11 Reasons Why It’s Hard to Purge Clothes (and How to Get Past Them!)

Truth: It can be hard to purge clothes.

But when we know the reasons WHY it’s hard to purge clothes, it can become much easier to declutter our closets. 

You’re not alone

If you’re opening up a closet that you know needs a good clothes purge, you’re not alone!

A recent study by ClosetMaid reveals that the average American woman has 103 items in her closet. That might sound like a lot, but learning more about these items gets even more interesting! 

Of those 103 items, the average woman feels that:

  • 21% of her clothes are unwearable
  • 33% are too tight
  • 24% are too loose

Another 12% of her wardrobe consists of new, but unworn items. That’s almost 90% of our clothes that we don’t feel our best in when we wear them.

So why do we resist purging them?


My clothes purging story

There was a time in my life that I definitely did not love my clothes. My self esteem was sinking, and I finally had an a-ha moment: how I felt about myself on the outside was having a huge impact on how I felt about myself on the INSIDE.

So I started to do some research – AND I PURGED MY CLOSET. 

I read article after article about the reasons why I was holding onto my clothes.

Almost all of those reasons were mental.

As I processed these reasons, I was finally able to get past them and let those clothes go! It was a huge victory! 

Friend, I want you to feel the same sense of accomplishment, and I want you to find it SO MUCH MORE quickly than I did.

So I’ve created a free mini course that teaches you how to purge your closet in six simple steps.

There’s an accompanying workbook full of the right questions to ask yourself as you purge clothes.

Seriously, give it a try this weekend! 

Now let’s talk about the reasons why it can be hard to purge clothes:


1. This reminds me of a special event

One of the most common reasons we don’t purge clothes is that they remind us of a specific event or memory.

Think of all those concert tees, or rec softball team shirts, or the dress you bought on vacation in Southern Spain.

Over time, they begin to occupy space in our closet but seldom get worn.

If sentimentality is one of your reasons for not purging clothes, remember this: letting go of the clothes does NOT erase the memory!

purge clothes that remind you of a special event

If you are concerned about forgetting that special event, first consider what other mementos you may already have.

Did you save the program or buy a magnet? Do you have photos of yourself or friends at that event or participating in that memory?

If the answer is yes, you can purge the clothes!

2. Reminders of loved ones or friends

In a similar vein, some clothes remind us of people we love.

Consider the sweater that once belonged to your older sister, the costume earrings that were your grandmothers or the glittery silver heels your best friend gave you as a gift for her wedding day. You know what I’m talking about, right?

If you aren’t wearing these clothes on the regular, it is OKAY to let them go!

if you aren't wearing something regularly, it's okay to let it go

Just as with special events, letting go of the reminder does not erase the memory.

If you are concerned about forgetting the memory of that special person, think about what else you have to remind you of them.

Do you have letters from or photos with that person? Do you have journal articles about them or text messages from them? If so, you can purge the clothes.

Bonus tip for reasons 1 and 2:

If you don’t have any keepsakes from the event or of the person, take a photo of the clothes you associate with it!

Then simply create a folder in your photos called “Memories from Clothes.” You won’t have to dig through your closet to find that old concert tee any more because you’ll know right where you have these memories stored.

For a complete (and affordable) home decluttering system, be sure to check out Decluttering Simplified! It’s an online course that’ll walk you through the entire process step-by-step!

Decluttering Simplified

3. I was given this as a gift

It can be difficult to purge clothes that have been given to you as a gift.

You may feel guilty about giving away clothes that were given to you out of love, even though you know there is zero chance that you’d wear the pink and purple sequin puff-sleeve satin blouse!

So what to do?

If the item is really out there, think of a way to incorporate it into a costume. Have a fifties party coming up? Use that neon scarf as a pony tail wrap or tie it around your neck.

If the gifted item doesn’t suit your taste and may be appreciated by someone else, it’s okay to give it away.

you can purge clothes that were given as gifts

Here’s why: If the gift-giver cares about you enough to give you a gift, they will love you regardless of what you do with the gift.

Almost always gift giving is not so much about the object, but the feeling that comes with giving and receiving it.

Should your relative ever have the gumption to ask you about the item, be honest.

You can say something like, “I held onto it for a while, but I wanted it to be used more often, so I passed it on to someone else.”

4. “I might need this someday”

This is one of the biggest reasons that make it hard to purge clothes.

The reality is that we often have very little idea what our lives will be like in the future, so it’s not worth it to clutter our closets with items that we MIGHT need.

If you know that you will DEFINITELY wear a piece within the next year multiple times, you should keep it.

For example, if you have rain boots that you rarely wear, but you do wear them when it rains, keep them.

If you have gardening clothes or painting clothes and you actually do garden or paint a few times a year, keep those too.

But if you have a closet full of formal dresses that have been sitting there for five years that you think you may need in the future (but you have no idea when), think about letting these things go!

5. I spent good money on this

I think we’ve all wasted money on clothes we never wore.

Did you know that the average woman purchases 5 new things for her wardrobe EVERY MONTH?!

Even if you don’t buy clothes at that rate, there will inevitably be things we bring home that we only wear once or twice before deciding we don’t really like them all that much.

Remember this: unless you have the option of returning the item, the money you spent is gone.

don't hold onto clothes just because you spent money on them

Typically, the clothes hanging in your closet won’t ever bring the money you spent back into our wallets!

You may be able to consign high-end items, list them on a website such as ThredUp.com, or sell them in a garage sale. (But none of that will happen until you get that piece out of your closet in the first place!)

And just an aside: Cutting down on shopping is one of the biggest reasons a capsule wardrobe is so amazing. It leads to laser-focused, intentional shopping and saving SO MUCH money!

The online course The Confident Closet opens for enrollment again in spring of 2021! In the course, you’ll learn how to create a personalized wardrobe based on your body shape, coloring, style preference, and lifestyle. Get on the waiting list now!

6. Purging my clothes is going to be a huge undertaking

Your closet may be in such a state of disarray that the thought of trying to dig your way through makes you want to run screaming in the opposite direction. 

In this situation, often the best thing to do is to pull everything out of your closet and look carefully at how you can better use the space. 

Consider whether your hanging rods are in the right place or where it might help to add drawers or hooks. 

Creating a personalized closet can be much easier than you think – especially when you use Easy Closets to help with the design process! 

Their professional services not only help you design your closet, but they’ll build the pieces, and ship them to you to install. 

Click on the photo below or right here to use the coupon code for 5% off and FREE shipping!

7. I might fit into this someday

It’s very common to hold onto clothes that used to fit when we weighed less or before we had babies.

We often cling to the hope that we will be able to workout or diet our way back into those clothes. Certainly there are times that this does happen!

BUT. If you have decent clothes that are more than 2 numbered sizes away from your current size (either too big or too small), it is best to give them away.

purge clothes that are more than 2 sizes away

There is also a time factor: if you haven’t seen a difference in your sizing in the past year, it’s time to start purging clothes in your old sizes as well.

Holding on to items that are too small can actually add to the negativity you may feel over the weight gain rather than functioning as a motivator.

And for sizes that are vastly different from what you’re currently wearing, the likelihood the items will still be in fashion when you work your way back to that original size is rather low.

Books to help you purge clothes:

Before we keep going, here are a few great resources to help you purge clothes and declutter your closet!

The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

A former Amazon Book of the Year, this nearly 300-page guide will help you with the mental and physical aspects of decluttering!

Project 333 by Courtney Carver

This is the author (and the title of the blog!) that inspired me to create my own capsule wardrobe in 2017. Just as the title describes, less really is so much more when it comes to our wardrobes.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Arguably the most influential decluttering book ever, this is the book that sparked the modern day focus on decluttering and the joy it can bring.

8. This piece is so cute and trendy

Sometimes we may purchase clothes that we think look cute on our favorite celebrities, mom friends, or even on the mannequin in the store.

And because it’s a trendy piece we hold onto it because we think it’s something we should have in our closet.

purge trendy clothes you don't wear

But if that piece doesn’t fit your personal sense of style and you know you’ll never feel comfortable wearing it, it is okay to purge it!

Developing your own personal style can take time, so chalk this up as a lesson in learning what you do and don’t like.

9. I may want to have extras in case this one gets ruined

Do you have several pairs of the exact same jeans or a handful of the same black shirt?

Storing all of these duplicates in your closet only adds to the clutter of clothes you never wear.

purge clothes that are duplicates

If you really are concerned that your favorite jeans will be discontinued and you want to buy an extra pair, that’s fine.

But store that extra pair in a place where it won’t add to the clutter in your closet, such as a high shelf.

10. I’m going to wear this when I have something to match with it

Waiting to purchase a piece to match is another reason that can make it hard to purge clothes.

If you have an item without anything to match it, it’s likely that the piece is a little outside of your preferred color range.

skirt and flowers

Either make it a priority to purchase something that you can wear with it – and that will ideally match with other items in your closet too.

If you let it sit for more than a month, that’s a good sign that the piece isn’t a high priority for you and it’s a good idea to purge it.

11. I want to pass this on to my kids someday

You may feel a particular attachment to an item of clothing you want to pass on to your kids someday.

But just like the guilt you feel about not wearing an unworn gift, this can happen with your kids in the future too!

While most parents want to give their kids the best they possibly can, it’s a better idea to allow your kids to develop their own sense of style and compile their own unique closets as they grow up.

reasons why we don't purge clothes

Final thoughts about why it’s hard to purge clothes

Okay, one more statistic for you: 47% of women say they have trouble choosing what to wear everyday!

Much of this is because our closets are full of clothes we no longer need or want.

Trust me, you can purge clothes with confidence!

Go through these common reasons that make it difficult to purge clothes, and see which ones are affecting you.

Then, snag the free Closet Decluttering Mini Course to help you get this project done! You can do it, mama!

a great way to start a capsule wardrobe is by decluttering your closet


Related articles about decluttering:

Closet Decluttering: 11 Don’t Miss Tips You Need for Success

3 Easy Steps To Make Decluttering Clothes Painless

15 Don’t Miss Tips You Need to Know for Decluttering a Kitchen

The Ultimate Decluttering Checklist – 101 Things You Can Get Rid of ASAP

9 Amazing Tips to Help You Survive Decluttering with Kids

The BIG Secret to Save Time and Money on Your Clothes

reasons why we don't purge clothes


Which of these reasons about why it’s hard to purge clothes resonates the most with you?

11 Reasons Why It\'s Hard to Purge Clothes (and How to Get Past Them!)11 Reasons Why It\'s Hard to Purge Clothes (and How to Get Past Them!)11 Reasons Why It\'s Hard to Purge Clothes (and How to Get Past Them!)11 Reasons Why It\'s Hard to Purge Clothes (and How to Get Past Them!)11 Reasons Why It\'s Hard to Purge Clothes (and How to Get Past Them!)11 Reasons Why It\'s Hard to Purge Clothes (and How to Get Past Them!)

Jen Bradley, the founder of Jen Bradley|MOMs

Hi there! I’m Jen and I’m so glad you’re here. I am a mom who believes that meaningful connections with our families can happen in small and simple ways. Read More …


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22 thoughts on “11 Reasons Why It’s Hard to Purge Clothes (and How to Get Past Them!)”

  1. I am guilty of holding on to clothes that I NEVER wear, but just can’t part with. But I do raid my closet every so often and donate at least a few items to make more room and get rid of things I don’t wear.

    1. I totally get it, Lauren! It is so common to keep clothes we never wear – we often attach emotions, memories, or guilt to our clothes. That can make letting go really difficult!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Catherine! Of all the reasons we hold onto clothes, this one is really common. Something I do is put things I’m afraid to let go of out of sight for six months to a year – often in the attic, up in a closet, or under the bed. If I haven’t even thought about it in a year, then I feel better about letting it go.

  2. I have kept some clothes my dad gifted me once. Neither I wear it anymore nor it fits me! Still, every time I see it, it brings back good old memories with my him.
    And , the ‘I might wear it some day’ fear is totally real. I used to be that person who kept all the clothes because of that fear. But, In the recent years, I am travelling a lot and which helped me to learn about a capsule wardrobe. Much easier to decide what to wear now! 😀

    1. Hi Ashwathi! I totally understand holding onto those sentimental items! And I’m so glad you’ve found life to be easier with a capsule wardrobe – I couldn’t agree with you more.

  3. I needed to read this post! I have so much stuff in my closet and over half of it has not been worn in years. I am going to make an effort to purge soon.

  4. I feel attacked! lol
    I have got better over holding on to things.
    Right now, I am saying that it’s my motivation to lose the weight I’ve put on over the last year because on my tight student budget, I can’t afford new clothes.

    1. Oh no, Melinda! I’d never want you to feel attacked! I understand that a tight budget can definitely make it hard to purchase new clothes. Good luck with your weight loss goals!!

  5. Girllllll, I’ve got at least 5 pairs of super nice jeans hiding in my closet just waiting for me to drop 20 😂. I will never be that weight again, ever! But the way those jeans made me feel makes it hard to say goodbye. Maybe I’ll give away 2 pairs to start with, progress, not perfection!

    1. Kari, this is such a great point and I’m so glad you mentioned it! Taking small steps with purging clothes is definitely about progress and not perfection!

  6. Great post. I’m guilty of holding onto clothes for sentimental reasons. I’m THE WORST with my kids clothes. Thank you for these helpful hints. Cleaning out my closet has been on my list for awhile. Looks like it is about time to do it. Thank you!

    – Stephanie | http://www.snippykit.com

    1. Stephanie, I hear you about kids’ clothes! It can be so hard to purge clothes for sentimental reasons – and it’s SO easy to be sentimental about our kids. I suggest choosing your one (or two) most favorite outfits of theirs and then finding a friend or family member to give the rest to. When we know our kids’ clothes are going to someone we care about, it makes it easier!

  7. This is a great start to helping me get through my closet! I’m currently pregnant with my second, and recently went through my clothes and found I haven’t worn most of my wardrobe in over two years. Now I just have to figure out if I will ever wear them again haha

    1. Rebecca, thanks for your comment! It’s crazy how quickly things seem to accumulate in our closets over time. Good luck with your clothes purge AND with you new baby!

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