14 Reasons We Keep Clothes We Don’t Wear and What to Do About it

14 Reasons We Keep Clothes We Don’t Wear and What to Do About it 5

Stop for a moment and think about your closet. Do you wear all of the clothes inside it? 

If you are like many, the way you use your closet actually follows the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule.

This is a rule that is particularly used in business and economics to represent the notion that 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes. A simple example is that 80% of the business revenue comes from 20% of the businesses clients.

This same rule applies in most of our closets. 80% of the time we wear 20% of our clothes.

The rest of the clothes we own just get in the way and make it difficult to find or access the 20% we do actually wear.

This means that 80% of our clothes are causing problems, rather than serving a useful purpose.

The problem with having a cluttered closet is that:

  • we frequently forget what it is we have
  • we often can’t find what we are looking for
  • things become creased

When we have many items squeezed in together, we have trouble seeing what we own, difficulty accessing most of it and can’t be confident that it will be in a fit state to wear should we actually do so.

As a result, we end up wearing the same few things over and over because it’s just easier to do so. Thereby resigning 80% of our clothes to never or rarely ever being worn.

Why is it we keep clothes we never wear?

There are a number of reasons.

1. Money spent/the expense

When we buy something with our hard earned money, we attach a certain amount of importance to that item. Whether it turns out to be the thing we need or not, the mere fact that we have spent money on it will make it much harder to declutter. 

Clothes are no different. They can be particularly hard to remove from the closet if they were expensive. We feel a level of guilt for having wasted so much money on something we don’t actually wear and are therefore find ourselves unable to get rid of it.

Keeping the item and hoping that one day we will actually wear it is a trap. We can be tempted to buy further items to go with this one and that might solve the problem or it might not, it all depends upon why we don’t wear it in the first place.

2. Sentimental (reminds us of times, people or places in the past)

We sometimes keep items we wore on a special occasion or event and when we look at it again, we have memories of that day or time in our lives. If these are positive memories and looking at that item makes you feel good, go ahead and keep it. If it makes you feel regret, sadness, anger or guilt, it’s time to move it on.

3. It was a gift

Sometimes well meaning family and friends buy us something that is not to our taste, style or size. It is unfortunate that they did not give a voucher or cash and allow us to purchase our own, but that can’t be helped once it has occurred. Because something was a gift, doesn’t mean we have an obligations to keep it. If we will never wear it, there is no point in doing so.

4. We hope to fit into them again one day

While we might think we are being frugal and keeping items we might wear after we lose the baby weight or tone up a little, in reality we are unlikely to do so. Fashion and style change so rapidly that the lovely blouse you wore a couple of years ago might look a little old fashioned by the time you pull out out again.

If you’ve done the hard work, do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a nice new item instead.

5. It’s the current fashion/trend

Sometimes we end up with items in the closet because it’s the latest fashion or considered a wardrobe staple and we thought we were expected to own one. You don’t need to have a little black dress, the latest in denim jean fashion or the crazy shoe style of the moment if it’s not your thing. Find your style and be confident in it. 

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6. It might come back into fashion

Items do sometimes come back into fashion but very rarely are they exactly the same as the first time around. Collar styles change, colours are revamped, fabrics get altered. You might just be very disappointed to discover that the item you kept in case it came around again just doesn’t quite cut it this time.

7. Still good or barely worn

We often keep things because it seems such a shame to throw away something we hardly wore. This is the time to think about why you didn’t wear it. Is it too big, too small, the wrong colour, uncomfortable, ugly, not your style? Will these things change to allow that item to ever be worn by you?

8. You plan to buy something to go with it

If you bought something that is lovely but just doesn’t go with anything else you own, then you have a problem. There are however two solutions.

1) Buy something to wear with it

2) Get rid of it.Choose one and do it now!

9. You used to love it

Our tastes change as we go through life and something we used to love and wear might no longer suit our current style. Don’t feel guilty about letting it go if you got lots of enjoyment out of it in days gone by. It has completed its role in your life.

10. It represents who you used to be

Again, as we age, we learn and grow and become different versions of ourselves. It’s never a good idea to hang onto the old version and neglect the new. Learn to love the person you are now and say goodbye to the old. 

11. It is for a specific occasion

There is definitely nothing wrong with keeping a nice dress or pair of dress pants for those special, if rare, occasions. Just don’t keep too many things for times like this. If you don’t have too many occasions that require special clothing, either put those into your regular wearing cycle if appropriate or move them on.

12. Needs repair

How annoying is it to choose something you want to wear only to find that the hem has come down or a button is missing?

What do you do when this happens? Do you just put the item back and choose something else? Probably. This means that this item will never ever be worn again. We need to take it out and either repair it or get rid of it, there is no other option.

13. Needs an iron

The same goes for ironing. When we have too many items crushed together, even things that have been ironed before will often need to be redone before wearing. I don’t know about you but I hate ironing and will certainly not want to do it twice just so I can wear something.

I now make very carful purchasing decisions so that I don’t buy things that wrinkle easily. No linen in my closet! Of course, I also have fewer items so that nothing is crushed up against anything else.

14. Doesn’t suit your lifestyle

Times change and our interests and activities change too. A stay at home mother will have little use for a business suit. When you’ve given up cycling, you no longer need the cycle pants. When knee surgery means you have to give up running, the running shoes might no longer be needed. When our roles change, so do our clothes. We need to allow our closets to evolve as we do.

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How to get rid of clothes you don’t wear

All of these are perfectly understandable reasons for keeping clothing we rarely wear. It’s now up to us to decide what steps we are going to take to reduce the amount that we own so we can change our closet’s 80/20 rule.

Do a Closet Clear-Out

This is the all-at-once method where everything is taken out, a decision is made about what to put back in and the rest are taken to Goodwill or disposed of. This will take a chunk of time but is a very effective time way of having a good clear out and starting afresh.

Find out what to keep in this article here.

Declutter a little each day

This method follows the S.O.S Decluttering system where divide the closet up into sections. We choose one section to work on each day until it is all completed. This is very good for those with only small block of time to work on this task.

Find out more in this article here or grab a copy of the workbook with the form below.

S.O.S Decluttering Technique Workbook

14 Reasons We Keep Clothes We Don’t Wear and What to Do About it 11

Want to get a quick start on your decluttering project?

Download your quick start workbook today!

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Try the hanger method

This takes considerably more time but can be useful for those items we are unsure about.Turn all hangers the wrong way around in the closet and once worn, turn them back the correct way. At the end of the season you will know exactly what has been worn and what has not.

Where to Now?

We have cleared out the closet and made sure we can access all of our clothes. Now what?

Of course, the best time to address a clutter problem its when we are about to purchase something new, not later. Therefore we have to have a rule for when we go shopping. This will prevent us from getting into the same state some time in the future.

The Shopping Rule:

Any new item must go with at least 2 other items already owned.

Implement some of these ideas above and reduce the number of pieces of clothing that are hiding in the back of the closet, never seeing the light of day.

Let’s create a useful, organized closet that makes getting dressed in the morning a breeze.