Rationalising Clothes

Last week I was interstate visiting my parents and my in-laws. There was a change of weather in my absence. Actually it had started turning prior to my departure, but I wanted to wait until I returned to deal with bringing down my box of winter closed from the top shelf of my closet.

Yesterday I began putting it all through a refresh cycle in my washing machine in preparation for wearing. This is a very handy steam cycle that takes care of any chance of allergy inducing dust mite while wasting very little water. Separating the items, hanging them out to dry, then folding and putting them away was a good opportunity to scrutinise each piece. After all that, I felt I have done a mighty fine job of decluttering in the past and am fairly satisfied with the quantity of items I have.

However, the wearing of the items will be the real test of whether they will all stay or some will go. I already have my doubts about one corduroy jacket. I have owned and used it every winter for eighteen years. Although it is of a style that doesn’t really date I feel it could do with a little modernising. However for me it has one fatal flaw, no pockets. When one is out and about in the winter there is always the inevitability that one will want to put their hands in their pockets to keep them warm. Or need to carry a tissue for that cold, runny winter nose. Every time I wear this jacket I lament the fact that it doesn’t have pockets. The question is ~ Do I want to go to the trouble of altering the jacket and add pockets at the same time, or would it be simpler to try to pick up a nice new jacket or perhaps a secondhand one at the thrift shop.

Keep in mind that I am no fashionista or participate in paid employment and don’t live in an area of really cold climate. I have…

  • three pair of track pants ~ Just enough I would say.
  • 3 white, two black and 1 red long sleeve T-shirt. Also just enough as these are my everyday clothes.
  • 4 scarves of various colours and styles. I will observe these over the winter and decided whether to keep them all.
  • 1 red casual cord jacket, 1 pink puffy cold day jacket, 1 3/4 leather jacket and the black cord one mentioned above. All for different weather and situations so they are all also safe for now.
  • only 1 winter nighty, so it is also safe.
  • only 1 long sleeve button up shirt. I could actually probably do with another of these.
  • 2 tunic dresses for casual dressing up that go well with tights. These get well used each winter.
  • 2 pair of black tights.
  • 3 pair of plush bed socks. These are also well worn and in constant rotation.
  • 3 pair of hiking socks, also well worn and in constant rotation.
  • 1 pair of micro-fleece gloves.
  • 2 fleece sweaters, which may not actually be enough.
  • 1 fleece vest for those mid range cool weather days.
  • 1 black knit cardigan.
  • 2 pairs of boots,  one ankle and one knee length, both black.

That is about it I think. Not too much, not to little. And nothing that doesn’t fit or that I am waiting to come back into fashion.

Can you do a stocktake on your incoming season’s clothing and honestly justify them all? If not maybe it is time you did a little of your own wardrobe rationalising.

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something made of metal ~ Once again plentiful. Tools, mixing bowls, utensils, pots, vehicle parts and jewellery all come to mind very quickly but I am sure you can think of more.

Eco Tip for the Day

Get your bank balance in the screen when using an ATM rather than a printed copy. Every little saving of paper and ink counts.

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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  • Control Issues All that "I might need it one day!" clutter is about control. Control over your future, a future that may never unveil itself. A future created in your own mind that won't allow you to […]
About Colleen Madsen

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


  1. I live by myself and have a gigantic closet in my bedroom, thus I don’t have to actually “store” out of season clothes anywhere, but I am still trying to go through my closet and pair down/get rid of the things I don’t wear or love. Thanks for the reminder Colleen. 🙂

    • Good for you Shoeaholicnomore. There is always someone out there that could use your unwanted stuff. And having the space to store stuff doesn’t mean you have to fill it up.

  2. I think if you love the coat….add pockets and you will love it even more. You could make it more adorable by adding pockets with a different color fabric or a pattern/decorated etc.

    • Hi Sher, the jacket really isn’t the point of this post. It was really about getting readers to consider rationalising their wardrobes. Mine is in great shape these days, quantity wise. Fashion wise some might disagree. 😉 I do like the idea of different coloured fabric for the pockets. I was really considering adding them hidden in the side seams. Your idea, assuming you meant add them to the front would be easier to do. I will have to give it some thought.

  3. Colleen, I like Sher’s idea for your jacket. Clothes are something I struggle with but in the opposite way. I have a hard time finding clothes I like and that fit. Being short means altering clothes even though I start out with buying petites. Thus my wardrobe is small. I have 2 pair of jeans and one pair of dress slacks, 4 dress blouses, 1 maxi dress, 3 t-shirts, 2 sleeveless blouses, 3 pair of jeans shorts, 3 pair of short pajamas, 4 blouses with 3/4 sleeves for “winter” and a fleese hoodie.

    • Wow Deb, that isn’t very many clothing items. I don’t know how you manage with so few. But at least you aren’t taking up much room with them. I do sympathise with your difficulty of finding what you need without having to alter them. These days I just hate shopping for them. Too much bother changing and deciding when I have better things to do.

      • You are right about the amount. I hate shopping. It takes up valuable time, wears me out, and most times I end up with nothing anyway.

  4. Thanks Colleen for the reminder to reassess – I too am bringing out the winter clothes, and the winter bedding. My quilts seem to breed in the wardrobes over summer. Every year I seem to have more than I remember having (or need)!

    • Hi Laura, it is good that you think the quilts multiply because that means you are realising more and more that you need less. I actually need to buy a quilt because my kids took theirs with them when they left home. Now I don’t have one for our spare bed. That is ok until we get visitors. At the moment it is OK because we put our quilt on the spare bed during summer because I kept taking it off every night.

  5. Clothes are a huge problem for me, made worse as I lose weight in a two steps forward, one step back fashion. I’d see if you could replace you jacket this winter and if not, alter it come time to pack it up so it is ready for next winter

    • Hi Gina, I sympathise with you over the weight less issues. That must reek havoc with your wardrobe. As for my jacket, I did what you suggested last year. Now this winter is well on the way and I am still procrastinating over the jacket. I do think it would be a fun project that I would take much satisfaction of achieving.

  6. This post is so inspiring to me. Clothing is the next area for me to take another close look at for pairing down. I have been following your blog for maybe a year and have been on the declutter track for maybe about two years and am moving this week back up north (in US) to another state. The declutter process (with support form your posts and one or two other blogs) has been such a journey of freedom thus far. I have let go of so much that just doesn’t fit my lifestyle (lots of furniture especially) but that seems like what “one is supposed to have”. For example, when I got rid of my couch and dining table I breathed a sigh of relief (I live in a small house – about 750 sq. ft.) as my primary loves- yoga and art making – could spread out and take up a major portion of my home. It’s made such a difference. But, it is unusual to not own a couch or dining table. I am MUCH happier and more room to “breath” in the house.
    I expect to be on this journey in this focused kind of way for maybe another year or even two ( after which life long habits of letting go nicely built in to my lifestyle). I love your description of clothing above because it gives a nice picture of what’s possible. I have let go of a lot but have a ways to go and for some reason the simple act of reading about others process (whether about exact details or more philosophical musings) is just so satisfying. Please keep up the good work.

    • Hooray another person who thinks of decluttering as a journey of freedom. Good for you Jen. One of the key things to letting go of stuff is realising that you don’t need to own something just because it it the norm to do so. You have obviously come to that realisation. Well done!

  7. the world is a funny place. you pull out your winter clothes, while I start fighting with my summer wardrobe.

    Never liked summer much and this is the first time I even need to look good. So I struggle big time, because for the last years I wore whatever was comfy enough and I didnt had to bother much about my appearance.
    for the worst days there are 2 pair of linnen trousers and one linnen skirt. I am now looking for a pair of not so dark grey trousers with softer fabric. and for a couple of bright, colourful shirts, not too tight, but also not too lose. they need to also fit colours right, so that I can easily mix and match my wardrobe around. I am also looking for one or two very thin cardigans. I think I need to buy a couple of pieces and then see how my summer wardrobe proves itself, when in daily use. I will for sure declutter old and unworn pieces by the end of september. and I will love it.
    I will never be a shopping queen, but thanks to a very nice tipp here, I read a bit about body shapes and colours on a great blog, so I feel a bit more secure when I go out shopping. knowing what I want and what I search for, as well as buying pieces that I love immediately is key. everything else is not worth my money or space.
    I musst admit my scarf collection did grow from around 10 to now 35 pieces. this is my reward for an unsuccessful shopping trip. And yeah I know I know, I shouldnt buy things if I dont need them, but I seriously love love love love my scarf collection and I do wear them every day.
    However I am not stupid. I learned here and I replace nowadays. so I am very very strict to myself and declutter the pieces that I dont wear as soon as I recognize it…

    • Hi Lena, I think you have a very good strategy in place for acquiring your summer wardrobe. Good thinking. Don’t worry about those scarves, we are all allowed at least one weakness. Mine has become my craft supplies again. But I am using lots up and making money doing it so JUSTIFIED. 😉

      • I went shopping for those wanted shirts today. found what I was looking for.
        after that a friend joined me, and he then was looking for things that “he saw on me” and WOW. those were items I wouldnt have picked myself but fitted just perfectly and were underlining my personality in a whole different way. sometimes you need others for inspiration and tipps and perspectives you cant get yourself. I warned him that I will use him now every single time I am out shopping.
        I only bought favourites today. I am so proud.

        my scarf collection will always develop. just like your craft supplies. sometimes more, sometimes less. but if you love it, its worth it.

  8. I’d probably not want to be bothered adding pockets when it’s so easy to find another, especially since you said it could do with a little updating anyway.

    In our house, it’s my husband who has all the clothes and shoes, not me. He has at least three times what I have.

    That’s because it’s so hard for me to find clothes that fit. When I do find something in my size, I buy it and wear it into the ground. (Even though the plus size clothing selection has improved over the last several years, it’s still hard to find more conservative pieces for those of us who are fifty-plus.)

    • Hi Becky, my husband has more clothes than me too but only because he wears uniforms of many types for work. When he semi-retires in July he will be able to reduce them. I am looking forward to that.

      Your clothes situation sounds like my bra situation, hard to fit and wear them into the ground. Not to mention not wanting to shop for them in the first place.

  9. Anita Jenkins

    That list of your wardrobe items just blows my mind. My idea of downsizing the closet is to go from about 50 tops to 25. My mother, who lives in a nursing home and never leaves it, has more clothes than that. I would say that this level of simplification is equivalent to an extreme sport.

    • I’m with you Anita, the list is enviably short.
      My wardrobe is in the 100’s of items because of the multitude of situations that arise in all 4 seasons. Casual home clothes, office clothes, exercise outfits, date-night clothes, grubbies (for camping and gardening) – all can happen on either cold, hot or rainy (any temperature) days. Layering my wardrobe has helped, but that means that I have my good, grubby and fancy variety of cardigans too. And then there are the appropriate shoes for all these things! and coats! Mind boggling.
      I have simplified from 16 pairs of black slacks to 4. That’s ONLY black slacks. One tiny part of the broad category – “bottoms”
      As long as my items are actually being worn (they fit and look good) and there is comfortable space in my closet, I am not too worried about the clothes honestly.

    • I think Colleen is a great example of how to adjust a smooth winter wardrobe. everything covered.
      I counted once, when my wardrobe was perfectly decluttered, fitting and everything got worn. I had around 50 pieces in total (summer plus winter). plus 10 Pairs of shoes (including flip flops, winter boots, wellies). going down to this “extreme”, was the easiest and most comfortable wardrobe I could think of. I can totally recommend extreme sports like this.
      I am now curious myself. I will make a list of my wardrobe.
      I am looking forward to colleens summer wardrobe…

    • Hi Anita, that is funny. Do you have so many because you love fashion or just find it necessary to have so many because of your wearing habits. So long as I have enough to get me from wash load to wash load I am quite happy. I also don’t mind wearing the same thing a couple of days in a row.

      Also the list of clothes were just my winter items. I have only put aways a couple of dresses, shorts and skirts. The rest of my summer wardrobe is also worn through the winter because we don’t have terribly cold weather.

  10. I had two huge Chinese laundry bags (the tartan ones from discount stores) overflowing with winter clothes and was having huge difficulties in parting with anything. My justification for keeping anything vaguely warm was that I “didn’t want to go cold this winter” (I am inland and south of Newcastle, the minimum we got down to last winter was minus 10 deg c with wind chill while I was out for a run – brrrrrr!). I finally realized there is only so much I can wear at one time. A couple of key items – thermal underclothes, leather jacket, thick socks, beanie, gloves and a scarf or two are all I *need* above my normal summer/autumn/spring work/everyday wardrobe. Since then I have slowly eliminated 20% of my entire wardrobe (I intend to eliminate further, but am taking my time!)
    Giving my clothes to charity also has a huge feel good factor – someone else might be able to keep warm this winter with the items I had been storing 🙂

    • Congratulations on that epiphany Soosh and the subsequent decluttering effort. All it takes to find the will to be rid of some things is to change your way of thinking. So long as you have enough clothes and winter woolies to keep you warm between wash loads then you are covered. No need for too much variety.

  11. It’s amazing how many of us have difficulties finding clothes that fit. That makes clothes shopping a truly unpleasant experience. Also I never buy hand wash or dry clean only items because I’ll wear them once and toss them in the hamper, never to be worn again, which is a waste of money. Funny thing, my husband’s cousin’s wife texted me yesterday with a photo of some summer blouses she was getting rid of and then she left a small bag at my house. Two skirts and four blouses. Three of the items were dry clean only and one was hand wash and the other was wash in cold on delicate cycle. The sizes look correct and they are very cute, but I wonder how much effort I will put into caring for those pieces.

    Colleen, it is funny to hear you say you are coming into winter, when I just planted my garden. LOL The world is sure an interesting place, isn’t it. 🙂 Last night I took the electric blanket off our bed and put on a lighter one.

    • Michelle, I so understand your not wanting clothes that need to be hand washed or dry cleaned. I don’t like to iron either. So I try to find things that are wash and wear as they used to call them.

    • I highly recommend finding a personal closet assistant. Many people offer this wardrobe service (I do this and use this) They assess what you have, how it looks on you , and go shopping with you or give you an exact list. I find the money it costs saves me a fortune! Some stores have a personal shopper service at no cost and our main thrift store (in MN) offers it, too! Another benefit nothing in the closet that isn’t worn!

  12. I’m so proud of myself. I did my biggest declutter since I followed your blog about 9 months. I decluttered 2 oval clothes baskets full of winter clothes. Thank you!

  13. Colleen,
    If you like the corduroy jacket and wish to continue wearing it, you might ask a seamstress to add a pocket or two on the inside. You can carry your tissues there.