Decluttering: Clothes, Shoes and Bags

July 14, 2014


It’s only been one week since I announced my plan to embrace minimalism, as well as get rid of everything I don’t use/need/love. Would it surprise you to know I’ve already gone through all of my closets? Well, I emptied them all and only put back the things I knew I wanted to keep, anyway. There are still boxes and bags of stuff stacked in my dining room waiting to be reviewed at a later date.

Before tackling anything else in my apartment, I first wanted to go through all of my clothes, shoes, purses and other bags. I thought it would be the easiest stuff to start with, because I’ve never been a huge clothes or accessories shopper, and anyone who knows me can vouch for how empty my closets and dresser looked as they were. However, throughout the process, I was still surprised by just how much “stuff” I’d been holding onto.

Let’s start with shoes, as they were definitely the easiest to part with. My entryway closet always looks a little empty, so the after pic below isn’t really an indication of how many items I removed from it. In fact, I only donated 6 pairs of shoes: 2 pairs of flip flops, 2 pairs of black heels/wedges and 2 pairs of (seriously) cheap boots. The flip flops and boots were no-brainers – they were too big, too cheap or just not my style. But the black heels/wedges were tough at first. I definitely had to ask myself: When was the last time I wore these? The answer for both was “at the bar”. I don’t go there anymore and haven’t been in a couple years. On top of that, neither were my style. So, into the bag they went! From this closet, I also removed 2 jackets: 1 jean jacket that never fit right and 1 winter jacket I’m going to try and sell.

minimalist front closet

Onto purses and other bags. I have no pictures, I’m afraid, as this was another easy one to tackle. Actually, what made it so easy was the fact that I didn’t even know I had any purses other than the one I recently bought! There are four bags I use often: my new purse, my hiking backpack, a small duffel bag that’s a great weekend bag and my one big piece of luggage. So, why – hidden deep in the back of my bedroom closet – did I find an unpacked box full of old purses and duffel bags?

There was a ginormous black purse, back from when it was cool to carry bags the size of your torso. There was the $30 hockey bag I bought to pack and move all my clothes to Toronto with. And then there was a bag I bought in California when I was 19 and haven’t used since around that same time. When I first looked at it, I thought: I can’t get rid of this. It’s the bag I move my toiletries with, whenever I move. Umm, hellooo! This is not a reason to keep a purse. Considering I’d forgotten about all of these and more, I happily donated 6 purses and bags.

Finally, my clothes. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the fact that I was able to pare down my wardrobe even more than it already was has kind of blown my mind. I think, because I don’t shop for clothes often, I just assumed I had a fairly minimalistic wardrobe already. As it turned out, I was holding onto a lot of pieces for sentimental value or because they were goal items. I took a tip from Kathleen’s books and decided to take everything out of my closet and dresser and throw it all on the bed. From there, I picked up each item and asked myself three questions: When was the last time I wore this? When/where could I wear it again? Do I feel good in it?

As you can imagine, I tried on a lot of clothes that night and, unfortunately, did not feel good in many of them. But you know what? It’s actually a good thing I finally acknowledged that. Consider how many times you look in your closet or dresser and see items that make you sigh and think: Maybe one day, Why did I buy that? or What a waste of money. My wardrobe was full of negative thoughts. Now, they’re all gone (I tossed/donated 51 clothing items) and everything I own is something I would actually wear. (And if I ever reach that goal weight, I want new clothes – not old!)

minimalist closet clothes

In total, I removed 64* items from my apartment – and they’re already all gone! I dropped off the four black garbage bags pictured above at a donation box on Saturday morning. So long, stuff!

On top of the fact that I was successful in removing a large number of items from my home this week, what was even better about tackling my clothes, shoes and bags first is I feel like I understand myself a little bit better now. I’ve always been someone who only wears one jacket each season, carries the same purse for 3+ years, lives in one kind of shoe (currently TOMS), and favours one pair of jeans and a few tops. I like to look presentable, but fashion is just not my thing, and this challenge helped me come to accept that. I’d rather have fewer options to choose from each morning, but love each of them the same. (In this area, I think I’d already embraced minimalism to some degree, without realizing it.)

*Note: After publishing this post, I also threw 41 old clothing hangers into a bag and donated them, as well. 


As I began to purge my wardrobe, I decided to keep track of not only the number of items I tossed/donated but also what was leftover. When I started, I had 190 clothing/shoe/bag items. Now, I’m left with 126**, which means I decreased the size of my wardrobe by 33%. In case anyone is curious, here’s what’s left:


**Note: After publishing this post, I removed 1 more item of clothing. In total, I removed 105 items from my home in this category. Unreal!

I can’t decide if it’s a good or bad thing that I only own 54 items of clothing (not counting bras, underwear, socks, scarves, etc.). Is that too little? Too much? Could I pare down more? I think I’ll leave it as-is for a while, and see if I actually wear each item in the next 12 months.

Approved Shopping List

One thing the inventory did help me do was come up with a short list of items I think I’ll need to lift the shopping ban for this year. I mentioned this when I wrote the shopping ban rules, so I won’t consider purchases made for any of these items a failure of the challenge, as long as they are in the budget:

  • 1 nude bra (ladies know the importance of having one of these and mine is trashed)
  • 1 hoodie (only 1 of my 2 are thick/suitable for fall and it’s also pretty trashed)
  • 1 pair of workout capris (I only have 1 pair and they’ve seen better days)
  • 1 outfit for two weddings I’m attending this year (I’ve been a bridesmaid in the last few, so I don’t actually have an appropriate outfit for a wedding)
  • potentially 1 pair of ballet flats (but only if I have some kind of meeting or event where I’d need them)

And that’s that! Next week: my books, desk and office supplies.

When was the last time you purged your wardrobe?

  • Retired by 40 July 14, 2014 at 4:41 am

    Nice! That is a huge amount of stuff to purge! Now, to motivate myself to do the same….

    • Cait Flanders July 14, 2014 at 11:46 pm

      Do it, do it. :)

  • L July 14, 2014 at 4:46 am

    Sounds like you got a lot accomplished! Getting rid of things you don’t use is always so satisfying. :D

    • Cait Flanders July 14, 2014 at 11:47 pm

      And I don’t miss a single thing. In fact, I did this on Monday night and throughout the week only added more and more items. Feels great to have it gone. :)

  • Meg Jones July 14, 2014 at 4:48 am

    I tackled my cupboard and chest of drawers this weekend and wow, I have been holding on to some ancient crap in there! Shoes and bags need to happen this week (I also have a box of surprise!bags that I don’t use but have some how accumulated). There’s a large bag for donations and a equally large bag of stuff to go to the local clothes recycling bin.

    But excitingly; there is an entirely empty drawer in my chest of drawers, hooray!

    • Cait Flanders July 14, 2014 at 11:49 pm

      Wow, that’s awesome! My three drawers look to be about half-full, as they are now. Good luck with shoes/bags!

      • Meg Jones July 16, 2014 at 4:29 am

        It’s probably not going to stay empty for long as I am going to move some stuff from the tiny chest of drawers into it and then use that as a better craft storage space. At least, that is the plan!

  • Kate@GoodnightDebt July 14, 2014 at 5:01 am

    Impressive! You were able to cut out a lot!
    It’s been too long since I’ve purged. I have serious hoarding tendencies and can’t get rid of anything without an emotional roller coaster. “But what if I need it..” “Just in case” I even have a stash of clothes for possible theme parties. … I think the theme is ugly.
    Baby Steps…. this week I’m inspired to tackle shoes!

    • Cait Flanders July 14, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      Haha, the theme made me laugh. Baby steps are important! Tackle one closet/drawer at a time.

  • Bet Crooks July 14, 2014 at 5:06 am

    If you’re trying to do this kind of purge with a young family around, what worked for me was just doing one drawer at a time. (And I might only get that one done in a week!) You can’t really tackle a huge project with little people efficiently, so it’s better to break it down into bits that can get done.

    And if you’re very sentimental, consider taking a photo of that favourite old t-shirt, pair of earrings, etc. It may make it easier to put it in the bag and donate it.

    • Cait Flanders July 14, 2014 at 11:50 pm

      Great advice, Bet! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Alicia @ Financial Diffraction July 14, 2014 at 5:26 am

    Nice job, Cait! I cannot wait to do this. My wardrobe is busting at the seams, even with a recent purge of at least one bag of clothing. It was my intention to tackle the bedroom this weekend but it fell to the wayside when we had a lot of health problems with one of our cats. Maybe next weekend. I feel like I’d breathe such a sigh of relief being able to see the back of my closets…

    I’m probably aiming for a wardrobe similar to what you started with. We have a small amount of storage, so one of my suitcases (the big one, not the carry-on) is filled to the brim with old purses. Did I mention I’ve been alternating between two for the last three years and haven’t touched any of them since they’ve been tucked away in there? Ack, I’m such a packrat! :)

    • Cait Flanders July 14, 2014 at 11:52 pm

      Sorry to hear about your cat. Is he/she ok?

      And it’s understandable you’re holding onto bags. Honestly, my own thought process was always, “I paid money for these and I could use them again one day, so why not keep them?” But I truly never used any of them – except to help carry stuff in all my moves! haha. Anyway, good luck hun. Maybe tackle that suitcase first. ;)

  • Morgaine July 14, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Awesome job! I go through and pair down my wardrobe at each season change. I probably need to go through my purses though, I’m sure I have a few of those that I don’t use anymore! :)

    • Cait Flanders July 14, 2014 at 11:54 pm

      Ahhh, that’s a good idea, Morgaine. Although, I think the wardrobe I have right now (minus a couple missing pieces) is perfect to get me through all four seasons of the next year, I’m sure by next summer I’ll be able to identify a few things that I need to buy/replace. Maybe by then I’ll just stick to the 1:1 rule: 1 in, 1 out.

  • Cari July 14, 2014 at 7:40 am

    Isn’t it liberating to get rid of so much “stuff”?!

    You’re doing a great job! I can’t belive ALL of the money that I wasted on shoes and handbags!

    Keep up the inspiring good work!

    • Cait Flanders July 14, 2014 at 11:56 pm

      Oh my gosh, that was honestly the only thing that made tossing items so difficult – thinking that I’d paid money for them once. But it was just time to accept that I’ll never wear them again, so it was better to get them out of my home. Liberating is a good word for this process. :)

  • Nadia July 14, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Way to go Cait!

    I go through things semi-regularly. Earlier this year I tackled the spare room closet (the spare room doubles as my office/work space). And I got rid of so much stuff. I felt way lighter after getting rid of it. I probably do need to work on my closets and drawers. I know there’s stuff I can get rid of. On the plus side I tackled my shoes last week and it felt good to get rid of the ones I don’t wear anymore.

    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 12:01 am

      If it felt good to tackle your shoes, think of how good it’ll feel to tackle your closets and drawers! Honestly, it’s an incredible feeling to see fewer options – because they’re all the options I love most. Get after it :)

  • Veronica July 14, 2014 at 8:51 am


    I noticed that you require a dress for weddings.

    Might I recommend the 6 way dress from two birds bridal. I bought one for 6 weddings last year and just wore it a different way each time. It was more expensive and I have worn it many more times after wedding season due to its versatility.

    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 12:01 am

      It looks beautiful, Veronica, but might be out of my budget a bit! I’ll look for something similar though, as I do love that idea. Thanks :)

  • Dawn July 14, 2014 at 9:18 am

    I have a tonne of wedding appropriate dresses if you want to borrow one or two! LOL, as long as we are close in size, that is! A great way to save on clothing is borrowing from girlfriends, especially when you know you might only wear it once!

    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 12:02 am

      That’s true! My old roommate in Toronto and I were fairly close in size – unfortunately, I’m out here now, haha. But that’s something I don’t think enough friends consider doing. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Rob July 14, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Wow Cait! Looks like you’re going at this purging stuff like a house on fire! Great job!

    Our daughter regularly “recycles” her hubby’s golf shirts over to me each year. The guy’s a golf fiend and attends a lot of tournaments annually, and since they’re pretty well off, he loves shopping in the pro shop a lot. That said, I personally don’t purge my wardrobe all that often as I tend to “outsource” that labour of love to my good wife (who in turn “recycles” my clothing stuff to our son and her brother). So the clothing in our extended family does tend to get around! :-)

    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 12:04 am

      I think it’s great that your family swaps clothing items, Rob! If anyone in my family was the same size, I’d try to do the same thing, haha.

  • Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore July 14, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Amazing job Cait! I’ve been working on my clothing, shoes, bags, accessories too but instead of doing a big purge, I’ve been slowly getting rid of things. It works better for me to handle it that way than doing a big purge all at once.

    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 12:05 am

      It’s great you have a system that works for you! I know myself well enough to know that if I didn’t do something big, I probably wouldn’t do it at all, haha.

  • Will July 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    BOOM! This will make moving places in the future a lot easier! It’s amazing all the sh*t we accumulate!

    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 12:05 am

      It will, yep – although hopefully I won’t have to do that again anytime soon!

  • Ashley B July 14, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Cait = I LOVE reading your updates about the minimalist life!

    I read a book, Lessons from Madame Chic, by Jennifer L. Scott, about a gal who lived abroad in France during college and she learned to embrace the 30 items rule in the wardrobe. French women have a very pared down wardrobe but they are all high quality pieces – silk tops, wool pants, leather shoes, leather handbags; they cost more than a lower quality piece but they last longer.

    The author encouraged her readers to try a 30 item wardrobe; she found it to be very freeing of the “clutter” that we jam into our closets.

    Embracing that kind of minimalism in your wardrobe is a tough sell for me – that’s the one hard thing for me to give up – I love fashion and clothes. In turn, I am very content with a minimal lifestyle with many other things in the home: handbags, movies, books, bedding, decor. Less is more!

    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 12:07 am

      Wow, 30 items!? Does that include everything (like socks/underwear/shoes) or just tops/bottoms?

      • Ashley B July 15, 2014 at 5:48 am

        I think it was just clothes, shoes, handbags. Underwear/socks,etc were exempt from the 30. But still, that’s so little!

        • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 7:10 am

          Totally! That’s less than half of what I’ve pared down to, and I thought I almost had too little, haha. Could be an interesting challenge to do in a single season though! I’ll think about that this fall/winter…

  • debt debs July 14, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Wow, I actually started doing this on the weekend but I didn’t get very far. You’re so much better at it than me! But seriously, you’ve given me some more motivation that I so obviously need – well that and time! Kudos! Must feel great!

    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 12:09 am

      I had to carve out the time (and turned on a marathon of the Mindy Project on Netflix to keep me company, haha). Good luck!

  • My Own Advisor July 15, 2014 at 3:32 am

    Nice work.

    Later this summer, we’re going to declutter as well. I’m looking forward to the exercise!


    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 7:14 am

      Awesome! Summer seems like a good season to tackle this. You’re probably more likely to drive/drop off bags of stuff in the good weather. ;)

  • Trista July 15, 2014 at 3:47 am

    Wow, I’m impressed by your purge Cait. I do plan on going through my clothes soon. But that’s more because I want to add more items. I just received my latest Old Navy order this morning. It contained three dresses and a blouse. I still have to try it all on. Not sure if I’m keeping it all. I just couldn’t turn down the sale they had.

    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 7:30 am

      That feels like a lot of new items, probably because I’m so fresh into this shopping ban, haha.

      • Trista July 17, 2014 at 8:18 am

        It’s all going back. I didn’t love it enough to keep it. Maybe you’re wearing off on me a little.

        • Cait Flanders July 17, 2014 at 9:20 am

          I have to be honest and say this made me smile. :P

  • Elizabeth July 15, 2014 at 4:33 am

    One thing I’ve learned about keeping “thin” and “fat” clothes is that as you age, your body rearranges itself and what fit you one way five years ago may fit you differently now! I was really fortunate to grow up with a mom that advocated eating well, exercising, and dressing the body you have.

    About high heels: I ditched mine in my last move (I’m nearly 5’8″, so they were impractical anyway) I like that I don’t need additional pairs of pants just to wear with those shoes.

    • Dayle July 15, 2014 at 5:30 am

      This is true. I have a bunch of shorts, same pair but in 4 different colours. Last summer and the one before they would not fit over my thighs. I should have tossed them then. This year they fit perfectly though my weight has stayed the exact same. It’s interesting how your body can change, and now it’s like I have 4 new pairs of shorts! (I know this goes against the idea of getting rid of things you don’t wear – lol)

    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 7:31 am

      Yep, that’s a really great point, Elizabeth. So even if I lost another 10 lbs. and fit into that dress, it might not look the same as it did years ago. Good. Now I’m extra glad it’s gone. :)

  • Dayle July 15, 2014 at 5:34 am

    I purge clothes often…. I give them to a friend I work with who then shares them with her mom and two sisters. They absolutely love the process!

    That being said… compared to you, I have a TON of clothes! I didn’t think I had too many, but when I was reading your list I couldn’t believe how shocked I was at how much stuff I have as I roughly tallied it up in my head! My goodness! And now, I am also inspired to get rid of SO much stuff! This is going to be in conjunction with my move next year… but I want to start soon! My sister probably has 10x more clothes than I do… don’t get me started! haha

    I probably have 15 pairs of workout capris (that also double as just capris – lululemon), on top of 10+ pairs of workout shorts, probably 15 tops… I won’t go on! But I think it will be fun to take a before and after inventory of everything, so I might just do that!

    Good job! :)


    • Cait Flanders July 15, 2014 at 7:35 am

      Well, you workout A LOT! But 25 pairs of workout bottoms does seem a little excessive, hehe. Definitely take inventory! It felt good knowing exactly how much stuff I’d gotten rid of.

  • Lisa E. @ Lisa vs. the Loans July 15, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    The last time I purged was a 3 or 4 weeks ago, but this doesn’t include shoes/purses. That’s what I need to tackle next! Great progress so far, Cait!

    • Cait Flanders July 16, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      Thanks, Lisa!

  • J. Money July 15, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    This is so cool to see!!!! You are killing it!!

    • Cait Flanders July 16, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      You know it! And I’m just getting started. :)

  • J @ the expat investor July 15, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    WOW! Good job on purging out your clothes. That is a lot of clothes but glad to see you’re embracing your goal of minimalism. Keep up the good work.

    • Cait Flanders July 16, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      Thanks, J!

  • Alicia @ Monster Piggy Bank July 16, 2014 at 4:27 am

    Nice job, Cait! An oldie but perpetual goodie: If you haven’t worn it in a year, what makes you think you’re going to wear it now? Don’t hoard items under false pretenses. Let your experience dictate your actions—if it’s been a year and it still has the tag on it or if you can’t think of at least three ways to style it, it’s time to let go.

    • Cait Flanders July 16, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      Great advice, Alicia! Hope everyone reads that! My oldies are already gone. :)

  • Sara Hamil @ They Call it Gumption July 16, 2014 at 7:36 am

    Way to go, miss! The closet purge can be such an ordeal but MAN does it feel good when you’re done! After my most recent set of purges I implemented the hanger system: I hung everything up with the hangers face inward (i.e. the opposite way of how I would hang items instinctively). This way I can easily see what I wear and what I don’t. After a set amount of time (say, a season) I take out whatever I haven’t worn and donate it. It’s been working for me so far!

    Also: Big YES to the nude bra. It’ a must!

    • Cait Flanders July 16, 2014 at 9:52 pm

      Wow, that’s a smart little trick! I like it.

      And I’ve decided I’ll budget for a few of those items in August, for when I’m in Edmonton. Only GST!

  • Rebecca @ Stapler Confessions July 16, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Awesome! I have cleaned out my closet, but it’s all in a pile waiting to get out of here. I’d like to make a few bucks off of them, and haven’t gotten around to posting them on ebay. The other stuff, I’ll send in to an online consignment shop and hope for a little bit of extra cash.

    • Cait Flanders July 16, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      Nice! I thought about selling more but just couldn’t be bothered. If it takes weeks or months to get rid of, it’ll probably never make its way out of my place.

    • Melissa July 28, 2014 at 8:49 am

      I have a pile to take to Plato’s Closet, which is a consignment chain in the US. They give you cash the same day you drop off, and give back what they don’t take. I’ll just toss that in the donate pile for Goodwill.

      Aside from sports paraphernalia and high end baggage, posting on eBay doesn’t seem like it’s worth the time and effort involved. Plus, dropping the stuff off and being given cash immediately makes me feel so much more accomplished.

  • Gia T. July 16, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Wow that’s a lot of stuff! :D I just did a shoe purge and it felt so good.

    Never done a book purge, I have this weird thing where I hate to deface/throw out any old books (even if they suck), and can’t bear to donate them because I think “oh I’ll reread this someday!” I’m interested to see your thought process and how that goes, maybe it’ll push me to clean my shelves off too. :)

    • Cait Flanders July 16, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      Oh, the bookshelf was a FASCINATING experience. I’m a little scared to share how it went. :S

  • Addison @ Cashville Skyline July 17, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Wow, I’m seriously impressed by this! You’ve totally inspired me to go through my closet this weekend. Keep up the good work!

    • Cait Flanders July 17, 2014 at 7:05 am

      Woo hoo! Do it, Addison! :)

  • Chelsea July 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    This is AWESOME. And TOTALLY inspiring! Good for you!!! I did this a little while ago too, and I had the EXACT same feeling regarding letting some of my old clothes go that just didn’t fit anymore. It was like a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I was sorry I waited so long to do it. And you’re right, when I lose more weight and accomplish the rest of my goals, I want new clothes too. Anyways, just found your blog, huge fan already. Awesome post!

  • Andi July 21, 2014 at 5:06 am

    I love this! About two years ago I did a “wardrobe challenge” — where for 30 days I only wore 6 items of clothes (you don’t count undies or accessories) – I thought it was going to be hard at first, but halfway through it became really easy — AND I found that most people really don’t care about what you wear (I was blogging my experience, so sometimes their comments and reactions made for interesting posts). I did wear more than 6 items when it was done — and I haven’t been shopping much since then except for replacement items — but I never *really* tackled the closet properly — and I like the list that you made. I didn’t get to do the 30 day challenge last year, but I plan on doing it again this year and inviting others to do it with me. 6 is a challenge, but I have thought about having a wardrobe of only 12-16 things for the a season to really push myself and but comfortably “live” the challenge. Great post and keep up the great work with the decluttering (books would be hard for me too!)

  • Ali October 13, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    So cool! So much of my debt and obsessive spending is based on my wardrobe and my need to attain sartorial perfection (and my closet isn’t that great or overwhelming, really…but I’m really obsessive about clothes and brands). I’m trying to move my focus away from image and how I present myself to paying off debt (and eventually building networth), reading more books, relaxing with loved ones, and really experiencing life.