When I first moved to college, I brought all my clothes out and a number of books, too. It was a lot of stuff for not a lot of space, and was not practical at all.
After a few semesters, I noticed that there were a few things in my closet that got worn a lot, and a large number that got pulled out, considered, then either shoved back into the closet or dropped on the floor and forgotten about. Navigating my room became a huge headache, but it would have taken way too long to put everything in order — time that I needed to spend on important tasks, like homework.
General rule of thumb: Don’t have more clothes in your closet than you would be willing to tidy up in a short amount of time (anything more than an hour or so).
This rule of thumb also helps you refine your style, something you should think about as you prepare to leave college and enter the professional world.
You do not need a dress in every color of the rainbow. Figure out which colors and cuts work best for your skin tone and shape, and keep only the best of those clothes that fit in both cut and color. Make sure the clothes you keep are good quality, too. Nobody will think less of you for wearing the same dress over and over, if it flatters you. Pick one dress/outfit for career events (separate from general work attire, which you should still curate carefully but probably keep more of), one dress for casual outings (if you’re a dress person), one for semi-casual events, and one for formal events. That’s all you need. You should be able to dress each of these up and down (with makeup, your carefully-curated jewelry collection, the right jacket, etc.) according to the nuances of the occasion.
The same goes for shoes (and shirts, and coats, and everything else). Get rid of the cheap pairs that are half as comfortable as the nice ones. You don’t need five pairs of dress shoes. Keep one or two pairs and wear them well, and when they’re worn out, replace them with another good-quality pair.
You may be thinking, “But I spent so much money on my wardrobe! I can’t possibly put that to waste.” True, you probably put significant funds into your wardrobe, but are all those clothes, most of which you seldom wear, worth the effort to keep your space tidy and stress-free? Think of it this way: you’ve already spent the money. You can’t do much about that. Actually, you could sell the clothes you decide not to keep. Or you could donate them, which is what I do. Or you could hand them down. In addition, if you find that your newly made-over closet does not accommodate a certain occasion, buying one item will not be as taxing on your wallet. Hopefully by this point you’ll have already trained yourself to look for clothes that will fit multiple occasions, so your new purchase will most likely be put to good use in the future.
The only items of which I try to keep several are jeans, socks, and undergarments. I also found a couple shirts that are comfortable for everyday wear, so I keep a few of each in my closet. You should have enough outfits for a week or two depending on how often you do laundry–going a month without doing at least one load is too long–plus a few items for special occasions and casual outings. Don’t be afraid of wearing the same (clean, presentable) clothes week after week. If they look good on you, no one will think much of it. There is beauty in simplicity.
By de-cluttering your closet you’ll learn to curb your clothes-collecting tendencies and be less inclined to spend money on clothing (other than replacements for your staples) down the road. Practice self-control when you browse the sales rack: “Do I really want to make space for this in my closet? That means one more item to keep clean, one more item that will get lost in the sea of clothes on the floor.” (By the way, the dresser in the photos? The only item in it is my extra bed sheet. I plan to get rid of the dresser soon.)
Be ruthless with yourself when going through your closet. If you haven’t worn or used the item in a month, get rid of it. (Don’t try to cheat by wearing something that day or the next just to keep it on the list!) Put the clothes and shoes you don’t want in an opaque bag so you can’t see into it and reconsider your choices. Don’t waste time — donate the clothes ASAP. Get rid of your extra hangers so you’re not tempted to fill them with new purchases.
So, that’s it. Go forth and de-clutter!