Why I hang on to my old clothes and perhaps you should too!

by Sylvia

Keep old clothes or throw them away
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In a recent reply to a comment, I mentioned that I don’t follow the common rule that you should throw away your clothes after not wearing them for 1 year. My reader Suzanne rightfully mentioned though, that many stylists and style professionals do actually advise you to discard your clothes to keep your wardrobe current and up to date.

There are certainly many good arguments why you should get rid of clothes that you no longer wear:

  1. You should only keep clothes that actually fit you. Ill fitting clothes will never look good on you. It is usually not a good idea to keep clothes just in case you get thinner. In most cases you never will and then the garment just takes up much needed cupboard space. If you do have a lot of space and your weight is fluctuating regularly, you could consider having a cupboard for small, medium and large you, but if that is not an option then it’s better to discard clothes that don’t fit.
  2. You should only keep clothes that make you feel great. Why settle for anything less?
  3. You should only keep clothes that suit your body type.
  4. You need to have a good overview of your clothes. If the clutter in your cupboard becomes too big you can’t separate the trees from the forest. It is essential to have a good overview in your cupboard and be aware of all your clothes.
  5. Only keep clothes that are still in a good condition. If it looks old, worn or is damaged, then definitely get rid of it.

And yet, I hang on to many older clothes. Since my weight doesn’t really fluctuate, I actually have some really old garments still in my cupboard. So why do I do it?

  1. Fashion trends come back all the time, just in a slightly different form. Stylists will argue that your older garment will never be quite right. Although that is partly true, it is actually a lot of fun to be creative. Very often you can’t wear your old clothes as a whole outfit, but you can mix it with new current pieces, which will make your old garment current again as well.
  2. I am so changeable when it comes to fashion. If I only kept the clothes that made me feel great, I would only be left with a handful of my newest clothes! Many will tell you to not follow the trends, and focus on style only, but although I am trying to create a true signature style of my own, I can’t help but being attracted by trends. This results in many garments having very short lives and still being in very good condition, so I hang on to those that I believe I will like again in the future or on a particular day.
  3. I have found that you can actually be very creative with your (older) clothes if you only take some time for it. Going through your cupboard and looking for new ensembles is actually a lot of fun. It’s worth keeping an older item just for that one day of fun you can have from it.
  4. If I were to follow the rule of throwing away everything I haven’t worn in a year, I would end up with a very small wardrobe indeed. I’m sure I would get bored very quickly, so it would only lead to more purchases.
  5. It can actually be a fun challenge to take an old garment and make it hip again! Designers take inspiration from old fashions, eras and styles all the time. You can do the same, have fun, and stand out from the crowd. (I feel a challenge coming on….)
  6. You can also manage your clothes by using different cupboards (provided you have the space). I have my current closet, which are all the things that are current, or still popular with me. Then there is a secondary, where I mainly store garments that I wear less frequently. And then there is the reject closet, where I store garments that I don’t really like anymore, but don’t yet want to throw away, since they still fit well and are in good condition. If I run out of space and the garments in the reject closet have not been worn for more than a year, then it will need to go.
  7. In addition to all the reasons there is also the issue of me living in different countries all the time. I still have a sizable, but old, winter wardrobe that I never wear. Yet, if I was to move to a cold country again, I would definitely need it. It also comes in handy for my occasional winter holidays.

So those where just some reasons why I justify keeping many of my old clothes.

What is your take on this? Do you keep your old clothes and what are your reasons for doing so?

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I never follow that rule either, because sometimes I revisit things, even if I haven’t in over a year (like outerwear, some dresses, and sweaters). I think if it’s cheap or kind of looking weathered, it should go. But investment pieces and classics should be kept if they fit and are functional!


Thanks for your feedback V!


Thank you for this post Sylvia. You make so many good points – both for what to keep and for what to let go. I do have a few regrets over some pieces I have donated in the past but I guess I will be happy thinking about someone else liking and wearing them and I will try to make wiser decisions in the future. :)


Exactly. Hope this article was of any help!


I rarely go with trends. I have pretty much always (since I was in high school) only purchased and worn clothes I like/love — no matter what is the current trend of the day. Therefore, I keep some of my clothes “forever” — and am VERY glad of it! Let me tell you why…. I kept some clothes from high school/college (late 70′s/early 80′s) as well as from my early days in the professional workplace. I wore them until I slowly “grew” out of them over the next several years. I gave some of the suits and professional clothes to a friend who lost a lot of weight and didn’t have money for a new wardrobe, but I kept most of my favorite pieces. They got shoved to the spare room and stored…. for probably 15 years or more in some cases. Then, a couple of years ago, I lost 80 pounds and didn’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe! I could again wear the clothes I loved enough to keep and have only had to supplement. So, my vote is, if you buy clothes you love, hold onto them, even if you don’t/can’t wear them today, this year — you may go back to them. That said, I have given away or donated or thrown away all my “big” clothes …


Thank you for this wonderful story Cyndi. Funny to read that you haven’t kept your big clothes. A good incentive to keep your weight off! I’m very impressed that you never get seduced by trends. I just can’t help myself…..


I would say that over 50% of my wardrobe is over 8 years old. I keep what I love and re-style all the time! Course I sew, and that helps. but I agree–its fun to see how to put a new spin on an older item. And it helps if that item was quality to begin with.
My rule is one in, one out. There is always a thrift bag in my closet to bring to the second hand store when its full!
Great tips~


Oh, you’re good. I don’t even stick to that rule of 1 in 1 out!


I also have a cupboard where I keep clothes I don’t often wear. it’s a lot of fun to rediscover them.


It is. It’s worth keeping some clothes, just to pleasantly surprised every now and then!

The Style Crone

I keep whatever I love! I have a collection of vintage, so if it fits it will probably be with me forever. But then again, who knows.


From you stories it always sounds that you really cherish all of your clothes and they all seem to have a story. I love that!

Heather Fonseca

I’ve kept some things and let go of others. I find that sometimes I let go of something I wish I had kept, but usually it’s a piece that was expensive. I have a bunch of old clothes in a bin in the attic. to me that works the best. I keep them, but they’re not in my closet taking up space.


Yes, that’s usually the best, to hide the really old ones from view.


I keep basic/classic pieces for as long as they fit and are in good condition. I think it is important to emphasize those items that fit your lifestyle and not spend too much wardrobe space on the type or types of clothing you seldom need. I like to update my wardrobe with accessories, shoes and, scarves in current patterns or colors.


Great feedbak Sally. It’s great to keep current by just adding great accessories.


I have three different closets. The one in my bedroom is current and seasonal. The one in my guest rooms stores things I will wear in the summer months and formal clothing kept for occasions such as weddings and funerals. The closet in my study is full of more costumey, dress up stuff. Like you, my weight doesn’t fluctuate terribly and I tend to discard only what is truly worn out. Other items may get recycled to a thrift. I don’t think I have a signature style and I’m not entirely sure I want one.


Sometimes I buy clothes that really do not suit me. Even though I should know better by now. (I have had styling and colour advice and remember it all.) I do not hang on to those things anymore, but give them to friends who have less money than me. Also the things that don’ t fit me anymore. And I don’t wait until they are out of fashion, but give them straight away.
The classic clothes I bought and which cost me a fortune, are not fashionable. They will keep for ever. Great incentive to keep the same weight.


Sounds like you’re doing all the right things Greetje!


Oh what great timing to read this post. My job for Sunday is to go through 3 suitcases and 4 garbage bags full of clothes that I have in my garage, dig out the maternity wear and then decide what stays and what goes before we move house. I still have dresses from the early 90s … they still fit, are in good condition, and don’t look dated. I’m sure there will be plenty of shockers in there too. I know I am a clothes hoarder but my weight does fluctuate enormously. But I keep clothes for sentimental reasons too. Maybe I go a bit overboard.


Good luck with that. Keep only the good stuff and follow my first 5 rules as best you can. I think you should only keep a maximum of 3 garments for sentimental reasons though…. Good luck with your move also!


Hi I really enjoyed reading your post and all the comments. I love hanging onto old clothes that stand the test of time. But I have a problem in that i ‘save’ all the clothes that I like the best for ‘the future’. I am in a real muddle as i’ll be really happy about buying something then it just gets thrown into the junk room as there’s no room in my wardrobe for it. I’ve had things sitting there for years that i’ve never worn not because I don’t like them but because I don’t want to wear out something I really like. Trouble is too I don’t like parting with anything either. Sorry about the whinge! Any more advice?


Hi Anna, Great to read you enjoyed the post. I think that you will need to be selective in which clothes you hang on to, certainly when you are short of closet space. Your ‘active’ closet should not be too crowded so you always have a good overview of all your clothes. But you should definitely wear the things you like. Not wearing your nice clothes and ‘saving’ them for later is always a bad idea in my opinion. Instead I think you should try and wear your nicest clothes more. Hope that helps?

Greetje Kamminga

What a shame, what a terrible shame. You buy something you like and then you don’t wear it because you don’t want to wear it out!! So you end up buying something and not enjoying it at all. At least when you have worn it out, you have thoroughly enjoyed it. My husband used to have this silly idea as well. He bought a terribly expensive suit with waistcoat, but because of the “wear-out-fear” he wore it TWICE before he threw it out as it was so outdated…. I cannot get my head around that. I am the opposite. When I buy something I want to wear it the next day.


Thank you so so much for your advice Sylvia! I know it sounds silly, but I was really getting down about my clothes hoarding problem which has been going on for a number of years. What you said made me feel more positive about the whole situation and I especially like that you told me to be more selective about which clothes I hang on to. I am taking things out of my wardrobe bit by bit that aren’t great and putting things in that have been hidden away in the spare room (which by the way we want to make into a study when we get rid of the junk!) I also wanted to share something that I try to stick to when trying on clothes to buy – don’t buy it if what you already have on looks better! Thanks again Sylvia and also to Greetja for your encouragement too!


That is such a good idea Anna! Good luck with all the sorting.


That is funny Anna. I found out your “trick” for buying clothes, just a month ago. I also decided always to wear something great on a shopping trip. It failed a few times because I did not set out to buy clothes but ended up doing so anyway (what’s new??).

It hit me when I was looking in the mirror in the fitting room, hesitating. And while contemplating, I put my own clothes on, looked in the mirror again and thought: “what I am about to buy is not nearly as nice as what I got on”. Which means you can do better.
Hope you get through your wardrobe in a good way. There will be lots of women waiting on the end of your journey to pick up your throw-outs and be ever so happy.


Super good idea. Will start doing that myself!


I think you may have helped me tackle my super-packed closet! I’ve been avoiding this forever and it’s so packed (although still somewhat organized and neat), that everything is getting wrinkled and I can’t find what I want. Also, I keep almost everything forever in my plan to use it creatively! :-) However, most stuff just stays there is is just a burden! I also keep thinking that if I lose 5 or 10 pounds it will all look terrific. Oh well – need to start somewhere and will try to go with just those items I actually enjoy wearing. Thanks – this was all actually helpful information!


Great to have been of help Ariene. It was very kind of you to leave a comment and letting me know. Hope you enjoy the rest of 40+ style as well!


Im so glad to read this, because I keep a lot of pieces that I love, and that are like conversations pieces. When I moved from my country to USA. All those pieces were like new in my new social life. And always get compliments and questions like: where is that from? Where do you buy your clothes?


You should always keep the pieces that are special to you Cabellin and certainly when you get lots of compliments on them!


My wife keeps her clothes from even when she was teenager, she is 42 now. It is frustrating because it has filled up her cupboard and suitcases, and now she has stuffed at least 10 plastic storage boxes which she stacks up in bed room, sun room and even lounge. It is frustrating. I think she needs some help.


I agree. That is taking it way too far. I hope you can persuade your wife to narrow the clothes down to those she actually wears… Good luck.


As I said, she needs some help. I have tried to persuade -getting upset, being reasonable, encouraging, convincing, indirect rewards, but I think there is something not right, either her, or me, or us together.. I am saying this not because I want to bring out personal problems, but in my view has manifested in terms of accumulation of clothing.. I mean, clothing to occupy space that is for people to live?


Have you ever seen the program Hoarders? From that, I know that she is not the only one with this problem and that it can be tough to resolve. Perhaps try and see if there is some expert help in your area?

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