How to Simplify Your Wardrobe and Declutter Your Closet

Last Updated on July 11, 2024 by Candi Randolph

When you think about how to simplify your wardrobe it can seem to be an overwhelming task, particularly if you’ve been accumulating those pretty little pieces and accessories for a long time.

Although I’m not a big fan of clothes shopping and have gone through the process of purging my closet in the past, I decided to once again spend some quality time with my wardrobe and simplify, clean up, purge, downsize, and otherwise redefine it to fit my current lifestyle.

When you consider the things to have in your closet it’s not necessarily a five-minute process, my friend. Wardrobe planning, with emphasis on the ‘planning’, take a little bit of effort. But, if you want to downsize your wardrobe and remain with all the clothes you really need, keep reading. I’ll get you there!

I’m going to explain the ten simple steps I used to take my closet from disorganized and semi-useless to a collection of clothes that I actually wear and like.

how to simplify your wardrobe and declutter your closet

And, there’s a handy printable at the bottom of the post for you to save or print and use as a reference for your endeavor.

Keep in mind that my approach is for the woman over 50 and over 60, who is experiencing life something like this:

  • retired or semi-retired
  • possibly living in a new climate
  • adjusting to her changing body shape
  • spending many of her days in a way that is different from the past

As we get older our lifestyle changes, so why would our wardrobe remain as it was in the past? And, who wants to peek into their closet and find a bunch of stuff that is no longer pertinent (for a variety of reasons we’re going to talk about in just a moment!) for the life they’re leading today?

See how these simple tips can help you, well, simplify your wardrobe (and maybe simplify your life, too!). It’s a little different thought process and approach than a capsule wardrobe, with a similar result: to make your fashion life easier.

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Our Love Affair with Clothes and the Reluctance to Let Go

Oh, the allure of a fabulous wardrobe! If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found yourself mesmerized by the latest trends and irresistible sales. It’s easy to accumulate a closet full of clothes, each piece holding the promise of making you look and feel fantastic. But let’s be honest, many of those items end up barely worn, lingering in the depths of our closets.

There’s a certain comfort in knowing we have options – the perfect outfit for any occasion, the just-in-case pieces we hold onto for those ‘what if’ moments. Yet, this same abundance can quickly lead to overwhelming clutter. We hesitate to let go because of the emotional attachments, the memories, and the ‘someday’ factor that we all cling to.

You might think, “What if I need this again?” or “I wore this on such a special day!” Trust me, I get it. These feelings are completely normal. But imagine opening your closet to a collection of pieces you truly love and wear regularly. It’s like a breath of fresh air!

So, how do we overcome this hesitation? It starts with a shift in mindset. Let’s embrace the idea that less can indeed be more. By simplifying our wardrobes, we create space – not just physically, but mentally too. This newfound clarity can make daily dressing a joy rather than a chore.

Next up, I’ll share some practical steps, 10 to be specific, to help you declutter and curate a wardrobe that’s both functional and fabulous. It’s time to part ways with what no longer serves us and welcome a more streamlined, intentional closet.

How to Downsize Your Wardrobe: 10 Simple Steps

10 simple steps to simplifying your wardrobe after 50

1 | Consider your current lifestyle and how it has changed

Okay, I have a very simple task for you to complete BEFORE you start tearing into the wardrobe, my friend.

So pour yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever sounds good to you at the moment, grab some writing tools, and answer this question:


Make a list, jot down your thoughts, create a sentence or two…it really doesn’t matter how you put your thoughts into words, but it is important that you have a clear picture of your life as it is today.

As women in midlife, there’s a very good chance that we are living our days in a different manner than we were 3, 5, or 10 years ago.

Here’s my example: I was living in a sub-tropical climate less than two years ago, and now I live in a four-season climate with sleet and snow. I was also running my home staging business full-time in that sub-tropical climate, and now the majority of my work is done in front of a computer. For me, those are two huge changes in my lifestyle.

For me to simplify my wardrobe meant doing almost a complete about-face with my daily wearables.

Your definition of daily lifestyle and the adjustments you’ve lived through may be much more subtle than mine, or also quite extensive. It really doesn’t matter.

What matters most is that you have a clear picture of how you live now so that you can simplify your wardrobe in a way that makes sense, and makes you happy.

2 | Take the time to consider each piece individually.

It may seem like a lot of time spent for little reward, but there is definitely value in considering each and every article of clothing in your closet.

Rather than give it a cursory glance and move on, ask yourself this question and respond honestly: Do you still like it?

Not…is it functional, or is it a color you enjoy, or have you owned it for a while so it must still be good, or you bought it at a special store so you’ll keep it…do you still like the piece? Does it speak to you? Do you want to put it on? It’s a simple ‘yes or no’, girlfriend.

Another consideration is that our taste continues to evolve and change as we age. Some of it may be related to changes in weight and body shape, or current fashion trends, but we are still growing and developing as individuals.

A top or pair of pants that I thought was the coolest thing ever a few years ago might not glean the same response today. Don’t keep something because of how it made you feel in the past. It’s today that matters.

I made that decision with a really unique top and skirt set that was purchased about twenty years ago while shopping with my late husband. I hadn’t worn that outfit in years but always kept it because he liked it and I did, too. It just wasn’t something I would wear now, but I kept hanging onto it.

Well, this time around as I was going through with the goal of simplifying and updating my wardrobe, that set finally went into the ‘donate’ pile. I even tried it on and it still fit. But it just isn’t me, and frankly, I don’t think my man cares at this point whether I keep it or not!

3| Have a try-on session

how to simplify your wardrobe in 10 easy steps

Let’s take Step #2 a bit further, keeping in mind that the extra few minutes spent as well worth the time.

If you haven’t worn something in a while, try it on and make sure it still fits well.

When I was working toward simplifying my wardrobe recently, there were a number of pieces I put on, just to see how the current body shape would fit, and look, in them.

Although my weight has remained pretty consistent over the last 5 years, that weight has shifted more into my middle. You know what I mean. So my clothes fit differently than they did in the past.

If you haven’t put that dress, or sweater, or slacks, on in a few months (or longer), have the try-on session with them and make sure they’re still a viable part of the wardrobe.

4 | Do you have a uniform?

Before you skip this step and think, “duh…of course I don’t have a uniform!” let’s define what I mean by that.

A ‘uniform’ can be an outfit that you wear regularly, and it doesn’t matter what it is. I wear jeans/capris/shorts depending on the season of the year, with a t-shirt or tank top when I’m at home. This is the staple of my closet and my uniform.

So, my wardrobe is going to include several pairs of jeans and capris, more than the sum of dress slacks I own. That’s because they are part of my daily uniform, I work from home, don’t go out that often and when I do it’s typically a casual event.

Do you have a ‘uniform’? It doesn’t matter what that outfit consists of, if you consistently wear a specific type of clothes regularly, make sure you have them represented in your wardrobe.

For example, you might wear a pair of black or navy slacks or jeans, a 3/4 length pullover top, and a cardigan sweater on most days. If that is your go-to outfit and fits your current lifestyle, give yourself some options and have several choices in each.

LookBooks: Do You Have a ‘Uniform’?

5 | Remove the “those were the days” clothes

You know…the pieces you look at wistfully and think, “yep, I used to be able to wear that, and maybe I will again someday”.

At this point in our lives that might be wishful thinking. I can’t make that decision for you, my friend, but I will encourage you to be honest about it.

I have let go of the clothing, mostly slacks, that are in a size that no longer fits my mid-6o-ish body. The body is doing pretty good, but there’s just no point in hanging onto clothes that I will not wear again.

Now, if holding on to an outfit provides motivation and inspiration for you to lose weight or commit to regular exercise then, by all means, give it a place of honor in the closet!

Otherwise, it’s just taking up space and probably making you feel bad when you see it. The goal is to simplify the wardrobe and have only the clothes that you wear now and enjoy.

6 | Remove the “not sure about this” group

As I was considering each piece in my closet there were some that definitely went into the group to be donated. I tried to take a hard-line approach, telling myself that if I’d bypassed that particular piece more than a half-dozen times, there was a reason for it.

Unfortunately, there were a few items I had hardly worn, but I knew that I would never want to wear them. So donations they became!

But, there was another group of pieces that I just couldn’t decide what to do with. I still felt a connection to them but hadn’t worn them in quite a while. So I removed them from my closet and put them in another closet, out of sight. I decided that if I didn’t think about them, reach for them, or miss them over the next 3 to 6 months, I don’t need them as part of my wardrobe.

If you’re not sure about some pieces but aren’t ready to make a final decision, remove those items and store them in another area of your home. See if you can live without them.

7 | Declare a limit on the number of hangers allowed to live in your closet

One method to make sure your wardrobe remains consistent in terms of size is to give yourself a limit on the number of hangers in the closet. Literally.

I read this advice when researching for this post, and it made sense to me. If you bring a new piece into the wardrobe, one piece has to go.

I think it would require more consideration when shopping and making purchase decisions if you knew that something in your current wardrobe would have to leave in order to bring in the new item.

Interesting concept, isn’t it?

8 | Organize by color and/or style

When you get to the point that your wardrobe includes the pieces you currently wear and enjoy, consider organizing the separates by color and/or style.

For example, I have my slacks organized by style – jeans, capris, slacks, leggings – and then by color.

I’ve loosely organized my tops by color, dark/light/patterned, then the sweaters and the dresses each have their space.

It makes things pretty simple for me to select what I want without having to sort through random items.

9 | Organize by outfit

Some women find that organizing their wardrobe by outfit is helpful, efficient, and time-saving.

For example, you might decide to take the three or four tops/sweaters/blazers that coordinate well with a particular pair of slacks (maybe two) and hang those together.

Take that philosophy a step or two further and include accessories like scarves, vests, and shoes.

It requires some effort up-front, but if you have a variety of separates to work with and find that coordinating them into outfits makes your life easier, then I say, good on you!

10 | Fill the gaps, but refrain from impulse shopping

Now that you’ve taken the time and made the effort to create a wardrobe and closet that is organized, useful and comprised of clothes you’ll actually enjoy wearing, strive to keep it that way!

If you decided to limit the hangers that will live in your closet as suggested in #7, think twice before making a quick purchase decision.

On the other hand, if your efforts resulted in a wardrobe that has some definite gaps (and that is entirely possible if you’ve retired and are living a different lifestyle or have relocated to a different climate), some carefully thought out purchases will keep your closet slim and clutter-free. 🙂

If you need some additional work on the wardrobe planning, your self-confidence, & personal style

If you feel like some extra hand-holding might be in order for this task, or the whole idea of putting outfits and colors together is a vague concept to you, no worries, my friend.

You might find The Fashion Cure to be just what the (fashion) doctor ordered!

We cover some basics such as body shape, color, putting outfits together, and yes…a thorough wardrobe assessment.

I created this simple, fun yet highly effective course to help women rediscover their personal style in midlife. Sometimes we lose confidence in ourselves and our decision-making ability as we get older. The Fashion Cure can get you back on track and feeling great about yourself as you discover, or rediscover your authentic, Personal Style.

Learn more about The Fashion Cure

Grab your free printable resource, How to Simplify Your Wardrobe in 10 Steps

It’s found in the Resource Library in the FASHION section, along with many other valuable printables, courses, videos, and more, for women in midlife. You can get the password right here:

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how to downsize your wardrobe

4 thoughts on “How to Simplify Your Wardrobe and Declutter Your Closet”

  1. This is very helpful. We all have so much guilt and sentimentality when it comes to letting go of certain items!

    1. Hi Sanet, I agree! It took me years to finally say goodbye to some things, and you know what? I’m glad that I did. My wardrobe looks fresher, and I don’t feel bad when I look at them. 🙂

  2. Loved this post!! Since I retired, I have been able to stay home like I always wanted to so my wardrobe is one that is comfortable and very casual…I wore scrubs when I worked as I was an RN working in direct patient care so I do not have work clothes but I do have a lot of dress clothes from a time , long ago, when we used to go to many places that warranted dressing that way…Now, that is not the case and I have been hanging on to them…just in case….So thank you for this article as I can finally give myself the permission to get rid of a lot of things that I no longer wear and will never wear….

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