Why and How You Should Downsize the Amount of Clothing in Your Home

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100 years ago, before washing machines and dryers, there were farmers’ wives that got the household’s laundry done in two days a week.

One day to wash by hand and hang to dry, the other to spend by the fire, heating an iron and ironing the clothes.

Back-breaking labor, but still. Two days, and it was done.

But how did they not have to wash a giant pile of clothes every day of their ever-lovin lives like suburban moms do now? Because each family member only had 2-3 outfits to their name.

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Why and How You Should Downsize the Amount of Clothing in Your Home

Having less can be freeing. Having less clothing means less to pick up off the floor and less to wash and less to store.


Granted, the underwear situation was probably a bit dicey, and the work was much more labor-intensive than it is now, but seriously.

How much time are you spending on the care of clothing? Are you thinking samesies as these poor women?

Well what happened? Didn’t the washer and dryer liberate us?!

Yes, for a few years, but then it took a turn for the worse.


More recently, closets started getting bigger. Washing machines started getting bigger. Clothes became cheaper.

And you guessed it. American families started swimming in clothing, and laundry became a giant time-sucking dream-killing task again.

Definitely easier than 100 years ago, but the time it takes to care for so many articles of clothing is simply overwhelming.

After learning these little history tidbits, I began to look at Mount Laundry differently.

I began to see the excess.


It all came together for me when I went to my daughter’s closet to put clothes away and realized they wouldn’t fit in the drawer. Last week’s clean clothes were spilling out onto the floor and she had been putting them in the hamper thinking they were dirty.

Was it time to follow the new American way and buy more drawers or shelves? Should I call a contractor and expand the closet? Was it time to turn a spare bedroom (as if I had one!) into a giant walk-in?

No! It was time to take it back to a simpler time and keep only what she actually needed.

Interesting concept, right?


I have since downsized all of the clothes, and I am loving the results.

I also implemented a too big/too small system to keep my kids’ clothes organized even through growth spurts. And I put picture labels on my children’s clothing drawers so that they can help put away and get out their own clothing. I also follow these sanity-saving laundry tips.


Free Clothing Drawer/ dresser labels that foster independence in children and save you time putting laundry away. +18 ways to save time and save your sanity doing laundry no matter if you have little kids or older kids.

Since downsizing and implementing these systems in our home, the laundry stars have aligned:

  • The drawers are staying neat.
  • There are no clothes piling up on the floor.
  • Clean clothes from the floor aren’t mistakenly being thrown in the hamper.
  • There are clothes at hand that actually fit.
  • I am no longer dreading putting the clothes away.
  • I am spending less time washing and folding clothes (about 2 loads less a week)!
  • And the moms of 100 years ago can stop rolling over in their graves.

How to downsize the amount of clothing in your home:

  1. Decide how many of each type of clothing you need to keep. For my kids, I decided that sweaters and dress clothes would hang up (and only keep what currently fits them and looks nice). Everything else had to easily fit in the drawers. This works for me because they have relatively small drawers and it was really simple to execute, without being militant.
  2. Sort clothes by type for each person– Make piles of each type (short sleeve shirts, skirts, jeans, leggings, socks, etc.)
  3. Go through each pile and toss out things that no longer fit, have holes/stains, or that they dislike and never wear. You may need to try on items to decide. This is a great time to write down a list of things they may need in the upcoming months so you can look for sales.
  4. Still have too much? Ask them to pick out their favorites and limit the number, for example: “Can you help me choose 5 shirts from this pile that are your favorite? Alternatively, you could keep only the things that will easily mix and match with each other for max outfit potential. Donate the rest or store them in a box or tote to pass on to another child.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for each pile until complete. Then follow all the steps for each member of your family.
  6. Use the too small/ too big method I describe here to keep your kids’ clothes organized as they grow.

Having less truly is freeing.

And if you are left with just a few pieces in your closet that you loved and need to buy a few new pieces to complete your wardrobe, check out my post on how to know what to buy and where to shop to save big money on clothes (and love your closet again).

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23 thoughts on “Why and How You Should Downsize the Amount of Clothing in Your Home

    1. I guess I should have mentioned this, but I don’t sort my kid’s clothes by seasons. It’s all in there. Sometimes they like to wear shorts inside the house when it’s snowing outside, or their fleece jammies in the summer because their dad likes to crank the A/C. So it’s much simpler for me to just sort by size. The only thing I do keep separate are the gloves, hats, and scarves. They are in a bin that only comes down in the winter.

  1. I’ve been working on going through all of our clothes recently. I have a box of my daughter’s old clothes, a box of mine, and a box of my son’s … Haven’t even touched my husband’s clothes yet! It it definitely a good feeling getting rid of unneeded stuff. I just did a kitchen purge on my blog, thecoffeemom.net and it feels so nice to have no more unnecceaary cookware and cups .

    1. It took me a long time to convince my husband to go through his clothes, but he did do it recently and the difference is amazing. Just today I was packing our kitchen and set aside a lot of items to sell/donate. I’m looking forward to having a clutter-free kitchen at our new place. 🙂

    1. Yes! ha ha. My 2 1/2 year old has really been loving the big/small differences. Now he points at me and says “Momma, big” and then at his brother “baby, small.” ha ha ha. Not sure how I feel about being “Big momma,” but at least he is learning. 😛

  2. I hate doing the laundry. In my children’s closet, they each have boxes for each type of clothing – it just makes everything so much easier. I put the too small in boxes for donation and re-selling and store the too big ones in boxes as well for future use.

    Belle | One Awesome Momma

    1. Wow. I’ve moved 10+ times since high school, so I’ve gone through several closet purgings. The only thing I still have from high school is a nice lived in hoodie with my brother’s basketball number on it. It is so comfy I will never get rid of it until it shreds to pieces.

  3. Two of our daughters LOVE clothes (our youngest plans to be a designer) but our middle daughter is a minimalist like me. Hubby LOVES clothes–in fact, if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have any :O If it were all up to me, we would keep it all super simple because I just don’t feel the need for excess…except for books.

  4. We just downsized our clothing. I even downsized the clothing for our baby boy who will be here next month. It feels so good to not be so overwhelmed.

    1. You’re welcome! If you are hesitant to get rid of them, you can store them in a tote/box and see if you really miss them- pull certain pieces out if you really are going to use them. After a few months you’ll forget about a lot of it and you can sell/donate them.

  5. This is one thing that we need to do, both my children have way too many clothes. My daughter is a little hoarder and will not give up clothes, to the point that she will try and say “but it still fits me” when it very obviously doesn’t! These are great tips by the way!

    1. Ha! My daughter likes to do that too, especially if it has sparkles on it. But I remind her that she will get new clothes that fit her and she is fine with putting the too small clothes away.

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