I pick up a few random sweaters or pants and try to talk myself into getting rid of them. But my inner clothes hoarder protests.

Share story

Every year around this time, I start scowling into my closet wondering why I have so many clothes. I inevitably zero in on a few obvious suspects that I neither wear nor like, and I aggressively stuff them into bags for a trip to a charity thrift store, but then I’m stymied by purging paralysis.

It’s like the clothes have some secret force field around them that prevents me from removing them from the house. I pick up a few random sweaters or pants and try to talk myself into getting rid of them. I use all the usual common-sense principles: you haven’t worn this in a year (or maybe two), it doesn’t fit well (or worse, you can’t fit into it), it’s dated and too often, I’m not even sure I like this.

But my inner clothes hoarder protests: Maybe you’ll wear it this year, maybe you’ll lose weight, maybe you’ll fix that hole in the sleeve, maybe this will come back in style, maybe you’ll find the perfect shoes and won’t you be sorry this isn’t around.

I quickly become exhausted arguing against my own irrationality and pretty much give up, happy to have excised a few belongings on the bottom rung of the clothing attachment hierarchy.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

If you’re even remotely in the same boat and you want to shed some closet weight, here are a few ideas.

Pack a bag. Pretend you’re going on a 10-day trip and pack accordingly. Yes, really pack. Toss in your favorites but be judicious. Once you’ve got everything in there, zip it up and toss it in the closet for the next 30 days.

Admit and repent. OK, don’t just cop to the problem, let’s take a giant step at resolving it. If you can go on a shopping fast, do it for the next 30 days. But if you do shop, forget the one-in-one-out rule. Up the stakes. One in equals three out. No excuses.

Start backward. Most closet-cleaning rituals involve wearing everything and then figuring out what you don’t wear. A classic tip is to turn all your hangers around so that the hook is facing forward, when you wear an item you can replace it in the closet with the hook facing backward. Then at the end of a specified time you vow to remove everything on a hanger that’s still reversed.

Set a goal. This won’t work for everyone, but I like a finish line. I’m aiming to remove 30 items from my closet this month. That’s roughly a week’s worth of clothing and accessories. It’s totally arbitrary.

Love it or lose it. OK, so you can wear it, but does it bring you joy, to borrow from “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by declutter master Marie Kondo? There are items that I wear that feel like me. I can’t explain it, but they just do. They make me feel confident, secure, comforted and attractive. With other items, I have an involuntary reaction. I like them just fine but I don’t love them. I sometimes begrudgingly wear them because they happen to be clean, but they do not make me happy. They do not feel like me, so they’re gone.

But what about … If it almost fits, if it needs repair, if it has sentimental value, if it was really, really expensive. Unless it’s a wedding dress or something that’s going to be passed down to another generation, don’t keep it if you can’t wear it or don’t plan to display it. Don’t keep it; it’s clutter.