Avoiding a cluttered wardrobe

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no fashion expert. So I am not going to give you any advice on what clothes to shop for. However, what I am going to share with you today are tips that I think will help you to avoid a wardrobe cluttered with clothes that you don’t wear. So without further adieu I will give you my opinions on ways to avoid adding clothing clutter.

  1. Don’t insist on keeping up with the trends. Trends are all about changing whats “in fashion” in a  ploy to keep you buying whether you need new clothes or not. So don’t be a sucker to consumerism and only buy clothes when you need them. Sure indulge in a few in trend items when needed but keep with the classics for 80% of your wardrobe because they never go out of fashion.
  2. Don’t buy clothes just because you like the look of them on the rack, in advertising or on famous people. Do buy clothes that suit your body type and complexion.
  3. Keeping with the suggestions in 1. and 2. also try on the clothes prior to purchase and only buy the ones that you look and feel great in.
  4. Buy clothing items that or well designed, cut and constructed. That doesn’t necessarily mean the high price equals high quality because it often doesn’t.
  5. Don’t overstock on wardrobe staples. A good laundering routine should make certain that you have clean items when needed. I have witnesses more than one in recent times how laziness and poor routine contribute to the necessity of an overstocked wardrobe.
  6. When you do buy an item, to replace one that has gotten shabby, make sure you declutter the old one as soon as the new one enters the home. My experience is that if you don’t you will end up with the one new model that you now wear and several just-in-case versions of the same item. Then even if the new one isn’t available you will avoid the others because, lets face it, they haven’t gotten any less shabby over time.
  7. Don’t window shop or browse. Temptation is easier to resist when it isn’t with in reach. Don’t be looking on-line either because an e-shop is only a click away. And to make that worse you could buy without trying only to find the items isn’t right for you in more ways than one. And we all know how slack we can be at returning items and before you know it the return period has lapsed and you are stuck with the item with no hope of a refund or exchange.

I am sure this post will generate some interesting comments where we will learn even more tips and suggestions. So please don’t hold back your input can be very helpful.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something that you keep as a backup for something else but isn’t expensive to replace.

“If we do not feel grateful for what we already have, what makes us think we’d be happy with more?” — Unknown

Eco Tip for the Day

Keeping up with trends generally leads to waste. Waste environmentally, waste of our hard earned money and often leads to waste of space in our homes.

For a full list of my eco tips so far click here

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

  • Clutter, why? Clutter isn't about what we have, it is about why we have it.  We acquire stuff for many reasons, aesthetics, functionality, sentimental, recreation and entertainment and even […]
  • Transient Stuff Much of what comes into my home these days is transient. Aside from groceries much of what does come in is free, secondhand, or both. And I have to say it makes it a whole lot easier to […]
  • Overflow I have experienced examples lately on how clutter can lead to disorganisation which in turn causes more clutter. Actually, in the cases I am thinking of, the clutter is useful and used […]
About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. I do agree with the above tips. Also, I had a phase when I so desperately wanted to create a capsule wardrobe (and I did pare down clothes in the process, so it wasn’t all bad), but I found over a little more time that I’m not really a “basic colour – accent colour” type fashion-wise, which is what most capsule wardrobes are based upon. I never could settle on just one basic colour. In fact I have a set of favourite colours (which also suit me) that match with one another and I still feel good combining them with either dark blue, brown, white, mud brown, grey or even black. 😉 I also found I like different basic colours according to season, like I combine my sunflower-yellow sweater with marine blue and white in spring and summer, with brown in autumn and with black or grey in winter. This doesn’t make the wardrobe much more complicated though: I have certain items (scarves, hats, gloves, sweaters, t-shirts) in the brighter colours and trousers, skirts, coats in those more subtle colours, so there’s hardly a situation of combining greys with brown, but rather either grey with green or brown with green.

    • Hi Sanna, I have never even investigated the concept of capsule wardrobes so I am not aware of the rules. I just buy what I like in moderation. It seems to work for me. Dictating numbers and limiting colours certainly doesn’t sound like it would suit everyone.
      I love the sound of your sunflower yellow sweater. I don’t think I have ever owned an item of clothing in yellow. I don’t recall that ever being a conscious decision but I dare say it is because yellow just wouldn’t suit my fair skin and red hair colouring.

      • If Sanna’s sunflower sweater is more mustard than sunshine yellow, you would look beautiful in that color. My cousin is a “red head” with fair skin and freckles and she looks stunning in mustard yellow.

        • Sorry Kimberley, but mustard is one of those colours I have no love for. However I might have been assuming incorrectly that I would look hideous in it. I might have to give it a try one day.

    • Oops! I love grays and brown together. However, it’s because my best colors are autum colors (with brown leading) and it allows me to look/feel good in gray (which is not a good color for me.)

  2. Colleen, a good post because we all need to be reminded of how easy it is to get off track. I have dreams of changing out my wardrobe if I ever get to my goal weight.

    • Hi Deb, yes weight fluctuations aren’t something I mentioned but I dare say the is a big issue for many people. It is also a good reason to pare down to just what one needs. I have found that my clothes are all worn more often when there are fewer of them so the wear out faster. This means that I still get to enjoy new items on a regular basis without cluttering up my closet. So even catering to weight fluctuations it is possible to have a less cluttered wardrobe.

    • Deb J.,
      I can understand your reluctance in spending a lot of money on clothing while you are losing weight. However, please remember that you are worth it. Even a few classic pieces at affordable prices that reflect the size you are now will do wonders for how you feel about yourself. You can’t put a price on that.

      • Kimberley, you are right. I am putting off buying some things because the Will be more costly to get because I want them to last a long time.

      • oh so true! Go round and look for certain items you need, not just for the future, but for now. try them on. sometimes it happens – sometimes it doesnt – you are falling in love with a piece. and then – even if it is expensive, buy it. just as kimberly said. it makes such a big difference to wear clothes that suit you and fit you. you will feel immediately better about yourself. and you will wear it often, if you love it. once you lost the weight, donate it to a charity, so they can get some money for it. in the long run you will feel good about it.

  3. My suggestion would be that if you are thinking of getting rid of something because you don’t wear it, DON’T try it on. Putting it on opens up the excuse drawer: it still fits, it might soon fit, I like the fabric…. Last year I put on two dresses, Ian declared both of them nice and ‘keep’. Last week I took those same two dresses (unworn yet another year), washed them and simply announced that they were going to the thrift store. Ian’s response….”‘bye!”

    • Wendy – I like the “excuse drawer”

    • Good point Wendy. I have probably done this myself at times. Put something back but then realise later that it still isn’t being chosen. The next time around I send it on its way without a second look. There is nothing wrong with being sure though. I suppose that is what buying to suit your lifestyle is all about. I had a skirt once that I really liked but had such a hard time matching tops to it that I eventually gave up and sent it on its way. I have also bought items that I really liked but then didn’t really have occasion to wear them often enough to justify the wasted space. That is the trouble with buying things you love the look of without giving thought to the practicality of it, whether that be matching, suiting your body or lifestyle.

      • After writing my comment I went to the closet and picked out a sweatshirt that Ian gave me a long time ago and which I have never worn. Not my color. Nothing to go with it either. I think the gifting is long enough in the past that he wouldn’t remember (or care) so it goes with tomorrow’s Thrift Store batch. I am grateful that he no longer buys me clothes!

  4. buy for now .do not wait for the ‘ideal weight’.
    thru fly lady and her cohorts i have paared down colors in my closet. (never yellow, no black, makes me look sick)
    i decided to only have solid pants/bottoms and colorful tops(because i am a clutz and spill alot).
    very easy to get dressed now. if it is not worn with in a year it goes.
    disasters also help, for super storm sandy and a recent fire i could contribute many items and do not miss them.
    good post

    • Hi eema, it sounds like you have figured out what closed are right for you. that is a good place to be. I am sure your closet is much more spacious this way. Well done you!

  5. I had to chuckle at an elderly friend who declared she needed to buy more coat hangers for her clothes . Her wardrobes have no more hanging space as they are so full of clothes now. Today I will mention to her that if she goes from her retirement unit to a hostel , there will be no room for all her clothes and shoes .
    I think your post a few years ago Colleen about cost per wear has changed my clothing style . An item that is say $70 worn regularly is a bargain compared to a $6 dress that you can’t fit into 😉
    A lot of my clothes owe me nothing and I don’t have a lot of clothes which take up wardrobe space. Laundry is easy and no piles of washing to iron , fold and store.

    • Hi Wendy F, I also think you should give that dear lady your sage advice. And just remember, if your daughter has any more clothes my size to declutter run them by me before taking them to the thrift shop. I am always up for a wardrobe refreshment at minimum if no cost. Then I can splurge on a few of those dressy pieces my wardrobe needs. One in one out of course.

  6. My closet is full and I lust for a capsule wardrobe!!!!!! I have the weirdest situation. I absolutely hate to shop for clothes and shoes. And I am hard to fit with both. Even when I was slim and in good proportion, I was hard to fit and could never figure out why!!!! Now that I’m too heavy, it’s really really hard. I live in a small town in the country, no longer work, and almost never shop. I buy a few clothes about every 5 years, just before becoming naked from need. I save all the old stuff to wear at home, and settle for things I don’t love when i do shop because I can’t bear the continual trying on at the store. I get tired and disgusted and leave. I don’t have the stamina for the time it takes.
    And I can’t afford to drive back to the city over and over to keep shopping. Does anyone else have this problem??????? I wind up buying a few things to “get me by” at Walmart. But my poor closet is jammed with such. I am working on wearing things out, but never give up anything good, even if I don’t like it because I might have to wear it in a pinch, since I’m not likely to be buying anytime soon!!!! Any suggestions anyone?

    • Try using a personal shopper at one of the large department stores or go online and seek out a personal shopper service near you. Someone who can help you choose the right clothes style and help with tips and tricks.
      Or enlist a friend who has clothes style to help do a bit of shopping . Make a day and prepare yourself . Avoid the chain stores and try boutiques where the staff are more than willing to help. Only buy what you like and feel comfortable in . Take a break while looking and get them to hold clothes while you think about it. Once you buy items that you like then it’s easier next time. Cheers

    • Brenda – I have a number of ideas as I have a daughter who hates shopping.

      First of all we need to address what suits you. I liked Wendy’s of bringing in some help. If it’s not in the budget for professional advice and you don’t have a style guru friend. There is advice on the internet. I found one on Tyra Bank’s website really useful for me. There are books in the library too – Trinny & Suzannah, Gok Wan come to mind. A friend of mine has Trinny & Suzannah’s pocket reference that she takes shopping with her.

      Get your colours done. The right colours may make a huge difference. I’m sure the cost will offset shopping mistakes in the future.

      Once you’re armed with your best look and best colours. Anything in your wardrobe that doesn’t meet the criteria can probably safely go, or be boxed up for a trial separation at least.

      Now shopping time. Consider online shopping – consulting with your new styles and colours of course – and catalogue shopping. Make sure you use companies with good return/exchange policies and good reviews. Some even have free return postage. Then you can try on at home in the comfort of your home without feeling rushed.

      • I agree. It is important to know what to shop for!! someone suggested to me insideoutstyleblog and while I dont like Imogens taste in clothes, I do appreciate her analytical view on style and I learned a lot about it.

        biggest, easiest and most important lesson: clothes that are the right colour and fit the bodyshape. everything else is secondary. once you figure that out, you are safe and know what to shop for. no more trying on and feel bad. no more in and out of millions of shirts/pants, because you know what you need beforehand!

      • More great advice, thank you Moni.

    • Brenda, I read your comment and had to double check to see that I hadn’t written it myself! No, you are definitely not alone in hating the entire process of shopping for clothes.

      Shopping for clothing at Wal-mart probably doesn’t help, with the crowds, noise and jammed aisles and racks of poor-quality clothes (confession: I buy colorful cheap t-shirts at Wal-mart) You would do yourself a favor by going to better quality stores and spending more for a few articles that work for you. The next time you visit the city, pick one store, or maybe two, and just look at what they have. When you find a store that seems a good fit, where the sales staff are friendly and you feel comfortable, go back there when you’re ready to shop.

      You don’t want to clear out your closet so much that you are in need of shopping, because that obviously leads you to make poor choices out of desperation, but clearing out some space may be very freeing. You need to have room in your head, as well as in your closet, before you head out clothes shopping again. Good luck. I know how tough it is!

    • Hi Brenda, the other readers have given you so much practical advice that I don’t think I need to add to that. So I will relate what I read from your comment. Please don’t be offended by it just use it to help perhaps ask questions of yourself about your situation. Your comment raised questions for me as it seems to contradict itself. First you say you hate to shop for clothes and are hard to fit so only shop when you are desperate. Then you say your closet is full. This suggests you have more than you need. So you are either still managing to buy more than you need regardless of your hatred of clothes shopping, don’t have a good laundering routine or just aren’t getting rid of the items that aren’t fit for wearing or that you later you discovered that you don’t like. You should only need to keep so many back up pieces.

      We all have our clothes fitting challenges, mine is that I have an ample bottom but am flat chested but by this time in life I can usually tell, by looking at clothes on the rack, what will suit me and what won’t without even trying clothes on. However I make the effort anyway, for pieces I think will suit, because I have no time for clothes that don’t fool and look good on me. Mind you, for the most part I buy clothes at the thrift shop these days because I can try a few on every time I do my weekly shift. If I find something I like and buy it for a few dollars and then decluttering something I am tied of or is getting too shabby to wear. I feel I am staying ahead of the game with little effort and that suits me because I am not fond of clothes shopping either these days.

      In short, know what does work for you. Then only try on clothes you think will work (no because you like the look of them). And follow the rule of ~ You are better to spend more on clothes that really suit you than have a closet full of cheaper clothes that you never wear. I am a real cheapskate so love a bargain but in recent times I have learned that paying for what works best is actually better economics. Mixed among my thrift shop finds, which I still apply the style rules to, are mingled some quite expensive items that I also wear and wear because I love them and they are comfortable and practical for me.

      • Colleen, thank you for your long reply!!! My closet is full because I never get rid of any of the mediocre things I have had for years and years!!! I am trying to get brave enough to let go of things I seldom wear or haven’t worn at all. And I AM in the process of wearing out the old stuff at home and have thrown out a lot this year that was past donating. I would wear it for the last time and then throw in the garbage.

        I have an excellent laundry routine, so that definitely isn’t the problem. Thankfully, I can say i have never in my life had clothes on the floor waiting to be washed or lying on a bed to be folded! They go straight from the laundry basket (presorted by different baskets for each type clothes), to the wash to hangers or folded in drawers. I never leave stuff in the dryer.

        So, obviously, I have to MAKE myself go shopping and then only buy what is great for me!
        I, too, buy at thrift stores, but don’t have much success at that in my area and for my size of clothes.

        Again, I thank everyone for their encouragement. That is so wonderful here at this blog!
        I am writing this a day late (I just now found your comment, Colleen), so everyone may not see my thanks, but it is heartfelt!

        I’ll be sure and post my progress in the future, but right now, I’m still concentrating on gathering things to sell at my next yard sale soon!

        • Hi Brenda, thanks for clearing that up for me. I am glad that you are wearing those mediocre things out and slowly getting rid of them. I guess the only advice I can give in that case is to be patient and you will get there in the end. The other readers gave you all the other good advice there is to give I think.

  7. I know what colors I look good in and what colors won’t do for me. If I am shopping for clothes (very seldom!) I don’t even look on racks that don’t have my colors.
    One thing I’ve done for my work clothes–I know what store carries clothes that fit my body type and my style so I basically only shop there. Being super picky about clothes really does help keep your closet uncluttered 🙂

  8. Thank you, WendyB, and to WendyF, and Moni above, for your replies. I have had my colors done many years ago and also have a general knowledge of what styles look good on me. Unfortunately, it seems to be hard to find those styles right now. (for instance, I need a longer, straight shirt and currently the fitted, shorter styles with darts are in. Also, the straight shirts that are gathered at the shouldersee ams do not do well. That is the style in a lot of the “Big Girl” mail order catalogs. I have had no success at all with mail order.)
    I think the suggestions for finding a store with helpful sales persons is the answer, but I have been in major name stores and it seems you no longer find that service. I don’t know if it’s the economy or what, but it is hard to even find a sales associate in clothes, not to mention HELP. I guess I will continue to utilize the clothes I have, but pay very close attention to what I purchase in the future. Now that I’m not working a job, at least I will have more opportunity and time to spend on the pursuit of the proper clothing although less money. Ha!

    Thanks everyone for your help! And my sympathies to WendyB for having the same problem as myself. 🙂

  9. I agree very much with every point colleen, except for the last one.
    I am a person with a rather minimized wardrobe. The furniture itself is big, but I dont have a lot of clothes in it. So I have a quite frequent washing routine and I wear my items often. which means that I wear my items out quickly. which leads me to a constant need for clothes.
    It basically goes like this: Once I found my perfect pair of jeans, I need a new bra. Then I go shopping for a bra, then I need a new round on T-shirts, as they fade and go out of shape. Once I found the T-shirt, I need a new pair of trousers, and the circle goes on and on and on.
    I am rather happy with my limited amount of items, but shopping is still something I would rather not. So I made it a habit, to do it on a regular basis – just with any other unpleasent activity. When I have time and the right mood, I make myself browse. If I dont find something within a couple of minutes, I am out of there. but sometimes it happens and I find a “favourite” by just browsing.
    of course this implies One in One out!! I could never ever overstock as the items that dont get worn often enough are going out as long as they are still in good shape for donation!

    • Actually Lena, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment. I also do this because it helps stay ahead of the game. If I see something as I pass a shop the I think looks good and that I also think will need in the near future I will take a closer look and possibly try it on. I do this nearly every week when I go to the thrift shop. That way I don’t buy out of desperation which is always a risky business.

      When I made that browsing comment I meant don’t just tempt yourself to new clothes by constantly looking when you don’t need things and aren’t likely to because you already have too much. You concept of browsing is a totally different thing. And it also brings up the point that owning a small wardrobe of clothes doesn’t mean you don’t get to shop for something new on a regular basis it just means that when you do it is justified. Right now I need some new long Ts as mine are all getting tiny holes in the front. However I am going to persevere with them until the end of the season and wait until next year to replace them. This way I won’t have to store them on the off-season. I can recycle the fabric for craft projects.

  10. These are all great tips. Luckily, most of my wardrobe is pretty basic, so rather than throwing out (or donating) lots of clothes, I’ve just stopped buying clothes and am on a mission to wear mine out. I have still gotten rid of a few things here and there, and I’m sure I will continue to, but for the most part just stopping the in-flow is good progress for me.

  11. Brenda, I would add that some consignment shops have helpful employees or owners and are another place to look. They are rarely very crowded either, so trying something on isn’t as much of a chore. For shoes I buy online since our local stores rarely have my size. If you like a certain brand, they often have an outlet online with sales and good buys. For clothing measurements can be checked in the store’s listings online, too. Styles vary from year to year. I am short-waisted, so last year the shorter tee shirts were actually the right length for me, so I stocked up. Also the short, fitted style you didn’t like is better for me. Since two styles in two years that fit me are rare, I did stock up. If you know someone who sews, they can help you measure and they will probably be able to tell what you might fit into. Best of luck. Most of us have problems with clothes fitting.

  12. Just wanted to add that there is a charity called Dressed for Success which collects donations of clothes for financially struggling women who are applying for jobs so they have an interview outfit and some clothes to start work with. They have branches around the world so well worth donating to!
    On th decluttering, this week I have reduced my clothing from bags under the bed, in the garage, and part of the spare room to fit in one wardrobe and chest now, even if it is still very full so I am feeling very pleased. I also found out that once I cleared out old shoes I really do need some so I will have some pleasant and necessary shopping to do without any guilt!