52-Week Challenge for Stress-Free Closet Decluttering

Cropped photo of the inside of a tidy, uncluttered closet with a few coats hanging in it.

Looking for a stress-free way to declutter? A 52-week challenge might be the way to go. Tackling a bigger project bit by bit each week for one whole year is a slow and steady way to reach your goal.

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The doors barely shut. You can’t find anything when you need it. In fact, you’ve forgotten about a lot of the stuff in there. There are things with tags still attached and you have no idea when you got them. Or why.

Sound familiar?

I’ve joked about my own struggle with an overflowing closet in a number of past posts. It remains my number one weak spot, both in terms of spending habits and organising. The thought of going heads on with my wardrobe and downsizing my closet inventory was making my head spin.

So in the new year, I came up with a game, a slow game to help me tackle the closet in a relatively stress-free manner. I’m getting rid of 52 articles of clothing this year. One piece per week. That’s doable, right? I think so, too!

Scrutinising the Content of Your Closet

Ever since Zoom took over our lives, many of us have been living in our joggers. We happily donned only about 20% of our wardrobe while business attire, formal wear, and “good” outfits went largely unworn.

Every time life seemed to be going back to normal, another variant cropped up and there we were again: at home in our yoga pants. For many of us, the leisurewear stuck in our new post-pandemic lives.

So, now seems like a good time for some due diligence in the closet. I mean, why am I digging through stuff in there every day when I don’t even wear it anymore?

There’s probably never been a better time to declutter the closet than now, when we haven’t worn more than half our wardrobe in a few years. At this point it’s become clear which pieces we wear the most, and how we’d like our closet to reflect our lifestyle changes.

The sweatshirts we’ve continually reached for are keepers, for example. If your company has shifted to a hybrid work model or went entirely remote, you can likely let go of some pantsuits and pencil skirts. If you still have to consult with clients or business partners on location, you might want to keep one go-to power suit, and sell or donate the rest.

Do what works for you. Your situation might be the polar opposite. Perhaps you bought ten jogging suits during the pandemic, but now you’re back at the office or uni Monday to Friday and need to look more put together. In that case, sort out your leisurewear to see if you can let something go.

Here’s how I’ve been proceeding with this challenge so far this year. Spoiler: it’s been super easy, and I think this is the year I’ll really finally be able to get a grip on my closet again!


How I Do a 52-Week Challenge in the Closet

The Setup

To start my closet clear-out challenge, I did two things. First, I set up a rolling garment rack in my changing area. I use this rack as a catchall for the items I weed out for re-sale.

Second, I hung a donation bag from the clothing rack. Anything deemed for charity lands in this bag. Once a month, I take it to the Red Cross collection point near my house when I’m running my errands.

You might be thinking: “But this stuff is going to be in your way for a whole year!” Yep, I know. And that is precisely the impetus I personally need to complete this project. I need this rack and donation bag to be in plain sight so that I actually follow through with decluttering the closet. Otherwise I’ll continue putting it off.

In addition, the visibility of the rack keeps me in check. If I have too many things for re-sale always hanging on it, that means I’m lagging behind in listing my items for sale.

Want to have a look? Here’s the status quo of my rolling rack this week, with some items I’ve weeded out over the past month:

Photo of a white, rollable Ikea clothing rack in the laundry room, being used to organize clothing decluttered during a 52-week challenge in closet decluttering.
I keep items I’m selling on this rack and collect garments for donation in the bag hanging off it. When I need to do laundry, I just wheel the rack to the side so I can get to the washer and dryer. Yes, I would prefer to have everything out of the way and out of sight, but having this rack where it mildly annoys me keeps me accountable and motivated to stay on top of my 52-week challenge in the closet!

The Closet Decluttering Process

Instead of emptying out the entire closet, trying everything on, and making a huge mess, I’m taking a different approach during this decluttering challenge.

On a daily basis, I’m essentially questioning every single item of clothing I put on:

  • How does it make me feel?
  • If a particular item of clothing makes me feel frumpy, I try wearing it one more time with something different. Maybe I was just having a bad hair day and actually love the item.
  • If I still feel lousy in it, it gets hung on my “to sell” rack or goes straight to the donation bag.
  • Is it worn out?
  • I get rid of anything ripped, stained, with holes, or which no longer fits.

Whenever I have time, usually on a weekly basis at the weekend, I list any items for resale which have accumulated on my rack.

My personal go-to platforms are eBay, Depop, Vinted, and Vestiaire Collective. You might have totally different marketplaces in your region. If you need some inspiration for selling your stuff online, check out my extensive article about making money with your clutter.

Once something is on the rack or in the donation bag, it stays there! No second doubts later on. Then just take 20 minutes or so every week to list whatever item you weeded out for re-sale.

I only make one exception to this rule: if I have friends over and someone wants something I’ve sorted out, that’s fine! On a few occasions, a couple of friends have “shopped” my rack. It’s a win-win situation. They find something cool and I don’t have to invest time into listing and shipping the item.

Keeping the Closet Organised

As things start thinning out in your closet over the course of the 52-week challenge, how do you prevent clothes from piling up again?

Number one is to be really critical of any new purchases. Shopping and browsing when you’re bored or frustrated is a sure fire way to wind up with stuff you never wear. So understand your shopping triggers.

Beyond this common sense, there are a few other tricks to keep your closet pared down and tidy:

  • Religiously adhere to the “one it, one out” rule. If you buy a new dress, for example, get rid of one of your old dresses.
  • Use the reverse hanger trick! Whenever you’ve worn something, hang it back the other way around in your closet. I like to use matching hangers. At the end of the year, you’ll be able to quickly spot everything you never once wore. In turn, you could easily do one final, more ruthless decluttering session at the end of your 52-week challenge if you use this hanger method.
  • Only purchase quality garments that fit you perfectly and make you feel ON. You’ll get more wear out of them than you will with fast fashion. You might initially spend more on an individual piece of quality clothing, but you’ll get a better bang for your buck in the long run.

Benefits of the 52-Week Closet Challenge

Doing a slow closet clean-out challenge is less overwhelming than doing a full-on decluttering marathon. It keeps you accountable all throughout the year and yields steady results.

Another huge advantage to downsizing your closet slowly instead of radically is that your mindset will change over time. You’ll acclimate gradually to the subtle change in your closet week-by-week, and become more conscious of what you introduce to your wardrobe.

After all, removing one item of clothing per week will not make a huge dent in the overall volume of your closet inventory. Yet after a couple of months, you’ll start finding the increased space in your wardrobe totally refreshing. And if you’ve been struggling with lack of storage in a no-closet bedroom, you will definitely see and feel the difference after decluttering your wardrobe.

52 items lighter after one year, you’ll also find it easier to get dressed in the morning. Gone are the ugly frocks you hated. Gone are the garments you just never reached for. What remains, ideally, are the things you love. The clothing which fits well and makes you feel good about yourself.

What do you think of the 52-week challenge, could you imagine using this method to slowly downsize your own closet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Narrow, but very tidy little closet, with a haning rod beneath shelving. Caption reads: low-stress decluttering. How to downsize your closet slowly over 52 weeks.
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