How Many Clothes Do You Really Need?

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Updated October 22, 2021

How do you know how many clothes you really need? Use this free 4-page checklist and tips from a professional organizer to determine your own unique needs based on your space, lifestyle and preferences.

In this process, you will be looking at the big picture, not at individual clothing items. You will consider your unique needs and preferences for your current lifestyle. Once you make the rational decisions about what makes sense for your life, then you can begin the decluttering process.

top image - row of hanging clothes, bottom image - 4 checklists with title text reading How Many Clothes Do You Really Need?

Let’s be honest. If you’ve asked yourself, “How many clothes do I need?” and you’re reading this, you probably have too many clothes. The vast majority of us have too many clothes.

I am not going to tell you how many items of clothing you should have. That is 100% your decision. There is no one right answer. Don’t worry, I’m not going to push a minimalist wardrobe or capsule wardrobe on you. Although, I will share links to these ideas below, in case you’re interested.

As a professional organizer, I can help you think about your goals, your space, your clothing and what will work best for you. This is what I do when I work with clients.

I will give you questions, a free printable checklist and things to consider in your decision process. The decisions are in your hands. You are in control.

Sign up for your free in-store or Virtual In-Home Design appointment today to work with one of the experts at The Container Store to design your dream custom closet, pantry, office or garage.

Do I Have Too Many Clothes Quiz

Answer these questions to help you decide if you have too many clothes. Your answers and whether they mean you have too many clothes, depend on your unique space and your unique needs. If you answer these questions honestly, you will have a clear idea whether you have too many clothing items.

  1. Do you have clothes that won’t fit in your closet or dresser?
  2. Do you have to use a closet in a second room to hold all your clothes?
  3. Do you have to change out your clothes each season? (Some people prefer to change out their seasonal clothes and this is different than need to because your reasonably sized space is too filled. Storage space should not be your solution to too much clothing.)
  4. Do you have clothes that you haven’t worn in the past year? Do you have old clothes from years (or even decades) ago?
  5. Do you have items you don’t even know you have? (You know, the ones shoved in the back of your closet.)
  6. Do you have lots of clothes that don’t fit you?
  7. Do you have items that still have the tags on?
  8. You have items you wore in high school? (and high school is more than 5 years ago.)
  9. Do you have items that don’t go with anything else you own?
  10. Do have items you don’t like? Perhaps ones a family member gave you and you’re just holding onto out of guilt?
  11. Do you find it easier to pile your clean clothes on your dresser, a chair or on the floor rather than put them away?
  12. Do you have sentimental clothing items you never wear, but you keep for sentimental reasons?
Pile of brightly colored clothing with yellow shoe on top

How many clothes does the average person have?

People are often curious how the average woman or person has. The answers are different by country, region, lifestyle and personal views on things like reducing your environmental impact.

An informal survey by Gold Zipper found that the average was 148 items. The country with the highest average was Poland with 267 items and the lowest was Hungary with 66 items. It’s important to recognize the definition of a small wardrobe or a large wardrobe varies in different countries and cultures.

A ClosetMaid survey found that the average American woman had 103 items in her closet.

A Forbes survey found that the average woman in the US has 30 outfits in her closet. And the important thing – in the 1930’s she would have had 9 outfits!

We’re not here to judge anyone. I don’t know you, your life or your needs. We are here to ask questions and help you decide what makes sense of you.

How Many Clothes Do You Really Need?

The purpose of the How Many Clothes Do You Really Need checklist and this process is for you to rationally and purposefully and “How many clothes do I need?” in each clothing category you need for your specific and unique lifestyle and situation.

Find the How Many Clothes Do You Really Need checklist below the double blue lines.

This is an objective exercise. Often decluttering clothing can be emotional. Using this checklist takes the emotion out of this step and allows to you set your own personal priorities and realistically consider what makes sense for you, your budget, your lifestyle, your personal style, your values, etc.

Why is having less clothing helpful?

  • Allows your clothes to fit comfortably into your space
  • Reduce the loads of laundry you have to do
  • Makes getting ready in the morning easier with fewer choices (and choices you actually want to wear)
  • No matter how much space you have, it’s easier to organize with fewer clothing items
  • Allows you to focus on the items you really wear
  • Helps you focus on purchasing quality over disposable fashion
  • Reduces stress by reducing the clutter and the number of choices you have to make
  • Makes it easy to take better care of your clothing so they’ll last longer
pink, orange and yellow clothing neatly hanging and folded

Use the checklist to decide for yourself how much is enough clothes in every category you need.

  • Pairs of jeans
  • Winter wardrobe, including winter coats
  • Pairs of socks
  • Tank tops
  • Casual pairs of pants
  • Special events clothes
  • Pairs of shoes
  • Summer tops
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Dress pants
  • Work clothes or business clothes
  • Pairs of shorts

Start by downloading the free 4-page checklist. You will use this tool to methodically and rationally decide how many of each category of clothing you need in your current home and current lifestyle.

To access your own free checklist simply sign up for our weekly newsletter. You’ll promptly be sent an email containing the printable.

Tips printing out the How Many Clothes Do I Need checklist

How do I access the free How Many Clothes Do You Really Need checklist?

Fill in the form above. When you submit the form, you will promptly be sent an email with the printable. If you can’t find the welcome email after 3-4 minutes, check your spam folder. If you have any difficulty, you can email me and I’ll help you resolve any problems.

How do I print the pdf file?

The document usually opens right up when you tap the pdf in the email. When that happens, simply right tap on the pdf and either print or save the document to your device.

If the pdf does not pop up for you, you’ll most likely find it in your computer’s Downloads folder. You can also select “Downloads” in your browser menu to see a list of your downloads, then select “Show in folder” below the file name to see where it is located on your computer.

How can I use the printable (what restrictions are there on use)?

You can print these pdf files as many times as you’d like for your personal use. All printables are copyrighted.

How to use the checklist

  • Grab your checklist and a pencil (because you’ll probably be changing your mind as you go along).
  • Use the instructions below in this article to determine how many of each item you need.
images 4 checklists and ebook cover titled How Many Do You Really Need?

It’s important to understand that you are not deciding about individual clothing items. You are looking at the big picture, evaluating your lifestyle, your needs and how many of different clothing items you really need (the number of clothes in each category) for your life.

Why Should You Ask Yourself “How Many Do Clothes I Need?”

Before you bought or rented your home, you decided how big of a home with what requirements you needed. Then you figured out what you could afford, where you’d like to live and which home you would select. That’s what we’re doing here with your clothing.

If you jump straight into decluttering, it can be difficult because there are so many emotions involved. It’s like just looking at houses without first deciding how much you can spend and where you’d like to live.

If you start first by deciding how many of each different category of clothing you need, really need, then it’s much easier to declutter.

Let’s say you decide you need 10 pairs of jeans. If you have 6 pairs, then you can declutter but you don’t have to stress over it. If you have 30 pairs of jeans, you know you need to make the tough decisions to reduce your 30 jeans down to 10.

Questions to Ask as You Decide How Many Clothes You Really Need

  1. Consider your current lifestyle. How many different clothing options do you need?
    1. If you used to work in a corporate job, but are now working full-time from home, you probably don’t need as many corporate clothing items (or at least you don’t need as many pants and skirts!)
    2. If you used to live in a location with cold weather and now live in a tropical climate, you don’t need as many heavy coats, sweaters and snow boots.
    3. If you used to wear a different size of clothing and you won’t be fitting back in the clothes in the next year, then let them go. If you lose or gain the weight back, you’ll want new clothes that fit your new shape and are in style.
    4. If your life used to require you attend many formal events, but you no longer do, then you don’t need to keep as many formal dresses, shoes and suits. Consider selecting fewer clothes, your favorite nice things, for special occasions.
  2. Consider your personal preferences.
    1. If you used to wear heels, but now prefer flats, then you don’t need to keep many pairs of heels.
    2. If you prefer to wear pants, why keep lots of skirts and dresses?
    3. If you used to wear only black but now favor colorful clothes, why hold onto lots of black clothing items?
  3. Examine your space.
    1. If you would like to keep 30 pairs of jeans, but only have space for 5 pairs, then you need to be realistic about how many pairs of jeans you really need.
    2. If you would like to have an entire wall of artfully displayed purses, but only have space to fit three purses, you need to adjust your rationally chosen number of purses to keep.
    3. If you have limited space, you should consider how many different colors of the same item do you really need?
  4. Consider your budget.
    1. If you need to save money, then keep your target number of clothing items within your budget.
    2. If you need to earn extra money, look at items you can sell from your wardrobe and set a new target number of clothing items so you don’t simple purchase replacements.
    3. If most of your wardrobe requires professional cleaning and it’s impacting your budget, then you may need to reduce the number of those types of clothing items.
  5. Evaluate your energy level.
    1. Having items requires your energy to maintain them. Physical energy in cleaning, caring for and organizing clothing is expended. You also expend mental energy worrying about caring for, organizing and maintaining clothing.
    2. Assess the amount of energy expended in cleaning and caring for your clothing. If you have three pairs of jeans and wear them three times each before washing, that will take less energy than if you have 30 pairs of jeans and wash them every time you wear them.
    3. It takes more time and energy to get dressed each day when you have more clothes.
  6. Consider the ethical implications of how much you really need. I am not telling you what you should answer. I am encouraging you to think deeply about your own values and answers to these questions.
    1. Are there other people in your community that could and would use some of the clothing you have? And how happy would they be to have those items versus the items sitting unused in your closet? You can donate them to your local charitable thrift stores.
    2. Evaluate how the total number of clothing items you choose and maintain impacts the environment.
    3. Consider how your clothing purchases impact your budget.
    4. What would you rather do with your money instead of spending it on clothes shopping?
    5. What lessons are you teaching your children?
    6. What impact is the manipulation of the fashion industry pushing trendy clothing having on you and your choices?
  7. What do you prefer in your closet and drawers – lots of clothing or lots of space? Decide where on that spectrum you want to live.

Should you keep clothes that are too small?

Generally, no. You should only keep clothes that fit you now, including smaller sizes and the next size up. The exceptions are if you are pregnant or are actively working to lose weight. In these cases, put the too small clothes in a bin and label with the current date. If you are not able to wear the clothes within a year, you should donate them.

How many clothes are too many for college students?

The “how many clothes do I need?” question is even more critical due to the extremely limited space in dorm rooms. Students should focus on taking flexible clothing that can be layered and used in multiple situations and outfits. Students should also plan on bringing college clothes home during holidays and taking different clothes back to college. This is an easy way to rotate a portion of your wardrobe.

brown and black wood hangers on clothing rack

How to Use the How Many Clothes Do You Really Need Checklist

  • Once you’ve thought through the questions above and determine your personal priorities, get the How Many Clothes Do You Really Need 4-page checklist, your favorite drink and sit down to work through it.
  • The checklist is a framework to get you started thinking in detail about all your different clothing items. It is not a requirements checklist, it’s a framework to assist you in setting your own requirements.
  • Make the checklist work for your unique needs and clothing mix. Line through a category you don’t have and add one that you do.
  • Each page of the checklist has a blank clothing item section so you can add your own specific clothing category.
  • Once you’ve worked through each of the four pages of the checklist, you can add as many additional pages as you need to decide on every category of clothing you have.
  • When you have completed the How Many Clothing Do You Really Need checklist, you are ready to go to your closet and dresser and begin editing (decluttering) your individual clothing items.

I’ve written a 21-page Simple Decluttering ebook to help you declutter your home. These are tips and checklists written by a professional organizer that has moved 25 times and knows how to declutter.

collage of decluttering checklist pages in blue and red

More clothing management resources:

  • Review of Closet and Outfit Planning Apps – A review of 6 different apps you can use to plan your outfits and help organize your closet.
  • Decluttering Bedroom Ideas – Make your bedroom your oasis from the chaos of life with these decluttering bedroom ideas, tips and a free printable checklist.
  • Folding Clothes Tutorials – Tips on how to decide how the best way to fold clothes for your unique situation. Tips on folding clothes for 8 different types of clothes styles.
  • Clothes Storage Ideas – Knowing these 5+ tips and options for clothes storage makes all the difference in a small space with limited closet and storage space.
  • Organizing Kids Clothing – Organizing Back-to-School Kids’ Clothing & More – Taking a few minutes each week to get organized for the school and activities will make the mornings run smoothly and encourage your child’s independence.

You may find my 37-page How to Fold Clothes ebook helpful in putting all your clothes back away after decluttering.

collage of pages of how to fold clothing

For more decluttering and organizing support, come join the Simple Organization Tips and Ideas Facebook Group. You can ask your specific questions there and find encouragement, support and lots of ideas.

Be sure to pin this free printable checklist so you can review each year and determine how many clothes do you really need in your wardrobe.

See my favorite clothes organizing tips, hacks, favorite products and more in the table below. You can scroll though the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.

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  1. Why no matter how many ways I have tried can I NOT access the 4 page list of How Many Clothes Do You Really Need? I can not even tell you how many times I have tried to obtain this list. I have signed on over and over again. I have accessed the website, and tried to get it that way, but I can NOT get it. Please check your access.

    1. I’m sorry that it’s been such a hassle, Joyce. I’m going now to email it to you and then I’ll double check the access. Thanks for letting me know.

  2. i’m having the same problem and not able to find the 4 page list to How Many Clothes Do You Really Need? I can access the printable library but still can’t find the it. could you please help

    thank you

    1. You can search in the VIP Printables Library for “How Many Clothes” and find the free printable once you sign up for our free newsletter.

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