How to declutter your wardrobe and clear out your closet of unwanted, unnecessary, outdated clothing in 2020

How to declutter your wardrobe and clear out your closet of unwanted, unnecessary, outdated clothing in 2020

Toss or keep?

Text: Gordon Ng

Editor: Jolene Khor

Marie Kondo might have given decluttering a zen angle, but the truth is that clearing your stuff out is stressful. The Konmari method suggests you declutter by winnowing your things down to only what "sparks joy" for you. Which is great, except sometimes picking up a shirt you loved a year ago might not yield any insight into whether you're going to love it again anytime soon. As far as fashion goes, here's a more practical and no-nonsense guide.


Donate and recycle these

First on the list is denim. Chances are you've got multiple pairs, so you'll want to start by narrowing down by fit. A pair of skinny jeans is always a good standby, so you'll want to keep one or two — black or blue only. Anything else in highlighter tones belongs in a 2009 K-pop music video, so those can go. It's a good idea to keep a pair in different fits like casual boyfriend or bootcut jeans so you have some versatility sans excess. Bonus: you can trade your denim in at places like Levi's and H&M for a discount.

Next, be stringent on your basics. Consider 2020 the chance to upgrade your worn or washed out T-shirts and tank tops. It's a better bet to shop for quality staples that will last longer, and there are plenty of organic cotton and other premium options out there. Other things to consider: unflattering sweaters in overly thick or scratchy fabrics. The former is untenable, and the latter plain uncomfortable.

A good way to filter your closet is also by washing method. We're believers that dry-clean or hand-wash-only is usually more trouble than it's worth, and you'll definitely be getting less wear out of those pieces. The primary exceptions are coats and jackets that you can rewear a lot before sending it for professional laundering, but anything else overly fussy is worth proper evaluation. Beware pieces with complex details like embroidery, paillettes, sequins, and the like. Consider if you'll be getting enough wear out of them to warrant space in your wardrobe, or would they be better loved by someone else?

A good rule of thumb when it comes to getting rid of clothing is to simply look at it and ask yourself: does this immediately bring to mind a particular year past? Things like peplum blouses and dresses that are so 2012, or streetwear hoodies that belong to a specific time in the past. (Hood By Air and Pyrex, I'm looking at you.) If it's clearly dated, there's a good chance it's way past its trendy expiration date and will do you few favours in time to come.


Keep these

The exception to the above rule, however, are high fashion pieces that mark specific collections or times. Think of the newfound power of flexing an old Celine design, the slow and subtle resurgence of Nicolas Ghesquiere's Balenciaga pieces, or the explosive second wind of Fendi Baguettes and Dior Saddle bags. Take a good look at the pieces you have, and consider if they are timeless enough to stand on their own design qualities.

The Olsen twins' philosophy of sublime perfection is a good way to approach your basics. Look for premium brands that can make up your workhorse staples, because there's really no need to spend four figures on something as utilitarian as a sweater. We also suggest you ignore the militant minimalists and keep things purely for sentimental value — especially if they're clothes from important events in your past. Lots of people misunderstand Konmari, but we're on board with Marie Kondo's belief that some of your belongings have emotional weight and histories that should be treasured. Operative phrase: some. Make sure to kick yourself if you've entered hoarding mode and started giving stories to every other T-shirt in your closet. Also remember not to toss out the pieces that you can use to change up your style and keep things fun.

Lastly, make a survey of your personal style and identify two things: the foundations and the oddball exceptions. The foundations should form a reliable backbone of your wardrobe, and the things you turn to all the time. These should be trimmed down to items of as high a quality as you can afford — you'll look and feel better, and be more assured that they'll never fade into the demode netherworld of an old trend.

The oddball exceptions, however, are where you keep the fun things. The injections of colour, print or texture you don't normally wear. Collectible pieces you save for dressier occasions, and basically the fashion flavour that keeps things exciting. We're believers in a tightly edited wardrobe, but remember not to toss the fun that comes with dressing up out in the process.