How to Declutter Your Clothing Closets and Drawers When Marie Kondo’s Method Doesn’t Work For You

You may want to turn over a minimalist leaf, or you may just be looking for a great way to declutter your clothing closets and drawers. After our move, I was with you. But the KonMari Method wasn’t going to work for me because I wasn’t in a place where I could make that big of a change that quickly. 


I love the KonMari Method. I think Marie Kondo is a tidying genius. I read everything Courtney Carver writes about minimalism and decluttering. Joshua Becker rocks and The Minimalists (aka Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus) are so compelling that I have watched the documentary on Netflix at least five times. I’m sold on how damaging “fast fashion” is, and I’m a minimalist because I never want to consume mindlessly.

But even after saying all of that, I have to tell you that the KonMari method did not work for my closet right away, and as a freelancer, the Project 333 approach spearheaded by Courtney Carver didn’t seem to fit my closet decluttering needs. I wasn’t ready for them. I needed to take small steps before anything was going to “spark joy” or make it into my core wardrobe.


I was pretty sure I was never going to be this woman or have her closet — mostly because I’ll never be that age again, and I don’t live in an industrial loft with a white infinity screen behind a clothing rack that doesn’t reflect anything in my life.


What is Your Style?
Before you start removing all of your clothing from your closet and creating a mountain on your bed, think about what you really want from your wardrobe going forward. I had left a job with a corporate law firm to work as a freelance travel writer, author and screenwriter. Very little in my new life was going to require suits, pencil skirts (still love them) or an endless supply of dress pants. I didn’t have a style goal (in other words, I didn’t have a particular icon that inspired me that was also realistic for my day-to-day life), but I knew I needed a change. Where did I land? I’ve always been a little preppy. Every once in a while, I fall on a cool balance of preppy and “hip,” but most of the time I lean into preppy. This was true when I had corporate paychecks, and it remains true today. Once I committed to what look I wanted, it felt easier to start sorting through my stuff.


Decluttering, Closet, Clothing

Sort #1
The picture above is what my closet looked like after we moved into a place with closets built in 1929. I don’t understand why the two clothing rods in a row ever made sense because you have to walk through one packed rack of clothing to get to another one. I suppose the second rod was probably put in later in a concession to ever-growing American clothing consumption, but it was a pain in the butt from the beginning. And, weirdly, that reinforced my desire to pull out stuff that wasn’t serving my needs.

Did I take everything out of the closet at this point? No. There are some things you just know are never going to fit you again. You know some things have never really looked good on you (and those are often the things stuffed in the very back of the closet anyway). You know there are things that you got as gifts that still have tags on them that you have never worn, but hate to donate out of guilt. You know some things cost you a lot of money to buy, and you don’t want to donate them because… well, they cost a lot of money and there might be guilt there, too. This was all true for me. So, the first round was pulling out the things that I already knew in my heart were not things that I would miss. Did I donate them right away? No. I put them in two large bags and placed them in our front closet. I figured that if in six months I hadn’t thought or needed anything in those bags that I was free to move on.

I did this in two phases. I never went into the bags for any of the items. So, when the time was up, I separated them into things I was going to sell (see my notes on ThredUp here) and things I was going to donate. And I didn’t look back.

Note: Don’t feel bound by the six-month number. For people living in places with dramatically different seasons, you can condense or extend this time depending on your needs. I can wear summer clothing in LA for about 9 months out of the year, so my weed-outs had to reflect that.

Sort #2
It was time to re-review my clothing with an eye towards fit. This is not as easy as looking at a tag and seeing a size. Every brand seems to size their clothing differently and use the numbers as a vague guideline driven by horoscope rather than an exact science. It was time to try on the things that I didn’t wear often, but for some reason loved. This created another pile of things that didn’t fit correctly. Again, I put them in a bag, and I waited a few months to see if that workout plan I had initiated was going to start showing results or a promise of results. When I re-opened the bag some of the clothing did fit me better, but in some cases, the cuts were wrong for my body no matter what size I was. It was much easier to physically remove them at this point because I had already mentally gotten rid of them when I put them in the bag.

Sort #3
I was ready for a combination of KonMari and Courtney Carver. I was able to take everything out and do a real assessment of whether or not I wanted to take these items into the future with me. I knew what I needed and wanted, so creating that core wardrobe was far easier. This is not about believing that I would always have abundance and, therefore, could just replace everything. This was about actually knowing my needs. And I found myself easily able to move from my closet to my drawers and cedar chest (for winter wear) with the same attitude.


Decluttering closets, clothing, Marie Kondo, Courtney Carver

Am I finished decluttering? I’m close. I’ve got the KonMari folding method down in my drawers (and it absolutely works), and my closet is now only one filled clothing rod, even with the winter sweaters out (it has been surprisingly cold in LA). But decluttering and tidying is an ongoing process. I always want to be mindful of, and grateful for, what I have and what I am acquiring. In terms of creating my core wardrobe, I’m working on it. Project 333 could still be a reality for me.

Have you gone through a significant decluttering process? I’d love to hear what methods worked for you or what methods you want to try.