Last Updated on 25/01/2023
It’s a first-world problem, for sure. You open your closet doors after showering and immediately feel overwhelmed by the number of garments staring back at you. It’s quarter to eight and you gotta get going. Yet here you are in your undies stressed out about getting dressed. Paradoxically, feeling like there’s nothing to wear when you have a full closet is probably the number one indicator you have too much. Read on for 10 other signs you have too many clothes, plus some easy tips for sorting your wardrobe.
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#1 You Have Clothes You Never Wear
You might love them, sometimes even try them on to admire yourself in the mirror. But you never actually wear some clothes. Why? They probably don’t suit your lifestyle.
We’re talking about that Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress when you never go the office anymore. Or the monstrously voluminous puffer jacket you only ever used to wear to take the dog out before he went to doggie heaven. And that hat you bought on a whim when you visited London. How often do you attend the Royal Ascot, hm? 😉
You don’t have to throw items like this out when you’re decluttering your closet. While they might not suit your past (or fantasy) lifestyle, someone else might want to get some wear out of them!
Consider donating workwear to a women’s shelter or refugee centre, for example. They sometimes have a need for outfits suitable for job interview scenarios. Alternatively, you could try your hand on the pre-loved market. It’s a great way to recoup some of what you originally spent while clearing out your closet.
Check out my posts on the best ways to get rid of stuff you've decluttered, and how to turn your clutter into cash on the second-hand market.
#2 You Have Clothes You Only Ever Wore Once
The leather jeggings that garnered a funny look from your boss at the office.
The jumper you bought on sale that makes you feel frumpy.
A dress that looked elegant when you tried it on, but turned out to be a static cling nightmare that wiggles up your buttocks.
The split-hem jeans you thought would make you look on trend because, well, TikTok.
These were no one-hit wonders. In fact you only wore them once, ever. Then you mentally banished them to the “ew, no” section of your closet.
Hanging onto clothing that you only ever wore once is another one of the signs you have too many clothes. If you pass them over on a daily basis and always reach for other stuff, you can probably let them go.
#3 You’re Hanging on to Clothes That Don’t Fit
A couple of decades ago (cut me some slack) there was an SATC episode where Miranda miraculously fit into her old skinny jeans. Celebration commenced on the dance floor and, spoiler alert, the darn button popped at the end of the night.
It’s true: a lot of us hang on to things that don’t fit in the hope that they will again. Eventually. One day! Here’s the thing though. If you haven’t started that diet or exercise regime or whatever it’s going to take to fit back into those clothes, then it might be time to accept how your body has changed. Let the clothes go, and go live your best life in your new size.
#4 You Still Have Your Prom Dress
Another one of the signs you have too many clothes is when your wardrobe is full of garments that are either outdated or merely serve as sentimental tokens.
Classic examples: prom dresses, wedding gowns (in some cases even when people have divorced!), bridesmaid attire. Old Halloween costumes, or the bell bottom polyester hip huggers your mom gave you.
Unless you have the space and means to maintain a fashion archive with stuff like this, you might want to do some decluttering. You’ll free up space and give the clothes you actually wear more breathing room.
If you find it difficult getting rid of sentimental garments because they bring back such great memories, why not take a picture of them? You can create a “Fashion Flashback” folder on your phone or in your Evernote, and look at the photos anytime you like! Add some images of the event you wore them to and you’ve got yourself a little digital fashion scrapbook to boot.
#5 Getting Dressed Is Downright Stressful
Dateline: Wednesday morning, the home office. You’re sitting in your bathrobe working through a backlog for Engineering when you realise you need to get dressed because you have an actual meeting later on at the company office. You immediately feel stressed out. It’s not just the thought of having to blow out your hair today. It’s not knowing what the heck to wear.
Nothing feels right. You’ve gained a couple of pounds and feel pinched and pulled by most of your trousers. Your favourite jumper is at the dry cleaner’s and you can’t possibly wear the oversize black sweatshirt yet again. A colleague recently joked they’ve never seen you in anything but that darn thing!
One of the telltale signs you have too many clothes is when you wear the same things over and over again. This is less due to a lack of choice in your closet. On the contrary, getting dressed is stressful because there is too much choice. Why not sort out some garments, and free up some of your valuable closet space?
#6 You Have Clothes In Poor Condition
Broken zippers, scuffed leather, tears, rips and stains. If you’re hanging on to garments that have seen better days, it may well be high time to make a call on them.
Decide whether or not the item in question is repairable and, if so, if you’re willing to spend the money or time to repair it. If not, toss it into the recycling bin for textiles at your local H&M or other recycling centre.
#7 You Have More Than You Could Ever Wear
Some people have so much in their closet that they could put together a different outfit each day for an entire year. Having a lot of stuff can be overwhelming though, especially in the closet. You have to take care of it all, keep dust, moisture and moths at bay, and rotate things to prevent them from getting squashed and crushed.
If this is how you like spending your time and you know where everything is, all the power to you! If you’re tired of pulling things out you haven’t worn in years though, only to be dismayed that they’ve been ruined by pests or lost their shape, then paring down your wardrobe might be the better way to go.
#8 You Have Clothes With the Tags Still On
Here’s one yours truly has been guilty of. Clothing in my closet with the tags still on, oh yes. Things I bought years ago. Stuff I always put off decluttering because the thought of how much money I spent on it all froze me in my tracks.
It’s not uncommon to have a few items of clothing with the tags still on, but having an overwhelming number of such items is a pretty clear indication of a cluttered closet. This is especially true if you find yourself buying new clothes more often than you wear them.
Not only is this a waste of money, but it can lead to feelings of shame (for not getting use out of stuff you spent money on) and stress (for feeling like you have to wear it all since you bought it). Not to mention the whole “slave to fashion” feeling that comes with trying to keep up with the Joneses on TikTok and Insta.
One of the reasons we tend to have unworn stuff still hanging in our wardrobes with the tags on is that at the time of purchase, we were envisioning some future version of ourselves. Perhaps we bought formal wear on sale, thinking we would need it for a gala event down the road at some point. Maybe it was athletic gear for a sport we never took up in the end, or some trendy piece we saw on our socials. Not to mention that pair of stilettos that was so darn pretty, we had to have them even though we never wear heels.
Yes, it can hurt a bit to let stuff like this go. In a way, you feel as if you’re admitting defeat to yourself. Plus the financial aspect can sting! Here again though, there are people out there who would love to buy your brand-new-with-tags (“BNWT”) stuff on one of the many online marketplaces you can sell on.
#9 You Keep Buying Duplicates
If you find yourself tripped up by sporadic bouts of fashion dementia, you’re not alone. I cannot count how many times I’ve come home with a new purchase of something I already had in the back of my closet. My sartorial Alzheimer’s seems to come into play when it comes to blue on white striped jumpers and tiger prints. Not to mention a white t-shirt addiction.
Forgetting what you already have in your closet is one of the more obvious signs you have too many clothes. Here again, the solution is simple: cull what you already own, declutter a bit, and take stock of what’s in your wardrobe.
On a positive note, the good thing about realising your tendency to buy identical items is that it’s an indication you’ve identified your personal style. That’s a very powerful insight to have. It means you can focus on the styles that work for you when you make any future purchases.
#10 You Can’t Find What You Know You Have
Another one of the more obvious signs that you have too many clothes is when you simply cannot find what you’re looking for in your closet. And you know you have it. It’s in there somewhere! It’s not in the laundry or at the dry cleaner’s. Where on earth is it?!
When I’ve had these moments myself, I often found the item in question days (or weeks 😬) later, wedged in tightly between the back of two stuffed drawers in the closet. Couldn’t believe it had been stuck there all along!
If your drawers are jamming up like mine were or you’re convinced there’s a blackhole in the back of your closet that’s making things disappear, you probably have too many clothes for the size of your closet.
Conclusion (and a Cheat Sheet)
When you have too many clothes, it’s difficult to find what you want to wear and keep everything organised. If you tick any of the boxes for the above signs and have too many clothes, what can you do about it without going full-on minimalist?
You don’t have to go purge everything you own, or force yourself to adopt a capsule wardrobe if that’s not your style. You also don’t have to Konmari your closet, because if you do, it’s going to create a right mess in your space for a few days at minimum.
I’m a big proponent of two things around here: intentional living, and creating new habits. Both tie in nicely with closet organisation. For one, you can take things slowly when decluttering. Perhaps do one drawer or shelf or rod a week. Or try out my 52-week challenge to get rid of 52 items from your closet over the course of a year.
Second, if you have too many clothes and a general shopping problem in this area like me, it’s good to take a step back and reassess your consumer habits. Come to understand your shopping triggers, and why you spend the way you do. Know your intentions, and what you value.
There are many ways to save money on clothes without sacrificing style, including opting for high quality pieces over fast fashion. Take it slowly to find a balance that works for you. I’m still in the process myself, and can say it’s worth it. Simplifying parts of my closet has made me feel lighter, freer, and more focused on what I really like to wear.
7 Questions to Ask Yourself When Sorting Out Clothes
- Does this fit me now?
- Is this in good condition?
- Is this still in style or will it come back in style?
- Does it suit my lifestyle?
- When was the last time I wore this?
- Would I buy this again?
- Do I feel good in this?
These questions are powerful little helpers when you’re on the fence about an item in your closet. Use them to help you decide whether to keep something or not.
You’ll feel better when you have a wardrobe that reflects your personal style plus you’ll be able to get dressed more easily when you have fewer clothes to choose from. Keep the items that make you look and feel your best, and you’ll be well on your way to streamlining your wardrobe.
Becoming selective about what you introduce to your closet and decluttering what you don’t wear will really help simplify your daily routine of picking an outfit and dressing.