Decluttering 101 – The Clothing Issue

Van Life Essentials by @cragdoodles (

One year before we left for the Super-Dooper-Full-Time-Motorhome-Living-With-Cats experience, we furiously and aggressively started saving money to buy our mobile home.

Minimizing and determining the essentials to take with us was our first major challenge. We still didn’t have a definite idea of what vehicle we were going to buy and make our own, but we knew we wouldn’t have much storage available. In this series of posts, I will do my best to describe how we downsized our belongings and simplified our lives, hoping we can help others facing the same problem.

Let’s begin the decluttering wars by addressing the unruly bundles of clothing you own. This includes items of clothing, shoes, accessories, bedding, bathroom and kitchen items, since you are going to need all of those in your daily life, no matter where you go/live. Look into wardrobes, chests of drawers, boxes, storage containers – overstuffed and busting with clothes. 

Selling used clothes…

My initial advice is to take inventory on all the clothing items you own –  I mean everything. Remember this will be a gradual task and that you don’t have to make definite and irreversible decisions about it right away. You can do this over and over again, each time coming closer to that number of items you believe to be ideal.

Mentally, be ready to be brave and ruthless. Try not to be too emotional about your garments. I know some may have a special meaning to you and even act as an expression of your personality, but they don’t really define who you are. Right? 

Why don’t you start on your wardrobe first and them repeat the process everywhere else you store your things in?

  • Empty it completely and categorize your items: pants, skirts, shirts, tops, shoes, bags, scarves, coats, etc;
  • Try everything on and look at yourself in the mirror;
  • Divide your clothes into piles:

    Want it/need it” (can’t live without items)

    Maybe/Not sure” (can’t decide what do yet, need time on these)

    Items to Sell” (Items in great condition, trendy, quirky, quality, branded items that you can sell)

    Donate” (not really sellable, but still good to wear)

    Trash” (Not really trash – these wouldn’t be good enough to donate or sell, but then can still be upcycled into new items, recycled into rags for cleaning or blankets for your pets, deconstructed for fabrics for other projects, etc).

  • Again, prefer logic over emotion to sort through things :

    Are you keeping clothes for when you lose weight? Are you saving things just because they remind you of a specific time in your life? Are there still new items with tags on in your closet that you bought but never wore? Do you own things you haven’t worn in the last 6 to 12 months?

  • Put the pieces you are definitely keeping and the “maybes” back in the closet again, but don’t mix them up;
  • Start organizing stuff in bags to donate and plan the way you are going to sell your chosen clothes;
  • Take inspiration from Project 333 .
Inside the motorhome – not much storage…

The end result – your future needs and goals – will be the most important factor to consider. In our case, we were going to need mostly comfortable clothes to wear. We both wore uniforms at work and didn’t have much need for formal items either.

The following was what I ended up taking with me, after all the downsizing :

1 winter coat, 2 hoodies, 4 long-sleeved tops, 2 woolly tops, 6 T-shirts

6 leggings, 1 black pair of pants, 1 pair of jeans, 2 skirts

10 panties/3 bras/10 pairs of socks

1 pair of trainers/1 pair of boots/ 1 pair of flip-flops

1 cap/1 beanie & 3 scarves

1 handbag/ 1 backpack

A couple of earrings/ a couple of rings and a watch

2 bath towels/2 hand towels

6 tea towels/6 kitchen rags

2 duvets/4 sets of bedding (2 for winter, 2 for summer)

blankets for kitty beds

[Apart from the girly stuff, Pedro also managed to minimize to basically the same number of items for himself.]

In the motorhome, we were lucky to have a small wardrobe and half a dozen shelves and cupboards, but in a van you are even more limited.

You also need to consider the washing, cleaning and upkeep of your clothes. How will you wash your clothes and how often? The more you have, the more time and work you have to dedicate to laundry duty.

Used clothes at the Flea Market

Talk to your friends and family about the items you want to donate. Take the remaining items to Charity/thrift stores, animal rescue associations and any other association that depends on donations. You can also try Freecycle to let people know you have free stuff to collect.

If you have branded or great quality items you can sell, post them on Ebay, CraigslistFacebook MarketplaceGumtree (UK)Preloved (UK) ,  either individually or in bundles and save some money for your adventure. If you don’t have the time to spend listing, organize yard sales or take your stuff to flea markets and carboot sales.

Go for it! Be sure to leave your comments or suggestions below, let’s chat about it!

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