How to Move On from Keeping Clothes We Never Wear

nichola english the dressing room the retreat Aug 13, 2021

By Nichola English. 

Every women’s wardrobe I look at is often made up of a mixture of active and non-active wear. 

What do I mean by that? 

Well, we all have clothing we wear most of the time (active), as well as items that are simply unworn no matter what and remain dormant for the rest of their existence (non-active). 

For example, you spend the day on a clothes shopping spree and purchase a fabulous new piece that may have cost you a few pennies. Then you just leave it hanging up in your wardrobe and it never sees the light of day.

“85% of women have clothes in their wardrobe that don’t get utilised”

A study by Elizabeth Bye and Ellen McKinney found that 85% of women have clothes in their wardrobe that don't fit, or no longer serve them. I do recognise however there can be some reasoning behind why we keep clothes we don’t wear anymore. 

I think a lot of people, including me, come up against hesitation blocks when we’re trying to get rid of pieces in our wardrobe, making it difficult to let go of what we no longer love and wear.

Understanding why it’s hard to let go is the first place to start. Once you understand what’s making you want to keep unwearable items in your wardrobe, it’s easier to move past the mind blocks. As a result you effectively cleanse your mind, body and wardrobe.


Ask yourself the question “Why?

If you’re having difficulty letting go of clothes you no longer wear or love, here are some suggestions to help you through the reasoning and move forward.

1: The item is new or barely worn and you feel guilty about wasting precious time and money on it

We all buy stuff we think we’ll love and fit our clothing brief at the time. Perhaps you bought something trendy but never felt comfortable in it. Or maybe you wanted something new and settled for something that was just ‘alright’, rather than waiting to find something you really loved. 

The list of reasons can be endless as to why you should keep an item and not just let it go. Putting a plan in place to help you make better choices in future can be a vital and therapeutic lesson. And remind yourself, the money is already well and truly spent. By keeping that item you cannot bring that money back, so just let the attachment go.

2: You’ve tried a new fashion trend or style, but it doesn’t work for you, your body shape or your lifestyle

Maybe you set out to buy something on trend that captured your interest in one of those glossy mags you like reading during a coffee break. You thought it would give you a fresh, updated look, but then felt it never really worked for your body shape, taste, or lifestyle. 

Or perhaps that style in question passed its wearable date. Firstly, you need to try and figure out what your signature personal style is i.e., classic, natural, or dramatic. Look at the types of clothes you look and feel good in. Why not give some thought to what your favourite style of outfit is, or the styles you gravitate towards when you want to look and feel great, before hitting that buy button?

3: It’s a classic piece you’re expected to have in your wardrobe

You do not need to keep an item that doesn’t make you look or feel good, just because it’s a classic staple you think you should keep. The rule of thumb is, if you don’t love it or the way it looks and feels, you’re never going to wear it. 

Your wardrobe is a representation of you and should reflect your lifestyle and tastes. Don’t be afraid to make your own dress-up rules. If that classic little black dress isn’t calling you then just let it go. You can articulate your own dressing and styling rules – don’t be restricted by someone else’s.

4: It was bought as a gift and holds some sentimental value

This can be a little thought-provoking and one we’ve all most likely experienced. There’s no question that many factors can come into play and make the process of decluttering and letting go of items like these a little more challenging. Take time to think about items like this. Does it conjure positive memories? Do you still love wearing it? Does it take up valuable space? 

Look at all the pros and cons with these clothing items, then make your decision based on the feedback you give yourself. Plus, there are so many ways to be creative with sentimental gifts. Why not opt for a memory box (I do this with wardrobe declutter clients)? It can be decorative or whatever you choose, and a place just to store the item with a little note. You could even get creative and make a patchwork quilt from the material, frame a small piece in a picture, or transform a T-shirt using the fabric. The creative world is your oyster when it comes to keeping this stuff, so dive in and see how creative you can be.

5: Your clothes should represent who you are now not who you were in the past

It’s your clothes job to represent and reflect who you are now with your lifestyle and taste, not who you were 5, 10 or 15 years ago. So, let past clothing go. It’s done its job and most likely served you well, so it’s time to allow the clothes that reflect who you are now to take pride and joy in your wardrobe.

6: The “What ifs” of your wardrobe

You’ve done it – you’ve hit your let go goal of certain pieces of clothing. But then your mind starts to play funny little tricks by getting you to think of why you should keep it instead. So, pause for a moment and ask yourself why exactly you’re keeping items you don't wear? Why did you want to let it go in the first place? When was the last time you wore it, was it more than 1 or 2 years ago? Remember why you’re doing this. By simplifying your wardrobe and life, it’s very liberating letting go of stuff you don’t wear anymore.


Final thoughts!

As times change it’s important to understand why we have to let go of unloved and unnecessary clothes. When we do this we make progress in the simplification of our wardrobe, making it workable and a happy place to visit.

“Remember you’ve got to love it or let it go!”

Love & Style.


 Nichola English is addicted to fashion. From an early age picking out clothes for friends and family, she always had an eye for style which only expanded as she got older, eventually creating her business, The Wardrobe Provocateur. 

Nichola adores working with women (and men) across the world discovering personal style, reinventing that old tired wardrobe and realising new confidence and vitality through coaching, shopping and good old clearing out of the old. You can read her full story of becoming The Wardrobe Provocateur here. 



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