Simple Living

Questions to Ask Yourself When Clearing out your Closet

For this next post of our decluttering series, we’re focusing on decluttering our closets.

Choosing to Let Clothes Go

Whether it’s because you’ve been looking at your closet and desiring a more minimalist approach or it’s just time to create some space, letting go of clothing can be challenging.

We’ve probably all heard by now Marie Kondo’s question “Does this spark joy?” when it comes to decluttering. I do love that question since I like having things around me that bring joy, but find I need to delve deeper than that, like Roberta Lee does when she talks about wearing her values.

What to Ask Yourself

If the “does this spark joy?” question doesn’t speak to you on a practical level for clearing out your closet, here are a few questions you can consider when paring down your wardrobe

1. How do I feel when I wear this?

Clothing can have an amazing ability to help us feel great, but can also have the opposite effect.

When you’re wearing the item of clothing, does it make you feel:

  • Empowered
  • Comfortable
  • Confident
  • Attractive
  • Uplifted/Energetic
  • Safe/Secure
  • Like yourself
  • Or any other positive feelings?

Or does it make you feel:

  • Self conscious
  • Uncomfortable
  • Frumpy
  • Unattractive
  • Unmotivated
  • Like you’re trying to be someone else
  • The need to compare yourself to others
  • Or any other negative feelings?

This is similar to asking yourself if your clothes “spark joy” for you, but delves a little deeper. Take a look at what you feel when you put on the item or even hold it up. If the feelings are mostly negative, that could be a sign to let the item go.

2. What practical use does this serve?

Sometimes we own items of clothing because they serve a particular purpose. I have a number of items slotted specifically for my job that I would be unlikely to wear elsewhere. I also have a couple items I use specifically for refinishing furniture that I can get paint on (it inevitably always happens to me!)

So when you’re deciding to keep or let go of an item, check in with yourself on whether it serves a purpose for you or not.

  • Do you use this for a particular task?
  • Does this get used for a particular event?
  • Are there other items that serve these purposes more effectively?

3. When was the last time I wore this item?

When I shared my decluttering tips in our post 3 Easy Steps to Start Decluttering, I spoke about how I turn my hangers backwards in my closet.

I can’t usually remember when I wear an item of clothing, so I need a trick to help me figure it out.

Every couple of years I will reverse my hangers in my closet. When I wear an item, I hang it back up the correct way. This is a simple, easy way to tell which items of clothing I wear and which ones I do not.

I usually check in at the end of a season to see what I actually chose to wear for summer, fall, winter, or spring. The items on hangers that are still backwards usually head to the thrift store.

4. Am I keeping this out of obligation or choice?

Have you ever received a clothing item as a gift and felt obligated to keep it? I definitely have! Or perhaps it was a hand-me-down or it has other sentimental value.

It is a very freeing thing to let go of items you truly don’t want to keep. If the item is not serving a purpose or bringing a positive impact into your life, consider letting it go.

I have two scenarios for you on this topic.


I was given a truly ugly sweater one year for Christmas. It was something I was never going to wear, so I made the choice to return it instead of feeling obligated to keep it to appease the gifter. In exchange, I was able to get a lovely–and incredibly useful–winter coat that I’ve now had for over a decade. I sheepishly told the gifter that I did this, but was fully supported in my choice as it was exchanged for something I could love and use.


I also have in my closet a jacket that I never wear. It was a gift from one of my best friends who has since passed away. While I never wear the jacket, it helps me to remember my friend and the times we spent together. In this case, I’m keeping an item I do not use out of choice, not obligation. There is no weight of regret in keeping the item because it does spark joy for me.

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Time to Get Started

Now it’s time to tackle your closet! If going through all of your clothes at once feels too daunting, try breaking the items down into sections. The sections could be by type of clothing (all t-shirts one day, all shorts the next) or by section of your clothing storage (one drawer at a time, one quarter of the closet from left to right).

The Sustainable Reason

When you have clothes in your closet that make you feel good, that are useful for your life, that you wear often, and that you have in your closet by choice, the chances of you continuing to wear them are so much greater! I mention this as a reminder that the most sustainable clothing choice you can make is to wear the clothes you already own for longer.

Decluttering your closet can help you see and know what you own, helping you to truly know what you need to purchase because clothes are not lost in a pile of unseen items.

When you next need to buy an item, considering the sustainable elements to the garments is important–from treatment of workers, to types of materials, to methods of production; however, discarding items in your closet simply to go out and purchase a sustainable label is not helping. Choose to wear your current clothes longer and you will be making a huge difference!


  • Molly @ Transatlantic Notes

    I really like the questions you have posed here as it means that we really reflect on what we have/need/want, etc before we clear out our closet. Being mindful of our answers will help us not to just fill up the closet again with stuff we don’t need or cleared out. Thanks for sharing this!

    • A Sustainably Simple Life

      Thanks, Molly! That is great to hear as that was part of my goal. I’m trying to be more mindful with the things I own and transfer that mindset to how I purchase (or keep from purchasing) new things.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!