how to get past the mental hurdle of decluttering your wardrobe

Ready To Get Organized? Here’s How To Get Past the Mental Hurdles of Decluttering Your Wardrobe

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Let me guess – you think about decluttering your wardrobe. You know you need to do it. It’s been too long. Your closet is overflowing. You don’t like a lot of the clothes you wear. And you can’t even find the stuff you do like to wear. You know it’s time to declutter, but every time you think about getting started (for real this time, you tell yourself), it just feels like too much. Even if you knew what to get rid of, how could you make yourself take the necessary steps? Everything feels too special! You spent way too much money on that item to give it away! As a result, the task feels daunting and overwhelming, leaving you feeling paralyzed and unable to take any action. But it doesn’t have to be that way! In this post, we’ll get to the heart of why you struggle in this area, as well as strategies to help you get past the mental hurdle of decluttering your wardrobe. It’s time to get organized! For real this time.

Top 9 Common Reasons Why You’re Afraid to Declutter

Decluttering your wardrobe is straight up a daunting task at times, and it’s completely normal to feel a sense of fear and apprehension about it. But have you ever stopped to wonder why you’re afraid to declutter?

There are several common reasons that may be causing this fear. Being aware of these reasons and what resonates with you allows you to tackle the problem head-on!

1. The Fear of Letting Go

If hair holds secrets (name that movie), then clothes hold memories and emotions, and parting with them can feel like saying goodbye to a part of yourself. We tend to associate certain outfits with specific moments in our lives, making it difficult to separate the item from the memory.

I experienced this most recently as I was donating my kid’s clothing. When it’s the last kid, every clothing donation feels like an emotional moment. Like the last time. And getting rid of the cardigan that he wore to the pumpkin patch made me feel (for a second) as if I was getting rid of that pumpkin patch memory, almost leading me to hold onto this cardigan even though I knew I was never going to look at it again. I reminded myself of the truth: The memory lives on, whether I have the clothing attached to that event or not.

Whether you’re donating your children’s clothing or your own, we become attached to our clothes for sentimental value and the thought of parting with certain pieces can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing.

To overcome this mental hurdle, first, remind yourself that letting go doesn’t mean erasing memories or losing yourself or loved ones. You can hold onto the memories and emotions associated with clothes without holding onto the physical items themselves.

Another way to overcome the fear of letting go is by taking small steps. Start with one category of clothing at a time, like tops or shoes, and gradually work your way through your wardrobe. This approach can make the task feel less overwhelming and more manageable. And once you get rid of one thing, you’ll see that you can do it again and again as needed.

Most importantly, practice self-compassion during the process. Understand that it’s natural to feel anxious or uncertain about letting go of certain items. Remind yourself of the benefits of decluttering, such as a more organized space and a clearer personal style.

Ultimately, overcoming the fear of letting go is about shifting your mindset and embracing the positive aspects of decluttering, instead of focusing on what you think you’re losing. You’re not losing anything, by the way. If anything, you’re gaining more space – both physical and mental. By reframing your thoughts and focusing on the benefits, you can build the confidence to let go of the clothes that no longer serve you.

And it’s worth noting – you don’t have to get rid of all your sentimental items. The problem is when every item becomes a sentimental item, defeating the purpose of decluttering because you end up keeping everything.

Set a realistic goal of the number of things to keep, such as 1 storage bin for the family. Everything that is sentimental goes in there (out of your everyday wardrobes). And what doesn’t fit in that bin? Then decisions have to be made. But ultimately, this practice keeps you hanging on to the things you really love. And if you find it extra difficult to let go, try taking a photo of the item before you part with it. This way, you can keep the memory without the physical clutter.

The clothes you’re getting rid of served a purpose in your life at one point, but now it’s time to create space for new experiences and styles!

decluttering your wardrobe

2. The Fear of Making a Mistake

Perhaps the most common mental hurdle and roadblock there is – what happens if you get rid of it now and need it later?! The fear of making the wrong choice keeps way too many things in your closet. In order to not make the wrong choice and avoid regretting your decision, you end up making no decisions at all.

It’s important to remember that decluttering is a process, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. To overcome this fear, start by reminding yourself that it’s better to have fewer items that you love and use, rather than a closet full of things that you don’t love. Trust your intuition and ask yourself if an item truly brings you joy or serves a practical purpose in your life.

If you’re struggling to let go of certain items, consider placing them in a “maybe” pile and revisiting them later. This gives you some time and space to reflect on whether you really need them or not. Most of the time, you forget all about them.

Lastly, something that I find works really well is to give yourself permission to buy it again if you need it. Hear me out – one of the biggest roadblocks to decluttering is being afraid that you’ll need it later, and 99% of the time you don’t!

Telling yourself that it’s okay to buy that extra black dress again if you need it frees up the fear that you feel associated with getting rid of it in the first place. And for that 1% of the time when you may need to actually buy it again for a special event, you can remind yourself that decluttering, just like life, is a journey and it’s okay to change your mind.

But the end result for 99% of the time? You declutter clothes and let go of fear in the process. It’s natural to feel a sense of hesitation and uncertainty when decluttering. The key is to trust your initial reaction to your clothes, be gentle with your choices, and keep moving forward!

3. The Fear of Insecurity With Your Body

The fear of insecurity with your body can be a significant hurdle when it comes to decluttering your wardrobe. Many of us hold onto clothes that don’t fit or flatter us because we fear not being able to find anything better.

We worry that by letting go of these items, we’ll be left with a limited and unflattering selection. This fear can keep us stuck in a cycle of holding onto clothes that no longer benefit us and prevent us from creating a wardrobe that truly reflects our personal style.

To overcome this fear, it’s important to practice self-compassion and positivity about your body. Remind yourself that your worth is not determined by the clothes you wear! Embrace your body as it is and let go of the clothes that no longer make you feel confident and comfortable.

Another strategy is to remind (or tell) yourself that good clothes really do exist out there for you. It’d be a lie to say there aren’t any good clothes for you.

You may need to seek out clothing you thought you’d never wear before. Experiment with different styles, cuts, and colors. You may be surprised at what you find. Shift your mindset to see this as a fun journey (permission to experiment and shop!), instead of a chore.

And just remember: If you found something you liked at one point in your life, you can find more things again!

4. The Fear Lack of Motivation

Depending on how long you’ve let your closet go, the thought of sorting through piles of clothes and making decisions about what to keep and what to let go of can feel overwhelming.

One effective way to boost your motivation is by setting a clear vision and goal for your decluttered wardrobe. Take some time to imagine how you want your closet to look and feel after decluttering.

Visualize the space, organization, and ease that will come from having a simplified wardrobe. By having a clear picture in mind, you’ll be motivated to take the necessary steps to achieve that vision.

Another strategy is to break the decluttering process into smaller, more manageable tasks. Rather than attempting to tackle your entire wardrobe in one go, focus on one category at a time, such as tops or shoes. This approach allows you to see progress more quickly, which can be highly motivating.

Why not enlist a friend or family member to join you in the decluttering process? Maybe she needs to clean out her closet too and you can do it together via Facetime or Zoom. Plus, having someone to hold you accountable and provide support and encouragement can make the task feel less daunting and more enjoyable.

Lastly, find ways to make the decluttering process more enjoyable for yourself. Play your favorite music, light a scented candle, or create a decluttering playlist. Find small ways to make the task feel more rewarding and engaging.

And don’t forget to set a big reward for yourself at the end when you accomplish your goal! Thinking about getting my favorite takeout or ice cream treat is certainly enough to get me through something I don’t want to do.

how to get past the mental hurdle of decluttering your wardrobe

5. The Fear of Feeling Overwhelmed

I get it. Who wants to start something that you know is going to stress you out? It’s best to just avoid it…for that moment, at least. Avoid it for too long and then you’ve got an even bigger mess on your hands.

When faced with the task of decluttering your wardrobe, it’s common to feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. The thought of going through piles of clothes, making decisions, and organizing everything can seem like an insurmountable challenge. This fear of feeling overwhelmed can leave you feeling paralyzed and unable to take action. So you just don’t.

To overcome this fear, it’s important to break the process down into smaller tasks. Start by setting aside dedicated time for decluttering, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. This way, you can make steady progress without feeling overwhelmed. Additionally, focus on one category of clothing at a time, such as tops or dresses. This allows you to narrow your focus and prevent the task from becoming too daunting.

Another strategy is to create a decluttering plan or checklist. Write down the steps you want to take, such as sorting, organizing, and donating or selling clothes. Having a plan can help you feel more in control and less overwhelmed by the overall task.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek support! Decluttering can be a challenging process, and having someone to assist you or offer guidance can make a big difference. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or professional organizer, having someone by your side can provide motivation, accountability, and a fresh perspective.

6. The Fear of Change

Sometimes decluttering your wardrobe is associated with change and stepping out of your comfort zone. Whether you’re cleaning out old clothes that don’t align with your current personal style or you’re cleaning out clothes because you’re starting a new job and you feel anxious about this new life move, change can be scary!

The most important thing to remind yourself: Change is a natural part of life, and it can lead to growth and new opportunities. So to overcome the fear of change when decluttering your wardrobe, start by reframing your thoughts.

Instead of focusing on what you’re losing, shift your mindset to what you’re gaining. By decluttering, you’re creating space for new styles and possibilities that better align with who you are now.

Another way to overcome the fear of change is by taking small steps. Start by letting go of a few items and see how it feels. Once you take that initial step, you’ll realize that the fear was exaggerated, and it becomes easier to let go of more.

Remind yourself of all the times you were afraid to make a change and it ended up being a good thing. Change is inevitable, but embracing it can lead to a more intentional and fulfilling life.

By overcoming the fear of change and decluttering your wardrobe, you’ll create a space that truly reflects who you are and brings you joy.

7. The Fear of Getting Tired and Not Being Able to Finish the Job

Decluttering your wardrobe is a physical job as much as it is a mental one, and the fear of getting tired can sometimes hold us back from even starting. The thought of sorting through piles of clothes, spending hours on your feet, and ending the day with a pile of clothes on your bed can be overwhelming.

The first thing to do? You guessed it. Break down the decluttering process into less time-consuming chunks. Instead of trying to tackle your entire wardrobe in one day, schedule shorter decluttering sessions spread out over a period of time. This way, you can pace yourself and avoid feeling exhausted.

Second, enlist the help of a friend, partner, or family member. Having someone by your side can provide extra support and make the process feel less daunting. They can help with the physical tasks and provide moral support when you start feeling tired.

Just recently, during my own decluttering process, I enlisted my husband to “be my feet” when I felt too tired to keep going and the pile of clothes on the bed got in the way of sleeping. It’s a lot easier to give orders than it is to do the work – imagine that! (But if you’re asking a friend, family member, or someone who doesn’t have to put up with you, treat them nicely and thank them with a treat!)

Third, take breaks when needed. Listen to your body and rest when you start to feel tired. Pace yourself and don’t push yourself too hard. Remember, decluttering is a marathon, not a sprint.

And if you think you’ll get tired and not be able to finish the job, avoid putting the clothes on your bed and put them in a corner of your room instead. You can even set up a folding table if you have the room. This way, you don’t feel dread when it’s time to go to bed at night and realize your bed is a mess.

Finally, reward yourself after each decluttering session! Treat yourself to a relaxing bath, watch your favorite TV show, or enjoy a delicious meal. Celebrating your progress and taking time to recover can help combat the fear of getting tired and keep you motivated throughout the process.

decluttering your wardrobe

8. The Fear of Regretting Wasting Money

The perception of wasted money is real. But it’s just that: a perception. When you realize that the money has already been spent and holding onto the items doesn’t give you a paycheck, the power of holding onto things starts to fade. (And in some cases, you can actually sell extra clothes, making a little cash on the side!)

Understandably so, decluttering your wardrobe can bring up feelings of regret and guilt, especially when you consider the money you spent on clothes that you no longer wear. It’s natural to feel hesitant about parting with these items, fearing that you wasted your hard-earned money. However, it’s important to remember that holding onto these clothes will only continue to waste space and create clutter in your wardrobe.

To overcome the fear of regretting wasting money, shift your mindset to focus on the positive aspects of decluttering. Instead of dwelling on the monetary value of the clothing items, consider the intangible value of the space you’ll gain by letting go of these unused items. Instead of beating yourself up on the money spent, think about the joy someone else might experience when they find these clothes through donation or resale.

You can also try to reframe your perspective on spending money. Rather than regretting your past purchases, view them as learning experiences that have led you to better understand your personal style and preferences. Money ebbs and flows, and sometimes so do the items in your wardrobe. Letting go now allows you to embrace the opportunity to make more intentional and fulfilling purchases in the future.

When all else fails, apply the sunk-cost term to your wardrobe. This is money that has already been spent and you can’t get back, giving you permission to just let it go and not hold it against yourself. (Though it’s a good idea to apply the learning moment to future purchases!)

This idea is meant to free you up from being committed to something that isn’t working, just because you spent money on it. You are not a failure just because you get rid of something or abandon an idea you spent a lot of money on. This is a normal part of life and business.

9. The Fear of Your Body Changing

The fear of your body changing can be a big roadblock when it comes to decluttering your wardrobe, especially if you’re in the middle of a lifestyle/weight journey. Perhaps you fear that if you get rid of larger or smaller sizes, then you won’t have options available for when your body shape or size changes.

For example, let’s say you’re in the middle of losing weight. Take a realistic look at your current wardrobe and identify the clothes you love but no longer fit. Set them aside in a designated area, like a storage bin or separate closet, so they don’t take up space in your everyday wardrobe. This allows you to keep those clothes that you want to wear later on, while still making room for new items that fit your current size.

Next, focus on purchasing affordable clothes that work with a fluctuating size. Look for things like stretchy fabrics, adjustable waistbands (elastic or drawstrings), cardigans to layer, t-shirt dresses, tiered dresses, and wrap dresses, to give you a few ideas. These styles can be tightened or loosened and be easily adjusted to fit a changing body shape.

Instead of investing in these pieces since they’re only temporary, check out second-hand stores or look at places like Old Navy, Target, or H&M.

How To Identify if You Have an Emotional Attachment to Clothes

If you feel stuck and you don’t know what’s sentimental and what’s not, then it’s important to take a moment to identify if you have an emotional attachment to your clothes. These attachments can often make it challenging to let go of certain items, but recognizing them is the first step towards creating a more organized and intentional wardrobe.

One way to identify if you have an emotional attachment to clothes is by examining how you feel when you think about letting go of them. Do you feel a sense of nostalgia or sadness? Are you hesitant to part with certain pieces because they hold sentimental value or remind you of a special occasion? If so, it’s likely that you have an emotional attachment to these clothes.

Another way to determine if you have an emotional attachment is by evaluating your thought patterns when it comes to decluttering. Do you find yourself justifying keeping clothes that you never wear by saying things like, “But what if I need it someday?” or “I paid so much for this; it would be a waste to get rid of it”? These thought patterns reveal a different type of emotional attachment – one rooted in fear or regret.

Take a look at the physical condition of your clothes. Are there items that are worn out or no longer fit properly, but you still can’t bear to part with them? This attachment may stem from a fear of change or a reluctance to let go of the past.

By identifying what type of emotional attachment you have to clothes, you can approach the decluttering process with greater awareness and understanding of the challenges you may face while you tackle your closet. Remember, it’s okay to have attachments, but also know that letting go can lead to a wardrobe that truly reflects who you are and brings you joy!

decluttering your wardrobe

How To Shift Your Mindset Toward Decluttering

Before you really dive in, it’s important to get your mindset in the right spot. You may have already discovered this, but decluttering can be full of mental hurdles.

Start by reframing your thoughts. Instead of viewing decluttering as a daunting task, think of it as an opportunity for growth and transformation. Get excited about the benefits and focus on the positive outcomes that will come from decluttering, such as a more organized space and a clearer sense of your personal style.

Though it may sound silly, practice gratitude. The fact that you have an overflowing closet to organize is reason enough to be thankful! Even more, take a moment to appreciate the clothes you have and the joy they have brought you in the past.

By expressing gratitude, you can let go of any guilt or attachment you may feel towards certain items, making it easier to part with them. Marie Kondo went as far as to thank each clothing item, and if that resonates with you, that can be a thing to try.

Another strategy is to visualize your ideal wardrobe, down to what your hangers look like – mine are velvet! Imagine how you want your wardrobe to look and feel after decluttering. This vision will serve as motivation and help you stay focused on your goals throughout the process.

Last but not least, embrace the concept of minimalism. Simplifying your wardrobe can lead to a more intentional and fulfilling life. Shift your mindset to value quality over quantity, and prioritize items that truly bring you joy and serve a purpose in your life. Embracing this lifestyle will make decluttering your closet easier from here on out.

Related: How to Clean and Organize Your Closet Like a Pro

How To Set Realistic Goals for Decluttering

Setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and a lack of motivation. So how do you set realistic goals for decluttering?

First, take an inventory of your wardrobe and assess the amount of time and energy you can realistically dedicate to the process. Are you able to declutter your entire wardrobe in one weekend, or would it be more manageable to tackle one category at a time, such as tops, bottoms, or accessories?

Next, consider your desired outcome. What do you hope to achieve by decluttering your wardrobe? Is it to create a more organized space, simplify your morning routine, or define your personal style? Setting specific and achievable goals will help guide your decluttering process and keep you motivated along the way.

Lastly, be flexible and adapt your goals as needed. Decluttering can be a journey, and it’s okay if your timeline or expectations change as you go. The key is to be kind to yourself and celebrate each step of progress, no matter how small.

Realistic goals are dependent on your specific lifestyle and needs, but setting the right ones for decluttering your wardrobe will set you up for success and make the process more manageable and enjoyable.

How to Declutter Practically

Ready to tackle your closet? I’m proud of you! Now that you psyched yourself up to tackle the task of decluttering your wardrobe, let’s dive into some practical tips to make the process more manageable – and even enjoyable.

  • Start with a plan: Before you begin, create a decluttering plan or checklist. At the very least, a mental one. Break down your wardrobe into categories, such as tops, bottoms, and accessories, and tackle one category at a time. This will help you stay organized and focused throughout the process.
  • Take it one step at a time: Decluttering can be overwhelming, so don’t feel pressured to tackle your entire wardrobe in one go. Instead, set aside dedicated time each day or week to work on specific categories. This way, you’ll make steady progress without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Use the “four-pile method”: As you go through each item, sort them accordingly: keep, donate, sell, and discard. Be honest with yourself about what you truly need and love, and let go of anything that doesn’t work for your current lifestyle. (Excluding those few exceptions.)
  • Try the hanger trick: Turn all your hangers in one direction and as you wear an item, hang it back up in the opposite direction. After a few months, you’ll easily see which clothes you regularly wear and which ones can be let go of.
  • Consider the 80/20 rule: The 80/20 rule states that we only wear about 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. Meaning, there are so many unworn clothes in your wardrobe that could automatically go. Keep this in mind as you declutter and aim to create a wardrobe filled with pieces that you truly love and wear frequently.
  • Get creative with storage solutions: Invest in storage containers, dividers, and hangers to help keep your remaining clothes organized. Maximize your space by utilizing under-bed storage or hanging organizers for accessories.
  • Don’t forget the sentimental items: Sentimental items can be the hardest to let go of, but you don’t have to part with them completely, as mentioned previously. If you want to keep these items on display, consider creating a memory box or finding alternative ways to display or repurpose these items so they can still bring you joy without cluttering your wardrobe.

Decluttering is a process, and it’s okay to take it at your own pace. Just find a pace that keeps it moving! No matter how slow that may feel at times.

How to Find Joy in a Simplified Wardrobe

You’re almost there! If you haven’t experienced it before, I’m here to tell you that the benefits of a simplified wardrobe are well worth the effort. Once you’ve conquered the mental challenges and decluttered your clothes, you’ll find that a simplified wardrobe brings a sense of joy and ease to your daily life.

One of the key benefits is the increased organization. With a simplified wardrobe, you’ll be able to easily find and put together outfits without rummaging through piles of clothes. This will save you time and stress, allowing you to start your day on a positive note.

A simplified wardrobe also promotes a clearer sense of personal style. By decluttering and keeping only the clothes that truly bring you joy and make you feel confident, you’ll have a wardrobe that reflects your unique personality. Getting dressed will become a breeze, as you’ll be surrounded by clothes that you love and that fit you well!

Another benefit of a simplified wardrobe is the reduction of decision fatigue. With fewer options to choose from, you’ll be able to make outfit decisions more quickly and easily. This can free up mental energy for more important decisions in your life.

decluttering your wardrobe

Though decluttering is a journey, it’s one worth going on. To help you get the most out of your decluttering, I created a resource for you that will tell you exactly what to get rid of, as well as find your personal style, create endless outfits using what you have, and more! Interested?


Founder and editor of My Chic Obsession, Carolyn is your trusted fashion maven. Carolyn's drive to help others achieve a classic and timeless wardrobe fuels her posts, making a go-to resource for style seekers worldwide. Beyond the wardrobe, she resides in the heartland of the Midwest, dreaming up new ideas and raising her two lively boys - her biggest fashion critics.