.”


Written by Amy Hunt she/her